Yesterday on Instagram, 17-year-old fashion bomb Kylie Jenner posted two pictures from a recent photo shoot that gained her accusations of promoting or using “blackface.” Jenner is featured from the shoulders up in silvery-taupe body paint and violet-blue eye contacts and futuristic style makeup. At first glance, the youngest of the Kardashian franchise looks a lot more Avatar than minstrel show, so when the controversy of blackface struck, where were those in view of the photographs getting it from? Is there a historical context behind the shimmer and blue-black hair that’s truly fair to pinpoint? Or was this just another case of “Let’s hate on the Kardashians” that ran rampant on social media?
There are definitely attributes of the Kardashians and Jenners that could be up for debate and even concern (such as their influence on society), but can we just be honest and admit that these photos with Kylie are actually pretty cool? Photographed by Marcelo Cantu, hair by Chris Dylan and makeup done by Kardashian family friend Joyce Bonelli, Jenner actually gave great face here. We are all entitled to the visceral reactions we have to the vast expressions of art and photography, but the backlash here transpired a bit as an overreaction. This is blackface? Since when! Blackface is a distinct use of makeup or products that when applied to the face and body are meant to mimic the general skin tone and features of those that are Black or of African descent, and then applied so in a mocking and hurtful manner. What about Jenner’s shoot was disrespectful? And what person of color has silvery taupe skin that glitters? We know that when it comes to blackface, there can be levels to this, as the always insensitive fashion industry has shown through their photo shoots, like the esteemed magazine of Numero did. But these Jenner photos? Really?
The backlash Jenner received was unfair because to throw around the “term” blackface so loosely with every photo that features a person in body paint of a “neutral” tone is reckless. Especially considering the way too many photos out there from the past and present of which people have literally used black tar paint (meant for cars) or imitations of it from makeup brands to dress up as a Black person. Like, remember Julianne Hough‘s Halloween outfit as “Crazy Eyes” from Orange Is The New Black? She’s since profusely apologized for it and admitted to feeling ashamed that she felt she had to paint brown makeup on her face to look like a popular TV character that was Black. What in Jenner’s photos was evocative of that?
Before the slew of hate tweets and IG comments swamped Jenner’s page, one initial supporter included Disney star Zendaya (as we know went through her case of the cultural tug of war when her faux locs were reduced to “patchouli oil” and “weed” on E!’s now on hiatus Fashion Police). She liked Jenner’s pic and wrote “Eff it up” with clapping emojis. Her fan base shortly let her have it in saying it was a blackface photo shoot and the young star felt coerced to backtracking her statement, even “admitting “I didn’t see it like at [first]. That’s crazy” on Twitter.
Jenner has defended the pictures and even took one of the pics, only to re-upload it and state “This is a black light and neon lights people lets all calm down.” She had originally captioned the picture: ‘Yes, In another world I wish I could have pink hair & blue eyes & covered in sparkles.”
We still got a lot of work to do when it comes to race relations and recognizing the difference between artistic freedom and disrespectful imagery. We cannot afford to go crazy with accusations, as this latest case of blackface-gate has shown, because it only road-blocks the progress we’re trying to achieve in racial sensitivity and attacking the real culprits of hate. Cultural appropriation is entirely lame and no one over here is condoning it. Kylie Jenner has had her moments of “Columbusing” when it comes to the fandom her fashion and makeup choices have received. But these photos right here are not appropriating anything.
Hear Us Out: Why Kylie Jenner’s Photoshoot Did Not Perpetuate Blackface [PHOTOS] was originally published on hellobeautiful.com