In the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, RuPaul confronted contestant Scarlet Adams over her history of blackface.
Prior to the series’ premiere, Adams – real name Anthony Price – apologised for various instances of blackface, photos of which circulated earlier this year.
“There is no way to sugar-coat it, when I was a teenager roughly eight years ago I performed in black face/cultural appropriation,” Adams said.
“I was young and ignorant. I am no longer this person.”
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On the series’ fifth episode, which aired on Saturday (May 29), Adams’ history of blackface was brought up on two occasions.
First, Adams confessed to donning blackface for drag performances in the past in a conversation with other contestants where they were speaking about things they regretted doing while performing.
In reply, fellow contestant Etcetera Etcetera said, “I’ve never looked at something like blackface and thought that could be an honest mistake.
“A lot of drag scenes are extremely racist. I see a lot of queens saying, ‘it was just a joke’ and ‘you should get over it’. But while people of colour and trans people are still facing violence every single day from the systematic oppression we live in, isn’t a joke to me.”
Later in the episode, RuPaul confronted Adams, saying, “It’s just come to my attention that there are photos of you online performing in blackface. I want to give you the opportunity to address this.”
Adams responded, “I can’t deny it, that that happened. As a dumb, ignorant teenager I made some mistakes that I’m really not proud of.
“Every day I regret those decisions. I regret the fact I used my platform as a performer to ridicule people who have faced systematic racism for hundreds of years.
“I’m so ashamed at the person I once was. I’m really sorry to you and everyone I’ve hurt.”
RuPaul later said he brought it up to “be a lesson in humility and accountability”.
“I’m sure there are people who would want me to cancel you, right here right now,” RuPaul continued, “I pray all of us can learn and grow from our mistakes.”
Adams later addressed the episode and the discussions had on Instagram.
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“I cannot apologise enough for the hurt that was caused by these acts,” Adams said in the video.
“I’ll continue to apologise for this because the BIPOC community deserve meaningful actions and not just hollow words.”
Adams continued, “[I know] that I just can’t get online and flick the switch and just make everything okay and just move on. All I can do is be accountable for the things that I did, to apologise and continue to be the better version of myself than I was nine years ago.”
Judge Michelle Visage spoke about Adams’ past last month to The Metro, where she said, “I know they apologised and that’s it.
“I say this to my own children, you have to think about why you do things and what you do, and I think it’s important for people to take responsibility. So I think that apologies were made, apologies were necessary.”
Scarlet Adams is one of six remaining contestants in the series, which airs every week on Stan, after Etcetera Etcetera was eliminated on Saturday’s episode.
Adams isn’t the only contestant to have caused controversy due to past instances of racism, with Karen From Finance – real name Richard Chadwick – apologising after images of a golliwog doll tattoo (widely considered offensive due to being an historical racist caricature of Black people) on the queen’s leg began to circulate.
“I’ve committed to an ongoing journey of accountability, activism and education, and to uncover and unlearn any and all racial bias – conscious or unconscious – that may or may not be embedded within me,” Chadwick said.
The series itself has also caused controversy internationally, with the BBC having to censor jokes made on the show about Prince Andrew and Prince Phillip.