This season of The X Factor features a rapper under the stage name of “Honey G”. She’s from Harrow, northwest London – or, as she calls it, “North Weezy”.
According to her Linkedin profile, unearthed by The Sun, Honey G is Anna Gilford, a 35-year-old IT consultant and former tennis player who currently runs a recruitment firm.
The Sun also tracked down a friend of Gilford's, who said Honey G is completely fictitious persona:
“She’s very smart – it’s like she’s had a complete personality transplant… Anna is nothing like this character…”
Stephanie goes on to reveal Anna has even ditched her posh accent as part of the Honey G makeover.
She added: “She is actually really well spoken. She’s from a really decent background – she didn’t speak like that before…”
Gilford's first live performance as Honey G on the show was written up as "dazzling" by the Daily Mail.
And The Mirror called Honey G a "national craze", sharing photos of mums throughout the UK donning her signature flat-brimmed hat and sunglasses look as a way of imitating the rapper.
She's currently made it through two weeks of live shows. This week's theme was Motown. Gilford performed a version of Biggie Smalls' "Mo Money Mo Problems", but replaced all of Smalls' lyrics with her own.
Some audience members, however, booed her "Motown" performance. Gilford flipped off photographers as she left the studio after performing Saturday.
Viewers are now souring to the act altogether it seems. Gilford has been successfully voted through twice now, while other acts are being voted off.
Pop group and former X Factor contestants Little Mix were asked about Honey G on KISS FM recently. They called Gilford an "actress" and said that while they appreciated entertainment value, they also appreciated "real talent".
Aside from accusations of rigged voting and favouritism, though, more and more people are now saying Gilford's Honey G character looks like a racist parody.
On Twitter, many viewers have declared that Honey G's act is just flat-out racist.
And people have also said it's a blatant example of cultural appropriation. Honey G, in interviews between performances, speaks in a clearly affected accent, ending her sentences with phrases like "brap brap".
The Guardian writer Lola Okolosie called Gilford's character "modern-day blackface".
Honey G’s tinfoil gold tracksuit, shades and florid hand gestures betray what the whole act is about: a caricature of blackness as stupid and illicit. If it is not how Gilford herself intended it, it’s certainly the subtext of her affectations.
Gilford over the weekend told the Daily Star that any such accusations were ridiculous and false. "I’ve been heavily influenced by rap and hip-hop culture and involved in it for a number of years," she said.
BuzzFeed News has contacted ITV for comment.
You can watch her full performance from Saturday below.
Ryan Broderick is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York City.
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