If you are exhausted by the never-ending coverage of President Donald Trump’s “covfefe” typo, then allow me to make you feel even more confused by the world: this week, a popular makeup artist left fans raging when he posted a before and after makeup look featuring a blackface “look.” His response? A non-apology that did little to make things better – in fact, it probably just made things worse. This is just another reminder that ignorance is still very real, especially when concerning race, no matter how *woke* the internet may seem to be.
Here’s what happened: This week, Instagram famous makeup artist @paintdatface posted a classic before and after makeup photo – you know, model without makeup next to the same model with makeup – except this one was terrible, because it featured racism. He had transformed a blonde white woman to make her look like a black woman using blackface. After facing a lot of backlash, he deleted the original photo, then quickly seemed to reconsider things, and reposted it with a statement that was definitely not an apology. It was more of a defense of his work in the name of art, self-expression, and freedom. Of course.
The makeup artist is basically reducing being black to a makeup look, as if someone’s race is something you can try on for fun and play around with. Not only is this incredibly insensitive, it’s also racist. Blackface is more than just putting darker makeup on your skin – there’s a very painful and horrible history associated with it. To put it briefly, it originated in the 1820s during minstrel shows when white men would act as slaves and free black people to mock them. Blackface contributed to the many negative stereotypes about black people that took hold in America, many of which are still around.
The makeup artist clearly knew that what he was doing was wrong – when he originally posted the before and after photo, he included a caption that had a disclaimer. That right there screams, “I know you’re going to get offended, but too bad, because I’m doing it anyway!” It’s the equivalent of saying, “No offense, but…” Here’s the original caption:
“Disclaimer: I want to clearly express the sincere place I am coming from with this transformation. As an artist and visionary, I can become bored of the ‘glam’ and done-up looks that we find all over social media, my page included. I struggle to remain challenged, and as a result of that, my posts have become more manufactured than authentic. This is a transformation that I’ve been holding back from releasing for awhile now, solely because of the fear I’ve had of people turning it into a racial scandal against me. THIS IS NOT ABOUT A RACE CHANGE. This is about one woman acknowledging, embracing and celebrating the beauty of another woman’s culture. I believe we will in a society nowadays that seeks any reason to stomp around town with a picket stick in their hand, fighting ABOUT something rather than FOR something (and yes, there is a difference!). I didn’t want this to become another reason to stir up negativity. This is, by far, the proudest I’ve been of my work and I’m so fortunate to have created it with @annathorsell, who trusted my vision from the very beginning. I know I’m not the best with words and I know that I don’t thank you all enough for all of your continued support, but I’m exited [sic] to finally confirm that I’ll be releasing a YouTube channel as a ‘Thank You’ for all you’ve done for me. Now, Let’s Paint.”
There are so, so many more ways to be unique and visionary than to resort to something racist like blackface. There are so many other ways to acknowledge the beauty of other women and races than to contribute to cultural appropriation. I don’t… understand.
Apparently, a lot of other people didn’t understand either. Unfortunately, the backlash didn’t do much to change this makeup artist’s mind. When he reposted the photo, he included a statement that basically said, “Sorry you’re offended, but I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I had to delete the post because you all overreacted.”
Here’s the non-apology in full:
“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.'”
There are a lot of excuses here. This guy is basically saying that what he did isn’t wrong because he didn’t mean for it to be offensive, he meant for it to be artistic. He’s saying that he only deleted the post because he was being criticized because others didn’t understand his message, not because he did something worth deleting. He’s saying that it can’t actually be racist because he’s Cuban. And he’s also kind of talking down to everyone who takes offense to it by getting high and mighty about art.
All of it is endlessly frustrating. As Glamour says, “When influencers, no matter how large or small their platform, normalize acts like blackface, they are effectively telling their entire following that racism is not only okay but defensible self-expression.” Acting like racist things like this are okay because they are “art” isn’t acceptable. If something is offensive to other people, don’t tell them they can’t be offended because you didn’t mean it that way – apologize for what you did.
Do you find this offensive or do you agree with him that he did nothing wrong? What are your thoughts? Share in the comments.