Over the weekend, ex-girlfriend of Ryan Secreast Julianne Hough went to a costume party dressed as Uzo Aduba’s character from Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, “Crazy Eyes.” Unfortunately, she chose to represent said character by putting herself in blackface. I suggest screaming into a pillow for the next six to eight minutes, or however long it takes to get the rage of ignorance out of your system.
Feel better? Let us continue.
People are understandably appalled at Hough’s choice to wear blackface to represent the character. But more even than by her racial insensitivities are we offended by Hough’s complete lack of effort in putting together a respectable costume. Now, it’s not inherently offensive that Hough wanted to dress as Crazy Eyes this Halloween. Who wouldn’t? She’s one of the most recognizable (and great) characters from the last year of pop culture. But both the devil, and the ability to offend pretty much everyone, is in the details, and that’s where Hough failed. Miserably. There is literally zero effort here besides picking up a pair of orange scrubs and meticulously applying blackface. Come on, Julianne. Everyone knows you’re terrible, but you’re better than that.
If you’re dressing as a pop culture character, you have to get it right. First of all, Crazy Eyes doesn’t even wear an orange jumpsuit! As established in the pilot episode of the series or a basic Google Image search, the orange clothes are for the new inmates, while the rest of the prison is outfitted in khaki. Second, look at those sloppy, blond buns on her head. In the 2.5 seconds it took to put those together, wouldn’t it have been easier to have a hairstylist friend replicate a little more accurately or even pick up a wig?
And another thing: props. Props are the key when it comes to costumes (ethnicity-bending ones, especially). And so much of Crazy Eyes’ character is tied up in those props. Where are the dandelions? A plate of pie to throw? Also acceptable would be a huge barn coat, a copy of Shakespeare, or a mop. The last step would be to play the character. Her bold declarations of love and her wide eyed, earnest stare are what made everyone collectively fall in love with her eccentricity this summer. All of these things would be more helpful than painting of a layer of white-girl bronzer. What should be clear now is that Crazy Eyes (and pretty much any character fun enough to dress as for Halloween) would never be defined first and foremost by the color of their skin. Want to go as Heisenberg? Well, then a porkpie hat, sunglasses, and goatee will be far more helpful than the amount of melanin you have.
If you, like Julianne, aren’t up to the simple challenge of portraying a character without fixating on their skin color, then simply take a backseat and play someone else. Looking at a shot of Hough leaving the party, it looks like this was a group costume. Okay, she was with a Piper, a Pornstache, and an Alex. (You’re not the Piper in your group of friends? Come on, girl. That’s just sad.) Anyway, that leaves Pennsatucky, Morello, Red, Nicky, Tricia, even Yoga Jones. All white characters and all super fun to dress as for a night. But perhaps Hough was just sensitive enough to realize that it might seem odd if she and her group of friends chose to only portray the white characters in such a diverse show. Well, if you’re not quite sensitive enough to realize that blackface is never the answer, why not try going as the cast of any other critically acclaimed television series (except Scandal. Love you, Kerry W.) instead? You should have absolutely no problem finding a white, skinny, blonde haired blue eyed character to play. If this is your approach to a black character, that seems much more your speed. Good luck next year!