After a single rallying tweet from DeGeneres Monday evening, University of Texas at Austin students flocked to the school’s main mall to compete in a “challenge” to win tickets to the Grammys this weekend.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) February 6, 2017
HELP WHAT IF YOU DON'T HAVE A COSTUME BUT KNOW HOW TO GET IN FORMATION
— Divine Ntomchukwu (@DNtomchukwu) February 7, 2017
find me at the tower pic.twitter.com/RgihAqKkJ1
— andrewwww (@andrewpiercey) February 7, 2017
DeGeneres regularly sends in her assistant, Jeannie Klisiewicz, to make surprise appearances at colleges. The show’s appearance at Georgia Tech last week landed the show its “largest live shots,” Klisiewicz told Georgia Tech News, as students competed for tickets to the Super Bowl.
Student Colin Wang ultimately won the contest (the segment will air on Wednesday). But today’s Ellen challenge to recreate Beyoncé’s iconic Instagram pregnancy announcement sparked controversy online as UT students called out the show for asking anyone on campus to get their “Beyonce costume together.”
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) February 7, 2017
As students gathered at the foot of the UT tower, there were some clear winners. But it was also clear that some lines needed to be drawn. White men and women sported cornrows, afro wigs, and questionable “blue” face that resembled blackface.
Using "bronzer" carries! the same! intent! and! is also! blackface!
— Garrett Mireles (@garrettmireles) February 7, 2017
a white lesbian is throwing this campus into turmoil
— arturito (@transoprah) February 7, 2017
While no blackface was present on the main mall, one photo of a woman dressed as Beyoncé’s daughter “Blue” Ivy—complete with blue body paint—went viral around campus.
The woman, an undeclared freshman named Sarah, told the Daily Dot that she found some blue paint and threw her costume together because “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” She provided no commentary on the costume being potentially offensive.
Still for many Ellen fans, like architecture sophomore Kayla Houston, the Beyoncé theme was a chance to pay homage to a role model.
“I just look up to Beyoncé, especially as a black woman,” Houston said. “I feel like I have a real connection to her. But I saw somebody who was painted a really dark blue and that one definitely rubbed me the wrong way.”
Kara, a UT sophomore who preferred not to provide her full name, said that calling for non-black students to dress as a black woman is disrespectful.
“I want to see a woman of color win,” she says, “It’s disrespecting Bey’s brand by saying that just anything goes. You should just be more aware and these people look a hot damn mess.”
Hot damn mess or not, it was the students who didn’t win the challenge who brought the most glory to Bey’s name.
— Lisa Dreher (@lisa_dreher97) February 7, 2017