UK-based beauty brand, Illamasqua, is in the cross-hairs of a heated debate over what blackface is or is not concerning its new Christmas 2012 advertisement campaign.
Attempting to illustrate high color contrast, the two ads depict an expressionless White woman in a men’s top hat, coat, and bow-tie, madeup completely white in one ad and completely black in the other, with the exception of red-hued lips and cheeks.
The all-black ad has some customers, Black and White alike, absolutely furious that the brand would either knowingly or ignorantly release a racially insensitive ad.
One commenter writes, “This is disgusting. And a lack of overt racist intent does not mitigate actual overtly racist result.” Another replies, “I do not believe it was the intent of this company to have outright ‘blackface’ makeup, however this does remind me of old minstrel blackface.”
The company, playing it safe, didn’t really help their case with a statement claiming, “The model painted black has been interpreted by some as ‘black face.’ This was certainly not our intention nor inspiration.”
Once again, we see people up-in-arms based on a history neither side actually understands. This has been apparent on several previous occasions including:
- the Beyoncé blackface controversy
- the Billy Crystal–Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation
- the Lie Sang Bond Paris Fashion Week fiasco
- a White second grader dressed as Martin Luther King Jr. for school
- Zoe Saldana darkened to play Nina Simone
- and most recently — the “minstrel” President Obama illustration by Karl Lagerfeld
It has become apparent that some people define blackface and minstrelsy by merely one characteristic: any use of dark makeup on the face.
While others think “They’re not American, they’re European, so it’s not really racism! They don’t know any better!” is in any way factual or even a remotely sensible defense. All of which need to stand down, immediately.
What blackface is NOT
If it is not degrading in every execution, depicting Blacks as buffoons and ignorantly happy, lazy, and musical — it is NOT blackface. Did I just describe a typical hip-hop music video?
What, other than the model’s skin being painted black, offends you about the Im Dreaming Of campaign? I’ll wait.
Is it a poorly executed design or concept? That’s up to personal taste. I’m sure there is a better way the brand can show its vast array of available foundations, including those depicted in the ad.
Is it an ineffective campaign? That is up to the loss or gain in product sales and customers. But REAL blackface, in all of its vicious glory, is made up of more than makeup.