- Brendan McDermid/Reuters; Warner Bros.
Megyn Kelly recently sparked controversy when she defended wearing blackface on Halloween, claiming it was “OK when I was a kid, as long as you were dressing like a character.”
While many public figures were quick to condemn her comments, including her own NBC News colleagues, the truth is that many celebrities have been known to downplay or even participate in the racist practice.
Here are 12 celebrities who have faced public backlash for wearing blackface, on Halloween and in everyday life.
Julianne Hough wore blackface to portray Crazy Eyes from “Orange is the New Black.”
- Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images / Splash News
For a 2013 Halloween party, Julianne Hough went as a popular “Orange Is the New Black” character who is portrayed by black actress Uzo Aduba. But in addition to the classic orange jumpsuit, she clearly wore blackface as part of the costume.
“It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way,” the “Dancing with the Stars” champion said, shortly after she was photographed leaving the party. “I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize.”
A source told Us Weekly that Isla Fisher intervened when she saw Hough’s outfit, though Fisher’s rep denied this.
Jason Aldean wore blackface and fake dreadlocks to dress up as rapper Lil Wayne.
- Gabe Ginsberg/Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images
An photo of Jason Aldean appearing to be in blackface at a Halloween party went viral in 2015. A rep for the country singer quickly confirmed his identity in the photo and said he was dressed as Lil Wayne.
Aldean even defended his decision in an interview with Billboard, claiming he had “zero malicious intent.”
“In this day and age people are so sensitive that no matter what you do, somebody is going to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “I get that race is a touchy subject, but not everybody is that way. Media tends to make a big deal out of things.”
Colton Haynes painted his face for a Kanye West costume.
- Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images / @ColtonHaynes/Twitter
Sarah Silverman wore blackface for a plot line on her Comedy Central show.
In a 2007 episode of “The Sarah Silverman Program” titled “Face Wars,” the comedian wants to “be black for the day” in order to better understand the struggles of being black in America.
The satirical episode follows Silverman’s character wearing obvious blackface, not realizing that others can see it’s makeup, and playing into multiple stereotypes.
Silverman addressed the episode in 2015 during an appearance on “Watch What Happens Live.”
“Me and the waiter in the restaurant, played by Alex Désert, switch [races],” she explained, as reported by People. “I say it’s harder to be Jewish, and he says it’s harder to be black, and we switch for the day. And it’s really aggressively stupid, and we’re both idiots.”
“Now it’s forever there and it looks [like] it’s totally racist out of context, and I regret that,” Silverman continued. “But there’s nothing I can do about that.”
Kylie Jenner’s skin tone was transformed when she did a photo shoot with a black light.
Back in 2015, Kylie Jenner posted multiple photos from a shoot where her face was covered in metallic makeup and she posed under a black light. Because of the darkened effect, many people accused the then teen of wearing blackface.
“Making MAGiC w/ KYLiZZLE. PEEPS BE GETTING TURNT UP ON THIS SKIN SITCH. BLACK LIGHTS & NEON. Does no body know about lighting ??” Jenner had originally captioned one photo, tagging her makeup team. “What I wish I looked like all the time thank you.”
Later, after noticing the backlash, she changed the caption: “This is a black light and neon lights people lets all calm down.”
Some defended Jenner’s “gray” and “shiny skin,” noting that she looks more like an alien in the photos than a person of color.
Actress, singer, and activist Zendaya wrote on Twitter that she had a similar initial reaction – but also pointed out that people should “stay aware of what image we project.”
At first, I saw more of an avatar look but thank y'all for keepin me on point….we all gotta stay aware of what image we project #lessons
— Zendaya (@Zendaya) April 5, 2015
During a comedy routine, Ted Danson painted his face to resemble an actor at a minstrel show.
At the New York Friars Club Roast in 1993, “The Good Place” actor Ted Danson donned exaggerated blackface during his opening monologue, which was reportedly saturated with the N-word.
The entire routine immediately drew backlash. The head of the New York Friars Club issued a public apology the next day. Even then-Mayor David Dinkins, who is black, said later that the jokes “were pretty vulgar and many were way, way over the line,” as reported by The New York Times.
Danson’s then girlfriend, Whoopi Goldberg, defended him and said she had written most of the offensive jokes.
Kim Kardashian West faced backlash over promotional photos for her contour line.
“We wanted them really moody; I was really tan,” she said. “I wanted to show the contour. The photos ended up being a little bit darker than I was. There were some people online saying I was doing blackface and the photos were inappropriate.”
Kardashian West later adjusted the images and replaced them on her website.
On “KUWTK,” the beauty mogul called the call-out culture “toxic” – but also admitted she “can get” why people were accusing her of blackface.
“When you’re running shit, you just literally have to own up to it and change it and fix it,” she said. “I fully understood what people were saying. … I would never ever, ever do a photo shoot like that and I would never disrespect anyone.”
Luann de Lesseps wore blackface and an Afro wig for a Diana Ross costume.
The “Real Housewives of New York City” star dressed as Diana Ross for Halloween last year, donning both blackface and an oversized black Afro wig.
When her outfit was revealed on the show and on social media, viewers were quick to criticize her “disrespectful” decision, as costar Carole Radziwill noted in the episode.
“I think she’s tone-deaf when it comes to cultural stereotypes,” Radziwill said, as reported by People.
De Lesseps later responded to the criticism during an appearance on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” and said she was “horrified” by the accusations.
“I never meant to hurt anybody’s feelings,” she said. “I love Diana Ross and I totally respect Diana Ross. It was really kind of a tribute to her, and it was Halloween.”
Fred Armisen has been known to perform in “honeyface” on “Saturday Night Live.”
- Jason Merritt/Getty Images / NBC
Fred Armisen has been repeatedly criticized for his portrayal of Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live.” When the impression made its debut in 2008, New York Magazine’s Intelligencer ran a headline that called it “honeyface,” based on Armisen’s explanation.
“There’s shading on my eyebrows and plastic behind my ears. And there’s a little bit of something called Honey, a honey color, that is something I would wear when I play Prince,” he told the magazine.
“I know [blackface is] not very politically correct these days, but I think I will have to if I am to do Obama,” Armisen told the Sunday Telegraph before the episode aired.
Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune called the choice to cast Armisen as Obama “inexplicable.” The Guardian’s Hannah Pool wrote that his impression had clear “minstrel” implications.
Jimmy Fallon also wore blackface on “Saturday Night Live.”
- Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal / NBC
— kristine m. reyes (@kristinemreyes) June 3, 2016
Fallon attempted to revive his impression of Rock – sans blackface – at the Golden Globes last year, though it wasn’t received well.
Gigi Hadid came under fire for her darkened skin tone on the cover of Vogue Italia.
- Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images / Vogue Italia
In May, Gigi Hadid received backlash after her skin was darkened on the cover of Vogue Italia – after she and the same magazine were criticized in 2015 for a similar appropriating practice.
While some simply criticized that Hadid’s signature look had been changed so drastically, some accused the publication of blackface. Many pointed out that it would have been far easier and more inclusive to simply hire a woman of color to model.
So Vogue Italia just put a “sneak peek” of their May cover out on Instagram – I am so sick of the fashion world. It’s 2018. Stop the blackface, stop the photoshopping to make a model look more “ethnic” HIRE MORE DIVERSE MODELS if that’s the look you need for your cover. pic.twitter.com/SBTKoxKRCk
— Christy Somos (@C_Somos) May 3, 2018
Hadid later explained that she had no control over the creative direction or the post-shoot color editing.
“Although I understand what Vogue Italia’s intentions were, it was not executed correctly, and the concerns that have been brought up are valid,” she wrote on social media. “Please know that things would have been different if my control of the situation was different.”
“Regardless, I want to apologize because my intention is never to diminish those concerns or take opportunities away from anyone else, and I hope this can be an example to other magazines and teams in the future.”
The photographer, Steven Klein, was also the subject of controversy in 2009 when he was accused of putting Dutch model Lara Stone in blackface for an editorial spread in Vogue Paris’ October issue.
Jimmy Kimmel wore blackface for an impression of NBA star Karl Malone.
Back in 2000, Jimmy Kimmel was the host of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show,” for which he appeared repeatedly as NBA star Karl Malone. Kimmel wore blackface and painted his body for the impression, which also mocked Malone’s speaking style.
The show has been criticized for being “proudly crass, racist, and transphobic” (as well as sexist: Kimmel described the premise of the show as “a joyous celebration of chauvinism“) – but this moment has gotten particular attention after it was tweeted by Sean Hannity earlier this year.
Kimmel replied with a joke about Hannity’s loyalty to Trump, but did not address the criticism of his wearing blackface.
“If we put ‘The Man Show’ on today in its identical form, it would be an even bigger hit than it was back then. I believe that very strongly,” Kimmel told Esquire in 2017. “Because there’s more back to lash against. … It would absolutely result in a s—storm, and there’s absolutely nothing better for ratings than a s—storm.”
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