Nick Cannon’s next act is already raising some eyebrows.
The African-American comedian and host of “America’s Got Talent,” 33, recorded an album in another persona. When his latest collection of songs — his first in 11 years — is released April 1, he’ll join the ranks of past alter-ego equipped stars including David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust) and Garth Brooks (Chris Gaines). Eyebrows, however, have been raised by Cannon’s choice of a white alter ego, one “Connor Smallnut”; a persona which requires Cannon to cover himself in whiteface make-up to slide into.
“It's official... I'm White!!!” he posted on Instagram on Sunday under a photo of himself as Smallnut, whom he describes as the musician behind “White People Party Music.” “#WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC #Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!!Dude Go Get It!!!Join The Party!!!! #GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong #FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating #RacialDraft "Bro I got drafted!!”
The post immediately sparked an argument between Cannon’s followers about whether the photo was appropriate. Some argued that it was just a joke, while others called Cannon, the husband of singer Mariah Carey, a hypocrite.
Hollywood has a long unfortunate history with blackface. D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of Nation,” featuring white actors portraying black characters in blackface was considered racist even as it was released in 1915. Over the years, the backlash against anyone wearing blackface has been swift and strong. Ted Danson found that out when he infamously wore blackface at a roast of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg in 1993. Goldberg defended her man, but that didn’t stop anyone from shaking their head. Just last Halloween, Julianne Hough incited ire when she was photographed in blackface as part of her costume, the character Crazy Eyes from the Netflix show “Orange Is the new Black.” Like Danson, Hough later apologized.
On Monday, Cannon attempted to make light of the persona that he’d created. He posted a photo of Robert Downey Jr.’s character in “Tropic Thunder,” a serious actor who dressed in blackface in order to get more into his role. “Shout out to @RobertDowneyJr,” he captioned it. “This is one of my favorite characters of all time! Hilarious!!! There is a big difference between Humor and Hatred.”
Cannon let loose a string of tweets Monday afternoon to hammer home the point.
The official press release for the project states, “Cannon was inspired to create the album from his experience as a DJ at the hottest clubs and private events. On an appearance on Ellen last fall to debut the album’s first single, ‘Me Sexy’ with a live performance, Cannon jokingly said, ‘When it’s time to turn the party up, I turn to my crates labeled ‘White People Party Music,’ that high energy fist pumping music.”
The joke could be on everyone who’s up in arms, though. Cannon’s “White People Party Music” is set to hit stores on April Fool’s Day.
Reactions from the Twitterverse are mixed. Many critics are calling out the double standards of racism, while others haven taken to calling Cannon names and say they've lost all respect for him.
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