Celebrity-black: The meanings of race and performances of aid celebrity outside the mainstream Hollywood-UK circuit

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This article studies the intersection between race, culture and celebrity in the context of Danish ‘aid celebrities’ by analysing the radicalised ‘celebrity persona’ of the Gambian-Danish A-list actress, singer, director and comedian Hella Joof. The analysis pays particular attention to her performances as Fairtrade Ambassador and as host in an annual aid telethon Danmarks Indsamling. These performances of the ‘aid celebrity’ position are read against the backdrop of the cultural constructions of race and celebrity in the Danish context, and of Joof’s own performative interpellations of these throughout her career. The article posits that a celebrity figure like Joof can be read as occupying a liminal position vis-à-vis Danish relations to ‘Africa’, which comprises a particular celebrity position: ‘celebrity-black’. The analysis shows how the cultural meanings of both celebrity and race were troubled by Joof’s performances during the telethon show, which was split between performing the figure of ‘the African woman’ and Danish ‘cultural insiderness’. The article concludes that unlike the US context where the category of ‘black celebrity’ has been analysed as connecting to a particular social group, the Danish cultural context and the cultural imaginaries around race in this context illuminate the fluency of the celebrity sign. Hella Joof is not a black celebrity, she is ‘celebrity-black’ – a cultural insider who can, via her celebrity position, simultaneously embody ‘Danishness as whiteness’ and ‘the African other’.
TidsskriftCelebrity Studies
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)505-518
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 1 okt. 2015
Udgivet eksterntJa