Alison Roman has defended herself from accusations of racism after an old photo of her in a Halloween costume from 2008 resurfaced. She claims her outfit was inspired by Amy Winehouse and not a “Chola.”
The word ‘Chola’ originally referred to a woman from Latin America who had indigenous or had partly indigenous ancestry. Today, in the US, it is generally used as a derogatory term to refer to people of Latin American descent, usually Mexican, who are low-income, “tough” and wear clothes associated with the gangster culture.
The photo, which was originally posted to MySpace, shows Roman at a party with three friends all in fancy dress costumes and has caused some to accuse her of cultural appropriation.
The controversy started when journalist and Twitter personality Yashar Ali posted the photo online in a since-deleted post where he accused the celebrity chef of being dressed up as a Chola at a party.
In the tweet, he wrote that a “source” had sent him the photo, and it showed Alison Roman dressed as a Chola at a party.
“Note her hoop earrings, fake tattoo on her chest, and her makeup. Unclear when the photo was taken,” Ali wrote.
The foodie jumped on Twitter very quickly to address the photo and defend herself. She called it an “incredibly embarrassing photo” but said her costume was supposed to be referencing the singer, Amy Winehouse. She also wrote that the pic was taken in San Francisco in 2008 when she was 23 years old.
She admitted the photo appeared culturally insensitive and apologized, stating that she was an “idiot child.” She wrote: “it reads as culturally insensitive, and I was an idiot child who knew nothing about the world/how this would be perceived, and I’m sorry.”
The photo in question remains up on MySpace.
Ali Yashar has since deleted his tweet but posted a screenshot of it alongside Roman’s tweet. In the subsequent Twitter thread, he claims he posted the photo because Roman “has a recent history of being called out for appropriation.”
He also said he disagreed with Roman’s explanation and wrote: “Amy [Winehouse] didn’t have a tattoo in old English on her chest like that. She also didn’t wear hoops like that.”
He added: “I knew Alison had apologized to a friend for this photo. We can agree to disagree, but I always appreciate the honest feedback and accountability.”
Back in March of this year, reality TV star Kim Kardashian was also accused of cultural appropriation when she posted a pic of herself to Instagram with waist-length braids.
Hollywood actor Zac Effron has also previously faced criticisms when he posted a picture of himself sporting dreadlocks. Debate amongst fans raged over whether he was guilty of cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation.