A Polish singer won a reality TV show by performing in full Blackface and using the N-word while imitating Kendrick Lamar.
Clips surfaced over the weekend of Kuba Szmajkowski performing “HUMBLE.” on a recent episode of the show Your Face Sounds Familiar, a karaoke-style competition that sees Polish celebrities impersonate music icons, which are assigned at random. During his performance of the track, he used the N-word.
Szmajkowski also posted a “get ready with me”-style video getting into Blackface, including fake facial hair and a wig with “cornrows.” The video is still live on his Instagram page.
He won the second episode in the show’s 19th season, which puts him in the lead for the season’s 100,000 PLN ($23,000) prize, which would go to a charity of his choosing.
The game show was criticized for encouraging Blackface once the videos started circulating on social media, with some people on Twitter calling for Lamar to take legal action. Another person posted, “long live Kielbasa Lamar.” On Reddit, someone on r/KendrickLamar wrote, “I, as a Pole, apologize” in the comments of a post sharing the video.
Apparently, the third episode, which has yet to air, will feature contestants performing as Sean Paul and Michael Jackson. Szmajkowski will not be getting back on the stage in Blackface, as he’s been assigned Damiano David, the lead singer of the Italian band Måneskin.
In the same episode that Szmajkowski won, Polish actress Pola Gonciarz performed as Beyoncé while also in full Blackface. And this is not a recent phenomenon. Since its premiere in 2014, white Polish celebrities have performed as Whitney Houston, Drake and DJ Khaled. A video posted by the show’s official YouTube channel of a performer in Blackface singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds” in 2016 has over five million views.
The show initially received backlash in 2021 when actor Tomasz Ciachorowski performed "Stronger" in Blackface as Kanye West.
In response, the program makers posted a statement on Instagram, saying it was “surprised” to receive complaints about the use of Blackface. Neither the show nor the production company Endemol Shine Poland have made any public comment over this recent backlash.