Two weeks ago, a Hungarian journalist named Boglarka Balogh posted an article on Bored Panda headlined “I Morphed Myself Into Tribal Women To Raise Awareness Of Their Secluded Cultures,” which has since been deleted.
With the help of a graphic designer, Balogh transformed herself into seven different women she said were reflective of different African tribes.
As the post started getting shared on Facebook, it met immediate criticism. Jezebel wrote about Balogh's project, calling it the "least honorable project in the history of stupid stupid racist bullshit."
Many of Balogh's friends in Hungary, however, thought it was an amazing project.
"I think that the attention this received across the pond is out of proportion, but mainly I just laugh at people's obtuseness and the fact that these days we must inject politics into everything in order to sell," Balogh told BuzzFeed News.
She said the negative reaction, particularly from Americans on Facebook, confused her.
Balogh said her work was modeled after a photo project from August, in which journalist Esther Honig had her picture photoshopped in different countries to study different cultures' perceptions of beauty.
Honig, who reached out to BuzzFeed News after Balogh cited her project as an inspiration, said her work is "inherently different" because she completely left it up to the designers she solicited to transform her face.
"Whatever the results are, it's inherently in their hands," Honig said. "It's revealing about what other people are seeing and thinking...I really feel [Balogh's project] kind of took that vulnerability or that opportunity for risk or chance completely off the table. This was someone who thought their face melded with the faces of people of color made their face more interesting."
Priscilla Yuki Wilson, a biracial journalist who replicated Honig's project with an image of her own face last year, echoed Honig's thoughts. "There was nothing that [Balogh's] face served by being included in this project," Wilson told BuzzFeed News
“I was just presumably not aware how sensitive this subject is and how something can have a completely different meaning a thousand or two thousand kilometers away than in Hungary,” Balogh said.
Though the pictures have now been removed from her post, Balogh said that the Bored Panda editors stood by her and told her not to take the post down. Bored Panda did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
Balogh said that she did not believe that blackface has the same effect in Hungary because it never had a large black minority.
She said the only negative feedback she would listen to would be comments from people who have volunteered in Africa as often as she has.
"I would only willingly pay attention to negative comments from those who themselves have volunteered for months either at home, or in Csaba Böjte's orphanage in Deva, or in third-world countries the same way I have done," she said.
Balogh said that she has received many positive comments about her project, though she has now pulled down the photos from Bored Panda, saying, "I have never imagined that my work will annoy so many people and that I will have to explain myself."
This story has been updated to include comments from Esther Honig and Priscilla Yuki Wilson.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ryan Broderick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anita Badejo is an associate features editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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