Someday, I hope there will go at least one month without some form of shaking-my-damn-head-worthy cultural appropriation or mocking going down. Just one. Today’s winner is one Samie Robinson, an 18-year-old Australian model who according to her Instagram is signed with IMG Sebastien. She’s also the buddy of a girl named Lillian Garrett who has a rather profound affinity for blackface and yellowface. Hooray, friendship!
Samie posted a photo of herself with Lillian dressed as Lil Wayne–blackface included, naturally. The photo’s caption was “happy birfday Lilly Wayne @lillian_garrett,” so I guess Lilly’s idea of birthday fun is painting her face brown and taking photos for the Internet. In response to the criticism, Samie began commenting back and asking things like, “Would it not be more racist to portray him as a white man, which he clearly isn’t?” and then calling somebody racist for painting themselves…blue. Wut.
Actually, no–it would not be “more racist” to not do blackface. In fact, you can dress up as another human being without doing blackface. While Miley Cyrus may make a lot of silly style choices, her 2012 Halloween costume was so obviously Nicki Minaj and did not require any brown face makeup despite Miley being white and Nicki being of Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry. We did a makeup tutorial last year that involved a beauty look inspired by Josephine Baker and–whoops! Still no blackface necessary. So yeah, Samie dearest, it is possible to imitate, pay tribute to and dress up as a famous person of another race without wearing blackface, which has a history steeped in numerous layers of racism.
According to BuzzFeed, this is a rather frequent habit of Lillian Garrett, who not only dresses up as Lil Wayne but also as Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and others. She’s done blackface and yellowface in her parody music videos, so…that’s fun.
So, what does IMG Models think about this? Meh, they’re not too worried according to Hans Stauch‘s statement to BuzzFeed:
“It’s her personal Instagram and we don’t have any comment. I understand the sensitive nature of the post but it has nothing to do with IMG Models, it’s a personal account,” he said. “Samie is not there to cause any problems and she has deleted the post.”
Pffffft, she’s just trying to have a good time, guyz, she’s not trying to make a big thang. Chill out, we just have a model who condones blackface on our payroll, amirite? I mean, you know the Internet–when you delete something, it goes away!
As per usual, the photo was deleted because that’s just what people do when they have come under fire for something that cannot be rationally defended. Fashion people are notoriously bad at hiring actual black models and instead just dress up white women in blackface, then they’re typically more defensive and tend to pull the “it’s art!” card more often than not, but there are exceptions. (Remember Reformation‘s Elana Rosenblatt thinking the whole world would forget her Black History Day mockery after she deleted the pic?) But here’s what I do not understand: if you’re going to do something that you know will cause controversy, whether it’s blackface or wearing a headdress on the cover of a major magazine, then defend your decision to do so. Don’t delete or backtrack; if you know it will be controversial, either own your stupid choices or don’t make them in the first place.