Katy Perry is ‘saddened’ that her shoes resemble blackface
The fashion industry has fallen out of step. Again.
Two pairs of Katy Perry Collections shoes have sparked fierce backlash and been kicked out of stores for resembling blackface. The pair of mules and the high-heeled sandals (referred to as “The Rue Face Slip” and “The Ora Face Block Heel Sandal”) feature wide blue eyes and large red lips that looking uncomfortably like minstrel makeup on the black versions of the shoes.
Activist Tamika Mallory, co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, posted this snap on Instagram with the caption, “Am I losing it?”
Plenty of other people were offended, however, leading Walmart WMT, +0.57% and Dillard’s DDS, +2.06% to pull the shoes from their shelves on Monday and off of their websites by Tuesday; they had retailed at Dillard’s for $129.
Perry and her brand-management company Global Brands Group told Page Six (which shares the same parent company as MarketWatch) that: “The Rue and The Ora were part of a collection that was released last summer in 9 different colorways (black, blue, gold, graphite, lead, nude, pink, red, silver) and envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism. I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain. We have immediately removed them from katyperrycollections.com.”
This comes on the heels of Gucci and Prada also being called out for hawking products that resembled blackface in their design. Gucci’s $890 Balaclava Knit Top featured an oversized black turtleneck that, when pulled up over the bottom half to the wearer’s face, featured a cutout for the mouth with oversized red lips.
Shoppers noted that both the Gucci and Perry faux pas occurred during Black History month.
Gucci apologized on Feb. 6 with a statement posted to social media, remarking: “We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”
And Prada had to pull a collection of Pradamalia accessories, including purses, cell phone cases, jewelry and keychains last year that also strongly resembled racist caricatures; the products retailing for $260 to $860 resembled black monkeys with enlarged red lips. They were originally displayed in the window of the luxe brand’s Manhattan Soho boutique.
Prada responded in a statement on Twitter that the items were supposed to be “imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface. Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery.”
“Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” director Spike Lee said he is boycotting both Prada and Gucci until they hire some black designers to help ensure this doesn’t happen again. “It’s Obvious To Da Peoples That They Don’t Have A Clue When It Comes To Racist, Blackface Hateful Imagery. WAKE UP,” he wrote on Instagram.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing calls to resign after a photo from his medical school’s yearbook recently surfaced showing one person in blackface, and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam apologized for the photo at first, admitting he was in it (without revealing which offensive outfit he was wearing) but later denied being in that photo. He has also confessed to once donning blackface for a dance contest in San Antonio, however.
And last fall, NBC canceled Megan Kelly’s 9 a.m. show, part of the “Today” show morning slate, after the host said that “a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween” was OK when she was growing up “as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Yet a new Pew Research Center survey released Monday found that about a third of Americans feel the same way; 34% said blackface is “always or sometimes acceptable” as a Halloween costume. The poll was conducted before the Northam controversy made headlines.
There are some deep racial and partisan divides between accepting blackface, however. White adults (39%) were about twice as likely as black adults (19%) to say the use of blackface as part of a Halloween costume can be acceptable, while Hispanic respondents were in the middle at 28%.
And about half of Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party (51%) said blackface is acceptable “sometimes,” with about a quarter (24%) saying it’s “always acceptable.” In comparison, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (67%) said blackface is not acceptable, with about half saying it’s never acceptable.
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