This is me. And this is the photo of me that got banned. Now for the first time comes the story of what really happened.
For the last few years, American author Chuck Wendig has run a competition inviting subscribers of his blog to enter his less than serious Awkward Author Photo Contest. The idea is for people to send in the most puffed up and stilted pictures of themselves they can conjure; equal parts vainglorious, stiff and amateurish with at least a hint of pompous and ungainly thrown in for good measure. I did my best.
Forty three people submitted photos and the voted-upon top five of those were awarded prizes. The day after sending in my entry I received a politely worded email from Chuck himself. (Unusual not least for the fact that anyone who reads his blog will know this is a person not known for their politeness) Regretfully my photo would unable to be included in the competition, the words read, as even though, to quote Chuck’s phrasing , he was “certain my intentions were innocuous”, it “may be misinterpreted as having racist overtones with its use of blackface.” (‘Blackface’ being a form of theatrical makeup – usually burnt cork – popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, used by non-coloured skin performers to represent a person of coloured skin.)
Chuck was completely correct. The entry should have been rejected. In culturally aware times such as ours, my judgement was shown to be less finely tuned then perhaps it should have been. To say there was zero derogatory intention behind the picture and that the idea of mimicking an antiquated practice – made popular at one time back in the 20’s by singers such as Al Jolson – was the furthest thought from my mind when the photograph was being taken, is probably the most accurate statement of intent behind the picture I can communicate.
The real story? Prior to taking the photograph, my wife suggested I apply a beauty mask to my face to tighten the skin so I could appear a smoother version of me. It was never going to make much of a difference anyway but I agreed. Turns out the only such facial cream of its type we had in the house at that moment was a ‘Purifying Charcoal Mask’. When applied it looks grey/black in colour. It was my less than brilliant idea to snap the picture while the mask was still drying.
Perhaps in some compensatory bid to creatively and non-offensively get back on the horse, I’m already planning next year’s entry. Picture a beach scene with me buried up to my neck in sand. I’m drinking from a straw-equipped hollowed out pineapple with one of those decorative mini umbrellas emerging at just the right angle from the neatly jagged side rim, while reading a copy of either Gaellen Quinn’s THE LAST ALOHA or Peter Benchley’s JAWS. Adding a final touch of beach schmaltz, my face is adorned in camouflage patterned, sun-protective multicoloured zinc cream. That’s flourescent, full-pallete, non-controversial multicoloured zinc cream. With not a hint of black to be seen. Anywhere.
While this Mount Rushmore-esque piece of artful whimsy didn’t make it into the top 5, it’s easily my favourite.