Illamasqua, the UK beauty brand helmed by edgy makeup artist Alex Box, is dealing with a very vocal customer backlash today over its new holiday ads.
The ad above, featuring the model on the left in black makeup, was originally posted to the brand's Australian Facebook page where Jezebel's Jenna Sauers spotted it yesterday. Looking at this image, you can only imagine what the outcry has been like. The top hat and lighter lips certainly call to mind minstrel shows, and as Sauers points out, "This is some pretty blackface-y blackface."
Accusations of racial insensitivity quickly piled up on Illamasqua's Facebook and Pinterest pages, and the brand eventually pulled the original thread from its Facebook page. Yesterday Illamasqua posted the dual image above with the following statement:
We thank and acknowledge your comments regarding the above image. Obviously it was never our intention to cause offence; Illamasqua has always celebrated the right to self-expression and we continually push creative and artistic boundaries, priding ourselves on working with models of many ethnic backgrounds to reinforce this point. Alex Box, Illamasqua's Creative Director, has emphasised that this campaign is about colour ON the skin, not colour OF the skin, depicting polarity between the two images (both images are the same model) not race.
Commenters seem to be divided. There are hundreds of responses to the above statement, many of which defend the brand saying it's an "artistic" ad. But there are lots more calling it out as "blackface," claiming the statement is a "no-apology." We've reached out to Illamasqua and will update when we hear back.