Illamasqua’s ‘Blackface’ Ad Campaign: How Far Is Too Far?

28 November 2012 by

Illamasqua Blackface Ad Campaign

‘Not dreaming of a white Christmas’ is the slogan but - sigh - we suspect Illamasqua will be hoping for a near-miracle this Christmas, after they became the centre of a racism row this week. The Australian cosmetics company released their new advertising campaign, promoting it on Facebook – where it caused quite a stir. And not in a good way.

The ad consists of two images: one model dressed head to toe in a white suit and top hat, with white makeup, light hair and bright red lips, and the other its polar opposite; a woman in a black suit, top hat, black hair, black face make up and pink lips. Both of the images run next to the line ‘I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas’. (Is it just us, or is this a bit non-descript anyway?)

Trouble is, many angry consumers have likened the black version to actual blackface – and the minstrels. The company was left red-faced after consumers began writing scathing comments underneath the picture, dubbing it racist and vowing to throw all of their Illamasqua products in the bin. Ouch.

But others have defended it – ‘Oh, come on,’ one commenter wrote. ‘This isn't racist. I'm a black woman saying this. It's obvious that this is art. There's more than enough real racism in this country to deal with without attacking legitimate art.’

Still, the abuse was enough for Illamasqua to release a statement, in which they explained, ‘Given that our objective with this imagery was to be playful, striking and fresh with the creation of mirror images in white and black, using colour ON the skin it is very saddening that those making negative comments are focusing on colour OF the skin.

‘The colour of the skin didn’t come into it at the time we created the imagery so we are absolutely shocked by the cynicism behind some of the comments.’

Yeah, cynicism.

Illamasqua is renowned for their vivid experimentation and extreme transformation with make-up – and companies are even more likely to push the boundaries on an advertising campaign with the temptation of Christmas shoppers to draw in.

But how far is too far? Is this racist, or are people overacting to a creative make-up stunt? Vent your views below!



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