NEW YORK – Kylie Jenner is being accused on Instagram of cultural appropriation for wearing cornrows in her hair. “Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg called out the reality star via the social media site, writing: “Hen u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.”
That message has caused a firestorm of controversy since Jenner posted the pic on Saturday, both for and against Jenner.
Justin Bieber told fans to back off his friend in a lengthy Instagram post, and singled out those who went so far as to call Jenner a racist.
“Guys leave her alone, we're all trying to figure it out and she happens to be under a microscope," he wrote. "I'm the first to know this. But saying she's being racist because she wants her hair in braids is ridiculous. Let's focus on the bigger picture and instead of fighting over something stupid let's do something about equality, but it doesn't start here blasting a 17 year old kid for wearing braids smh.”
Bravo personality Andy Cohen blasted Stenberg, 16, his “Jackhole of the Day” during a segment for his talk show, “Watch What Happens Live,” which resulted in a slew of comments calling for the TV personality to be fired.
For her part, Stenberg wasn't backing down, returning to Instagram with another post about “racial fetishism” which has garnered over 30,000 likes and counting since she posted it on Sunday.
We talked to several stylists, all of whom said she's merely a teenager expressing herself, and people should get over it.
“Most of us are influenced by our peers and especially at her age. Her peers and most of her surroundings are of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds," Atlanta-based hair stylist Nakia Crouse told FOX411. "So, she's only doing what she sees which is the case for most of us when it comes to how we dress and how we wear our hair. It's your hair. Do what works for you; that’s the beauty of hair.”
New Jersey salon owner Martino Cartier concurred. “It's definitely not an ethnic thing. That's ridiculous! That's an uneducated statement. Millions of women get cornrows done while on vacation every year. It's not about race, it's about style.”
But Noliwe Rooks, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Africana Studies, at Cornell University disagrees.
"The aesthetics of race is and always has been political and in this year when the high profile mass and individual murder of Black people has spawned a #BlackLivesMatter movement, some are understandably sensitive toward whites who want the 'beauty' without the brutality,'" Rooks wrote in an e-mail to FOX411. "Of course no one actually 'owns' a hairstyle but right now you won’t get a 'you’re so adventurous and fashion forward' nod and pass for trafficking in Black looks if you are not willing to at least comment on behalf of those for whom Black looks matter most."
Publicist Sparkle Callahan, however, see this less as appropriation and more about expressing one’s personal style.
“Kylie is expressing herself by wearing cornrows. Just because Kylie did not mention or hashtag #blacklivesmatter it's an issue?" said Callahan. "Maybe she wore the cornrows to send that message?"
Cornrows originated in the Caribbean and Africa, and ever since a bikini clad Bo Derek famously wore the hairstyle in 1979’s film, “10,” it has been a trend amongst women of varying races and ethnicities.
Jenner is not the first to come under scrutiny for wearing the style. Singer Katy Perry was similarly accused when she wore cornrows and was even labeled by some as the “Queen of Cultural Appropriation.”
Following the Instapic seen ‘round the world, Jenner has opted for new hairstyle – a topknot.
FOX411 reached out to Kylie Jenner and Amandla Stenberg but did not receive comment.