Jan Bonito is a makeup artist and social media phenomenon who has gained popularity for dressing up as celebrities. Bonito has an Instagram following of over 200,000 and has posed as Beyonce, Rihanna, Kevin Hart and more. He once posted a video in which he does his makeup like Snoop Dogg and Snoop liked it so much, he reposted it.
Bonito typically does his makeup to resemble black celebrities and while he’s generally praised for his work—Daily Mail, Popsugar and Metro have each reported on him in a positive light—he’s not black. He’s of Filipino descent, according to Metro. So why hasn’t anyone called him out for blackface?
DJ Khaled, of Palestinian descent, was once asked to justify his use of the N-word. He said that he thought that it was fine for him to say because he “grew up like that.” He’s now a Snapchat God. Ken Jeong, Fat Joe and Jennifer Lopez have all used the N-word. They aren’t black, but for some reason, it’s okay for them to say it. And yet, it’s not okay when white celebrities like Madonna or Seth Rogen do.
Just last year, people accused Kylie Jenner of dressing in blackface for a photo shoot. Fred Armisen and Julianne Hough are among the many celebrities who have worn blackface. Every year, Halloween enthusiasts wear blackface and every year, we have conversations about why it’s wrong.
Bonito isn’t the only makeup artist posting celebrity makeup transformations on Instagram—Paolo Ballesteros and Rebecca Swift are Insta-famous for this, too—but he is one of the only ones who portray black celebrities so often.
Perhaps people think that because Bonito is a professional makeup artist, it’s okay for him to paint his face shades darker—or lighter—and mimic black celebrities. Perhaps people think that he can do these things because he’s Filipino, a.k.a. not white. Let’s face it, if he were white, he would have already been called out for blackface by now.
Like the N-word, it’s hard to draw the line on when blackface becomes offensive. Some argue that it depends on how you say it. Some just have a problem when white people do it. Perhaps we have to revert back to the person’s intent to determine if what they’re doing is offensive or not.
If that’s the case, I’m almost certain Bonito isn’t trying to offend anyone. He’s simply entertaining you—and he’s pretty good at it, too.
But then again, I don’t think Kylie Jenner was trying to be offensive, either.