Katy Perry is many things: a charismatic pop star, an incredible performer, a doting fiancée to Orlando Bloom. What Perry is not, however, is British — nor is she Asian. So, people around the world were left scratching their heads when Prince Charles named Katy Perry as a British Asian Trust Ambassador on Tuesday, given that the singer lacks certain, er, qualifications. Perry was reportedly chosen for her past support of charitable causes in India, but some on Twitter still wondered if a better representative of British Asian interests could have been appointed in her stead.
In case you’re wondering what exactly this title means, ambassadors like Perry act in the interest of the British Asian Trust, an organization currently campaigning to end child labor in India. Other British Asian Trust ambassadors include BBC journalist Asad Ahmad, cricket coach Azhar Mahmood, DJ Nihal Arthanayake, sports medicine specialist Dr. Zaf Iqbal, and director Gurinder Chadha — all of whom are, notably, both British and Asian.
The Trust was founded by The Prince in 2007 after he witnessed widespread poverty and hardship faced by families in South Asia. https://t.co/EAnwJiV0X9
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) February 4, 2020
While presenting Perry with this title, Charles praised her for her “long-standing commitment to charitable causes around the world,” but Twitter wasn’t convinced: Is that really enough, without representing either of the communities she’s now tasked with protecting?
“I love Katy but seriously?” one tweed read. “She’s not British [nor] is she Asian. There are SO MANY BRITISH ASIAN celebrities who should be in her place: Dev Patel, Jameela Jamil, Anjali Mohindra, Parminder Nagra and Riz Ahmed to name a few.”
Another tweet suggested that Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTA acceptance speech this weekend, in which he told Hollywood point-blank that their industry was making people of color feel unwelcome, had struck a nerve. “This is what happens when white people listen to #JoaquinPhoenix’s #BAFTA speech about dismantling systemic racism,” the tweet read. “They double down and pick Katy Perry to be the face of their Asian Trust.”
I love Katy but seriously? She's not British or is she Asian. There are SO MANY BRITISH ASIAN celebrities who should be in her place: Dev Patel, Jameela Jamil, Anjali Mohindra, Parminder Nagra and Riz Ahmed to name a few. https://t.co/J1su2rQoFV
— Zarik (@zyusaf13) February 5, 2020
This is what happens when white people listen to #JoaquinPhoenix's #BAFTA speech about dismantling systematic racism. They double down and pick Katy Perry to be the face of their Asian Trust. #NotSorry #ICannot https://t.co/jsgft88H2p
— Ringo Le (@ringole) February 5, 2020
Even on basic levels this country can't get race relations right.
For the avoidance of doubt: white American women should not be representatives of British Asian people. https://t.co/GDmu8xTAp8
— Nadine Batchelor-Hunt (@nadinebh_) February 4, 2020
The most famous British Asian I know called me and said
"WTF we can't even get an invite to any British Asian events ever and then they get a white American?…it's colonised mind sets again. #whiteSaviour"
Me. Uh huh. GTFOH https://t.co/Kl7si2XnHB
— Jasmine Dotiwala (@jasminedotiwala) February 5, 2020
While many were simply disappointed in Charles’ choice, others couldn’t help but crack a joke about Scarlett Johansson being overlooked for the role. Johansson faced backlash in 2017 for playing the role of Motoko Kusanagi (referred to as “Major” in the film) in Ghost in the Shell, a film adaptation of the Japanese manga series.
“Her and Scarlett [Johansson] are my two favourite Asian women,” one cracked. “This is outrageous,” another commented, “and hugely disrespectful to Scarlett Johansson.”
Her and Scarlett Johannson are my two favourite Asian women. https://t.co/ZzPsnzVsjc
— Zara Woodcock (@zarawoodz) February 5, 2020
This is outrageous and hugely disrespectful to Scarlett Johansson. https://t.co/vqAMOTPGo2
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) February 4, 2020
I had my money on Scarlett Johansson 🤷🏽♂️ https://t.co/GO9oM9JAyS
— Asim Chaudhry (@AsimC86) February 4, 2020
Scarlett Johansson must be livid pic.twitter.com/4Sz8sPBv1F
— ɹǝuɓǝ sıɹɥɔ (@chrisegner) February 4, 2020
Another British Trust Ambassador, Nihal Arthanayake, took to Twitter to defend Perry’s appointment. “Are you suggesting that as a charity the BAT only accept ambassadors who are Asian?” he wrote. “It’s about finding people who are passionate about the work the charity does. She alone helped raise 130k last night.”
Are you suggesting that as a charity the BAT only accept ambassadors who are Asian? It's about finding people who are passionate about the work the charity does. She alone helped raise 130k last night.
— Nihal Arthanayake (@TherealNihal) February 5, 2020
The connection is a human one. Plus she loves India and in her work for UNICEF focuses on the plight of children. I really wish I didnt have to explain this and you would see her influence and reach as a positive thing. Get it now?
— Nihal Arthanayake (@TherealNihal) February 5, 2020
Ultimately, Perry lending her star power to this charitable organization is a positive so long as she’s helping them meet their goals. But given our global pattern of choosing white candidates over their equally qualified, nonwhite peers, it’s understandable why her appointment felt a little tough to swallow.