TikToker’s ‘Spa Water’ Receives Backlash For Cultural Appropriation

Whether hunting for decor, fashion, or beauty tips, you’ll find a wealth of inspiration on TikTok. This is especially true when it comes to viral recipes—both the ingenious and the insane. While some of these recipes are worth the hype, others miss the mark in more ways than one.

Wellness influencer Gracie Norton recently shared one such recipe with her over 500,000 followers. The video explained how to make “spa water,” an icy concoction of water, cucumbers, and sugar. Norton explains that it’s “anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants.” And like many influencers, she frames the recipe as the next big craze.

However, the internet quickly pointed out a glaring issue with Norton’s video. Not only did “spa water” already exist. But it’s actually agua fresca, a beverage with roots stretching back to the Aztec empire. Agua fresca, or fresh water, is made by infusing fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, or hibiscus with water before filtering.

Fellow TikTokers immediately pointed out that Norton neglected to acknowledge the beverage’s cultural origins. Soon, she became known as the girl who passed off agua fresca as “spa water,” and the internet had some thoughts.

“Not the gentrified agua de pepino 💀,” one TikTok user said. As another user put it, “they’re colonizing agua fresca too?! 😭” One user commented, “Im not surprised. Im waiting for margaritas to be rebranded as a “beach lime cocktail.”

‘I Am Truly So Sorry’

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Norton apologized in light of the backlash. “Upon reflection, it has become clear why this was so harmful to the Latino community. I hope that, in time, everyone will know how much I have learned from this experience. And I am truly so sorry to the people I have offended,” she explains.

“I strongly believe in learning and growing from our mistakes. But people need to be given the opportunity to do that,” Norton said. “If we cancel everyone who makes a mistake, we don’t give them the chance to correct it and truly evolve. I think that’s a shame.”

Norton is from Indiana, so it’s possible she hadn’t heard of agua fresca. We all make mistakes, and maybe we should make room for people to grow and learn. Norton acknowledging her mistake is a start. Ultimately, cultural appropriation ends where respect begins.

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