Polish TV show under fire after contestant wears Blackface for Kendrick Lamar impersonation

A Polish TV competition has come under fire after featuring a white performer in Blackface during an impersonation of US rapper Kendrick Lamar.

The popular programme Twoja Twarz Brzmi Znajomo – known as Your Face Sounds Familiar elsewhere – features singers giving their renditions of performers in front of a live studio audience.

On Saturday (9 September), the contestant Kuba Szmajkowski performed his version of Lamar’s track “Humble” from his Grammy-winning 2017 album, DAMN.

For the occasion, Szmajkowski appeared with makeup on his skin, artificially darkening his appearance, and wore a hairpiece that mimicked cornrows – a braided style worn by Lamar in the music video.

He also rapped an uncensored version of “Humble”, which includes repeated use of the n-word. Szmajkowski rapped the n-word in full.

Szmajkowski ultimately won the episode and a prize of 10,000 Polish Zloty (£1,843).

After the programme aired, Szmajkowski and the programme posted footage of the performance on social media, where it has received backlash from viewers offended by the use of Blackface.

“Oh no Kuba, this isn’t okay,” wrote one fan. “Producers of this show, what were you thinking? Kuba is an amazing talent who could have had a massive career internationally. But now this performance is out there.”

Another Instagram user wrote: “Still Blackface? Haven’t you learned yet?!” while another commented: “Lol what kind of racism is this?”

Kuba Szmajkowski in blackface on Your Face Sounds Familiar and Kendrick Lamar (YouTube / Getty)
Kuba Szmajkowski in blackface on Your Face Sounds Familiar and Kendrick Lamar (YouTube / Getty)

One bemused viewer added: “Bro did Blackface while saying the n word,” adding a skull emoji to emphasise their shock.

Blackface is the term used to describe non-Black people who make their skin appear darker or use prosthetics in order to resemble a Black person, and is widely believed to encourage negative or racist stereotypes.

The Independent has reached out to Endemol Shine Poland, the show’s production company, for comment.

Elsewhere in Saturday’s edition of the show, white actor Pola Gonciarz performed as Beyoncé and also darkened her skin.

Others have criticised her transformation, with one comment on her Instagram page reading: “This is so incredibly misguided and ignorant. Blackface shouldn’t be done ever, anywhere. We should not put people’s skin colour on like costumes.”

“Shocking that this kind of racism was allowed on TV in 2023,” remarked another.

Pola Gonciarz as Beyoncé (Instagram / twojatwarzbrzmiznajomo)
Pola Gonciarz as Beyoncé (Instagram / twojatwarzbrzmiznajomo)

Previous seasons of the programme have also featured contestants darkening their skin to impersonate Black performers. After receiving backlash when a white contestant used Blackface to portray Kanye West in 2021, the programme shared a statement expressing their surprise at the critiques.

“The intention of each star performing on the show, as well as of the whole production team, is to recreate the original performance in the most precise manner, while honouring the original artist,” read the response.

It also noted that a number of famous Polish celebrities have impersonated Black singers during their time on the programme, including Kasia Skrzynecka as Tina Turner, Agnieszka Włodarczyk as Michael Jackson, Mariusz Totoszko as Stevie Wonder, and Natalia Szroeder as Whitney Houston.

Your Face Sounds Familiar has several international iterations, including versions in Spain and the Philippines.

In 2021, the Czech iteration of the show banned its contestants from using blackface.