Costume parties can be a lot of fun, but there are definitely some outfits that are big no-nos. For example, it should go without saying that dressing up as Hitler, using cultural appropriation, or donning blackface is never acceptable.
Apparently models Sophie Applegarth and Julie Iovenitti didn’t get the memo. The pair, who attended a “sports star” themed costume party decided to dress as tennis pros, Venus and Serena Williams.
However, the models didn’t just wear athletic wear and carry tennis rackets. They also painted all of their visible skin a dark brown in an attempt to imitate the African American sports stars. The act of a white person using makeup to look black is called blackface, and is incredibly offensive. It came about in America during the 19th century when slavery existed as a form of theatrical makeup. It was used by non-black performers and contributed to the spread of racism and black stereotypes. It is unclear why Applegarth and Iovenitti chose to attend the party in such racist costumes, but they weren’t the only ones. One photo posted to Applegarth’s Instagram account shows her friend, Sally Coburn, also wearing blackface to imitate Kobe Bryant. In several photos posted to Instagram, the girls are partying it up and do not seem to have a care in the world about their extremely offensive costumes. Applegarth ignorantly defended the choice by arguing with commenters, writing: “There is nothing racist about backing ur favorite sport stars mate.” She later added: “Go to school and learn what racism really means.” Later, Applegarth apologized and included a disclaimer on her post, stating: “Disclaimer — I had no ‘racist’ or malicious intent by the photos I just uploaded. We were praising our fav sports stars Serena and Venus Williams. Did not mean to offend.” However, the damage has already been done, and aside from the girls’ followers now turning away, Applegarth’s modeling agency has also quietly distanced itself from the model.
Applegarth is reportedly signed with prestigious modeling agency Chic Management, but a quick visit to their website finds that the model’s profile has been taken down. Her name has also been removed from the site’s representation list. Chic Management has not made any official statement about the incident and it is unclear whether the profile removal indicates that Applegarth has been fired, or that the agency is just looking to distance itself from Applegarth until things settle down. Applegarth has since removed the offensive pictures and made her Instagram account private, but the internet doesn’t forget and the photos are still widely available.
Allegedly on the public Facebook profile of an old classmate of Applegarth’s is the photo below. It shows Applegarth with Iovenitti giving the finger while still dressed in their costumes. It was supposedly Iovenitti’s very insensitive response to the backlash. Here’s hoping that these ignorant models learn their lesson the hard way and get what they deserve. Regardless of whether Applegarth’s agency fired her or not, her reputation and career have been severely damaged. It’s 2017, this type of racism shouldn’t be happening anymore. Perhaps 2018 will be better but with this kind of stupidity occurring just before the new year, I’m really not that hopeful. Maybe Applegarth and Iovenitti should watch their backs, as the Williams’ sisters are no strangers to the modeling world. Check out Serena in the video below as she poses for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition: