Jordan? Look at her. How much does that girl wish she were black? Pumped-up lips, dancehall clothes that look best against a dark (orange) skin, hair extensions, ample derrière, big attitude and more bling jewellery than you can shake a gold rope chain at. She may have been born pale Katie Price but Jordan is now the blackest white woman in Britain.
She has done exactly what Alicia Silverstone's character does in the new movie Beauty Shop - go from plain white Katie-no-mates to everybody's favourite by stealing the moves of a Jamaican dancehall queen. They're all doing it - from rich-girl rappers such as Victoria Aitken to the gangsta-geared David Beckham, they're all pretending to be black. Listen to the teenage boys on the bus, talking in some bastard patois.
Beauty Shop is already a hit in the States. In it, Liz (played by Silverstone) earns the acceptance of a bunch of funky black folks (led by Queen Latifah) by taking on their looks and attitude. She wants to be cool and loved and the way to do that is apparently to do everything short of putting boot polish on your face. The film is about to be released here, at a time when members of the black community are wondering if there is anything left that has not been "shared", appropriated or just plain stolen.
With the most successful ambassador of hip hop now a white kid from Detroit, Eminem, the rest has been a gradual "incorporation of blackness" - deep fake tans, fat injections in the lips, the "bootylicious" craze and now even Stella McCartney and D&G have "gone back to Africa" for the season's trendiest looks. So is being black really the new black? "Only for this year," says Ruki Garuba of Pride magazine. "Sometimes Ithink things have gone too far. I passed a department store this week and the front window was dressed in a 'Back to Africa' theme with zebras frolicking with people I can only assume to be tribesmen. It was ridiculous."
Is imitation really the greatest form of flattery? You decide. Here are some of the many characters putting on the blackness just now. You may know them. You may even be among them.
Patron saint: Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune
A close cousin of the Trustafarian, the Jafaikan is a lifelong fan of Bob Marley who feels connected to the land of Bob's birth because that's where he first discovered the "medicinal" powers of the holy weed. On holiday. With his mum and dad. Since then the Jafaikan has tuned in, dropped out and rejected the oppressor for winters on the beach. There is always the lovely family home in Hampstead to go back to, but he's storing up experiences for the dull days ahead on the trading floor. You didn't really think he was going to keep his dreads for ever did you? The kids will never get into a good school if daddy looks as though he had just walked off a beach in St Lucia.
Need we say more?
His appreciation for black culture runs deep, but naming your pets after rap star Snoop and music mogul Puffy is trying too hard. Wearing enough diamonds to light up the night sky, the Beckham type sees no shame adopting one of the worst traits of the bona fide rap star - conspicuous consumption. With the Beckham, there is no such thing as "too much".
Patron saint: Stella McCartney, fashion designer
The fashionista starts out appreciating new trends, but quickly settles for trying to outdo her friends with exotic, ethnic garb. The more far-flung the region the better. Today it's dashiki prints or Rastafarian-inspired clothes trimmed in red, green and gold, but last year it was Japanese kimono tops and the year before that the bindi. The globe is her sampling shop; as soon as a region goes out of style, so does its people.
Patron saint: Victoria Aitken, socialite turned rapper
The Token is often the loudest in a group consisting of entirely black friends. Always going the extra mile to prove just how "down with the cause" they are. These self-appointed members of the black community immerse themselves in the culture to show that their involvement is the real deal. It's not just an act of rebellion towards their snooty parents.
Patron saint: Tim Westwood, Radio 1 DJ
Wannabe gangsta with an attitude pinched straight outta MTV's Pimp My Ride. Everything about our jive-talking homie comes cloaked in the latest "street talk". A fan of old Al Pacino flicks (which gangster can't quote Scarface?), this Wangsta from the dangerous hood of Devon had already decided if he would be a Blood or a Crip by age 16. Now he's down with a crew in Shoreditch (but not Hackney, too dangerous, even if he did "prove" his street cred by being hurt in a drive-by shooting in what was thought to be a turf war between rival gangs.)
The Glamma Puss
Patron saint: Jordan, glamour model
Blonde and busty though she may be, the Glamma Puss works her ample backside for all it's worth. A permanent member of the "You've been Tangoed" club, this collagen-enhanced sweetie has perfected her "winning" dance routine to the latest beats (complete with matching boyfriend). Hair extensions and killer nails round off the look with genuine dancehall queens wondering who taught the new girl all their moves.
The Hip Hop Homie
Patron saint: Vanilla Ice, unconvincing gangsta
Baggy pants, doo-rag sitting proudly atop his head, pen constantly in hand to jot down the next rhymes to pop into his head, it's just a matter of time before he makes the big time in the music business. One hopes it will last longer than it did for Ice, now reduced to being voted out of reality shows. Life on the mean streets of Cheltenham have prepared the new Hip Hop Homie for writing songs about life in the hood. Nothing says struggle more than being forced to go to boarding school. Talk about rough living.
And those are just the obvious examples. So we're all black now, right? Only if you think being black is just about bling. "Everyone has a right to black culture but it's more than the music, the fashion and jewellery," protests Ruki Garba. "That applies to people from our community as well. We're more than an MTV video."
The stereotypical notion of what black culture is angers novelist and critic Diran Adebayo. "Eight hundred million people in Africa, a rich cultural heritage and people across the globe making great contributions, and what we get fed is a diet of American ghetto culture. This is the aspect of black culture that travels farthest and sells the best, apparently. It's so seductive."
For Adebayo, black people are hurting themselves. "We're playing ourselves. We make a lot of money for a lot of people. We're perfect fodder for these big companies - if they can herd us into a few styles then they will get the next hits. So many of us readily conform without batting an eyelid. We are going to hell in a hand basket if we continue like this."
The Beckham, the Fashionista and the others will move on soon. Look how quickly they tired of Bollywood. But the best hope is that some of this is going deeper, encouraging some real cross-cultural appreciation, using the melting pot to cook up a rich stew. Next time you buy the record, make a new friend or wear something inspired by the Motherland, just remember: black is for life, not just for the season.Reuse content