Mediacorp's Toggle removes Shane Pow's 'blackface' episode following outcry

Actor and host Shane Pow, was seen wearing an Afro wig as well as black face make-up after a casting director fails to find an African man for a role in the drama series I Want To Be A Star.
Actor and host Shane Pow, was seen wearing an Afro wig as well as black face make-up after a casting director fails to find an African man for a role in the drama series I Want To Be A Star. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mediacorp's online streaming service Toggle has removed an episode of its original drama series I Want To Be A Star from its site following a public outcry over the programme being racist.

In the episode, Singaporean-Chinese actor Shane Pow, 26, is seen wearing an Afro wig as well as black face make-up after a casting director fails to find an African man for a role.

Earlier, Pow's father in the series, played by veteran actor Chew Chor Meng, 47, had said Indians and Africans are "all the same".

The episode, which is believed to have been available online since late September, was met with anger and disbelief on social media.

Twitter user @bxbyqueen wrote: "They fail to see that the reason why nobody cares about local tv is bc of their blatant discrimination masked as jokes".

Another Twitter user @jan_ng posted: "And our country is considered advanced and racially harmonious???"

In response, Toggle removed the episode and then posted an apology on its official Twitter page (@ToggleSG) : "Ep 6 of 'I Want To Be A Star' on Toggle Originals featured a brief scene on the portrayal of an Afro-American, played by actor Shane Pow. The scene has been perceived as being racially insensitive by some viewers, although that was never our intention in the production.

"We appreciate the feedback and truly apologise to viewers who have been affected by this portrayal. The relevant scenes have also been removed from the programme."

But the tweet was not enough to placate many viewers.

Twitter user @keou_ wrote: "It's inherently racist, not 'perceived' as racist. Don't sugarcoat your mistake to comfort yourself and everyone else."

In a statement to The Straits Times, Mr Anil Nihalani, who heads Toggle, said: "We're sorry for the blackface portrayal. We take race-related issues very seriously and that portrayal should not have happened. We've removed the offensive scenes from the programme and will ensure something like that doesn't happen again."

Last year, another Mediacorp actor, Desmond Tan, was criticised for being racially insensitve when he posted a selfie on his Instagram account while wearing a turban and dark skin make-up, along with a Deepavali greeting.