Apparently there are a flurry of things about Ivanka Trump’s appearance at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, that appeared inauthentic, recycled, or superficial. This has led to a new, if unfortunate, nickname for Ivanka that is being bandied about in India – “botoxed Barbie”.
First there was her keynote address at the summit. The speech was expected to be new material, but other than a sentence or two, it was a recycled repeat of a speech Ivanka Trump gave earlier in Japan, according to Newsweek. This has led to claims that Ivanka essentially plagiarized herself in her speech. One would expect Ivanka Trump would expect that any speech given in a global forum would be subject to a check for repeats, but apparently she didn’t consider this.
— Department of State (@StateDept) November 28, 2017
Then there were Ivanka’s wardrobe choices. Superficially, many of her choices may have given the impression that she was supporting the work of Indian clothing designers and Indian seamstresses, but that was, for the most part, untrue. They just looked like clothes that were of Indian design, but actually came from designers in other countries like Great Britain, the country that once colonized India, Colombia and the United States. That doesn’t send the best message of support for India or the Indian garment industry. It also led to a charge of cultural appropriation by Ivanka.
Cultural appropriation is a term from sociology. It refers to the taking of elements of a culture by another culture that has economic or political power over the culture it is appropriating. According to Newsweek, Bandana Tewari, the editor at large of Vogue India said that “If Ivanka’s clothes are to be an acknowledgment of an ancient and rich culture like ours, especially as she arrives as a dignitary, then the sartorial ‘tribute’ should be authentic in its intention.” Newsweek also went on to report that:
The president’s daughter was slammed for “superficial assimilation of culture” by the DailyO, an opinion website owned by India Today Group, which went on to call her “[B]otoxed Barbie.” The first daughter drew criticism for donning a $3,500 dress covered with Oriental-style flowers by British label Erdem and two outfits by American designer Tory Burch that recalled Indian embroidery and patterns. It was rumored she was going to wear a sari gown presented to her as a welcome gift by Bollywood favorite Neeta Lulla one evening, but she instead opted for a Tory Burch “floral gown that looked like a ‘me-too’ of a Kashmiri pheran,” the website wrote.
After Ivanka Trump heard of the criticisms of her Indian-style, but not Indian-designed or Indian-made, clothing choices, she did adjust to wear some genuine Indian clothes. But did she really need to hear the criticism in order to understand that affecting Indian designs might be seen as offensive? Maybe, like her father, Ivanka Trump just doesn’t put much thought into the effects of her actions.
It appears as though many people did not think Ivanka Trump was genuine at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Her speech was recycled, her Indian-style clothes were for the most part an inauthentic imitation, and the overall effect was one of a person with an affectation, who did not take seriously the summit’s slogan “Women First, Prosperity for All”.