Criticism has rained down on rapper-designer Kanye West — legal name Ye — after he and conservative pundit Candace Owens wore "White Lives Matter" shirts Monday at Paris Fashion Week.
Now, models Gigi Hadid and Selah Marley, rapper Jaden Smith, fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson and Vogue magazine itself have all gotten caught in the storm.
Then, Ye's former sister-in-law Khloé Kardashian created a mini-storm all on her own after the rapper-entrepreneur drew her nieces and nephews into the mix.
The WLM shirts were part of Ye's Yeezy Season 9 fashion show on Monday in Paris. The shirts — his black, Owens' white — had "White Lives Matter" emblazoned on the backs. Each shirt had an image of a different pope on the front — Owens' labeled Juan Pablo, Ye's showed Juan Pablo II (John Paul II). The Spanish words “Seguiremos Tu Ejemplo” were emblazoned up top: “We will follow your example.”
The next day, amid outraged blowback on Twitter, Ye posted on Instagram, “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam,” apparently referencing reports of alleged financial misconduct by BLM's nonprofit leaders. “Now its over You’re welcome," he added.
Commentary on Ye's decision to flaunt the phrase in public came swiftly.
Rapper-actor Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, actually walked out of Ye's Monday show, then followed up with a series of tweets in which he said, "I Had To Dip Lol. True Leaders Lead. I Don't Care Who's It Is If I Don't Feel The Message I'm Out. Black Lives Matter. We Demand A More Progressive Future."
He Does Not Have The Full Support Of The Youth. |||
— Jaden (@jaden) October 4, 2022
Most notably, Karefa-Johnson, Vogue's global fashion editor at large, had posted her thoughts about the show after it happened, saying in part (via ET) that "the t-shirts this man conceived, produced, and shared with the world are pure violence" and "there is no excuse, there is no art here."
Ye then poked the bear by posting — according to Billboard and Page Six — a full-body photo of Karefa-Johnson taken during Paris Fashion Week wearing a long brown trench coat, striped knit skirt, yellow graphic T-shirt and lace-up brown boots with a blue Balenciaga handbag.
In the caption he said, "This is not a fashion person.” He also posted a shot where he zoomed in on the boots and noted, “I KNOOOOOOW ANNA HAAAATES THESE BOOTS." (The Anna in question being Anna Wintour, Condé Nast's global chief content officer and Vogue's editor in chief.)
Both posts have now been deleted, but the controversy rages on.
Model Hadid spoke up in defense of Karefa-Johnson, addressing Ye in an IG comment, "You wish u had a percentage of her intellect. You have no idea haha.... If there's actually a point to any of your s— she might be the only person that could save u. As if the 'honor' of being invited to your show should keep someone from giving their opinion ..? Lol. You're a bully and a joke."
But it turns out the rapper and the fashion editor met in New York the day after Ye's show. Vogue magazine confirmed the meeting happened in its Instagram post defending its editor at large.
"Vogue stands with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, our global fashion editor at large and longtime contributor," the magazine posted. "She was personally targeted and bullied. It is unacceptable. Now more than ever, voices like hers are needed and in a private meeting with Ye today she once again spoke her truth in a way she felt best, on her terms."
"Gab is my sister," Ye wrote in all caps on Instagram on Tuesday, lifting a photo Karefa-Johnson had posted on her own feed. "I'm not letting people go to bed thinking I didn't meet with Gabrielle at 5 p.m. today for 2 hours then we went to dinner at Ferdie [restaurant in New York City]. Anna had [‘Elvis’ director] Baz Luhrmann film our meeting and we are editing tonight. We took pics and I was instructed not to post them."
He continued: "It felt like she was being used like Trevor Noah and other Black people to speak on my expression. She expressed that her company did not instruct her to speak on my T shirt expression. We apologized to each other for the way we made each other feel we actually got along and have both experience the fight for acceptance in a world that's not our own.
"She disagreed I disagreed we disagreed," he wrote. "At least we both love Ferdie and fashion."
Karefa-Johnson chimed in just after midnight Wednesday, writing in her Instagram stories, "Today literally said 'Hiiiii-yah" ... *roundhouse kick to the face, very Mortal Kombat.
"Your girl has been through it! I'm exhausted, but I am so moved by and grateful for the outpouring of love Ive received (here and elsewhere) over the last 24 hours," she continued. "I feel so blessed to belong to a community that would show up for me like this. One thing about me: I will always speak my mind, and always try to honor my truth. My thoughts are my own, and I stand by them. Thank you all for supporting me in that."
But model Selah Marley — the child of Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley — was on Ye's side, having worn her own "White Lives Matter" shirt during his show, styled as a dress and combined with slouchy, oversize boots.
Early Tuesday, she wrote in her Instagram stories, "The past 24 hours has allowed me to realize that most of y'all are stuck in a hive mind mentality. You do what the group tells you to do & think what the group tells you to think. Witnessing someone break free from 'the agenda' sends you all into such a panic that you will do whatever it takes to force them back into the box that you feel they should exist in."
Marley said she could not be bullied, manipulated or coaxed into silence.
Later, she wrote to Ye in a DM that the rapper re-posted in his Instagram stories, "you may be sleeping but i think that what we did has obviously created a lot of conversation & i would like us to continue that conversation and provide the necessary depth & clarity that we are both extremely capable of. i love taking risks & embracing freedom, but in this case, I think we can continue to discuss the depth behind out decisions to show the purity of our intentions & provide healing to our community. love you so much. let's keep this going -- in a healthy way."
One person who took Ye's T-shirt stunt personally was the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, Wanda Cooper-James, who spoke to Rolling Stone through her attorney. Arbery was the 25-year-old Black man who was chased down and shot by three white men while jogging in a Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood in February 2020.
"As a result of his display 'White Lives Matter' started trending in the U.S., which would directly support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son," attorney Lee Merritt said in statement on Cooper-James' behalf. "That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against."
Merritt said Ye's mockery of the BLM movement and denunciation of it as "some sort of hoax" flew in the face of support the rapper had offered Cooper-James after Arbery was killed.
"It's confusing for her," Merritt continued, "it's confusing for the families to receive his support privately, but publicly to set us all back."
After all that — and being recently divorced from Kim Kardashian, mother of his four children — Ye took the public conversation in a different direction early Wednesday.
"So why did everyone feel so free to attack me about my T shirt," he posted on Instagram. "But Candace Owens was the only public figure to say that it was wrong for the Kardashians to keep me from seeing my daughter.
"Or we just chime in when we want to tear a Black man down for actually having a different political opinion. And for all audience so outraged about my T shirt — where was you when I couldn't see my kids. I went public in hope of public support at that time."
Khloé Kardashian wasn't having it.
"Ye, I love you. I don't want to do this on social media but YOU keep bringing it here," she wrote in a comment on Instagram. "You are the father of my nieces and nephews and I'm trying to be respectful but please STOP tearing Kimberly down and using our family when you want to deflect.
"Again with the birthday narrative. Enough already. We all know the truth and in my opinion, everyone's tired of it," she continued. "You know exactly where your children are at all times and YOU wanted separate birthdays. I have seen all of the texts to prove it. And when you changed your mind and wanted to attend, you came.
"Like you have pointed out yourself, she is the one taking care of your kids 80% of the time. Please Leave her and the family out of it so that the kids can be raised peacefully ... I come from a place of love and I am happy to continue this conversation privately if you wish."
Ye exploded in response, even after saying last month that he apologized to Kim Kardashian "for any stress that I have caused even in my frustration, because God calls me to be stronger."
"You are lying and are liars," he fired back to Khloé in all caps.
On Wednesday, the rapper-designer posted more food for thought on his Instagram page.
But he wasn't turning the page yet on the Paris Fashion Week fiasco. Later on Wednesday afternoon, he posted a photo showing the back of that "White Lives Matter" shirt and said:
"Here’s my latest response when people ask me why I made a tee that says white lives matter… THEY DO."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.