Polish TV show faces backlash over white performer in blackface impersonating Kendrick Lamar

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Sep 13, 2023 at 01:22 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

A Polish TV competition called Twoja Twarz Brzmi Znajomo (which translates to “your face sounds familiar”), has ignited controversy after a white contestant performed in blackface in an attempt to impersonate American rapper Kendrick Lamar. He also used the N word, which went uncensored on the broadcast.

The talent show’s concept is simple: singers are invited to give renditions of famous performers in front of a live studio audience. However, this particular performance has sparked outrage and accusations of racial insensitivity—and it’s not even the first time it’s caused controversy over its use of blackface.

On a recent episode, contestant Kuba Szmajkowski—a star in Poland who has 163,000 Instagram followers—chose to perform Lamar’s iconic track ‘Humble’ from his Grammy-winning 2017 album, DAMN. In a deeply problematic choice, Szmajkowski not only darkened his skin with makeup but also wore a hairpiece that imitated cornrows, a hairstyle often associated with the Compton rapper.

What’s more, he performed an uncensored version of the song, which includes the repeated use of the N word. This use of racial slurs and blackface has drawn significant criticism from viewers and social media users.

@thenewsmovement

“Polish Kendrick Lamar” is a white guy in blackface 😐 #fyp #learnontiktok #blackface #kubaszmajkowski #kendricklamar #kendricklamarfan #kendricklamarfans #yourfacesoundsfamiliar

♬ original sound - The News Movement

Szmajkowski ended up winning the episode and received a prize of 10,000 Polish Zloty (which translates to approximately £1,843). After the show aired, both Szmajkowski and the programme’s official social media account posted footage of the performance, which only intensified the backlash.

Many viewers expressed their disappointment and anger over the evident display of blackface and offensive language—particularly noting the complete lack of cultural sensitivity. One fan commented: “Oh no Kuba, this isn’t okay,” while another questioned the show’s producers, writing: “Producers of this show, what were you thinking?”

The general sentiment among viewers was one of frustration and concern, as they believed that Kuba’s talent could have earned him international recognition without resorting to such offensive tactics.

 

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A post shared by KUBA SZMAJKOWSKI (@kubaszmajkowsky)

This incident is not isolated, as it follows previous seasons of the show where contestants also used blackface to impersonate Black performers. In 2021, the programme faced backlash when a white contestant used a highly racist method to portray Kanye West. According to The Independent, despite the widespread critiques, the programme defended its intentions, emphasising its aim to recreate performances faithfully while honouring the original artists.

@yzy_day

who let the polish do a show with blackface ⁉️ #fyp #rap #kanyewest #ye #poland #blackface

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The show went on to proudly cite other instances of white artists imitating Tina Turner, Missy Elliott, Stevie Wonder, and more, underscoring the charitable contributions made on the programme. Notably, Szmajkowski donated his sizeable prize to a children’s cancer charity called Przystań Nadziei.

However, in a statement to The Guardian, the parent company of Your Face Sounds Familiar took a firm stance against the Polish controversy, condemning the local execution of the show and emphasising the company’s global values and mission against racism. It’s been reported that an internal investigation is now underway.

@nyjo.brennen

So gross. What a nightmare. #wtfmoment #YourFaceSoundsFamiliar #blackface #polishtiktok #itsbeenreportedbynyjo

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