will.i.am attacked online for 'blackface' makeup at VMAs pre-show, hits Twitter to defend himself

will-i-amImage Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.comKanye and Taylor weren’t the only talking pieces after last night’s VMAs. Black Eyed Peas leading man will.i.am also sparked up a bit of controversy when he performed alongside rapper Nicki Minaj during the pre-show. Though not purposefully, the eccentric rapper and producer known for his futuristic costumes ticked off some of his fans after wearing an all black leather outfit and matching black makeup all over his face.

Instantly the Twitterverse hopped on their computers and smartphones to cry foul, comparing his makeup to the racist 19th century blackface minstrel shows. When Will caught wind of the criticism, he responded through his Twitter account to defend his costume choice.

“1st. just because I where all black including head mask as expression and emphasize my outfit, it shouldn’t be looked at as racial…,” he tweeted. “Let go of the past. there are far more important things 2 bark about. (Jobs, health, education) not a black man wearing all black everything,” he followed. Then after noticing that people were still attacking him, he asked, “Are you guys serious? my outfit set “black people back 100 yrs” choose your twits wisely. no education sets people back, no jobs, bad health.”

Personally, I think these accusations are nuts. In the past Will has participated in various causes for uplifting black people–really, all people. He was one of the first artists to campaign, promote, and support Barack Obama’s presidential run years ago and frequently returns the impoverished East Los Angeles neighborhood he grew up in to speak to its children. And let me not forget to mention that he does all of this philanthropic work during breaks from making huge pop records that boast positive messages.

If there’s anything that Will’s guilty of, it’s giving people the benefit of the doubt and hoping that his costume would be seen simply as interesting, fun, and artsy. I, for one, knew the peanut gallery would think otherwise. I can’t say I loved his makeup. Will probably should have known that more than a few people would be peeved and nixed it. But I’m pretty sure that there was nothing malicious behind the concept.

What do you think? Was Will’s makeup a slap in the face to African Americans or just an eccentric’s mistake? Sound off in the comments below.

More MTV VMAs coverage on EW.com:
MTV VMAs: We’re live-blogging it!
Inside the VMAs: What you didn’t see on TV
Kanye vs. Taylor, Round 2: Is there a winner here?
Lady Gaga announces title of her upcoming new album during VMA speech, steals show
Kanye West apologizes to Taylor Swift: ‘I only want to do good.’
VMAs: 15 terrible fashion choices

Comments (91 total) Add your comment
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  • Minutiae

    So, we have become so hyper-politically correct that this is a big deal? Black makeup automatically means “blackface”, even if there’s a costume with it that suggests something completely contrary? I just don’t get it. People need to stop being so freaking sensitive.

    • macdonv

      I agree. If his outfit had been red and he’d painted his head red to match, would the Native American population be all up in arms? I doubt it. Sometimes it’s just makeup, folks.

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      Word. Incidentally I wonder if his friends call him Bill.i.am.

  • PeterBilt

    Maybe if people would stop all trying to ‘shock’ with their fruity costumes we wouldnt have this problem. Everyone wants to look like they are attending the gayest rave ever.

    • kong

      and then there are the idiots like you who have to reply using the dumbest terms ever ‘gayest’ rave, to remind us why they have to going for shock value, only way to get a reaction from the dumbest people ever-like yourself

    • yepyep

      They are entertainers, their job is to keep coming up with ideas so people will find them interesting. I feel bad for the people that got upset over something I can bet my pay check on that he never thought of, he thought that damn this would be cool going in all black from head to toe.
      I like his responses, he used the term people as a general not as blacks, but all people need to worry about what is current there are plenty of things to be worried about, instead of some artist custom.

    • yepyep

      By the way, did the vegitarians get upset with lady Gaga and her meat dress, nooooooooooooooooo

  • The Jackal

    Most African Americans think everything is a slap in the face. Way oversensitive. There was a black bank robber in the news last week wearing a white face, anybody up in arms about that? Also, not all black people come from Africa.

    • Silent Rage

      Good point, bad example.

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        I’ve seen number 3 pencils with better points.

    • uglynikki

      what is the history of white face? What does it mean?

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        Too much!!! What does it mean?!??!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        The history of white face? The Tea Party!

    • Clt

      You’ve been around if you’ve met “most”. Good job!

    • Katja

      While I do not care for your statement that “most African Americans think everything is a slap in the face”…I do have to agree with you on black people coming from Africa. I have a friend who is a first generation Jamaican-American, who HATES having to fill out surveys or generally identify herself as “African-American.” Her ancestry might eventually be traced back to Africa (and isn’t that true of all of us?) but she considers herself Caribbean-American, not African-American.

    • GG

      Uh, yeah they do. All people originated in Africa.

  • Siggie

    He looks funny

  • Miss Talk

    Shock Value. He got it. Moving on.

  • whatevs

    I don’t think he tried to shock anyone. Blackface probably didn’t even cross his mind when he put on the costume. This overly PC time we live in makes me sick.

  • Chappel

    Sometime’s a cigar is just a cigar. He was just going for a certain visual effect… I don’t see what the big deal is.

  • Chappel

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. He was just going for a certain visual effect… I don’t see what the big deal is.

  • stasha822

    He also paid off 2 family’s mortgages who were on the brink of foreclosure on Oprah last season. I think he’s a good guy who made an error in judgement but shouldn’t get overly ridiculed about it.

    • Diggity

      I don’t even think he made an error in judgement. It was part of a robot-like costume. If people want to get all crazy about it, that is their own problem.

    • Katja

      I agree with Diggity. It’s not an error in judgment. It’s exactly like KISS makeup. It’s like kabuki makeup. It’s part of a costume. I find it absurd that anyone thinks this was some sort of misstep. Look at that picture. The makeup is clearly intended to match up with the black outfit, thus highlighting the red shades and the crazy hair thing. The guy looks like an artistic robot or something. I didn’t see his performance, and I can tell that this is utterly different from blackface.

  • jodipo

    people are acting silly. He was obviously not appearing in “blackface”

  • Quirky

    We should also go after the Blue Man Group for their racist portrayal of smurfs.

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      Hey I’m in the Blue Man Group and some of my best friends are Smurfs! Hell I’m married to Smurfette!

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      P.S. Get Smurfed!

      • smurf you!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        Smurf off!

      • Rosa

        This was by far the best series of posts I’ve ever seen. I busted out laughing. Also, get over the whole race thing. He wore something rediculous to an event for people who are rediculous. Doesn’t make him racist. That’s actually quite rediculous to suggest that he is.

  • jasmine

    omg people are stupid. are they really accusing a BLACK man wearing all BLACK racist!? that’s the least racist thing that happened all night…funny racist that i nor im sure many other people are not offended by, but racists not of the least

    • Diggity

      Seriously, Chelsea Handler said at least 10 racist things and I have heard nothing about that.

  • Josh

    It’s so obvious the make up is just part of the outfit. Seriously!? How PC can this country get?

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      Eff all this PC stuff! I’m a Mac! And Windows 7 was NOT my idea!

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    He should have consulted Ted Danson about this ahead of time.

    • whoppie goldberg

      LMAO!!!!!!! I don’t think anyone under 30 got that joke!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        That’s okay. It’ll always be our little thing Whoppi.

      • diva

        I’m 19 and I get it, but I read whoppie’s bio though. He did the blackface thinking it was okay because he was dating her at the time. Not right then and still not right now.

        When I saw Will.I.Am I didn’t think of black face I thought of why can’t I see his face? and ugly outfit him and nicki

  • Hans M.

    As long as we keep giving attention to the PC-concerned idiots out there, they will keep yelping. He should have never responded to the “twits” and EW should have never posted it this as a news item.

    • and you never should have commented.

      • harry

        good point

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