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Viewers slam India Willoughby after she compares drag to blackface

Meka Beresford January 9, 2018
Courtney Act created a drag sister for the house, Betty Swallocks, much to the horror of India Willoughby (Photo by Big Brother UK)

(Big Brother UK)

Trans news broadcaster India Willoughby has been slammed by Celebrity Big Brother viewers for comparing drag to blackface.

She attacked the art of drag after housemate Shane Jenek, who is better known for performing as Courtney Act, helped a fellow contestant, Apprentice star Andrew Brady, to transform into a drag queen.

After a two hour makeover, Jenek revealed their work to a delighted group.

However, Willoughby fell silent before unleashing a storm of abuse on her fellow housemates for laughing at the drag transformation.

The 51-year-old stormed away from the room and began to cry – pinning her distress on her “drag phobia”.

“It did [upset me]. Why? I’m a woman, not what [he thinks] a woman! Not a man. A man walked into the room in a dress, and everyone laughed at it.

“I’ve got something called gender dysphoria, which you can only resolve with medical attention. Someone coming in dressed that way, freaks me out.”

India Willoughby enters the “Celebrity Big Brother” (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Willoughby then compared drag to blackface, adding: “Transexual people have suffered over the years, a lot of laughter. Probably like the old days when the black-and-white minstrels put on a show… Obviously, black people would find that offensive.”

The comments sparked outrage among her fellow housemates, with Brady calling her a “f***ing d***head”.

Malika, another housemate, was also angered over Willoughby’s response.

“Everyone should not have to stop their fun because of one person,” she said. “Male, female, transgender, gay, bisexual, lesbian — whatever the heck you want to be. Be a zebra. No-one has done that. If I had a phobia, I’m not looking for permission. I’m getting out of there.”

Online, similar outrage was expressed over her comparison between drag and blackface.

“India’s credibility as a human being was over the minute she compared drag to blackface. I have no words. How can someone be so ignorant, speechless,” one person wrote.

Another said: “Did India really just compare the black and white minstrels to drag queens ? Oh dear oh dear.”

“She’s coming across anything but fabulous. Attention seeking, nasty piece of work with a grudge against the world. Not doing any good for the trans community,” a third added.

Others branded her a “disgrace and a hypocrite” and a “big delusional ball of nonsense” that was making the other contestants “on egg shells”.

Related: Celebrity Big Brother’s India Willoughby won’t accept apology for being misgendered

She was also criticised as photos taken from her Twitter account showed that she had socialised with drag queens in the past.

The photos, which were taken at Harrogate Pride with some drag queens from the collective Haus of Dench, also contradicted Willoughby’s claims that she had never been to a Pride event.

Sharing screenshots of the photos, one CBB viewer tweeted: ” It’s amazing how India has an incredible phobia of drag queens. I’ll just leave these here…make of it what you will…#cbb #cbbuk.”

Since entering the house, Willoughby has been at the centre of a number of controversies, including her flippant dismissal of gender fluid people.

Courtney Act
(Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

She claimed that she believed that gender fluid people “cheapen” the experience of transgender people.

“For people like me, it’s not a part-time thing and not a choice”, Willoughby said.

“That word ‘transgender’ can mean anything from RuPaul to someone who’s Bob one day and Barbara another day, and I think that cheapens the seriousness of it”.

Her comments came before Courtney Act entered the house.

The RuPaul’s Drag Race season six runner-up identifies as gender fluid when not in drag, but uses female pronounces when performing.

Rachel, India and Ann
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Viewers have also defended Willoughby after she was misgendered by two other housemates, Ann Widdecombe and Rachel Johnson.

Willoughby quipped that her mother named her after her favourite restaurant, an Indian.

Ann Widdecombe responded: “I think he’s pulling your leg.”

India snapped back quickly: “I do beg your pardon.”

Related: CBB’s India Willoughby branded a ‘victim’ after being rejected by Ginuwine

Later in the episode, Willoughby approached Widdecombe to address the incident.

“I just wanted to say I know you misgendered me earlier today,” she said. “That’s fine.”

Widdecombe tried to defend her actions claiming that if the house had not been discussing Willoughby’s transition so much she would not have misgendered her.

“It’s not a big issue,” Willoughby continued. “You know it hurts trans people when that happens, but it wasn’t deliberate.”

To which Widdecombe agreed that “it certainly wasn’t deliberate.”

Further controversy was caused by a clip from Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit On The Side showed that Rachel Johnson also used the male pronoun in reference to Willoughby.

More: celebrity big brother, Courtney Act, drag, drag queen, India Willoughby, LGBT, Trans, Transgender

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