By: Sydnee Walcott
Celebrities are people with large platforms. They entertain their viewers through various creative mediums such as acting, music, and comedic acts. However, there are some artists who do more than entertain their audiences.
It is not uncommon for celebrities to use their platforms to bring awareness to social issues. There have been key moments where celebrities have confronted racism, cultural appropriation, sexism, colourism, and disrespect.
Musicians and artists tend to be some of the most vocal celebrities when it comes to taking a stand against something wrong.
While musicians are widely known for entertaining their fans through their songs and onstage presence, there have been moments when they were not afraid to speak their mind and provide their insight on controversial topics.
Black people have left an influential impact on the music industry yet continuously endure mistreatment within the industry.
During interviews, there were musicians who were not afraid to stand up against racism in the industry. They further made efforts to call out interviewers for making insensitive remarks.
Happy Mag created a video on some of the most notable moments where musicians have called out racism. Outlined is a breakdown of four moments featured in the video:
- Grace Jones
Aside from her talent as a singer, Grace Jones is known for having a very bold and eccentric style with an extroverted personality. Some have stated that her iconic style inspired younger musicians to express themselves in the music scene.
In an infamous 1980 interview with Television Presenter Russell Harty, Jones was a victim of disrespect from Harty throughout the interview.
If Harty was not speaking to Jones with his back turned to her, he would make insulting comments about Jones’ outfit and sarcastically ask whether she ”calmed herself down,” given her eccentric style.
She responded to the question by saying she is overestimated and told Harty to “try her.”
Jones’ response reminds people why she is deserving of her celebrity status. However, there was a moment where she got violent and slapped Harty when she became exhausted from the excessive ridicule.
- David Bowie
In 1981, when MTV launched it was recognized for being one of the first channels to be completely dedicated to music. However, they garnered a negative reputation for their lack of diversity during this time.
People noticed that Black artists were receiving little airplay for their music videos. MTV executives have denied these allegations and stated that it was not because of racism. They further argued that many Black artists did not fit the channel’s rock theme.
The channel became more inclusive after the airing of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” but this feature was approved at a cost.
CBS President Walter Yetnikoff threatened to have the record’s White artists pulled from MTV’s roster unless they played Jackson’s video.
Yetnikoof was not the only notable person to address MTV’s lack of diversity.
During an interview with the channel in 1983, David Bowie, who made a legendary title for himself as a pop star and fashion icon, called out the channel’s exclusion of Black artists and gave them credit on how they have transformed the music industry
While Bowie was able to benefit from White privilege, he demonstrated exemplary humanitarian traits when using his privilege in a positive light.
- Whitney Houston
The first thought that comes to mind when people think of Whitney Houston are her groundbreaking vocals. Houston is well known for being an outspoken person who could be real with her audience.
Brown also asked Houston if she felt as if she pursued the wrong business.
Houston responded by saying she did not pursue the wrong business, but notes that she has dealt with the wrong people in the industry.
“You sing them underneath the floor,” was one of Houston’s responses and mottos to Brown’s follow-up question on how she copes with dealing with the wrong people.
- Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur is a rapper who is outspoken on injustices and social issues whether it is expressed through songs or during an interview.
In a 1994 interview with MTV, Shakur was asked about how Hip-Hop transformed from being a genre that addressed social issues to a genre with an “I don’t care” type of lyricism.
Shakur stated that things have not changed entirely and pointed out how there is only so much mistreatment one can handle before they get pushed over the edge.
These four artists and their responses to racist comments are some of the most memorable and remind their audiences why these influential figures are reputable.