Late night audiences welcomed actress Laura Benanti back to television on Tuesday night, October 16, in her return to fill the recurring Melania Trump-inspired role she’s become best known for on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In her latest appearance, Benanti’s “Benania” character came dressed the part to channel an impersonation of the first lady that parodies the Being Melania special that ABC News recently aired from Africa. Colbert would proceed to pose a string of inquiries that drew witty responses on everything from the amount of affection the 48-year-old former model has been afforded in her marriage to President Trump to the credibility she may or may not have on women’s issues. But prior to delving into the interview skit, the veteran host couldn’t help but ask what the archaic outfit she donned on her first solo international trip was all about, and why she was still wearing it.
“I’m just going to keep it on through Halloween,” Benania replied to laughter echoing throughout Ed Sullivan Theater. “I’m going as the ghost of colonialism.”
As was the case during Melania’s excursion through Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this month, Benania wore a white pith helmet. The studio’s cameras weren’t able to pick up on whether she had on the khaki pants and high leather boots the first lady wore during her four-country exploration of the African continent, but Benanti rather appropriately accessorized the get-up with a tan jacket that further helped the look she claimed to be going for.
Taking the pith? Melania Trump raises eyebrows in Africa https://t.co/f0uLptJy6Q
— The Age (@theage) October 7, 2018
The Colbert sketch was a play on how Melania Trump’s choice of wardrobe has once again marred a public appearance pairing the nation’s first lady together with a community of color.
‘Melania Trump’ tells Colbert she’s going as ‘the ghost of colonialism for Halloween’https://t.co/zZpaGKwbul
— Raw Story (@RawStory) October 17, 2018
During the Being Melania special, ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas brought up the controversy that trailed her after she showed up in a jacket that read, “I really don’t care, do u?” while meeting with migrant children at the Texas border. He did not need to jog her memory of the backlash that had just taken shape over the obscure gear she selected to go to Africa in, however, because she happened to be wearing it during the exclusive. Melania would address both controversies by suggesting that people pay attention to what she does and not what she wears.
In the days that followed Melania’s Nairobi stop, USA Today pointed out the wave of discontent that citizens across social media conveyed via various memes that weighed comparisons between first lady Melania and the likes of Michael Jackson in “Smooth Criminal,” and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark Nazi collaborator Belloq. By the same token, historians spoke out to shed light on how the clothing indeed harkened back to a time in history when the disparity between European colonizers and the colonized people of Africa could be more starkly represented by how the former would dress relative to the latter.
Colbert and his guest would have a little fun with the controversy by touching back on it throughout Tuesday’s skit. Eventually, Benanti rounded it all out with a little irony that repackaged Melania’s anti-bullying “Be Best” campaign to one called “Be Dressed” – which Benania presented as an effort to continue steering the media’s attention off of what she wears.
The actress then exchanged her pith hat and jacket for an eyepatch and tricorne in what she said was preparation for a trip to the Caribbean.