Michelle Williams' Native American Magazine Photo Sparks Controversy

TV Guide
Michelle Williams | Photo Credits: AnOther Magazine

Michelle Williams is under fire for a new magazine photo, in which she poses in "redface" - her hair and makeup styled to look like a Native American.

Williams appears in a series of photos in the U.K. publication AnOther to promote her new movie, Oz the Great and Powerful. In one, the blonde actress dons a black braided wig and a turkey feather in her hair, and is wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and some sort of robe. Some are calling the getup offensive.

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Ruth Hopkins, an attorney and writer for LastRealIndians.com, described the portrait as "racist." "Just as Blackface is never okay, Redface is never okay," Hopkins wrote in a post published on Jezebel. "Ever."

Hopkins went on to cite William's connection to L. Frank Baum, the Wizard of Oz author whom she describes as a "white supremacist."

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In a newspaper editorial, according to Hopkins, Baum once wrote: "The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are."

A spokesperson for AnOther said the photograph was not intended to offend anyone.

"While we recognize the seriousness of this debate, the image in question in no way intends to mimic, trivialise or stereotype any particular ethnic group or culture, as recent reports suggest," the magazine said in a statement. "The image ... is one of a suite of images taken from inside the magazine, presenting Ms. Williams in a series of eight different imaginary characters. All the characters in the story were inspired by multiple fashion and cultural references, characters and eras, as well as by our admiration of Ms. Williams as one of the most respected and talented actresses of her generation. While we dispute the suggestion that the image has a racist subtext in the strongest possible terms, we're mortified to think that anyone would interpret it in this way."

An email to Williams' rep was not immediately returned.

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