Makeup artist Spencer (@PaintDatFace) found himself in hot water over the weekend when he posted on Instagram a split image of a fair-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed model beside a brown-skinned model with brown eyes and an ethnic printed head wrap. The problem? They were actually the same girl. You can only imagine how the internet went into a frenzy, crying, “Blackface”!
In case you need a refresher, "blackface" is a term that originated in the early 19th century when Black performers were discriminated against and not allowed to perform for white audiences. So white performers would darken their skin and ridiculously exaggerated their features to “appear Black” while showcasing “tom-foolery.” This stereotypical “art” contributed to a legacy of racist stereotypes which still continue today.
We all know the beauty and undeniable power of our epic shades of black and brown and olive-colored skin, but when does inspiration go too far?
Alarmed by the responses to his posts screaming blackface, Spencer deleted the original post and replaced it with a photo of himself with different foundations streaked across his face along with the original image and a lengthy explanation:
“The transformation that I recently posted of a woman transformed into a woman of another culture has been highly criticized by those who don't understand the message. I deleted the post, not because I had regret or saw wrongdoing, but because of the negativity social media turned it into. It's been assumed by most that my intentions were to transform my model into a black woman. Truth is, my intentions were to keep the look vague enough to be relatable to many women of different cultures, but the true inspiration of the overall look came from my Cuban heritage. Although I am saddened by how many people are angered, I can't offer an apology for my artwork and for what I find to be beautiful. The transformation came from a place of love and was not about mocking one's race, but rather about celebrating it. I am so proud to be illustrating a woman representing several cultures along with their achievements, beliefs and histories. Art is interpreted differently by all and sometimes it's uncomfortable, but making this world a better place starts with our mindset - thinking positive, showing love and practicing unity.”
Many were still not feeling the explanation and continued to comment that his artwork was unacceptable. What are your thoughts about the outrage?
Personally, we think the whole thing is problematic. Celebrating beauty is something we are certainly about but this privilege of "trying on" brown skin for an experiment, so to speak, is not going to fly over here.
You don't get to reap the joys of being Black without any of the pain and struggles. It just doesn't work that way.
In any case, Spencer is super talented and, scrolling through his feed, we found plenty of ways to be inspired by transformations and no other evidence of racial makeovers.
Hopefully, this situation educates some people, but we don't have the highest hopes.
(Photo: @paintdatface via Instagram)
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