Expert: Katy Perry won’t be ‘buried alive’ for blackface controversy

By Herb Scribner

Katy Perry faced criticism this week after store shelves pulled her shoe line brand from their shelves for apparent depictions of blackface.

But one expert who deals with celebrity brand and reputation management says the controversy won’t put an end to Perry’s career.

Context: Perry released two brands of shoes — called the “Rue Face Slip on Loafers” and the “Ora Face Block Heel Sandals” — that resemble historical blackface makeup. Social media immediately criticized the shoes.

Katy Perry: Eric Schiffer, the chairman for Reputation Management Consultants, which works with A-list celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs to manage their brands and reputations, told the Deseret News in a phone interview this won’t have a long-lasting impact on Perry’s career.

  • “Katy Perry’s not going to be buried alive long-term from this,” he said. “This is more of a short-term killing machine.”
  • He said those who were upset with the controversy will forget about it in a few days.
  • “It’s extremely dangerous for some brands, but I think Katy Perry will manage this effectively and come out without any kind of blistering wounds,” he said.
  • He said he didn’t think this was an intentional strategy by Perry.
  • “It just seemed to be one of ignorance that is now haunting her and can have treacherous short-term impact (but not) catastrophic for the long-term.”

Brands and controversies: He said some brands and figures suffer more than others with these controversies.

  • And he said there are higher standards for political figures, who have a tougher time rebranding or covering up controversies because people are more likely to judge people who they elect for office.

There’s also partisan politics at play, he said.

  • “Bad moves that are made on the part of a specific politico will get amplified by the other side because it’s an opportunity to take out a vulnerable member of the counter-tribe,” he said.

Schiffer said brands like Gucci, which has fallen under fire for a blackface scandal, too, can take action to improve their standing.

  • “I think brands have the ability to be somewhat less accountable for controversies like this, assuming they make quick moves to fix it,” he said.

But political figures might have a tough time. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has been under fire for allegedly appearing in a yearbook photo while wearing blackface. And Northam, he said, would have a tougher time fixing his controversy.

  • “He can’t fix it,” he said. “He can only apologize. He can’t undo that picture. But brands can pull products, they change products, they can show greater action. The action that’s done by the governor is an apology, but again it gets amplified by the other side. They’ll try to play it up and make a greater mockery of the situation.”

Still, Schiffer said these issues raise interesting questions for all Americans.

  • “I think this is a good conversation. It’s healthy for the country to have these sort of conversations so there can be great sensitivity and respect shown to different classes of individuals where they’re going to feel understood and valued and not denigrated in any capacity.”