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Pharrell Williams apologises for wearing headress

Last updated 10:24 05/06/2014

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Singer of hit summer song Happy Pharrell Williams has apologised for wearing a native American headdress in a cover shoot for ELLE UK magazine.

Complaints poured in on Facebook. On Twitter, the hashtag #nothappy was dominated by those frustrated and unhappy about the inappropriateness of the chart-topping musician donning a feathered headdress, a traditionally sacred garment earned and worn by tribe chieftains.

Williams has issued a statement through his publicist. 

"I respect and honour every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry."

Elle UK magazine has removed the blurb from their website celebrating their choice of the headdress for the famously hatted singer.

"We persuaded Elle Style Award winner Pharrell to trade his Vivienne Westwood mountie hat for a native American feather headdress in his best ever shoot."

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Megan Red Shirt-Shaw wrote a post for the Think Progress blog, outlining her pain and frustration as a person of Sioux descent with the ongoing appropriation of indigenous traditions by the fashion industry.

"Symbols like the headdress are owned by the tribes. They are sacred to our communities. It is hurtful to see them used in any other way. Culture is alive and well in Native America. I invite you to Gathering of Nations (a not-for-profit organisation to educate people about native American culture), or to any powwow across the country so you can see the ways in which we continue to celebrate who we are as America's first nations. Visit a reservation. Visit an urban Indian center. Come and see us for who we are and understand why we celebrate our traditions. You too, stylists of Elle. We see you. Clearly," Red Shirt-Saw wrote.

US singer Gwen Stefani weathered similar criticisms in November 2012 after wearing a series of tradtional costumes in a film clip.

Williams hit back at accusations of racism in February this year when the cover for his latest album, GIRL, did not include any black women.

"What really disappointed me is that they jumped the gun, because the one I'm standing the closest to is black," Williams told a US radio show. 

In April, Williams told talk show host Oprah Winfrey he idenfitied as part of a 'New Black" movement.

"The New Black dreams and realises that it's not pigmentation: it's a mentality and it's either going to work for you or it's going to work against you. And you've got to pick the side you're going to be on." 

Williams has recently stood up for four young Iranians who were arrested and eventually released for making a fan tribute video with his song Happy.

"The present is a gift, and if you just want to celebrate your happiness, you should be allowed to do that," Williams said, adding he had the utmost respect for people's religious views.

- FFX Aus

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