So Illamasqua, a makeup company based in the UK, put out an ad campaign to promote their products using a model in blackface, sparking an outrage across the internet.
First, a word in defence of Illamasqua. This is a make-up company that is very theatrical and will very often poke fun at our traditional ideas about beauty and artifice.
Their whole business is built on the idea of self-expression through make-up, and the idea that women should not just wear make-up, BUT SHIT TONS OF IT, is how they make money. Having said that, the Christmas campaign featuring a model not JUST wearing blackface but ALSO with exaggerated pink lips and a stupid little bow tie is not just cutting a little too close to the edge, it’s right fucking over it!
Blackface as a tradition was used in North America to explicitly mock and make fun of black culture and black people. Black people were ENSLAVED, and the slightest hint of rebellion could and did see them murdered in any grotesque and torturous way you can imagine. This lead to oh, a little bit of life-saving obsequiousness. Think Mammy wanted to grovel and stammer? Wrong, asshole. She wanted to KILL, but knew that would mean giving up her own life, the lives of her children, her family, her loved ones. So grovel she did. And Uncle Tom and Little Black Sambo grovelled and danced , too.
Danced for their lives.
Blackface is not, and never has been funny. The fact is that we still live in a brutally and deeply racist culture. You only have to look at Chris Brown to see how close black men live to being defined as animals. Yeah, Chris is an asshole. So is every guy who beats the shit out of his girlfriend. But Chris is an asshole while black, and that’s a dangerous place to be.
Illamasaqua was trying to be playful and edgy with their black/white Christmas campaign. I get that. Everybody screws up. But there is nothing funny or playful about our culture’s history and treatment of black people. Slapping black makeup on a white model is horribly misguided at best, and horrifyingly racist at worst.
And countries like the Netherlands that STILL show Santa’s helpers as being African slaves? Yeah, fuck you, Netherlands.
I’m not going to join the chorus to boycott Illamasqua, because I think it was a case of not stopping to think. If you’re gonna buy that super dark foundation though, you better be fucking black.
Lots of love,