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Polish TV show sparks outrage after contestant wears blackface for Kendrick Lamar impersonation

Kuba Szmajkowski, middle, has sparked outrage after using blackface on Polish TV  (Instagram/@twojatwarzbrzmiznajomo)
Kuba Szmajkowski, middle, has sparked outrage after using blackface on Polish TV (Instagram/@twojatwarzbrzmiznajomo)

A Polish TV competition has sparked outrage after featuring performers in blackface, impersonating Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce.

The popular programme Twoja Twarz Brzmi Znajomo – known elsewhere as Your Face Sounds Familiar – featured singer Kuba Szmajkowski performing Lamar’s track Humble in blackface with fake cornrows and a beard.

Szmajkowski also used the N-word, which was not censored during the broadcast on Saturday.

The singer went on to win the episode and a prize of £1,843, which will be donated to charity.

Szmajkowski, 21, has more than 163,000 Instagram followers and shared clips on his account of the makeup team covering his face in brown makeup and attaching textured hair to his head and face.

White actor Pola Gonciarz also performed as Beyoncé with artificially darkened skin.

A comment on the actor’s Instagram page read: “This is so incredibly misguided and ignorant. Blackface shouldn’t be done ever, anywhere. We should not put people’s skin colour on like costumes.”

Another said: “Shocking that this kind of racism was allowed on TV in 2023.”

The origins of the use of blackface date back to the 19th century in the US, when white actors called minstrel performers would paint their faces black and perform racist routines mimicking black people. It is considered racist, demeaning and offensive.

The Standard has contacted Endemol Shine Poland, the show’s production company, for comment.

It is not the first time that the programme has featured contestants in blackface. In 2021, the show drew criticism when a white contestant darkened their skin during a performance of a Kanye West song.

In response, the show’s creators said they were “very surprised” by the backlash, claiming that other impersations of stars such as Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston had gone ahead without controversy.

“The intention of each star performing on the show, as well as of the whole production team, is to recreate the original performance in the most precise manner, while honouring the original artist,” they said.

The Czech version of the programme banned its contestants from using blackface in 2021.