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Pharrell wore a headdress on the Elle UK cover. Native Americans are #NotHappy. He now says he’s sorry.

Pharrell appears on the cover of Elle UK's July issue in Native American headdress. (Photo by Doug Inglish)
Pharrell appears on the cover of Elle UK’s July issue in Native American headdress. (Photo by Doug Inglish/Elle UK)

So much for Pharrell’s happy world.

The “Happy”-singing music star, apparently tired of Mountie culture, traded his signature Smokey the Bear chapeau for a Native American headdress on the cover of Elle UK.

The cover photo has incited anger and disappointment — and prompted Pharrell to apologize.

“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry,” he said Wednesday morning through his publicist.

It’s unclear what prompted Pharrell’s fashion change, but in a promotional blurb on the Elle UK site, it appears the impetus might have come from the magazine’s staff.

[W]e persuaded ELLE Style Award winner Pharrell to trade his Vivienne Westwood mountie hat for a native American feather headdress in his best ever shoot.

That passage appears to have been scrubbed from Elle’s Web site today, but you can see a cached version of the blurb here:

(Elle UK)
(Elle UK)

We’ve reached out to Elle UK for comment but have yet to hear back. We’ll update if we do.

The potential perils of this “fashion” choice seem obvious. Recently, Oklahoma’s first daughter Christina Fallin — a would-be rock star herself — got in trouble for a similar head-wear.

The Elle UK Facebook page has been flooded with negative comments highlighting how disrespectful it is to wear Native American headdress if you happen to not be an actual Indian chief.

“To all those who say ‘I don’t see the big deal, he respects native people.’ No..” wrote Facebook user Taylor Red Fox Smith. “Thats just ignorance. NOT EVEN A REGULAR NATIVE WOULD DARE PUT THIS ON UNLESS THEY EARNED EVERY FEATHER IN WHAT IS WORN BY ONLY A CHIEF. Please if ur not native, just stop.”

On Twitter, commentary has taken off with #NotHappy hashtag, a sardonic reference to Pharrell’s mega-hit, “Happy.”






Still #NOTHappy doe #WarbonnetsAreSacred

— Ruth Hopkins (@_RuthHopkins) June 4, 2014

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at On Twitter: @abbydphillip



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