Colourface Epidemic Infects ANTM

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

I suppose it is a good sign that we can still be shocked speechless by the racism in pop culture, right? Because it means that we aren’t totally cynical and embittered. Right?

This morning we received a tip from reader Cassandra, letting us know about last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, where contestants flew to Maui to do a photo shoot where they were supposed to be biracial.


We don’t usually quote directly from tipsters, but I am too stunned to paraphrase right now. Cassandra reports:

Each girl was given two ethnicities: Tibetan/Egyptian, Greek/Mexican, Moroccan/Russian, Native American/East Indian, Botswanan/Polynesian, Malagasy/Japanese. Five girls are white, one is Asian, and a few are donned in black face and all in “ethnic” outfits (a combination of an aspect of each culture, evident in the photos), which Tyra explains, “Every outfit is not necessarily what people of that culture are wearing now, it might not even be a necessary exact of what they’ve worn in the past, it’s a fashion interpretation of it.” Nicole, assigned to look Malagasy/Japanese, remarks how she’s always wondered what she looked like as a different race and that she felt she looked “exotic.” The girls had to somehow embody what people of those ethnicities were like i.e. Tyra saying, “Think Egyptian, think [insert ethnicity], think of what those people were like, etc.”


I have to outsource further analysis. I’m not capable of forming coherent words right now.

From Jezebel (where you can also see more photos), a much gentler approach to Tyra Banks that wonders why a black woman initiated this shoot:

As a black woman working in fashion, Elizabeth Gates wrote for the Daily Beast that she was not surprised by the French Vogue blackface, saying: “I would be fooling myself if I thought the draftsmen behind fashion’s most beautiful things were ever going to be sensitive to race, black women, or how they represent our cultural history. In fact, I’m not exactly sure why this was a shock to anyone.”

But this ANTM shoot was put together by Tyra Banks: Black model, creator, host, head judge and executive producer of the show. You’d think that she would be sensitive to racial issues. I have to assume her intent was probably to showcase bi-racial beauty. Is this a case in which the action can be forgiven if the motive comes from a good place?

Or you can also visit any of the growing number of posts we’ve put up recently dealing with blackface:

Blackface and the Violence of Revulsion

Convo about Blackface on Episode 121 of Addicted to Race

And then share your comments. Y’all are going to have to do the deconstructing for me today.  I will return when I regain control of language.