From Prince Harry to Lily Allen: the most controversial celebrity costumes of all time

As Kylie Jenner sparks controversy with a Handmaid's Tale-inspired costume, we look back at other celebrities who have been criticised for their 'tone deaf' costumes in the past

Celebrities have landed themselves in hot water for offensive costumes. 
Celebrities have landed themselves in hot water for offensive costumes. 

Last week, Kylie Jenner caused controversy for dressing up as a character from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The mother-of-one hosted a birthday party for her friend themed around the 1985 dystopian novel, which provoked critics to slam it as "tone deaf".

Kylie Jenner, seen here with Sofia Richie, caused controversy when she dressed up as a character from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Snapchat / Kylie Jenner 
Kylie Jenner, seen here with Sofia Richie, caused controversy when she dressed up as a character from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Snapchat / Kylie Jenner 

"Kylie Jenner throwing her friend a Handmaid’s Tale themed birthday party complete with robes, Gilead flags ... is so tone deaf, at any time, but especially when women’s rights and autonomy are particularly under attack," one critic wrote on Twitter.

However, she is not the first celebrity to wear a costume that has landed her in hot water, and she is unlikely to be the last. Here we look back on celebrities who have faced criticism for being far out of touch in the past ...

Lily Allen as Dr Luke

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Broadimage/Shutterstock (4230145f) Lily Allen Kate Hudson Halloween party, Los Angeles, America - 30 Oct 2014
Lily Allen arrives at Kate Hudson's 2014 Halloween party in Los Angeles. Broadimage / Shutterstock

In October 2014, Kesha went public with claims that music producer, Lukasz Gottwald, known as Dr Luke, had sexually assaulted her. Later that month, British singer Lily Allen decided to dress up as Dr Luke when she attended Kate Hudson's Halloween party. The costume was complete with a badge that read, "Dr Luke Gynecology Department."

Julianne Hough in blackface

COSTA MESA, CA - DECEMBER 07: Julianne Hough presents the Julianne Hough for Sole Society collection at Nordstrom - South Coast Plaza on December 7, 2013 in Costa Mesa, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Nordstrom) Uzo Aduba in Orange is the New Black. K.C. Bailey/Netflix
Dancer Julianne Hough (left) dressed as Uzo Aduba's 'Orange is the New Black' character for Halloween, causing outrage. Getty Images / Netflix

In 2013, actress and dancer Julianne Hough dressed as Orange Is the New Black's Crazy Eyes, a character played by Uzo Aduba, and as part of the costume Hough darkened her skin tone with make-up.

At the time, Us Weekly reported that actress Isla Fisher was so outraged by the costume, she asked Hough to "go to the bathroom and wipe her face off."

Hough has since spoken about her costume and the controversy it caused, saying in a 2015 interview with Allure, "Ignorance is sometimes not bliss; I really had no idea what I was doing, and it was all out of fun and respect for the character ... I don't even know how to talk about it because it's such a sensitive topic. It makes me so sad to think that I was that dumb. I learned a big lesson."

She also tweeted, "I am a huge fan of the show Orange Is the New Black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created.It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize."

"I think maybe it was an unfortunate event, but she apologised and I feel like we can all move on," Aduba has said of the costume.

Prince Harry as a Nazi

In January 2005, Prince Harry hit headlines when a photo of the British royal wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party was released. The photo was taken at a "colonial" themed party celebrating the 22nd birthday of Harry Meade, son of British Olympian, Richard Meade, and sold to British newspaper The Sun, where it was splashed across the front page. In the US, it appeared on the cover of the New York Post.

The public was outraged by the then 20-year-old's tone death costume, and many even called for him to be expelled from his place at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He never was.

“Maybe people think it’s funny to use inappropriate fancy dress like this, but I just find it disgusting,” Terry Burton, a spokesman for veterans of the Second World War, said at the time.

Prince Harry apologised to his father, Prince Charles, and a Clarence House source said: "He knows it was a mistake and he has said sorry.”

Hilary Duff as a female pilgrim

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 28: Hilary Duff (R) and Jason Walsh attend the Casamigos Halloween Party at a private residence on October 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Casamigos Tequila)
Jason Walsh and Hilary Duff attend the Casamigos Halloween Party at a private residence on October 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. Getty Images

The tone deaf costumes don't stop there. In 2016, Hilary Duff and her then-boyfriend Jason Walsh, dressed up as an American pilgrim and Native American chief. They wore the costumes for the Casamigos Halloween party in Los Angeles.

Less than three days later, the former child star had taken to her Twitter to apologise, writing: “I am SO sorry to people I offended with my costume. It was not properly thought through and I am truly, from the bottom of my [heart, I'm] sorry.”

Heidi Klum as Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Heidi Klum attends Heidi Klum's 9th annual Halloween party at 1 OAK on October 31, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/WireImage/Getty Images)
Heidi Klum attends her annual Halloween party in October 2008 in New York City. Getty Images

Heidi Klum is known for going all out for Halloween. She has dressed up as everything from Shrek's Princess Fiona and Jessica Rabbit, to a skinless woman and an elderly woman. However, in 2008 many were offended by her choice to dress up as Hindu goddess Kali for her annual Halloween party.

Religious leaders demanded a public apology from the model, which they never got.

"Goddess Kali is highly revered in Hinduism and she is meant to be worshipped in temples and not to be used in clubs for publicity stunts or thrown around loosely for dramatic effect," Indian-American community leader Rajan Zed said at the time.

Jemima Khan as Melania Trump

'What is wrong with Jemima Khan dressing as Melania Trump?' we hear you ask. With their long brown hair and olive skin tones, the British television personality really could pass for the First Lady, especially when dressed in a conservative white dress. However, for Halloween 2016, Khan had a questionable accessory, in the shape of a Donald Trump mannequin, draped and reaching over her from behind. Halloween that year fell nine days before Trump was elected President of the United States.

Ashley Benson as Cecil the Lion

Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson dressed as Cecil the Lion, the 13-year-old lion who was poached by American dentist, Walter Palmer, in Zimbabwe in 2015.

The actress has since deleted the photos of herself in a lion costume, but did apologise for her decision to dress up as the animal.

"Yesterday's post was in poor taste and I absolutely regret all of the hurt that photo caused," she said.

Cecil the Lion's death caused widespread outrage and even protests. Palmer did not face charges for the hunting the lion in the guided hunt.

A protest in Washington demanding the US take action for the death of Cecil the lion. Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP
A protest in Washington demanding the US take action for the death of Cecil the lion. Getty Images

Harry Hamlin as Sid Vicious

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30: Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna attend the Casamigos Tequila Halloween Party Brought to you by Those Who Drink It at a private residence on October 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/Getty Images)
Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna attend the Casamigos Halloween Party in 2015. Getty Images

For Halloween 2015, Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna dressed as Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, better known as infamous punk rockers Sid and Nancy.

Part of the costume included a red T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika, inspired by a 1978 photo of the couple. Critics branded the decision "ignorant" and "offensive".

The couple responded to the outrage the photo caused in a photo posted on Rinna's Instagram, saying: "[I'm sorry] if I hurt you, we were being authentic to the characters of Sid and Nancy for our Halloween costumes. It hurt and angered many of you and we are deeply sorry for that. That was never our intention. We did not mean to offend. With love, Lisa and Harry."

Published: June 16, 2019 05:52 PM

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