This lackluster season of Top Model may have finally found a way to get interesting. In last night’s episode of ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ Tyra Banks re-imagined the remaining contestants as biracial models through the use of skin darkening agents and ethnic costumes. In other words, the contestants were in black-face.
Recently, the use of black-face has caused controversy. Just two weeks ago, the French edition of ‘Vogue’ sparked outrage when it published a spread featuring Dutch model Lara Stone done up in full-body black-face, while earlier this month Harry Connick, Jr. blasted an Australian talent show for featuring a troupe of black-face performers on an episode in which he appeared as a celebrity guest judge. Two months ago, one of the characters in the 1960s-era ‘Mad Men’ performed a song in black-face.
Whether or not ‘Top Model’ and its host Tyra Banks will garner the same level of consternation remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that black-face remains as controversial a topic now as ever. Dating back to the mid-19th century, the practice of white performers darkening their skin to perform racial caricatures is considered highly offensive to most Americans, making the recent upswing in incidents difficult to explain.
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