Fashion has an interesting relationship with blackface. America’s Next Top Model once painted models in blackface, Beyonce was photographed in blackface for L’Officiel Magazine and Claudia Schiffer posed in blackface for Karl Lagerfeld. Each time, people were outraged and yet here we are again with a blackface holiday ad by Illamasqua.

The UK-based beauty brand introduced its holiday ad campaign on Facebook featuring a white model painted in blackface along with the caption: “Not dreaming of a white Christmas.”

The racial implications immediately drew ire among fans of the brand, with some arguing that the blackface, hat and red lips were reminiscent of minstrelsy. Though the company has not removed the image, they released the following apology on Facebook:

We thank and acknowledge your comments regarding the above image. Obviously it was never our intention to cause offence; Illamasqua has always celebrated the right to self-expression and we continually push creative and artistic boundaries, priding ourselves on working with models of many ethnic backgrounds to reinforce this point. Alex Box, Illamasqua’s Creative Director, has emphasised that this campaign is about colour ON the skin, not colour OF the skin, depicting polarity between the two images (both images are the same model) not race.

Their intention may not be “to cause offence,” but they had to be cognizant of the racial undertones of their imaging.

What do you think, Clutchettes? Do you find this ad offensive?


  • gmarie

    Their models have also been painted green and purple in the past, all using their pure colir pigments. If anything it’s a testament to the quality and vibrancy of the product. In a nutshell I like (love) illamasqua. Im not letting trival shit ruin my consumer experience.

  • Ms. Write

    I’ve given up on being outraged. They just don’t get why it’s in poor taste and they never will. Either that or they do get it and they just don’t care. What the hell are they selling anyway?

  • London

    Is there a shortage of black models, fair enough they paint them green and purple, but common there must have been a black chick or someone in the illamasqua office to say
    “Erm there is something not quite right with this pic guys” it looks kindof stunning but at the same time it kinda reminds me of the old reinforcement that white is pure and good and black is dark evil and negative but i do tend to think to deep into things. Human nature of a psychology student. At the same time its almost like she’s ( the white chick painted black) is the desirable look that some black girls in the music industry no names mentioned (yes some not all) would like but maybe lighter lol. Please dont take to seriously just a passive observation o my lunch break

  • Natalie

    So now black facepaint is totally off-limits to anyone who does not have a brown skintone? Despite their obvious reasons for using it?

  • xta28

    Are there any complaints about the literal “white” face in this ad campaign? Black and white will forever be fashions chosen contrasting colors. Because the model’s face is painted white, I completely do not believe there are “intentional” racial tones in this ad. I only see the contrasting colors the designer chose to highlight. Would it make people feel better if they used the most pale albino model available and a black person whose skin was, well, as close to black as possible? I think people would still cry foul on this ad.

  • xta28

    The model is using the same expression in both images. Actually the images, words, brand, everything is identical exception the colors. I didn’t think good vs. evil at all while looking at this ad. But I do understand how one can draw that conclusion since we are creatures of our own socialism. The good vs. bad & white vs. black has been around for centuries. However, I am sure that was not the intent of this ad since once again everything but the color is identical.

  • Chillyroad


  • O’Phylia

    I think the valid ire here is this: why didn’t they just hire a black model? Do you know how many agencies will turn down women with, “I’m sorry, we just don’t use black models. Sorry.” That is something that is actually said to women when they apply. And no, I don’t mean back in the day, I mean this is happening NOW. The fashion industry has not just ignored black women, but blatantly stated that we’re not worthy to even be pictured.

  • Jay Cee

    White people will never understand, so you might as well quit trying. White people don’t even CONSIDER the ramifications or possible insults to people of color. It is not part of their awareness sensitivity. In other words, white people don’t even THINK about Black people.

  • Bren

    Black or white, both sides are not dreaming of a white Christmas. I don’t see the racism. It’s not like the ad said “stepping out of the shadows into the light”. Relax, people!

  • Pseudonym

    “it looks kindof stunning but at the same time it kinda reminds me of the old reinforcement that white is pure and good and black is dark evil and negative but i do tend to think to deep into things.”

    I ruled that out when I saw that the ad specifically states “I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas,” with the hashtag “#I’mdreamingof” which actually implies exactly the opposite.

  • Yb

    Damn, some of these comments highlight the fact that some black people love and defend the actions of whites no matter what. Defend them more than they will defend themselves. Smh

    Any person commenting who can’t see the similarities of that picture and minstrel show performers and is an idiot, and historically illiterate idiot.

  • Amber

    I’d like to reiterate the “Yawn” comment. And I mean it like this: Not everybody who is painted black is in “blackface” as it refers to African American history. It’s not all racist! It’s a model painted black. It has nothing to with race, but like they said, its about the color ON THE SKIN not the color OF THE SKIN.

  • Mc

    As another posted mentioned, I received a sentiment of the same reinforcement of good vs. evil. Looking at the white ad, it corresponds to the image of Christmas. I think about Christmas instantly. Red and white are the fundamental colors of Christmas. It is a great Christmas coupled with fashion ad. In comparison to the blackface ad, the complete opposite arises. Its dark, concealed, and an uninviting…offensive as an undertone of black non-acceptance. It is back tacking of the constant applying of the blackface – fashion or not. To be creative is understandable; at the same time, creativity is a part of the fashion industry’ requirements. Other ads/images or models could be utilized to elevate creativity to a different unique level if that is the main objective.

  • The Artist

    Clearly, an ad done in poor taste. Not to mention, seriously lacking in creativity. Was there no other way to protray their services?

    Advertising firms could sure benefit from hiring diversity. Overall, I think the people making the ad decisions represent only a few, mostly white.

  • London

    Why dont you write your own views instead of knocking mine,

  • Val

    These companies know what they are doing. They know that if they release one of these kinds of ads that it will get tons of publicity. They also know that their target demo, White women, won’t really care and will continue to buy their products. So it’s a win, win situation for them. And that’s why they do it.

    If we ignored these kinds of ads then they wouldn’t get a ton of free publicity. We have to be more cynical and understand what they are really doing.

  • Humanista

    I don’t understand the controversy. The (white) model is painted pure white, and pure black (or painted green and photo shopped, whatever). If the model was not painted at all in the “white” image and then painted black for the “black” image, I would totally have an issue; however, the paint, in both cases, were not intended to depict skin color, but pure color. If we are to take offense to the black/white contrast, then we should be having this crusade against every time white is associated with purity and black is not: we should start wearing all black dresses to our weddings and use the color black more in church, and etc.


    I understand the issue with painting someone of another race to portray a person of color, but this is clearly not what’s going on in this ad.

  • EL

    They said the ad was meant represent make-up (“Color on the skin” as they said). However, did it seriously not occur to any of the staff that it resembles the Minstrel Show theme and make-up? I mean I highly doubt it, it is an Australian company and they have a history of colonialism and genocide. But for people to not expect us to be offended by the ad is ridiculous. The ignorance is shown as they went ahead with the advert because obviously they had absolutely no other creative ideas to promote their make-up for Christmas (*rolls eyes*),

    As someone already stated, their target market is white women who won’t see the problem with this add or care so, they’re certainly not concerned.

  • Pseudonym

    I did write my own view. I said I considered that same possibility, but ruled it out b/c the slogan is “I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas” which implies the exact opposite of the idea that “white” = ideal. In this instance, a white Christmas is NOT desired.

    As a psychology student, you should be able to discuss and even disagree on an idea without taking offense (especially from a complete stranger). If you can’t do that, then don’t comment on a public forum people use to exchange ideas.

  • Pseudonym

    I agree. I think the point is the makeup coverage (b/c that coverage is absolutely flawless!).

    The easy solution to this problem is for the fashion industry to use more black models period. Then, the chances of an ad like this one featuring a black model would increase. I don’t think we don’t see many black models painted like the above b/c the fashion industry is reserving facepaint to offend black people, it’s just 99.9/100 times on white models b/c 99.9/100 times the model is white. I’ve seen black models painted in ads as well. But like I said, they’re only getting 0.1% of the model gigs that are out there.

  • Ms. Information

    Let’s say that there is no malice behind the ad….given this country’s history with blackface, would no one in the room even mention that it is in poor taste? These board rooms are filled with privledged, unaware, uncaring white people who control the images for a country that will eventually be heavily brown…

  • EL

    My point exactly!

  • Chillyroad

    If they hired a black model they still would have had to paint her face white and then black. Smdh

  • Kalhu

    That’s really interesting for me because in my culture, white is the colour of evil, bad things, and death (as it is the colour of ash), and black is the symbol for good, and life and the living.
    I do not find this ad at all racially motivated because it is a mirror image of two different colour schemes, one in all black and one in all white.
    Also, I’m curious if some of the other commenters that are saying they wish it had been a black model.
    Do you guys mean you wished they had hired 1 black model to model the white/black mirror image? Or do you wish that they had hired a black model to do the ‘black’ side? I’m only curious because I feel like the point of this ad is to be visually striking in that it is a repetitive image in starkly contrasting colours.

  • Okay

    You do realise that with original Blackface they used burnt cork and shoepolish to literally paint their faces black NOT brown right. So this is more blackface than if someone were to use brown makeup on their faces.

  • WhatIThink

    The issue to me is where are the major global black/African/people of color owned cosmetics companies? I am sure that nobody in their right mind believes that cosmetics came from Europe. So if cosmetics came from Africa why aren’t there any major black African owned cosmetics companies? Not only does the idea of cosmetics originate in Africa but so do many of the ingredients. So at the end of the day this is simply another example of what happens when you buy into the myth that being a hyper consumer does not equate to true power. The reason that these images cause so much controversy is because black folks know full well the fact that most of the people who own these companies are white, most of the people working there are white and many of them are historically racists and not only that but that more than likely at some point in the process, black folks or people of color are being exploited in making these products.

    It is sad but most black folks don’t even know the history of the beauty industry and the fact that it just like almost everything else in the modern west is based on ideas of racism and eugenics. But seeing how many black folks are killing themselves to adopt non natural hairstyles and whatever so-called “trends” put out by these companies, it only makes sense that most do not see the obvious.

    Black folks have allowed their identity to become cheapened to the point where they define themselves by a hair style, perfume, cologne or other product made by non blacks who quiet as its kept still don’t really like blacks but tolerate them because they spend money on their products.

  • Gina

    I’m not defending this, but I will say that we cry wolf too much as a community. I think there is a difference between RACISM and plain IGNORANCE. Was it in ill taste that this was photographs the way it was (the black figure has bright pink lips)? Yes.
    Was it intentional? I don’t believe so.
    I think there are so many white people in advertising campaigns and not a single black person or POC that can examine the ad to find any offensive material. They probably don’t even think of the stuff because it doesn’t directly affect them. That is unfortunate.
    If black people (or just the idea of dark skin) want to be represented in a flattering way-we need to encourage our children to go into Business, or hell, The Sciences. Crap like this will continue to happen if we are not involved in the creative process.
    It’s really just miscommunication I believe.

  • Geechee Goddess (@JumpJunkieJoe)

    I don’t know if I have a biased because I am a fan of Illamasqua but when I saw this add I didn’t immediately think of Blackface. First I saw two opposites. Then when I read the “I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas” I thought that was just them trying to be edgy. Them trying to say “this is not going to be a traditional Christmas look”. I’ve seen my fair share of racist white folks in Blackface (especially on Halloween) but in this case I honestly don’t think that’s what they were going for. Is it a rule somewhere that no one can paint themselves Black? What is the model pained White not offensive? Should Albinos be offended by the all white model? I just think to call this Blackface is really reaching.

  • Geechee Goddess (@JumpJunkieJoe)
  • Do Better

    Chalk it up to differences in perception but to me it’s blatantly obvious that the ad is a contrast between the colors black and white, not the societally created Caucasian and African American ethnic groups. Having such an irrational, knee jerk reaction whenever someone white uses black colored face paint for artistic purposes actually does a disservice to those who were mocked with mammy, sambo picanniny type characters in the early 20th century. It’s a huge stretch to compare an image that appears to be dipped in black paint to overtly racist, huge nose and lipped, bug eyed jive talking minstrel characters. This is an example of something being taken out of context and in the process making those who complain about it seem parochial and petty. I believe African American minstrel shows were the furthest thing from this UK based marketing team’s mind when they came up with the concept. African Americans do not have a trademark on black face paint, it can be used by people of all races including whites as long as the context is unrelated to mocking African Americans’ features.

  • Do Better

    You’ve missed the context of the ad. They are not contrasting people of African descent with those of European descent. They’re contrasting the 2 actual colors black and white, as in black and white paint. This ad has no visible racial implications whatsoever. They didn’t use a black model because, despite the preponderance of unemployed models of color, they found a white model whose look was right for the ad. I hope this clarifies it.

    Side note: there are serious instances of racial discrimination that deserve to be highlighted. This is just not one if them.

  • Do Better

    I do not see the parallel here, have done research on minstrel shows and am most certainly not a historically illiterate idiot. It seems that the mere suggestion of minstrel allusion has created such emotional discord in you that you cannot see this objectively. In your opinion this beauty company cannot put its white model in the outfit it chooses and contrast the colors of the photos between white and black without having racial undertones? Do you honestly believe they were sitting around brainstorming and said “I know, let’s harken back to the days of early 20th century American racism via minstrel show nod”? From a marketing standpoint do you believe that would help them push product? Get real.


    White people know what they are doing when they are doing it. There is no such thing as ignorance with white people because, they know what they are doing. They even know their system works so perfectly the oppressed will defend the oppressor. As far as the ad if it states “Not dreaming of a white Christmas” why is that white girl painted white? Now, this company sells makeup and decided to use black makeup on a white woman but, claim artistic expression. Typical excuse in the system of racism white supremacy and the blind non white will eat it up because, they are programmed to think its not offensive. It’s funny when you go the site they are selling lipstick with the white painted version. But, when you see just the blackface one no products are being sold. Only thing is being sold is the delivery dates lol. But, their techniques of subliminal racism gets better and better and non whites will defend it to a T.

  • JN

    This is what I would call a “microaggression” rather than a case of racism (which is a term I believe is overused and abused, by the way). It still is just as important as a case of racism, but I think Black people need to realize that just because it is not an overt assertion of the Causasian experience over the Black experience does not make it okay to demean or disregard it. It’s like saying one is colorblind and that they don’t “see” issues in terms of color.

  • Mademoiselle

    Comparing people who paint themselves black with bright red lips to represent the entire black population that comes in various shades of brown to albinism, which is a medical condition that is not characteristic of any race (because black people can be albino as well — just like my cousin) is a little offensive. Black is not a condition. To say we shouldn’t be offended because a group of people with a medical condition that would leave them actually white aren’t offended is a terrible comparison. Moreover, white people have never been turned into demeaning caricatures with the use of white face the way black people have with black face. If the history weren’t there for black face, maybe this could be seen as art. But as it stands, that history is very one sided, which is why white face will never be the offense that black face has been.

  • London

    Pseudonym dont want this to become a stupid high school type debate so will leave it at that, you dont find it offensive I do, please get over it

  • London

    Pseudonym ( Complete stranger) dont want this to become a stupid high school type debate so will leave it at that, you dont find it offensive I do, please get over it
    And I can comment on whatever I like particularly being a Psychology student

  • Nadell

    These ads are specifically done to spark interest in a company, product or brand. Whether the company’s intention or not of course they’d be aware that it indeed will cause controversy and garner attention & interest. It’ll have to come to a point where the shenanigans no longer take precedence. Its becoming so redundant – when will these corporations understand that pushing the envelope in this manner isn’t offensive but rather senseless.
    But shouldn’t we not be so easily offended? Especially since it is so often done….

  • Tonton Michel

    the white face next to it kind of disarms the whole thing for me.

  • mecca_F

    Illamasqua is based in the UK…FYI

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