- Addison Rae appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show and did a series of dances popular on TikTok.
- The choreographers of the dances performed during the “Tonight Show” segment were not credited.
- It sparked backlash and a discussion about white creators profiting from Black culture.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Addison Rae Easterling, one of TikTok’s top influencers with over 78 million followers who is better known as Addison Rae, went on “The Tonight Show” to teach TikTok dances to host Jimmy Fallon. The segment was more of a performance than a dance class, but it still made waves online: while the dances were present, their creators, many of whom are Black, were absent.
The “TikTok dances” segment also did not credit the creators of any of the dances on-screen, though their handles were listed in the video description of the show’s YouTube upload of the clip.
Numerous social-media commentators and Black creators have called out the segment as part of a larger problem on TikTok and in pop culture at large.
TikTok dance creators have historically been uncredited by users who follow their choreography trends. Within this landscape, Black creators have pleaded with white users for credit for the viral trends they started, as Vox, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed News have all reported in the past.
The lack of dance credit on Fallon’s show, which follows the same issues on the app, is particularly problematic now that TikTok fame can lead to further opportunities and money, as BuzzFeed News’ Tanya Chen wrote.
The creators of the “Tonight Show” choreography, according to the show’s YouTube video description, are @noahschnapp (“Do It Again” by Pia Mia), @yvnggprince (“Corvette Corvette” by Popp Hunna), @flyboyfu (“Laffy Taffy” by D4L), @keke.janajah (“Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion), @macdaddyz (“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd), @theemyanicole (“Up” by Cardi B), @thegilberttwins (“Fergalicious” by Fergie).
“The Tonight Show” credits @jazlynebaybee as the creator of the “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” dance, but its origins are somewhat unclear. Producer Jawsh 685, whose “Laxed – Siren Beat” is the foundation for the “Savage Love” collaboration with Jason Derulo, posted similar moves on his TikTok account almost two weeks before @jazlynebaybee posted what came to be known as the “Culture Dance” challenge. It’s unclear whether or not he created those dance moves: HITC reported in 2020 that the “Laxed – Siren Beat” sound was originally uploaded by a user with the handle @Irenepearson12 who may have created the dance, but that account appears to no longer exist.
When reached for comment, a representative for “The Tonight Show” did not respond to the online backlash to the segment.
People criticized the segment on social media
When “The Tonight Show” and Fallon himself posted the clip on Twitter, it quickly went viral. As one social-media user said, the appearance, which was tied to the release of Rae’s new single “Obsessed,” demonstrated who typically receives these kinds of opportunities.
Side-by-side comparisons of Rae and the original choreography video for “UP” posted by @theemyanicole circulated on Twitter as well.
-sk (@kirkxxs) March 28, 2021
“The fact that Addison Rae is championed for ‘Tik Tok Dances’ whilst the black creatives that made them never get the same platform will never sit right with me,” YouTube creator and social-media strategist Nathan Marcelin, who goes by @868nathan on all platforms, tweeted in response to the clip posted on Jimmy Fallon’s account.
Marcelin told Insider that he has no issues with Rae personally, but more so with the culture around credit and recognition for trends on TikTok. “TikTok in itself is a platform that thrives on ‘trends,’ there’s no problem with that,” he told Insider on Tuesday. “However when content creators appropriate dances without doing the due diligence of finding out where it originates from and crediting those creators is where I think it gets a little muddy.”
This is far from the first time Black creators haven’t been credited for their choreography
In early 2020, a dance known as the “Renegade” set to the song “Lottery (Renegade)” by K Camp exploded on TikTok. While it was briefly attributed to Charli D’Amelio, TikTok’s most-followed star, Vox and later The New York Times reported that then-14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon was the largely uncredited creator of the dance.
Following more mainstream recognition, Harmon, who is Black, was invited to perform her original choreography at the NBA All-Stars game in February 2020, after the invite was previously extended to creators including D’Amelio and Rae, who had become known for the dance on TikTok. Still, as the Los Angeles Times reported, Harmon hasn’t received the same level of fame as the white TikTokers who found popularity by dancing to her original choreography.
Since it was publicized that Harmon had been the uncredited creator of the massively viral dance, there’s been a more visible effort to credit those choreographers.
But as Vox’s Rebecca Jennings wrote, the credit chain can become muddy and difficult to trace back to a specific person. And even when credit is clearly identified, it doesn’t mean that the brains and talent behind viral trends will be the ones who will reap the same rewards as the already-popular creators who capitalize on them.
On social media, people were quick to call out not only the lack of credit for the creators of the dances showcased during the “Tonight Show” segment, but also the fact that they weren’t afforded the same opportunities as Rae.
-Young Daddy (@Toure) March 29, 2021
-HOOD VOGUE is tired of poverty (@itskeyon) March 27, 2021
“It’s kind of hard to credit during the show, but [the creators] all know that I love them so much and I support all of them so much, and hopefully we can all meet up and dance together,” Rae told TMZ in an interview segment. “They definitely deserve all the credit because they came up with these amazing trends.”
The segment plays into a larger issue on TikTok and social media
Shahem, a therapist and social worker who has been sharing mental-health advice on TikTok (@5hahem) throughout the pandemic, posted a video on TikTok on Monday speaking about “white mediocrity,” and many users in the comments section assumed they were referencing the “Tonight Show” segment. In a subsequent video, they reacted to a side-by-side comparison of Rae and @theemyanicole, the original creator, performing the “UP” dance.
“It’s not even the mediocrity, it’s the opportunities y’all get DESPITE mediocre,” an on-screen comment on the video reads.
Shahem, who asked to withhold their last name, told Insider that they saw the clip as part of a larger issue in society wherein white people garner attention and followers by co-opting aspects of Black culture.
Rae is someone who “just happens to benefit from this larger system,” Shahem, who is Black, told Insider in an interview. Furthermore, when Shahem spoke about the issue on TikTok, they said they experienced racial gaslighting from commenters saying that Rae’s race wasn’t a factor in why she was given the opportunity when the Black creators who made the dances weren’t.
“It’s not about Addison Rae. It’s about a larger conversation,” they said. Shahem highlighted that Insider had reached out to them, a Black creator, to provide commentary on a segment involving a white creator, rather than for an interview about their own content.
“You can be uplifting Black voices. And I am one of the many Black voices that deserve to be uplifted, that contributes so much to the world outside of just being known as someone upset at white people.”
Ultimately, the “Tonight Show” segment is part of a larger issue. Black creators have choreographed many of TikTok’s biggest dance trends, but they’re still sidelined in favor of white influencers like Rae who pick up on the moves.
Marcelin, the YouTube creator, said that giving credit on TikTok to trend creators was the “bare minimum,” and that those with larger platforms online should try to “elevate” the creators influencing their content.
“I just wish that Mr. Fallon would have taken the opportunity to someone recognize the originators of the dances and invite them onto his program as well,” Marcelin told Insider. “It’s sort of lending legitimacy to the fact that these creators although faceless and rarely elevated in mainstream media, play a HUGE role on pushing creativity forward.”