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Is it because I is white and middle class?

By Shaun Shearer | 10 November 2016

Honey G. It's all a big joke, right? The only question is whether it's she herself who is the butt of it, or the general public at large.  Who's the player and who's getting played?

For readers as yet unfamiliar with the scenario - congratulations - you're the sensible ones. To fill you in, though, Honey G is a self-professed female 'rapper', who appeared early on in this season of ITV's weekend moron-magnet 'The X Factor.' Fair enough, you might say. There were some 'unusual' aspects to her appearance and act, however. Rather than some aspiring teenage performer, 'Honey', is a white, middle-class, overweight recruitment agency proprietor the wrong side of 40, (at least in appearance, though she claims, unconvincingly, to be 35.)

What's under scrutiny here is neither her skin colour, age, background or body shape, but her real motivations for appearing on the show. From the start, her trademark attire has included ridiculously-oversized sunglasses and flamboyant glittering shellsuits of the type worn by Sacha Baron-Cohen's Ali G, (to whom, presumably, her act name is a homage.) Her 'performances' involve her reciting well-known rap-pop hits from the likes of Missy Elliott, Coolio and Will Smith, with much arm-waving and shouting of "Honey G's in the house'' - much to delight of the lobotomised, trance-induced audience, of course, who all wave back and grin inanely as instructed by the show's handlers. In keeping with the cartoon profiling, when she was asked on the first show where she hailed from, she replied 'North Weezy!'. (She meant Harrow, North West London, where she operates her own recruitment consultancy and is known by day as Anna Ruth Gilford.)

The possibilities here, then, would appear to be:

a. She's entirely for real, but is knowingly mocking the public, tongue firmly in cheek, with a carefully calculated act that's all about marketing and hype.

b. She's been specifically recruited by the X Factor's controllers to keep TV viewing figures high, as the public tunes in each week to gawp at the latest instalment of her car-crash act, but Anna's entirely in on the plan.

c. The most tragic option of all. She's for real, but is a sad, naive character who actually takes herself seriously and truly believes herself to be a genuine 'urban' artist.

Anna/ Honey has listed her CV as having included stints as a DJ with a 2000 residency in Ayia Napa, (at the age of 19 then, if she really is only 35,) a promoter of club nights in Manchester, and as a tennis champ and athlete - I guess he's let herself go a bit lately. From this, we're told, she developed her affinity with 'urban' culture and her desire to break out of the mean, unforgiving ghettos of Harrow and make something of her life. Apparently, the recruitment management trade wasn't paying off, and more recently, Honey/ Anna has been bemoaning the fact that her business hasn't been doing too well and that she never really enjoyed that work anyway (which doesn't bode too well for when this 'X Factor' lark is finally up and she has to go back to the reality of the day job, of course, given that the show's contestants aren't generally known for Mick Jagger or Tom Jones-style epic careers. Matt Cardle, anyone? Exactly.) Further attempts at establishing a hash back-story of the type offered by genuine rappers, came from her claim that she was sexually assaulted while she was studying at Salford University - though this one backfired somewhat cruelly in the comments section of the on-line newspaper in which it was reported when a poster wrote 'who the fuck would want to sexually assault that?", to which somebody replied with the suggestion: 'Stevie Wonder?'

For the record, of the options above, my money is firmly on b. Her act and appearance is so cringingly, seat-squirmingly tragic, that it would take someone of genuine learning difficulties to take themselves seriously in this regard. Anyone with enough street-savvy to start and run their own recruitment business, could not be that lacking in judgement. If it's a, then, and she's cleverly taking the piss out of all of us. How else to explain why she keeps getting voted back in week after week, at the expense of many far more talented performers? Pure chance? Why is it that the unsufferingly smug Simon Cowell keeps on voting her up with inane comments like 'I really like you. I thought it was just great'? Cowell, like fellow judges Louis Wash and Sharon Osborne, is not genuinely known for his love and support of black culture and, to my reckoning, has never worked with any credible acts in that genre. What is it about Honey's schtick that's impressing him so much then?

It can only be that Honey G is a creation of those who control 'The X Factor', and it has been cynically decided that she should become a regular fixture of this series with her full co-operation in the put-up job. Now things are starting to get unsettling, as this goes far beyond just a little bit of fun to make for entertaining telly. For many in the audience, Honey G's exaggerated, stereotypical posturing, will provide their most accessible impression of what 'hip-hop', or 'black' culture is all about. Nowhere to be seen are the grim realities of the backgrounds of genuine rappers - the poverty and edgy social conditions that cause many to turn to performing as their only way of getting themselves out of the ghetto, and of articulating their experiences meaningfully. With her well-to-do middle-class accent that she can barely disguise with her litany of rehearsed 'street' phrases, it's unlikely that Anna has faced any of the challenges that so many real participants in the rap game have. And although it's fair to argue that any rapper with a shred of dignity and self-respect wouldn't touch exploitation vehicles like 'The X Factor' with a bargepole, so it's not as if she's depriving them of a spot, much damage is being done through images of what 'black' culture constitutes - gold chains, dark glasses, shellsuits and hilarious street-slang.

It's cheap, tacky entertainment at the expense of black history, and there's very little difference between Honey G's act, and that of the well-paid white performers who would 'black up' for the 'Black & White Minstrel Show' as recently as the 1970s so the viewing audience could have a good old laugh at their funny Uncle Tom ways. At least with Ali G, everyone knew it was a pisstake; no-one, reasonably, could imagine Cohen was taking himself seriously. With Honey G, the lines have been blurred, and at no point has it been made obvious beyond all doubt that she's an actor playing a part, and not some hopeful, not-so-young wannabe who really believes in herself as, in her own words, 'the number one rapper in Britain today.'

The motives of the show's bosses should be brought under scrutiny in this regard, therefore. 'The X Factor' was already vacuous fodder for the gullible and stupid. What does it really say about a set-up that would exploit, degrade and tarnish an entire racial group and its historical culture, for some cheap thrills and TV ratings?


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