Wildflower employee goes yellowface for Asian-themed Toronto party

It was “bring your own conical straw hat” at #LovesUsNot’s Stir Fry night


While Hollywood’s favourite Asian American, Emma Stone, was celebrating at the Oscars last night, a Toronto nightclub hosted another party for yellowface revelers.

#LovesUsNot at the Wildflower, an upscale venue beneath the Thompson Hotel, threw a party called Stir Fry on March 4. The name of the event was presumably inspired by the hit Migos song of the same name in which the Atlanta rappers compare cooking crack to making the Asian dish, proving that they, in fact, have no idea how cooking a stir fry actually works.

At the Toronto party, however, at least one employee decided to take the “stir fry” theme one step further. No, he did not wear a chef’s hat. He wore yellowface.

In a photo now widely shared on Instagram, primarily through quick-disappearing Instagram stories, a white male employee wore a conical straw hat, the kind typically worn by rice field workers across Asia. You can find these hats in most urban Chinatowns. I’ve seen them on cute Chinese g-mas walking down Spadina.

I thought maybe white folks had learned their lesson after Katy Perry, queen of cultural aloofness, posed for a photo wearing the hat while raising her arms and doing the splits on the Great Wall of China. I thought westerners had filed wearing the rice-picking hat under “stuff we should not do” after American Apparel (RIP) was called out for selling the hat – for $15, no less – to hipsters under the name “Conical Asian Hat” a few years back.

Clearly, white people still really love this hat. I see a guy wearing it on the plane on nearly every flight home from Asia.

To make matters worse, the unidentified #LovesUsNot employee is squinting his eyes for the camera. Black cartoonish eyebrows and a Fu Manchu-style moustache were added via Instagram’s editing tools. It’s unclear who was the original photographer since the photo has been copied and shared hundreds of times.

Understandably, online criticism has been swift, with professionals in the local music and nightlife scenes like Josephine Cruz, who DJs as JAYEMKAYEM, and Julian Nieva, a producer at Kid Studio, calling the costume problematic and racially charged.

This afternoon, management at the Wildflower finally posted the following statement on social media, vaguely apologizing without saying what for. 

“Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback about the inappropriate and offensive behavior of a couple of our staff members this past weekend. We in no way condone racism and the actions taken by these individuals is not reflective of our values at Wildflower. It is never our intention to offend anyone and we are deeply sorry to anyone that this affected. Appropriate action will be taken with the individuals responsible.”

Faster than you can say, “Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” the non-apology has racked up over 100 comments on Instagram condemning the bar and its staff.

michelled@nowtoronto.com | @michdas

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