In this day and age of political correctness, certain norms, ideas, concepts and more have long been discredited as offensive to society as a whole. One of them is the practice of “blackface,” or the use of theatrical makeup to portray a character of dark skin tones, particularly Africans or those of that descent like African-Americans. The practice has fallen out of favor in the US since the turn of the century, though other countries continue to use it without much fuss. But when actress Liza Soberano appeared on a Jollibee advertisement made up in “dark” skin and an Afro wig, social media detractors exploded, leading to her explaining herself.
The Manila Bulletin has it that Liza Soberano has found herself forced to defend her latest advertising stint for Jollibee when a preliminary photo accused her of employing blackface to portray a character of African descent. The ad in question is for Jollibee and its new “Crispy Spice” variant of French Fries, and it involves Soberano channeling British talent reality show judge, theatre actress, singer-songwriter-rapper, and Spice Girl, Mel B(rown). This involved the actress dressing in Scary Spice’s favored leopard-print fashion, wearing an afro hairstyle wig, and apparently having her skin tone darkened by makeup.
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Guys, have you tried the new fries from Jollibee! I’m so excited to share with you my favorite #JollibeeCrispySpiceFries! Crispy thin fries with just the right spice. 🥰 Thank you @jollibee for having me be a part of the family! So excited for what’s to come. #LizaSoberanoForJollibee #SpiceUpYourFries
But when Liza posted the photo on Instagram this Monday, September 16, she got flak from some comments for resorting to blackface and the general complaint of “cultural appropriation,” or the adoption of another culture’s elements for oneself. Soberano took to her Twitter page to deny the blackface connotation, stating that she was merely getting in costume, including wig, to do a sendup on Mel B as a reference to the “Spice” on the new Jollibee Fries. Not long afterwards, she sent a follow-up tweet where she did express apologies for any hurt sensibilities online.
“It wasn’t of my intention to mock anyone of any culture or ethnicity,” wrote Liza Soberano on Twitter adding, “I understand that this is a sensitive topic and that I should’ve kept my mouth shut.” The actress then promised to read up more on matters similar to this incident in order to avoid contentious reactions such as the blackface remarks in the future. Much to her relief however, there has been an outpouring of support from her fans in the wake of the little controversy, with her followers calling out the easily-offended sensibilities of present-day society, particularly as the Philippines is not even the US, where such a strong reaction should have been more expected.
Image from Liza Soberano Instagram