Bachelor stars Art Green and Matilda Rice have come under fire after Green wore "blackface" at an A-list party, and Rice described him as a "chocolate-covered treat".
Green and Rice were at the birthday party of former model and reality TV host Colin Mathura-Jeffree on Thursday in full Bollywood garb. Green wore brown make-up on on his face to darken his skin.
The couple posed for several photos at the party, with Rice posting one to her Instagram account with the caption: "Best night with this chocolate-covered treat".
She has since deleted the post but the Herald managed to get a screen grab of it. It can be seen below (app users tap here).
Green's make-up and Rice's post have been criticised on social media, with many labelling the couple antics as racist and insensitive. One person commented on Rice's Instagram photo: "Isn't that kind of racist? (blackface)".
However, Harshadbhai Patel, president of the New Zealand Indian Central Association, said he did not find Green's costume offensive.
"It was Colin Mathura-Jeffree's party, and he is an Indian model, so it was a theme for the party and I personally can not see anything offensive."
Blackface refers to make-up used to imitate a black person and has a history dating back to the minstrel shows of the 19th century, where white people would smear burnt cork on their faces. The practice is widely condemned as racist.
Just recently X Factor judge Shelton Woolright defended his use of it part of his stage identity in hard rock group I Am Giant. Kylie Jenner was also accused of adopting the look in a recent photo shoot, but put it down to lighting.
Mathura-Jeffree, whose 43rd birthday saw 300 A-list guests, celebrities, and politicians in attendance, including Carly Binding, Chrystal Chenery, Boh Runga, Danielle Hayes and Krystal Stuart, said critics had missed the point of Green's outfit and misunderstood the history of blackface.
"I didn't find him being racist at all. I understand blackface is an insult and a parody on slaves, and slavery, and cruelty to ethnic minorities. This was not that at all," he told NZME News Service.
"When he walked in and I looked at him, I turned and said to him 'Are you trying to be me?"
Mathura-Jeffree, who has Indian heritage, said nobody at his birthday party found Mr Green offensive. "Do we say that anyone that's of European descent can't wear ethnic clothing? Can they not tan? Is spray-tanning blackface? This was a celebration at a costume party. I have no problem with how he looked. He wasn't parodying a victim. He was actually just being a little bit Indian. And I love my heritage and my culture, and that's how I see it.
"Let's redefine what blackface really is and then let's grow up, everyone, and let's not jump too far on the PC brigade."
Mathura-Jeffree said it angered him to see people "picking" on Mr Green, and he was not surprised to hear the New Zealand Indian Central Association did not find Green's costume offensive.
Mathura-Jeffree said actual blackface had a terrible history directly linked to ridiculing and subjugating black people and Mr Green's outfit was totally removed from that historical and cultural context.
"He wasn't ridiculing me as an Indian. How dangerous a scenario would it be to come up right in front of my face to insult me like that? He didn't do it. He wasn't doing it. That wasn't his agenda. I'm not stupid, he's not stupid, let's all not be stupid. Let's really validate what blackface is in the context of blackface."
Mathura-Jeffree said he suspected some people were targeting Mr Green because of his public profile, and were also deliberately ignoring the context of his party and the costume because they wanted to take offence.
See all the photos from Colin's birthday bash in the gallery below: