YouTubers Niki and Gabi apologise after backlash to 'ignorant' Normani lookalike video
3 September 2019, 16:56
"I think Gabi and I truly were ignorant to the situation because it didn’t even cross our minds." The popular YouTubers faced criticism for a recent video where they dressed as celebrities and went around a college campus doing skits.
YouTube personalities Niki and Gabi DeMartino have apologised after a recent video posted on their shared YouTube channel garnered criticism over its depiction of singer Normani. In the video, titled "Going to College Dressed As Celebrities Challenge", Niki, Gabi, their older sister, Alex, and a friend named Dennis dress as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, and Normani, respectively.
The video sees the four participate in a number of skits where they act out stereotypes associated with the stars they are dressed as. For instance, the Camila Cabello lookalike was shown engaging in over the top PDA with a Shawn Mendes actor (which some fans are also calling out).
Satire is often a tricky art to master and it appears the depiction of Normani did not sit well with some viewers.
At around 8:05 in the video, the Normani and Camila Cabello characters have a "fight". This is likely playing into years of rumours that the pair did not get along while in Fifth Harmony.
Viewers also objected to Normani being played by someone with "masculine" features. Depicting dark skinned black women as "angry" or "masculine" is a problematic trope that has long dogged successful black women.
When informed of the stereotypes, Gabi said that she was unaware and that the situation wasn't "that deep".
well i am v sorry for that stereotype i wasn’t aware of but by all means like i said, he is a fan, wanted to be her, & did damn well. it simply was not that deep.— gabi demartino (@gabcake) September 1, 2019
Viewers called out the optics of the video and explained why it might be perceived as harmful or problematic.
The niki and gabi made a video on there YouTube of them being where they made a black man play Normani while all the girls were GIRLS but Normani. They gave Normani the stereotypical black girl characteristics and everything when she has never acted like that. I was disgusted!!!!— CoelWright (@coel2040) September 2, 2019
Gabi Demartino really cast a male as Normani and tell everyone 'is not that deep' and beyond that they portray her as the fucking stereotype of an angry/bitter black women 💀— 𝖓𝖆𝖗𝖎𝖒 (@NarimMichel) September 2, 2019
There is a lot more than just the fact he’s a male, for example: *darkskin* black women, particularly normani more recently, has been drawn as a masculine bod, and casting a male can almost give out the wrong idea. You cannot blame anyone for misconstruing your intentions— 𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐢 (@joonshotgirl) September 1, 2019
Eventually, Niki admitted that they were "ignorant" to the stereotypes.
I think gabi and I truly were ignorant to the situation because it didn’t even cross our minds. Seeing the accusations (that are far from the truth) angered us, making us feel like we heavily had to defend ourselves, because that’s not what we were doing at all. Learning curve. https://t.co/T0PuVTc6B2— NIKI (@nikidemar) September 2, 2019
my followers defending gabi and I, thank you. But also, the angered followers do have a point. Given time to cool off and let this sink in, I realize we don’t know what they go thru. People have a right to an opinion and to be angry / feel hurt. I feel ignorant & I’m sorry— NIKI (@nikidemar) September 2, 2019
I’m sorry if anyone was offended that we had our talented, beautiful & hilarious male best friend play a black woman. However, we aren’t sorry for including him & welcoming him to our channel to play someone he loves. The accusations made me confused, but I’m learning.— NIKI (@nikidemar) September 1, 2019
And Dennis, who portrayed Normani in the video, also apologised for causing any offence.
I’d like to apologize to any and all black women I may have offended in niki&gabi’s video. The intentions of my acting was not to portray Normani as a “bitter black woman”. The video was made to be humorous & over exaggerate each artist. We ended up playing to the unwritten feud-— dennis (@_wotdennis) September 1, 2019