UPDATED! Blackface 2.0: The Trend of White Women Posing as Black Women

I am going to get right down to it: There are really white women out here painting, tanning, burning and dying themselves so dark, they can barely be distinguished from actually melanated people.

HuffPost recently shared an entire piece sparked by various conversations happening on Twitter when users @WannasWorld and @yeahboutella (who didn’t create and disapprove of the term “blackface thot”) started the conversation earlier this week with threads calling out white women online darkening their skin to look black or racially ambiguous. The conversation was later picked up by Twitter user Niggerfished created a thread and thus entire account outing these pretend sista-girls for their fraudulent behavior.

To begin: This is Emma Hallberg, probably the most well known of all of the ladies. She is a Swedish Influencer that has a thriving Instagram and Youtube channel where she does beauty tutorials where she literally just paints herself in blackface for all of the world to see. And benefits from it with various sponsors paying for ads and product placement on her very popular accounts.

Popular because of blackface.

And Emma’s blackfacing self is not alone: YouTuber Mika Francis and Instagram users Hannah Winifred Tittensor, liisaleetma, brooklynnicolina, itsleana___ luice.sands, 9mimmi, and jaiahfern, among MANY others have been singled out by the Twitter account for blackface.

When HuffPost reached out for a comment from these faux-black women, the only one who actually responded was Tittensor. “I don’t paint myself, I tan,” Tittensor explained via Instagram DM, “I use tanning beds to tan my skin I do not intend to try and switch races or pretend that I am white but I tan.”

Hannah Winifred Tittensor

In that case, lady, be prepared to look like a worn leather handbag in your thirties! A simple scroll through any of this and the other wannabe-Black girls’ accounts will show you how deep the psychosis goes. Tittensor has literally cooked herself into reproduction ebony shades. And all for aesthetics. The below photo is also of Tittensor, as you can see she has gone quite far in her “tanning.”

Hannah Tittensor

What I appreciate about Tittensor was that she at least responded to the criticism. The other ladies either did not respond or went on to make their pages private, like one luice.sands (seen below), who is the liliest of the whites (said with a hard “H”).

Luice.Sands

Because cowards…

This infuriating to me on so many levels.

The first is the blatant Blackfacing that is happening. For those unfamiliar with the term; Blackface is defined as makeup applied to a performer playing a black person especially in a minstrel show. These shows grew in popularity pre-Civil War and their whole premise was the stereotyping of Black people for the entertainment of White audiences. The actors playing this role were proudly White, just like these women, who are unlike transracial advocate, Rachel Dolezal (for those who are unaware, Transracial, like Reverse Racism, is NOT a thing.) These women live in their whiteness, they simply don “blackness” for aesthetics.

But Blackness is not an aesthetic. Blackness is an identity. It doesn’t just come with full lips, a rainbow of skin shades and miraculous hair. It also comes with stereotypes, a painful history, oppression, and a cultural awareness for survival that these white women never had to possess.

Blackness is not a thing you put on for Instagram photos, it is both an individuality and a collectivity understood in the context of culture.

Mika Francis

And these women, though they may not be on the side of the spectrum of Black hatred where the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other hate groups stand, they are on the far side of Black Hatred that begets what these women are really guilty of: fetishization. Neither of these sides sees the humanity of the Black person, in this case, the Black woman. In fact, by pulling this blatant blackface, these women are saying with their actions that “I can be better at being Black than you can.” And that view is affirmed in every like, comment, share, pin, and Youtube view they receive.

The second way this is problematic is that these young women are profiting off of their farse. What makes these unseasoned women any different than an Al Jolston, Billy Van or any other blackface performer? But rather than furthering the harmful and hateful stereotypes that led to some of the worst violence against Black people, these women are profiting from their fraud. They are white, they live in all of the benefits of whiteness, and yet they reap benefits from the cultural capital of Blackness.

9Mimmi

Which leads me to my next point: The brands who are supporting these women are allowing this blackface to continue and ignoring actual influencers of color in the process. It is already very difficult for influencers of color to find consistent and steady sponsorship. Imagine being a young Black influencer and looking up and seeing these women, supported by sponsorships and brands who think they are padding their diversity coffers frauding. What an utter insult.

Some of these women are receiving free products and paid endorsements, just to be playing in blackface. If I were an influencer, I would be grossly disgusted and offended. They have turned Blackness into currency, no different than slave owners selling people as property.

If I were a brand, at best I would drop these liars like a bad habit or at worse, pursue legal action for fraud.

This goes beyond the cultural appropriation we blame on White Women such as Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West, although I would say that this behavior is indeed enabled by those women with their constant use of Black features, such as fuller lips and hips and various hairstyles such as cornrows and Bantu knots. This is actual cultural theft. These women, enduring layers of makeup and dangerous levels of tanning, have committed cultural theft, almost to the point of minstrelsy in its level of ridiculousness.

Kylie Jenner

The aesthetic of this new age-blackface is so laden with denial, dysmorphia, and self-deception, that it goes past the point of offensiveness into straight confusion. The question for these women shouldn’t be “Why do you keep doing this?” but rather “Is this what black women look like to you?” and “Is this what you actually want to look like, like a Great-Value Black Girl?”

I don’t have the answers, but I hope these imposters continue to be called out for their theft.

UPDATE: Recently, BuzzFeed actually managed to reach the elusive Emma Hallberg for a comment. Hallberg completely denied that she used any self-tanners or spray tans, stating she has never “claimed or tried to be black or anything else.” and she had the following to say:

“I do not see myself as anything else than white,” she said. “I get a deep tan naturally from the sun. The only difference is that I didn’t post as many pictures that summer compared to this summer, because I didn’t have as many followers then as I do now,” she said.”

Right…

Even still, despite calls of Blackface and Blackfishing from people of color and White People with good sense, there are still people going up to defend Emma, who is blatantly blackfacing for profit.

And you know I had to make comment (insert shrug emoji.)

This post was originally shared on The Reclaimed Blog.

Whitney Alese is a writer, podcaster and cultural commentator. Featured in WIRED Magazine (September 2020). She is based in Philadelphia.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store