Kanye West made a statement at his surprise Yeezy fashion show on Monday, wearing a black sweatshirt with the slogan ‘White Lives Matter’ written across it.
Fashion models in the rapper’s show also wore clothing with the message written across it, a response to the Black Lives Matter movement that was founded in 2013 following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
Among those modeling was, Selah Marley, 23, the daughter of former Fugees lead singer Lauryn Hill and the granddaughter of the iconic Bob Marley, a chronicler of black people’s struggle for freedom.
Selah posted video showing her talking and joking with West at the event. In the video, Selah is wearing a White Lives Matter shirt.
She captioned the video: ‘Love u @KanyeWest.’ In total, Selah posted three videos showing her wearing the item.
Selah was born during Hill’s long-term relationship with Rohan Marley, the son of reggae artist Bob Marley. The couple had five children together when they were together between 1996 and 2009. The pair never married.
The model, who is represented by NEXT Models, was previously the face of Beyonce’s activewear line, Ivy Park SS17. In a 2017, she described West as one of her role models.
Selah said: ‘He’s been through a lot of persecution in the media and by people, but it doesn’t stop him from being who he is.’
She first worked with West in 2017 during New York Fashion Week. Selah fawned over West in an interview with Vogue over what it was like to work with the rapper.
She said: ‘He is so passionate about everything, and he has you looking forward to his next move, as he always thinks outside the box.’
The former NYU student described the experience as ‘exciting and inspiring.’
West and Lauryn Hill have cross paths in the past. The rapper repurposed Hill’s Mystery of Inequity on one of his breakout hits, 2004’s All Falls Down.
For his 2021 album, Donda, West was at it again, sampling Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) on his track Believe What I Say. In a 2020 tweet, West referred to Hill as ‘Our Queen.’
Also posing with West, 43, was the right-wing commentator Candace Owens, who beamed while wearing a complementary version of the ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt, and Kanye’s daughter North West, nine, was even roped into the event.
The move is another in West’s distancing himself from the mainstream of black politics.
Famously in 2005, West made international news when he appeared on a telethon for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and declared: ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people.’
Since then, however, Kanye has aligned himself with right-wing figures such as Owens, as well as President Donald Trump, regularly sporting a Make America Great Again baseball hat in public.
During a May 2018 interview regarding his support of Trump, West said: ‘Racism isn’t the deal-breaker for me. If that was the case, I wouldn’t live in America.’
‘I am Ye, and everyone here knows that I am the leader,’ West, 43, said at the event while referencing his new legal name, adding: ‘You can’t manage me.’
It is not the first time that Ye has stoked controversy surrounding race, after saying in 2018 that he thought 400 years of slavery ‘was a choice.’
The Anti-Defamation League has previously called the phrase ‘White Lives Matter’ a hate slogan.
The slogan worn on West and Owens’ shirts has previously been used by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations as an attack against the Black Lives Matter movement and Black people more broadly.
In April 2018, West drew huge criticism when he tweeted: ‘I love the way Candace Owens thinks.’
The same month, West caused major controversy when he said during an appearance on TMZ: ‘When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.’
West later apologized for those remarks but also described them as an example of ‘free thought.’
During the TMZ appearance, West was confronted over his comments by one of the show’s producers, Van Lathan.
In response to West’s White Lives Matter sweater, Lathan wrote on Instagram: ‘We don’t need a reminder of the worth of white lives. America is a shrine to the worth of white people.’
He went on: ‘This message is reactionary to a message affirming the worth of Black lives, which have never been worth anything in America. In its intent, it’s a white supremacist notion.’
Lathan continued: ‘Because it posits that we can’t have a conversation about the worth of Black people without having a conversation about the worth of white people, which is f***ing insane.’
The producer concluded: ‘The notion that it ALWAYS has to be about white people in America is incredibly frustrating, emotional draining, and the whole problem. But here’s Kanye, apparently centering that notion.’
In the hip-hop community, outspoken rapper Boosie Badazz, who famously bragged about paying prostitutes to perform oral sex on his son, then 12, and nephew, then, 13, called out West
Boosie said: ‘After all we been through as a race you put this disrespectful s**t on? U give no f**ks about how blacks have died n suffered to the hands of the white man n u say Bush don’t like black people… really n****a.’
While Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill tweeted the picture of West together with Owen and wrote: ‘Kanye West decision to wear a “White Lives Matter” shirt is disgusting, dangerous, and irresponsible. Some of y’all will rush to defend him. You should ask yourselves why…’
Former ESPN presenter Jemele Hill said: ‘So many folks are trying to excuse Kanye wearing a white lives matter t-shirt as just a troll move or marketing. Maybe it is.’
She went on: ‘But it’s a dangerously dumb message to send for someone with his massive platform. I been off dude. But y’all go ahead labeling his foolishness as genius.’
Will Smith’s son, Jaden, tweeted: ‘I can’t stand behind what Kanye’s saying. He doesn’t have the full support of the youth.’ He followed that up with a simple: ‘Black Lives Matter.’
According to Page Six, West gave a speech to the crowd while wearing the garment, and referenced his ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery in 2016, where she was held at gunpoint, as well as his fallout with clothing giant Gap.
West’s latest appearance with Owens is particularly surprising, as she called his ex Kim a ‘prostitute’ on her Daily Wire show in September after Kardashian’s ex Ray J claimed she and her mother Kris Jenner had released their sex tape in a calculated manner, ‘like an album.’
Although the producer and fashion star has feuded publicly with Kardashian over her parenting and her ex-boyfriend Pete Davidson, he has expressed an ongoing desire to get back together with her for months.
Owens has previously been critical of the NAACP, the Black Lives Matter movement, has referred to Covid-19 as a scam, and has claimed that white supremacy is not a pressing issue in society.
Prior to the show, the rapper shared a photo of headshots of several models, actresses and singers, including his ex-wife, his current romantic interest Candice Swanepoel, Amelia Hamlin, Angelina Jolie, Emily Ratajkowski and others.
However, it’s unclear if they were all expected to make an appearance, or if they just inspired YZY season nine in some way. According to Page Six, only Naomi Campbell and Hamlin walked the runway.
Shayk was present at the show but stayed on the sidelines.
Notably, the photos of the women were taken years or decades ago when they were particularly young. It’s unclear why he sought out those photos rather than more contemporary photos of them.
During his introduction to the show, West also referenced his former manager Scooter Braun.
Braun is perhaps best known to the general public for purchasing Taylor Swift’s master recordings, an act that infuriated her and has led her to rerecord her entire catalogue to prevent the current owners from garnering royalties.
Naomi Campbell and Michèle Lamy were reportedly among those who walked at the show.
Photos from the show appear to show some of the models wearing ‘White Lives Matter’ shirts.
The front of West’s ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt appeared to show a collage of photo of Pope John Paul II, with the bottom caption referring to him in Spanish as ‘Juan Pablo II.’
The YZY designer is no stranger to offensive clothing. In 2013, he wore a jacket featuring the Confederate flag, and he has previously worn the red Make America Great Again hat favored by former President Donald Trump and his fans.
West previously found himself in the spotlight when he trudged through mud at Balenciaga’s fashion show for Paris Fashion Week in a thick, militarized ensemble.
Shayk, who briefly dated the Monster rapper after his split from Kim Kardashian, shared her congratulations ‘on another epic YZY collection’ with a short Insta Stories video of him speaking in front of a much larger video screen of himself.
He was also seen standing amid an array of earth-toned clothing that looked as if it had been carelessly thrown on the floor in a photo she posted.
In an interview with Vogue Business prior to his show, West expressed his determination to make YZY an inclusive brand, despite having his hopes dashed with some of his recent clothing collaborations.
The College Dropout rapper recently terminated his collaboration with Gap, and he has now outlined his long-term ambition for his fashion brand.
Kanye — who has legally changed his name to Ye — explained: ‘Our point, our idea, is that there is no one who is not welcome at YZY, at Donda.
‘And that’s why I went to Gap,’ he continued. ‘And why I brought Demna [Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director] with me. To say “OK, Demna’s cut is at the top of what Paris has to offer. And Paris is at the top of what fashion has to offer. So let’s bring Paris to the people.”‘
Asked why the collaboration didn’t work out, Kanye said: ‘They made the T-shirts we had done cost $200. And then, they took our color palette and made a shape that was appropriate to what I think someone in the office thought was at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And I felt that was civil rights.’
When asked to clarify his statement, he explained, ‘Well, when we went to shows,’ he began, referencing his 2009 trip to Paris with Virgil Abloh and other future fashion luminaries and friends, ‘there were certain shows we couldn’t get into.
‘That relates to the civil rights movement. It shouldn’t be that you can’t have this fabric or have this cut until you’ve made it to a certain place or class in life. It’s about dignity. And democracy.’
The chart-topping star subsequently suggested that he plans to run YZY as a vertically integrated business.
He added: ‘We just bought our fourth factory in California.’
Kanye recently hit out at both Gap and another of his collaborators, Adidas, for failing to fulfill a promise to build ‘permanent stores’ for their ventures.
Sharing his plans for his brand, the rapper wrote on social media: ‘I’ll buy the land and or building. Then we gonna open up in every state and then internationally.
‘Anyone who has over 10 years retail experience and is ready to change the world post your Instagram handle or store location in the comments and we’ll find you.
‘I signed with both Adidas and Gap because it contractually stated they would build permanent stores which neither company has done even though I saved both of those companies at the same time [sic].’
Kanye has been getting a chance to have some family time while abroad for Paris Fashion Week.
His daughter North, nine, was with him while he chatted with Vogue ahead of his YZY fashion show, which was off the official Paris Fashion Week calendar.
The show will be his fourth in the fashion capital, and just his eleventh overall.
On Saturday, he was seen taking her out to dinner in Paris, along with his other three children: Saint, six; Chicago, four; and Psalm, three.
The children had previously been traveling with their mother Kim Kardashian as she headed to Milan Fashion Week, though now they seem to be spending some time with their father.
In 2020, West launched his own ill-fated presidential campaign. The Daily Beast later reported that the campaign was largely funded by Republican operatives as a means to split the black vote.
In the run up to the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, he donated to the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton respectively.