One of the greatest Chinese rappers appeared in blackface while playing the role of Nicki Minaj. Vava appeared on a show on one of the country’s major TV stations on Friday night wearing dark makeup as she played the role of Minaj alongside other ‘cosplaying’ celebrities like Ariana Grande and Jessie J to recreate the 2014 AMA performance of the “Bang Bang” trio.
After Vava posted an image announcing her social media appearance, some commentators called her use of blackface. But such mentions were largely buried in a wave of positive responses, with most fans seemingly oblivious to any controversy and simply displaying how excited they were to see her perform.
“Wait until that happens on Twitter,” one commentator wrote on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter Weibo, however, and of course a clip of Vava playing on the show was duly rendered on this site.
After the racist controversy at CCTV’s 2018 New Years Gala, I rightfully believed that we would never see the Black Face again on Chinese national television. Well… I was wrong.
VAVA has just appeared “cosplaying” Nikki Minaj in the Hunan TV program 《白 变 大 咖 秀》. pic.twitter.com/eZLYc5QfOV
– 多多 底 料 DUO (@duoduodiliao) April 9, 2021
The incident follows the use of blackface in China Spring Festival Gala extravaganza again this year, despite international condemnation on a previous segment using blackface on “the world’s most watched TV show” in 2018.
And while Vava probably intended this performance to be a tribute, that neither her team nor anyone at Hunan TV is aware of the callousness of blackface use given such high-profile international reactions in recent years seems incredible.
Greatest Chinese rappers were silent on black life, but true hip-hop artists stood tall
Sadly, the new wave of Chinese hip-hop has grown significantly with insufficient attention given to its roots and heritage. While it would be extremely unfair to dismiss all Chinese rappers as ignorant, incidents like this show how much work needs to be done and how depressing it is for something like Blackface to make it onto mainstream television.
The author of the above tweet highlighting Vava’s performance previously ran a dedicated Chinese hip-hop account, but withdrew the grip due to disappointment with how most mainstream rappers in China did. failed to show significant support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In August of last year, Vava was among those posting black squares on their Instagram profiles and in an interview with RADII, she explicitly addressed Black Lives Matter:
“The Black Lives Matter movement has made an impact and has touched all cultures, everyone across the world,” she told us when asked about her take on the movement. “It’s a wake-up call. It is up to each of us to eliminate prejudice and discrimination between them.
“We need to be more compassionate to each other and fill the world with love.”
Vava is best known worldwide for her song “My New Swag”, which appeared on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack and that she performed at a 76ers halftime show in 2019. Last year, she worked with NBA star Aaron Gordon to produce a track called “Ganbei.”
Interview: Chinese rap queen Vava on new music and Black Lives Matter
Sichuan-born rapper reached final four of hit mega show’s first season Chinese rap, bringing him instant recognition across the country. Since then, she regularly participates in a variety show and is often referred to as the “rap queen of China”.