Why Does Nick Cannon Wear a Turban?

Wearing a turban is a bold statement. While you wouldn’t blink twice at a celebrity wearing a baseball cap or a beanie, the turban usually signifies a specific cultural or religious practice. And considering what a departure it was from Nick’s normally slick and modern fashion statements, it makes sense that fans would wonder what it signified.

The Culture Surrounding the Turban

The most prominent wearers of turbans are the Sikhs. To the Sikhs, the act of wearing a turban is an act of faith and an act of expression. The turban is practically as old as Sikhism, and wearing a turban was initially a sign of defiance.  Throughout Southeast Asia, the turban was an article of clothing that denoted a higher caste or noble birth, and Sikhs first adopted it as a recognition that all were equal and no man stood above another. It’s a tradition that’s continued and has become a core tenet of the religion. It’s a constant reminder of both humility and liberation to Sikh men who might find themselves gloating over another or dealing with oppression in their personal lives. And it creates a sense of solidarity among followers that all are ranked equally.

The Turban as a Fashion Symbol

That doesn’t mean that turbans are only worn by Sikhs. The idea of headscarves has been popular around the world dating all the way back through civilization, and its popularity has as much to do with its practicality as it does with its fashionability or value as a symbol of equanimity. And everyone from celebrities to the Queen of England herself has made the turban a prominent showcase of their fashion lineup. The turban has functional value in addition to being a fashion statement as well. Hair turbans are regularly used as an alternative to traditional towels for keeping the hair dry, and they’re a go-to for people going through the chemotherapy process. For the most part, Sikhism doesn’t regard the wearing of a turban as an appropriation. It’s a head garment that’s worn all around the world for a wide variety of reasons, but there are instances that can cause the Sikh community to speak out. Gucci’s 2018 fall fashion show was one of them.  To see a traditional Sikh style of turban charged at exorbitant prices and worn exclusively by non-practicing white models was a shock and an outrage to many, and it was especially egregious to see the headwear – which is designed to signify modesty and equality – sold exclusively to an elite market. So is Nick Cannon’s wearing of turbans that often resemble one of the few Sikh styles a choice driven by fashion, spirituality, or something in between? And is it appropriative, or is he a member of the Sikh faith?

Is Nick Cannon a Sikh?

Nick Cannon’s relationship with religion is a long and complicated one. His father James Cannon was a successful televangelist, and that upbringing influenced Nick’s views and philosophies from an early age. It also gave him a platform to explore life as an entertainer thanks to the public access channel that was owned by the church.  But Nick Cannon isn’t a man known for standing still on everything. He’s gone from an aspiring musician to a comedian to the host of The Masked Singer, but that same approach towards constant evolution also seems to be reflected in his spirituality. While he may have been raised in an evangelical church, his views have shifted over the years.  In the same way that he’s evolved from a motor-mouthed and dynamic young comedian into a more stately and serious TV personality, so too has his stance on religion. In the wake of his divorce from Mariah Carey, he became celibate so that he could focus on his spirituality and the raising of his children. When asked about it by Ellen DeGeneres, he discussed his reason for wearing a turban in greater detail. According to Nick, wearing a turban “makes [him] feel like a king”, and it has the advantage of convenience. As he’s closely involved in the raising of his children, a turban offers an easy way to deal with his hair when running around doing daily errands. But he also saw in it a means to reflect his inner, spiritual self When asked about it, he stated “No matter what background you’re from, no matter which religion or culture, if you could all just embrace it and just everybody love another”. While his initial statements would seem to reflect that Cannon doesn’t specifically follow the Sikh religion, a feud with Dane Cook on Twitter would lead to a more compelling answer. When Cook blasted him on social media for the ensemble he chose to wear, Cannon clapped back with a comment telling Cook to mind his own business and the hashtags #MoorishMindset, #SikhLife, and #ReconditioningOurCommunities.  While he hasn’t spoken out about his religion specifically, it indicates a shift towards a more activist mindset focused on empowering black communities. Considering his shift more towards the serious in the past few years, that makes sense.  But for Cannon, the turban seems to be more about melding together different spiritual practices into a framework that makes sense for him. That doesn’t mean that it’s all about piety and solemnity. “I want to represent my inner king and to do it in a fly way. “It’s a great conversation piece but it also allows me to express that spiritual side…I have a good time with it, but it actually does mean a lot to me.”

Controversies in 2020

But for some, the shift to a new persona that focuses on his black identity is controversial.  While on the air with Professor Griff on July 14, 2020, Cannon made some anti-semitic and black supremacist comments – claiming that the Jewish people stole their identity from the “true black Hebrews”.  It’s a stance endorsed by Louis Farrakhan and in line with the current status of the Nation of Islam. He similarly claimed that white people were “savages” and “that the only way they can act is evil”, leaning onto a premise known as melanin theory. Prior to this, he’d claimed Eminem was a product of institutional racism. Cannon would later apologize for his anti-semitic statements and demand all the rights to his show Wild ‘n Out as well as an apology from Viacom for firing him. For Cannon, the adoption of the turban seems to be a personal decision but also one driven by hundreds of years of cultural experience – and his spirituality seems to be changing over time.  Over the course of six years, he’s transitioned from a perspective that celebrates the diversity of all religions towards something more militantly pro-black and influenced by everything from the Nation of Islam to the Moorish Temple. He wouldn’t be the first major celebrity to associate with the Nation of Islam. Snoop Dogg briefly claimed membership in 2009. From briefly running with the Crips to being the poster boy for MTV, from marrying Mariah Carey to being celibate, and from hosting an international televised competition to speaking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Cannon has been a true chameleon. What the turban means to Cannon appears to be changing over time as well, and chances are that his views and perspectives will continue to grow over time.  If his fashion sense changes along with it, we’ll just have to wait and see. Sources: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/february-web-only/roots-of-urban-religious-syncretism-nick-cannon.html http://www.mashupamericans.com/issues/is-it-hot-under-there/ http://etonline.com/news/177679_nick_cannon_says_he_celibate_since_splitting_from_mariah_carey

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