The Makeup Artist Behind That “Blackface” Image Says His Artwork Was Totally Misinterpreted By the Public
The transformation that I recently posted of a woman transformed into a woman of another culture has been highly criticized by those who don't understand the message. I deleted the post, not because I had regret or saw wrongdoing, but because of the negativity social media turned it into. It's been assumed by most that my intentions were to transform my model into a black woman. Truth is, my intentions were to keep the look vague enough to be relatable to many women of different cultures, but the true inspiration of the overall look came from my Cuban heritage. Although I am saddened by how many people are angered, I can't offer an apology for my artwork and for what I find to be beautiful. The transformation came from a place of love and was not about mocking one's race, but rather about celebrating it. I am so proud to be illustrating a woman representing several cultures along with their achievements, beliefs and histories. Art is interpreted differently by all and sometimes it's uncomfortable, but making this world a better place starts with our mindset - thinking positive, showing love and practicing unity.
For makeup artist PaintDatFace, the recent controversy surrounding his latest transformation was something he predicted would happen, but it was never his intention to create a racially polarizing image. For him, it was all about the art. Speaking with NewBeauty, the artist says he was poised and ready for a strong reaction. “Before I posted that photo I prepared myself for the worst, to be torn apart by social media, lose my career and to never be hired again in Los Angeles,” he says. “Honestly, I still am prepared for that. But at this point in my life, I'm not chasing a paycheck anymore—I'm chasing to fulfill my purpose in life by making this world a better place through the power of art.”
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Based on the online reactions to his post, one that shows the transformation of a white model to an ethnic model using dark makeup to depict a woman of color, his gut reaction was spot on. Many commenters on social media and bloggers were quick to condemn his project as “blackface”—a form of theatrical makeup used by non-black performers to represent a person of color for entertainment. Although the image drew the ire of many, the artist says this label couldn’t be further from the truth.
Drawing inspiration from his Cuban heritage, PaintDatFace says his transformation was meant to pay homage to the beauty of women of different cultures, not to offend: “The outer appearance of the transformation (such as the head wrap and the monochromatic style of the eye makeup, blush and lip color) was inspired by my Cuban ancestry, but I intended for the overall tone of the skin to resemble all people of color.”
The artist’s choice to use a white model as his canvas was deliberate and necessary for what he intended to convey with his work. “I purposely chose a white model. When I first envisioned this transformation, I knew that in order to create a bold impact and make the loudest noise, I'd need to choose a white woman to transform into a woman of color. This choice made my piece more valuable, simply because it symbolizes a white woman's willingness to accept another skin tone and proudly feel beautiful in it.”
After the backlash, PaintDatFace issued a statement, but was sure to say it was not an apology. “Although I am saddened by how many people are angered, I can't offer an apology for my artwork and for what I find to be beautiful…I am so proud to be illustrating a woman representing several cultures along with their achievements, beliefs and histories. Art is interpreted differently by all and sometimes it's uncomfortable, but making this world a better place starts with our mindset—thinking positive, showing love and practicing unity.”
Although his piece generated a lot of wrath and personal attacks directed at him, it did open up a dialogue about what is considered a socially acceptable depiction of race and color. Some social media commentators have come to the artist's defense, explaining the difference between "blackface" and his work. At the very least, as an artist, he was able to illicit a response from his audience. Whether it was the response he intended is another story, but he is hopeful that in time his intentions and greater purpose will come to light: “More than anything, I do realize we live in sensitive times and my artwork takes time to digest.”