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.