In 2016, the #OscarsSoWhite campaign drew attention to whitewashing in Hollywood, although the practice has been going on long before hashtags were even invented. For generations, roles of people of color have been occupied by white actors; historically, they were also often accompanied by offensive makeup. Sadly, it still happens today, as Will Jay explores in his new song, “Leading Man.”
With a voice of a Michael Buble-meets-Justin Timberlake, it’s no surprise that Jay was part of boy band IM5 and formerly competed on The Voice in China. But what really sets him apart is his goal of creating truly meaningful music. “I want to write the soundtrack for people’s lives,” he told the Huffington Post, “whether it’s a song that reminds them of a great time in their life or a song that simply gives them a good cry.”
In his video for “Leading Man,” Jay literally interprets the song’s lyrics, portraying an Asian actor auditioning for a kung-fu movie. A blowhard director writes him off despite his obvious talent and chooses a typical blond-hair, blue-eyed candidate instead. Jay sings, “It’s just more of the same / so let me take his place / That should be me / and you know why.”
Later, after donning a blond wig and caking his face in white makeup, Jay re-auditions and… well, you can guess what happens.
It’s a powerful, raw statement from someone who’s experienced this type of unjust discrimination firsthand. It’s also an important societal touchstone that feels oh-so contemporary and important for this moment in history. Hollywood, take note.