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Michelle Joni Lapidos never knew that she would fall in love with a big, black afro wig. And she certainly never knew it would change her life. But after she wore it to a dress-up party, that's exactly what happened. Now the white, Jewish "afro-girl" has been thrown in the middle of a racial firestorm.
It sounds like an experiment from a college sociology class, but Lapidos says to Tell Me More's Michel Martin that she began wearing the wig with good, fun intentions. She was quickly called a racist by people who took offense to it.
Here's one comment on her blog, beforeandafro.com:
"From one white girl to another, please just stop. You are hurting people—you're wearing their identity and culture as a costume that you can put on and take off."
However, Lapidos received some encouragement from Questlove, the famous drummer from the band, The Roots. Questlove recently tweeted a picture of Lapidos sporting her wig and busting a few moves on the dance floor at a fried chicken festival. Lapidos is unapologetic for wearing the afro to the festival, but she is sorry for offending people who think that she is mocking anyone's culture.
She says the afro is "a symbol of anything that makes you look at something in a different way." She explains how she "looks cooler" since the wig covers her "normal blond hair."
Lapidos has learned a lot from this experience and now she enjoys educating "a ton of other clueless white people."
She says she genuinely enjoys the look of the afro. But her experience has revealed "the open wound that is still there for people who have afros who feel that they have to straighten their hair for job interviews," she adds.
If this was Lapidos' dramatic idea for a dress up party, then you must wonder what she plans to do for Halloween. She says she will dress as an Equal Opportunity Offender — she says she will wear a "Yarmulke, the afro, a Sari, and all these different symbols of culture and religion."
"I never meant to offend anyone, but if I'm gonna offend someone, like I'll offend everyone. Let's just all be offended."
And after all of the criticism, Lapidos says that she now wears a blond wig.