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Illamasqua’s distinctive black & white face ad sparks backlash

By Michelle Yeomans , 28-Nov-2012
Last updated on 03-May-2013 at 10:50 GMT

The global brand has received some negative attention on its’ Australian Facebook page with regards to a Christmas campaign ad it launched earlier in the month that features a model theatrically painted white next to the same model painted black.

According to a company spokesperson, the message of the image has been misinterpreted and the debate on social media channels is quickly escalating across certain blogs and websites.

The ad entitled "NOT Dreaming Of A White Christmas", illustrated in the image above, features a woman decked out in a white hat and white apparel with her face made up to match, next to her counterpart featuring the same look but all in black.

Taking ‘color cosmetics’ to another level?

The model painted in black has been interpreted by lots of people as ‘blackface’, this was not our intention or inspiration. We embrace the diversity of humanity and feature people of all colours, ages and genders in our campaigns,” explains the spokesperson.

Comments left on the brand’s page by Facebook users varied, some felt the image was racist in that the paint gave the model a look reminiscent of "minstrel blackface makeup," others requested the company remove the image, whilst others viewed it as an artistic expression or editorial interpretation of the opposite of white - with no reference to race.

The spokesperson for Illamasqua further explained the company’s position on the matter; “Given that our objective with this imagery was to be playful, striking and fresh with the creation of mirror images in white and black by using color on the skin it is very saddening that those making negative comments are focusing on color of the skin.”

The color 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,” they added.

Response

In response to the furore, the color cosmetics company posted a statement on its’ Australia Facebook page last night emphasizing that the campaign was about color on the skin not color of the skin, and that the image was about depicting polarity between the two images (as both are the same model) not race.
 
“We thank and acknowledge your comments regarding the Christmas imagery. 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," the statement outlined.

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