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When in doubt for Halloween, stick with the mask

- The dark face paint and big, white-painted lips worn by fashion designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua for a costume at last week’s Hallowood 2013 “Disco Africa” party in Italy — now that was blackface, says Trib columnist Nafari Vanaski.
The dark face paint and big, white-painted lips worn by fashion designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua for a costume at last week’s Hallowood 2013 “Disco Africa” party in Italy — now that was blackface, says Trib columnist Nafari Vanaski.
- Julianne Hough, a professional ballroom champion of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” got raked over the coals for dressing for Halloween as the character Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is the New Black.” Trib columnist Nafari Vanaski says it wasn't blackface.
Julianne Hough, a professional ballroom champion of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” got raked over the coals for dressing for Halloween as the character Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is the New Black.” Trib columnist Nafari Vanaski says it wasn't blackface.

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By Nafari Vanaski
Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

When I was a kid, my siblings and I would dress up for Hallo­ween parties at school. We'd wear the costume, but never the mask.

My mother's reasoning was that you couldn't see peripherally in the masks and we walked to school. The year I went as Wonder Woman, I had the “kidded-down” version of her outfit, but you could still see my face. (Why do female superheroes have to fight crime half-naked in skintight gear, while the guys are fully clothed? They probably never had to worry about wedgies.)

I was pretty bothered, even at 6 years old, about not being able to wear the mask. How can you really be Wonder Woman without the mask?

Now I know what I should have done. I should have had my mother put lighter makeup on me so that I looked white, right?

Wrong? You really think it would upset someone? Who would get offended by that?

Julianne Hough, a professional ballroom champion of ABC's “Dancing With the Stars,” got raked over the coals for dressing for Halloween as the character Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is the New Black.”

Critics said Hough was in blackface. Well, that's not blackface. The definition of blackface is painting one's face in extra dark makeup and accentuating stereotypical features of a black person. That is offensive, and a shameful part of our country's history.

The dark face paint and big, white-painted lips worn by fashion designer Alessandro Dell'Acqua for a costume at last week's Hallowood 2013 “Disco Africa” party in Italy — now that was blackface.

Putting on darker makeup so you can complete your Beyoncé costume, however, is not the same thing. If you think that reminds people of the history of performing blackface, then the solution is simple. Never dress up as someone outside your racial group. Yes, that will mean that only black people can dress up as the president of the United States for the next few Halloweens. Unless you're wearing the mask that comes with the costume, which is of a black face.

If you're a white male, you could wear a business suit and tell everyone you're supposed to be Barack Obama. Because if you don't, everyone will think you're Luke Ravenstahl pretending this year to be an adult. (Or will he be a ghost?)

Some argue that the “trick-or-treat” part of Halloween is in the costume. If your costume is good enough, you get a treat. Who wouldn't dress up in a crazy costume to get a “snack-size” Snickers? (Yeah, that size is a snack — for a toddler, and toddlers shouldn't be eating that crap. Adults should.)

Think this shouldn't matter to you? OK, then dress as an inanimate object, like a refrigerator. A gray refrigerator, just to be safe.

Better yet: Let's leave Halloween to the kids. Because as with just about anything else, the adults always ruin it.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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