Kim Kardashian West Controversy Isn’t Blackface
By Michael Vidal, Youth Programs Educator
& Jason Papallo, NCCJ E-Communications and Marketing Specialist
What Kim Kardashian West did in her advertising campaign was foolish, but it’s unfair to call it blackface.
KKW Beauty, Kardashian West’s new contouring makeup line, launched with a Crème Contour and Highlight Kit this week. Before the launch, followers on Kardashian West’s social media believe her skin looked intentionally dark, and referred to it as “blackface,” which eventually made media headlines along with the “darker” promotional pictures that she posted on Instagram.
Everyone is much smarter than Kardashian West believes, and no one needs to accept her non-apology for appropriating tone for the sake of selling makeup, but don't demonize her by attaching a term to her actions that implies she was attempting to mock the black community.
"I mixed it all together so you get everything you need in one, which I haven't seen in a kit," Kardashian West told Vogue during an interview outlining the philosophy of designing makeup for women of all colors.
There are different pieces here to consider: her place in pop culture, her place as a white person in America, her place as a first-generation Armenian and her role in a biracial family.
“I would obviously never want to offend anyone,” Kardashian West told The New York Times in a recent interview. “I used an amazing photographer and a team of people. I was really tan when we shot the images, and it might be that the contrast was off. But I showed the image to many people, to many in the business. No one brought that to our attention. No one mentioned it.” (Unfortunately.)
“Of course, I have the utmost respect for why people might feel the way they did,” she said.
Not wanting to offend isn’t the issue. No matter what type of publicity Kardashian West wants, she doesn’t want to alienate the audience she’s trying to push her products on. That is obvious. The issue isn’t that she’s being directly offensive, it’s that she was offensive.
“I think it was the mix of the spray tan — I love to be tan — and the contrast of the images…Regardless, if one person thought that, I would never want to offend that one person. So we made the necessary changes. We fixed the contrast. And we’re just going to move on,” Kardashian West was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. (Moving on, mind you, isn’t an apology, nor code for it.)
This marketing tactic attempts to show Kardashian West as all women, not bound to any one race. As if to say, she’s able to tan and pale to such varied degrees that she can walk the line of all races. As far as thought processes go, that’s one of arrogance.
Blackface is racist. It's insensitive. It's disconnected ridicule. While misguided, Kardashian West’s big contrast boost in her promotional photo’s were in no way an attempt at ridicule, but the unintentional results were: racist, insensitive and disconnected marketing.
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