A NEW awards ceremony to celebrate the contribution of gay and lesbian people to Scottish life has been caught up in a race row after the organisers used models in black make-up to promote the event.
Anti-racism campaigners have criticised the organisers of the Icon Awards, saying that “blacking-up” is unacceptable, and one of the ceremony’s supporters, the American underwear company Andrew Christian, has withdrawn from the event.
Andrew Christian had agreed to provide underwear for the final awards ceremony on 9 October in the Crowne Plaza Glasgow. Having seen pictures of the models, the Californian-based company has said it no longer wanted to be associated with the event. The ceremony organised by the Glasgow-based company Paramount Creative aims to showcase the achievements of the LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Among the awards are ones for LBGT role model, outstanding services to the community, politician and employer of the year and broadcast journalist of the year.
Pictures of the models were part of the ceremony’s marketing strategy and were prominent at the official launch of the event this month.
Yesterday a spokesman for Andrew Christian said the company would not be providing its goods at October’s ceremony. “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,” he said.
Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP and gay rights campaigner, tweeted: “I’m not involved, but I am amazed that it seems not to have occurred to the organisers that ‘blacking-up’ is not OK.” Yesterday Harvie added: “I don’t think anybody suggests there is racist intent, but really people should have the good sense to avoid this kind of imagery.”
A statement from the Edinburgh University Student Association’s Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group said: “The use of blackface (the act of using theatrical make-up to darken a performer’s skin, usually in order to portray a black character) has long been recognised as an insidious form of racial hatred and ignorance. The use of this despicable practice is incredibly damaging and actively perpetuates the oppression of black communities.”
A statement from event manager Michael Macfarlane said he was “saddened” that the images had been seen as negative and apologised “to anyone who has taken offence”. He added: “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.”