Just watching the Season 9 premiere of 90 Day Fiance, Miona and Jibri Bell seemed … fine?
Obvious conflicts over their wedding and where to live seemed inevitable, but hardly insurmountable.
But fans have spied major 90 Day Fiance red flags, and one of them is Miona.
Jibri’s Serbian lady love appears in a wide variety of skin tones on social media … and is getting accused of blackfishing.
Miona and Jibri Bell met in Serbia. They are now going through the visa process to bring her to the United States.
Between disagreements over how long they should live in South Dakota with his parents to wedding plans, they have a lot of hurdles ahead.
All in all, their premiere episode only raised a handful of red flags — that’s pretty good, considering the drama that this show can feature.
But years before she met Jibri, Miona looked very different than she does now.
Her social media history goes back for years, as you will see in examples below.
In 2015, she had the sort of fair skin that you would expect from a Serbian woman. In contrast …
… In many of Miona’s recent photos, she is sporting golden brown skin of varying levels of darkness.
Now, sometimes, people simply tan. Makeup that darkens skin is not tanning.
And when darkened skin is combined with certain hairstyles, styling choices, and ways of presenting yourself online, it often means blackfishing.
Blackfishing is a complicated topic, but it is a play on the word “catfishing” and particularly common among influencers.
Essentially, someone who is not Black will style themselves to either appear Black or ethnically ambiguous, as if wearing Blackness as a costume — or a product.
The idea can be to broaden ones consumer base or seek clout without actually claiming to be Black, and it is a pernicious and racist practice.
As concerned viewers on Twitter have noted, Miona has undergone some major changes in her appearance over the years.
It’s of course true that some of this could be explained with natural tanning — everyone has the right to tan, even if it’s not necessarily a healthy choice.
But combined with the makeup choices, how she wears her hair, and more, it seems more like wearing Blackness as a costume. Is that what’s happening here?
Miona did not wait for the Tell All to respond to questions (and perhaps some outright attacks), taking to Instagram in response.
She notes that she is Serbian, but reports that she has Mexican and Middle Eastern heritage as well.
That is not an ideal defense, if it is even one at all, especially since vague ancestry from dubious DNA reports means very little in terms of how race is viewed within society.
First of all, someone of Mexican or Middle Eastern descent could also perpetuate anti-Black racism by, among other things, Blackfishing.
Second of all, while heritage is worthy of celebration, race is something inherited from one’s immediate ancestors — like parents.
Of course it’s a complicated topic (race is an ill-defined social construct) but it is not unreasonable to ask if a reality star is participating in a toxic, exploitative trend.
No one person can give a white person — or any other person of color — “permission” to cosplay as a Black person for social media clout.
That said, in the most practical sense, the most important opinions about Miona’s chameleon-like changing of skin tone are of Jibri and his family.
It sounds like Jibri is fine with things, considering that he liked Miona’s post (and also married her). But how will his mother react?
We don’t know if it will come up this season, especially given the franchise’s track record.
Cast members with racism scandals are not treated equally. Lisa Hamme was quietly fired. Alina Kasha was loudly fired. Mike Berk’s racist scandal was ignored by the show.
It would be nice to see Season 9’s Tell All special tackle this topic head on, because it matters — and maybe, as Miona suggests, there’s something that we’re not seeing.