Cultural Appropriation and Esther Jones

Esther Jones, Baby Esther, Helen Kane, Betty Boop, Cultural Appropriation
Most people struggle to understand what cultural appropriation is. The truth about the origins of Betty Boop's singing voice are a perfect example of cultural appropriation. A black woman named Esther Jones, later dubbed Baby Esther, created the iconic style of singing Betty Boop would eventually be known for. Mrs. Jones even performed at the Cotton Club. An aspiring white singer named Helen Kane attended one of Mrs. Jones' performance and began imitating her style. Shortly after, the famous cartoon, Betty Boop aired. Mrs. Kane sued the creators of Betty Boop for stealing her style, when in fact she had stolen the entire style from Mrs. Jones. This fact was proven and upheld in court, however Mrs. Jones received no money or acknowledgment for her originality. Since she was not present during the trial, the creators were able to continue using the Betty Boop cartoon. Betty Boop would go on to become the most famous cartoon in the world, even influencing Japanese Anime.

The practice of stealing art, vernacular, etc from a group of people and making money off it as though it is yours, with no acknowledgement of the true origins and no respect for the originators is the definition of cultural appropriation.


  1. theComplex. "Photo: This is NOT Esther Jones and Betty Boop Was Not Black". Sinuous Magazine; visited February 2020
  2. Brendan Wolfe. "The Fight for Betty Boop's Soul". F Yeah History. August 13, 2018
  3. Ten Little Known Black History Facts". PBS; visited February 2020
  4. "6 Fun Facts About Japanese Animation". Children's Museum of the Arts. August 9, 2016

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