Lebanese singer Myriam Fares — who was featured on the 2022 World Cup anthem “Tukoh Taka” with Nicki Minaj and Maluma — has removed footage of herself in blackface from a 2018 video.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, a member of Fares’ management team confirmed that they had “successfully trimmed” footage of Fares in blackface from the 2018 “Goumi.” Rolling Stone originally pointed out the controversial footage in a story published last November.
“We are now very well aware of the offensiveness that escaped our judgment when we launched the music video as it was never intentional,” the statement read. “Especially since the blackface concept is non-existent in the Arab world and it was not considered a sensitive phenomenon in the Middle East.”
“When Myriam crossed over to become an international artist, it was brought to our attention how this might be offensive,” the statement continued. “It was never our intention to raise any sensitive issue, as we really did not mean any offense, we just wanted to portray the beauty of women from different cultures.”
Fares’ management claimed they reached out to YouTube several times to try and re-edit the music video; but their “request was not accepted as [YouTube] considered it not to be a valid reason” for changing the clip, the management company claimed YouTube said in response. They further said YouTube told them video replacements are “reserved to quality improvement or very specific editorial changes,” and that “covering a PR issue due to blackface is definitely not a valid reason to request our help in replacing a video … Our replacement guidelines clearly state that removal/changes to an important, political, or controversial plot point is not allowed.”
Eventually an agreement was reached with YouTube to trim the problematic shots from the video, Fares’ team said.
YouTube did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment (and Rolling Stone was unable to confirm the emails YouTube sent to Fares’ team). While Fares’ team could have just taken the original video down, edited, and re-uploaded it, the replacement (per YouTube’s own guidelines) would have had a new URL, meaning it would’ve lost all the views the original video had accumulated.
Now, the visual only shows Fares — in her natural skin tone — engaging in choreography and posing for the camera while sitting atop a boulder. The blackface footage was completely removed and the visual is nearly a minute and a half shorter than the original visual.
At the time of the original video’s release, Arabic-language outlets and Twitter users criticized Fares for appropriating African culture and engaging in blackface. An article published by Mille World, an English-language outlet focused on the Arab world, published an op-ed from an unnamed writer, who criticized Fares, a non-Black Arab person, for engaging in “a practice that’s deeply rooted in insulting and degrading Black people.”
“At no point should it be accepted for a non-black Arab to paint their skin black or appropriate Black culture,” the critic wrote. “Certainly not whilst racism runs rampant in most countries, and certainly not whilst the Arabic word for ‘slave’ is still used interchangeably with ‘black.’”
The controversies surrounding Fares continued in early 2022, when she was called out for appropriating the culture of Amazigh people in Instagram videos. In the clips, she encouraged fans to “prepare your own ‘Imazighen look,’” referring to the ethnic culture of North Africa.
“Our culture isn’t your aesthetic!” wrote one user. “This is so disrespectful of Amazighs, using us as props like that.”
“This is not an exotic quirky tattoo,” added another, quote-tweeting Fares’ video. “My grandmas were both forced to have them at a very young age for protection and tribal reasons.”