Video appears to show teen using makeup for blackface at Boston Sephora

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BOSTON – It’s a viral video for all of the wrong reasons. A teen was spotted at the Sephora in Boston’s Prudential Mall putting on makeup in what appears to be blackface. In the video, the person recording can be heard calling it shameful. Another person in the store stepped in to talk with the teen.

“I think what made the situation more impactful was an account of them making animal noises on top of putting this blackface on,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, President and CEO of the Museum of African American History in Boston and Nantucket. “Blackface is absolutely dehumanizing. It is the visual embodiment of the “N” word. It is the worst visual racial epitaph for Black people.”

Sephora blackface Boston
A teen was spotted at the Sephora in Boston’s Prudential Mall while putting on makeup in what appears to be blackface.


In a statement about the blackface incident, the company said, “Sephora’s top priority is to create a welcoming and inclusive shopping experience for all. We are extremely disappointed by the behavior of these shoppers at our Prudential Center location, and as such, they were asked to leave our premises. Under no circumstance is this type of behavior tolerated at Sephora.”

What is blackface?

Since the incident, the video has spread across the internet with some people echoing the woman behind the camera by calling this shameful. Other people wonder if younger Americans understand why blackface is so offensive.

“People understand that that is not approbate, but I don’t think they are aware of the depth of the history other than the shaming that happens on social media,” said Dr. Trent.

Dr. Trent says the issue began in the 19th century when actors performed minstrel shows in theaters. They were a type of low comedy that gave way to the infamous character known as Jim Crow. His portrayal became synonymous with segregation.

“What they would do is typically white actors would paint themselves black with shoe polish, and black and cork, and they would embody archetypes or exaggerated personas of how they interpreted who Black Americans were,” said Dr. Trent. 

Why blackface is so offensive

“It didn’t just happen in theaters. It was popularized in marketing and advertisements. Anytime blackface is used it is tapping into a long public legacy of hate. The African Americans were animal like. They had tails. They weren’t like anyone else.”

In the Boston Sephora instance, at least one person is seen on camera stepping in to stop the incident from carrying on. She can be heard telling the teen, “How incredibly offensive this is.”

“I think the important example that we see in that video is people speaking up. Silence means that you are complicit in the action,” said Dr. Trent.

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