Will.i.am Defends “Blackface” VMA Costume

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Last year's VMAs were all about the on-stage controversies. The 2010 edition has been dominated by questionable wardrobe choices.

While Lady Gaga's raw meat dress has drawn the lion's share of attention, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas is facing public outcry for his decision to apparently appear in blackface during his pre-show performance with Nicki Minaj, reports MTV.

Minaj tore through a version of her hit single, "Your Love," before being joined mid-song by Will. Entering through plumes of smoke, he emerged dressed head to toe in all black, with the exception of a few hot pink armbands and a plastic hairpiece.

Almost as soon as they had left the stage, Will.i.am was snowed under by an avalanche of online criticism for his face paint, which commenters complained that the face paint was reminiscent of the racially insensitive practice of blackface. A legacy of minstrel shows, blackface was a practice under which white stage actors would don dark face paint to portray African-Americans onstage, which often led to the propagation of stereotypes about blacks.

The rapper took to Twitter after the show ended to defend himself, calling the costume an artistic "expression."

"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."

As more comments came in panning the outfit, Will.i.am. was forced to respond again.

"Are you guys serious? my outfit set 'black people back 100 yrs' choose your twits wisely," he wrote in another missive. "no education sets people back, no jobs, bad health."

Selected Reading: MTV, NY Daily News, Us Weekly

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