Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Filipina actress Liza Soberano slammed for Mel B 'blackface'

Soberano has apologised for the decision, saying: 'It wasn’t of my intention to mock anyone of any culture or ethnicity'

Liza Soberano has apologised to fans who were offended by her portrayal of Mel B in a new Jollibee campaign. Instagram / Liza Soberano 
Liza Soberano has apologised to fans who were offended by her portrayal of Mel B in a new Jollibee campaign. Instagram / Liza Soberano 

Filipina-American actress Liza Soberano has been criticised for using "blackface" while impersonating Spice Girl Mel B in a new Jollibee advert.

The advert sees Soberano channel each of the five Spice Girls, while promoting Jollibee's new Crispy Spice Fries. The campaign went live two days ago on Monday, September 16.

Soberano posted the campaign on her Instagram page, which is where the majority of comments critiquing the decision to darken her skin are.

"As someone who is half-black, this is not appreciation at all. No hate to Liza as this might not have been her idea at all," one critic wrote on Instagram. "I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m absolutely disgusted and disappointed with the creative directors for thinking this is okay. Jollibee, y’all can’t seem to do anything right. Yikes."

A second echoed this sentiment, saying, "As a black woman, the ad for Jolibee, although fun and creative, was a little bit insensitive. Portrayal of a singer should be able to be done without the need to wear an afro or delve into cultural aspects that are used for purely costume purposes and nothing more.

"Wear braids, wear an African wrapper, wear an Afro, but the minute any of those start being used as a costume and not of cultural significance and respect, that’s when it becomes disrespectful. I know you meant no harm but I thought I should clear this up as to why so many black fans felt upset by the ad.

In the promotional video, Soberano is seen in Melanie C-style sportswear, with cute hair bunches that resemble Emma Bunton, with a slick black bob to be Victoria Beckham and in a fiery red look, as a nod to Geri Halliwell. The look designed to resemble Mel B includes an afro, leopard-print clothing and notably darker skin.

Soberano hit back at Instagram comments, writing, "This is not any form of blackface." But has since backtracked.

In a Twitter post, she wrote, "Before everything gets out of hand I would like to apologise for those affected by my comments about the whole 'blackface' issue. It wasn’t of my intention to mock anyone of any culture or ethnicity.

"I understand that this is a sensitive topic and that I should’ve kept my mouth shut. For now on I will try to be more educated about matters like this to make sure I don’t make careless mistakes like this again in the future."

The comment continued: "Cultural appropriation is an issue that is deep rooted in society which I am still educating myself on. I’ve read your comments and tweets and I honestly do understand where this backlash has come from.

Updated: September 18, 2019 05:08 PM

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