Twitch streamer Karupups has been booted from the platform after putting on blackface makeup to cosplay a video game character.
Karina Martsinkevich, a Lithuanian streamer known as Karupups, was live on Twitch last Saturday in the "Just Chatting" category. Live on her stream, she put together a cosplay of Lifeline, a combat medic character from Apex Legends.
Lifeline is a black woman. After Martsinkevich got her outfit and hair ready, she began applying dark makeup to mimic black skin. In other words, she put on blackface.
About 170 people were watching at that point but Twitch shut down her stream before she was finished, according to Kotaku. She was also banned from Twitch for 30 days.
She was found to be in violation of Twitch's hateful conduct and harassment policy, which bans any "content or activity that promotes, encourages, or facilitates discrimination, denigration, objectification, harassment, or violence" based on race or other factors.
Martsinkevich later posted a YouTube video announcing her suspension and saying that she meant no offense and perhaps didn't know enough about blackface.
"It was just for fun. I just wanted to change into my favorite Legend from the game," she says in the video. She also called it a "very huge misunderstanding."
"If you found my cosplay painful for your feelings, I’m really sorry for that but it didn’t meant to be like this. It was prepared and made for fun, for showing all the viewers the preparation for cosplay can take."
Despite the apology, Martsinkevich still has an image of the blackface cosplay up on her VK.com profile — the Russian equivalent of Facebook.
Martsinkevich told BuzzFeed News she had no idea her makeup would be offensive.
"I mean I think we are living in the 21st century, where everyone can be who they want, who they feel," she said, via email. "This is why I didn't think my makeup could be an issue, since it's just a makeup for live show."
While some of her viewers accepted her reasoning, others in the cosplay community say there's just never an excuse for blackface makeup.
"I feel like with something like this, there really should not be an excuse of 'I didn’t know better,'" Dorasae Rosario told BuzzFeed News, adding that she's glad Twitch took action in this case.
"It's 2019, the internet exists, people have done this before. I feel like at this point you should research before you attempt to do something like that."
Rosario, also known as Akakioga Cosplay, has been doing cosplay for five or so years. She's often spoken on panels about race and cosplay, and at this point it's all just getting tiring, she said.
"For someone to take our skin color and wear it as a costume then wipe it off at the end of the day, that’s so disrespectful," she said. "They don’t live by day-to-day struggle."
Rosario said that there's a double standard in the community and she, like other black cosplayers, often gets berated for cosplaying as white or Asian characters. She once cosplayed as D.Va, her favorite character from the video game Overwatch, but the harassment was so bad that she retired the costume. The comments ranged from being told she couldn't wear the costume, to racist slurs.
"When I pick a character I want to deploy, I think, 'Is it worth being berated on the internet to cosplay someone who isn’t black?'" she said.
She said if someone wants to cosplay a character of a different race, the answer is easy — just skip the skin tone.
"For me the costume isn’t your skin color, it’s the costume that you put on your body, it’s the wig you put on your head, it’s your love for the character."