• Lisa Wilkinson discussion the 2016 Gold Logie nominations on the TODAY show (Channel 9)Source: Channel 9
When Lisa Wilkinson said "I got a spray tan and everything" after her Today show co-host Karl Stefanovic commented that she was ethnically "too white" to be nominated for this year's Gold Logies, what did she mean?
Sophie Verass

12 Apr 2016 - 2:32 PM  UPDATED 12 Apr 2016 - 2:32 PM

It's been one week and Today show presenter Lisa Wilkinson hasn't responded to the uncomfortable comment she made about "getting a spray tan" after her co-host said that she was "too white" - as in, Caucasian, not pale. 

Last week, Australia’s most-watched breakfast program went like this:

Ben Fordham: "Where is Lisa Wilkinson's Gold Logie?"
Karl Stefanovic: "I think it’s very clear. Lisa's too white."
Ben: "Is that it?"
Karl: "That's it."
Lisa Wilkinson: "I got a spray tan and everything, still didn't make it. What can you do?"

“Logies Controversy. BOOM!”

That's right, Karl Stefanovic.

Although it's assumed that Karl was referring to the discussion on whether the Logies have some 'reverse racism' agenda, in an ironic turn of events his comment was totally fitting considering that his co-host Lisa Wilkinson sounded like she had just made a bizarre blackface comment. 

 "I got a spray tan and everything, still didn't make it. What can you do?" - Lisa Wilkinson

During a conversation about ethnic advantage and the colour of people's skin, Lisa's statement very much came across as though she was making a joke about her cosmetic spray tan and how it could disguise her as a person of colour and solve the problem that she was "too white" to win a Gold Logie. 

Given that there is an awful history and continuing culture of oppressing people of colour by white people painting themselves to 'look like them', it's only natural that people would get offended when they hear a person in a position of privilege talk about using a product that darkens skin tone in a conversation about race.   

Lisa's liberal and left views has seen her use her position of power for advocacy and activism. Last year, she publicly condemned the film 50 Shades of Grey for its misogyny and earlier in 2016 called for more journalistic integrity after Sunrise trivialised Kirsten Davis' UN project. Given the media was alarmed just last month by pro-basketballer Alice Kunek's Kanye West costume, you would think that a well-versed journalist would see how talking about spray tanning sounds really bad within a conversation that's making fun of ethnicity.  

SBS asked Channel 9 for an official response on Lisa's remark in which they gave "no comment". 

However, a source from the network was adamant that Lisa’s comment was not related to racial profiling and that anyone who knows Lisa knows that she would never ever make light of those issues. The source said that rather than responding to Karl’s statement, which it can be assumed was about the ethnicity and skin colour, Lisa was actually referring to getting ‘glammed up’ for publicity photos for her Gold Logie nomination that never came. 

SBS Indigenous broadcaster, Michelle Lovegrove agrees that it was a poor choice of words to express ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’.

"To make a joke about how you have already gotten a spray tan before you've even received a nomination comes from a total position of privilege and that's the bottom line." - Michelle Lovegrove

"I don't think that Lisa is a racist or intended on making a comment about race," she says, "but there were so many wrongs in that segment which are related.

"The Today show's discussion comes down to two things: power and privilege.

"Firstly, they set up a scenario disparaging the two non-white Logie nominees with a whole passive-aggressive response to their nominations and suggested that Lisa should be in their place.

"Then Lisa talked about getting a spray tan, an industry 'in-joke' about a beautifying routine before having a photo shoot at an exclusive event, which the public were somehow meant to understand," says Michelle.

"To make a joke about how you have already gotten a spray tan before you've even received a nomination comes from a total position of privilege and that's the bottom line. And what makes this worse, Lisa was speaking from a position of privilege in the process of a conversation which was disparaging diversity. 

"The way that Channel 9 is presenting it as though 'it's just a comment on getting dressed up and anyone who thinks otherwise is mischief making' needs to realise that there were a number of people who got upset and therefore it's clear that it was insensitive.

"If you are coming into everyday people's lounge rooms, like breakfast television presenters do, and make an exclusive joke that highlights your privilege and your power, either verse yourself on a more inclusive dialogue or acknowledge that you have upset people," says Michelle. 

While many people have taken to social media to air their grievances, Lisa's comment - not the conversation about cultural diversity within the two nominees, not the discussion about what the media has collectively been saying about the Logies nominees, not the debate about whether Australia's media is 'too white' - remains quiet in the press, along with a response from the instigator. 

Lisa, in the words of The Feed’s Jan Fran, ‘what the f*** were you talking about’?


The debacle unfolded
The Logies, casual racism, and brown people on TV
The Feed's Jan Fran really, really, really doesn’t want to believe that some Australians don’t like seeing brown people on TV but unfortunately she does.
Why you should care about the casual racism on television
Australia has a problem with diversity on television. If we don’t see people from culturally diverse backgrounds working in certain professions, it makes it harder for us to think we can break through, says Osman Faruqi.