It looks like the Streamy Awards put makeup artist Kandee Johnson in a difficult position by having her paint her face to look like Lilly Singh.
At the awards show last night, Johnson provided an amazing video to introduce the Best First Person Channel category, transforming herself into nominees Tyler Oakley, Grace Helbig, PewDiePie and BFvsGF – but when portraying the eventual winner, Lilly Singh, she used a brown foundation to match Singh’s skin tone.
Painting your skin brown to look like a person of color is commonly known as brownface, and some people consider it racist. It’s a problem that is often called out when it comes to movies, Halloween costumes or cosplay – so is this tribute video from Johnson any different?
Franchesca Ramsey thought the video was clearly problematic and criticized the Streamys on Twitter.
She later followed it up with a blog post:
Unintentionally saying or doing something hurtful doesn’t make it less hurtful. Do I think this makes Kandee a racist? No. Do I think it was in poor taste? Yes. Is this completely Kandee’s fault? Not entirely. I think the Streamys shoulder some of the blame here too. Why didn’t someone catch this before it went to air? Well, to me it’s a sign that their staff might not be that diverse OR maybe the POC behind the scenes didn’t feel comfortable calling it out.
Singh herself praised Johnson for the hard work that went into the video.
Others have argued that Johnson’s makeup wasn’t offensive because the point of the video was to make herself look exactly like each person – including Bart Baker, who has encountered the brownface/blackface debate before.