In part two of our ‘Facing Blackface’ series, we introduce The Edwards Twins. In December, a News15 crew flew to Las Vegas, Nevada to find out why the twins were receiving backlash for their performances.
The Edwards Twins, Eddie and Anthony, are what they call illusionists. They transform themselves into various musical artists. The perform over 250 shows a year around the world. Eddie said they discovered their talent at the age of six years old, “My mother used to put us in front of the television set all the time and had this uncanny ability to mimic what we saw on tv. She of course thought we were possessed because we had all of these voices come out of us.”
Year later, Eddie became an actor and Anthony a musician. Eddie said Carol Burnett brought them together, “Being twins you tend to compete in life a lot when your younger, so we kind of did our own thing. She says you guys need to get together, form an act and I’ll help you. She did.” Eddie impersonates all of the female characters. Anthony transforms into the male characters. “Back then it was just Barbara Streisand, Beth Midler, Elton John and Neil Diamond. That’s it. That’s all we did,” said Anthony.
Over three decades later, they now perform over 100 characters. The twins spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and time perfecting artists. The Edwards Twins’ act just featured Caucasian artists until a trip to the Bahamas where the audience complained there were no African-American musicians portrayed. Anthony then approached the President of the Musicians and Entertainers Union for his opinion, “I said if I did Stevie Wonder, wouldn’t that be offensive? He says wouldn’t that be offensive. He said the opposite, if it’s done well the thing is that it will be the toast of the island.”
Since then, Anthony doesn’t just feature one, but several African-American artists. Some of them have given their personal approval, “I went to Lionel and I got his blessing because without the blessing of Lionel I wouldn’t have done it.” He’s done this for 15 years, but is now receiving backlash. It is something his brother Eddie said he never expected, “Never ever did I expect someone to be upset or offended. What makes our acts unique is that we’re two identical twin brothers who have no prejudice whatsoever against male or female, black or white, gay or straight, whatever and that’s what makes us great actors.”
Their performances of black artists are being compared to blackface, ““I don’t find their performance interesting or entertaining. It just smacks of a modern day minstrel and whether they intended it or not the way it is received by me is just a new version of an old stereotype of blackface minstrel shows and in that sense it’s offensive,” said Marc Morial, National Urban League President.
Anthony said his if fully aware of the history of blackface, “It is absolutely the epitome of disgust.” The twins are currently facing backlash in one of their biggest fan bases,”It came about when a station in Providence, Rhode Island, a journalist that did not do their homework called the NAACP and said there’s a person doing blackface. The gentleman from the NAACP said oh we have to put a stop to this and went public with that”.
“To me, it’s semantics. You just shouldn’t put on black up to portray black people. Just don’t do it,” said Jim Vincent, NAACP Providence Branch.
We’ll continue with part three of this series on Wednesday, January 30th.