TikTok has a history of being the site of new dances and trends; it also has a history of those dances and trends being made primarily by BIPOC (or Black, Indigenous people of color) artists and then being capitalized on by white artists without credit to the original creators. From Charlie D’Amelio to Addison Rae, many TikTok stars have been known for stealing dances and trends while gaining an immense following that dwarfs the following of those with the original ideas. The fame they’ve gained from doing so has aggravated many, and this aggravation has been exacerbated by Addison Rae’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon. Not only was she performing dances with lackluster energy, but many of these dances were created by BIPOC artists, with no credit presented to them whatsoever.
This has been an ever-present trend on TikTok and real life, so it is not entirely surprising. Many BIPOC TikTokers realized early on that white TikTokers were being treated as “original creators” and trendsetters, while their own videos were shadowbanned, meaning their videos weren’t being recommended anymore. These original creators were placed lower on the “For You” page, and their followings were only a fraction of their white counterparts’ followings.
Even before TikTok, many white artists have capitalized off “hip-hop” culture, and although there is nothing wrong with cultural appreciation, there is a lot wrong with cultural appropriation; the same braids and “black” styles that are considered “trendy” and “just hair” are the same styles that lead to discrimination of BIPOC in real life. Only seven (yes, seven out of 50) states have prohibited discrimination on the basis of hair texture (The Crown Act campaign is still fighting to end discrimination on the basis of hair texture), so these topics are especially sensitive for the BIPOC community because these are issues that are reflected in our reality — it’s more than just a trend or a dance moving around the media.
Rae’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon also reflects a lack of consequences for many of these TikTok stars accused of racism. Rae has made her fair share of half-baked apology videos following accusations of racism but continues to capitalize off the creativity of BIPOC artists that continue to go uncredited. Many have also deemed her appearance on Jimmy Fallon as a “reward for mediocrity” by comparing her dances to those of the creators to reveal the fact that sheer talent and merit is not what got her on the show.
It is no surprise that most people who follow Addison Rae follow other TikTokers accused of “stealing” dances with their own folder of racial apology videos. They generally take no offense to this nor consider any accusations of racism to be particularly problematic, so this article may do absolutely nothing to change their opinion of her appearance on the show. I myself am not a huge TikToker, and I use TikTok to find funny videos and repost them on my Snapchat story, but I can understand why many have a problem with Rae’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon.
Twitter eventually bullied Jimmy Fallon into inviting the creators of the dances on the show (virtually instead of live), but the fact that backlash was required to recognize how problematic her appearance on the show was sheds light on a few other issues at hand.