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Icon awards blackface
The ‘blacked up’ models at the Icon Awardsvia

A Scottish LGBT event used blacked up models

The Icon Awards featured women covered in black paint, a move that led the Edinburgh University Students' Association to accuse the awards of racism

"Blacking up" is never advisable, full stop. The models at a Scottish LGBT awards show, present at the event in a "decorative" role, or for attendees to pose for pictures with, looked "blacked-up" to the Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA), something that led the organisation to speak out.

The EUSA said in a statement: “As an event which deals with identity politics, and claims to encourage an inclusive and diverse LGBT+ community (although we find this hard to believe, since they are charging £120 for a ticket to their commercial event), the Icon Awards have a special responsibility to be aware of the connotations and consequence of their marketing output. Yet a team of “16 respectable” organisers have ignored the deeply painful precedents of blackface and have blackened the faces and bodies of models as part of a marketing strategy for their recent LGBT+ event.”

The Icon Awards took place earlier this month in order to celebrate “excellence in the LGBT community” in Scotland because “for a long time Scotland has been forgotten and rarely mentioned in English-based UK awards nights”. The promotional site still features pictures of models in what looks like blackface. 

The organisers of the awards gave an official response to the claims of racism on their Facebook page, saying “We are saddened to hear that recent outings to promote The Icon Awards, an event set up to celebrate and reward the LGBTI community of Scotland, have been seen by some as negative and we apologise to anyone who has taken offence. We had no derogatory or negative intention with the models in question, and the gold and black body art was solely used to symbolise luxury not colour or creed. The models were used as statuesque figures, with the addition of gold males at the launch to show a transition that would later see them become golden figures, ICONS at later events, an artistic impression with no harmful meaning at its helm.”

The accusations of racism have affected the Icon Awards, with underwear designer Andrew Christian announcing that he had ended his partnership with the awards. He said “When we saw the pictures, we realised that was not something we would like to support and we are not going to contribute in the future.”