Maybe country music star Jason Aldean doesn’t read the papers. Maybe he doesn’t watch television. Maybe he doesn’t get out much. Or maybe Jason Aldean just doesn’t care about what other people think. The multi-platinum selling recording artist recently admitted — through a representative — that he donned blackface and a wig of dreadlocks for a Halloween lark in which he apparently tried to pass himself off as rapper Lil Wayne.
Jason Aldean’s seemingly ill-advised concept for a Halloween get-up first came to light when website Nashville Gab posted a photo of the country crooner dressed in “sunglasses, long dreadlocks and gold jewelry,” as noted by the Chicago Tribune. Aldean’s publicist, Tyne Parish, later commented via e-mail that Jason Aldean “dressed as rapper Lil Wayne for Halloween,” but offered no further comment.
The photo, which was reposted by celebrity gossip receptacle TMZ and other outlets, revealed that Aldean applied dark makeup to his face, ostensibly to mimic Lil Wayne’s complexion. At least one other person in Jason Aldean’s party posse appeared to sport similar togs.
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher to be sure, given the racial tensions that have spiked and boiled over in America numerous times over the course of the past year or so. Indeed, with the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson having recently passed, a spate of police shootings of unarmed black men in America, the mass murder of black churchgoers in Charleston, and numerous other prominent examples of race-related discord throughout the nation, it would seem as though a pop culture power player like Aldean would know what kind of behaviors are potentially objectionable, alienating, and upsetting to the general public at large. But thus far, Jason Aldean is not offering any apology for his apparent insensitivity.
While it is not known how – or if – backlash from his Halloween escapade might ultimately impact his career, other public figures have faced scathing criticism for their use of blackface in the past.
In 2013, actress and reality show star Julianne Hough showed up to a Halloween party dressed as Orange Is the New Black character “Crazy Eyes.” In addition to sporting an orange jumpsuit, Hough had also donned makeup to try and match the pallor of actress Uzo Aduba, who depicts the female convict on the critically acclaimed Netflix program. Although Hough’s fellow actress and friend Isla Fisher convinced her to take off the makeup, paparazzi managed to snap a picture of Julianna in blackface and the photo incited outrage from many. Hough later apologized for the incident and in a 2015 interview, she called the costume idea “dumb.”
Perhaps one of the more infamous celebrity backface incidents occurred in 1993 when actor Ted Danson assumed the appearance of a minstrel performer at a Friars Club roast of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. Although Danson maintained that the spectacle was intended as something of a commentary on his relationship with Goldgerg, many in attendance took umbrage at the shenanigans, including Montel Williams, who stormed out of the event. Danson was publicly defended by Goldberg and later apologized. The situation did not stymie his career for long, as Ted Danson later landed starring roles in television hits like Becker and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Like Julianna Hough and Ted Danson, Aldean has a lot at stake when it comes to his career. After all, he is one of the Recording Industry of America top-selling recording artists these days, and he frequently plays to packed houses at huge venues around the United States. But even if he still proves able to earn millions as an entertainer, if he passes on the opportunity to show a bit of humility, Jason Aldean might find it difficult to earn even an ounce of respect from many of his fellow Americans.
[Photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images]