Edinburgh University Students' Association criticises Scottish LGBTI event, The Icon Awards, for 'being racist'

Awards used 'blacked-up' models which EUSA said was 'ignorant and dehumanising'

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The Independent Online

A new LGBTI awards ceremony – which claims to push boundaries and break-down barriers – has become embroiled in a race row after being accused of using ‘blacked-up’ models.

The move by the Scottish-based Icon Awards – which took place in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza hotel – was blasted by Edinburgh University Student Association’s (EUSA) Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group.

In a statement, the EUSA criticised the event’s use of “blackface” and said it has long been recognised as an insidious form of racial hatred and ignorance, used to mock, degrade, and perpetrate negative stereotypes, further dehumanising people of African descent.

In a response to the allegations, The Icon Awards said the move – which saw models painted in black and gold – was meant to “symbolise luxury, not colour or creed” and were used as “statuesque figures.”

In a retaliation statement, the EUSA said it was “unbelievable that a second statement had to be written” to call for an apology after the awards “issued a defence of their despicable actions.”

It added: “We reject the Icon Awards’ statement and now call on the sponsors of the event to withdraw their support unless our calls for a full apology and removal of all blackface from promotional materials are met.”

Listing a group of 13 organisations who were involved with the event, the EUSA unleashed a tirade of tweets to each of them, asking: “Do you support @theiconawards use of #blackface to promote their event?”

In the heat of the debate, one of the event’s sponsors – American underwear company Andrew Christian – withdrew from the awards.

In an attempt to distance himself from the event, a spokesman for the fashion designer said Andrew Christian would not be providing its goods at October’s ceremony and added: “When we saw the pictures, we realised that was not something we would like to support and we are not going to contribute in the future.”

The Icon Awards has since issued another statement, via its Facebook, apologising and saying its team “never meant to cause any offence,” hurt or make anyone feel uncomfortable.

The event’s manager, Michael Macfarlane, said the ceremony plans to remove images of the models and added: “We want to build a platform to celebrate diversity, and we hope this decision will be welcomed. We also welcome an audience with EUSA to discuss the event.”

Today, the EUSA welcomed the move and said it was “pleased”: