Socialite holds lavish African-inspired 25th wedding anniversary party with people in blackface

Photo: Tessa Valdes’ Instagram account
Photo: Tessa Valdes’ Instagram account

“Wakanda and love forever!” said the event organizer. “Are you f***ing kidding us?” said anyone with a half-woke bone in their body.

In the latest head-smacking example of cheerfully using blackface in the Philippines, socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdes and husband Dennis Valdes are feeling the heat online in the wake of their lavish “African-inspired” 25th wedding anniversary party on Monday.

The event featured what appear to be Filipino performers in blackface playing tribal drums as well as plenty of actual people of African descent or simply darker-skinned Filipinos who serve as performers/props in the couple’s bizarre, condescending Lion King/Black Panther fantasy.

Tessa, if you’re unfamiliar, is a socialite whose family used to own one of the Philippines’ most respected newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Dennis is the president of PhilWeb Corporation, an electronic gaming company.

The event included a renewal of vows at the Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Makati City, which was followed by a reception at the Manila Polo Club. It was at the club where the couple and their guests were welcomed by people dressed as African tribesmen. Holding drums, the performers’ bodies and faces were painted a dark shade of brown.

A beaming Tessa made her grand entrance on a litter, borne aloft by what we guess are supposed to be the “natives” in this colonialist fever dream.

Photo: Tessa Prieto Valdes' Instagram account
Photo: Tessa Prieto Valdes’ Instagram account

We wish we were making this up but alas, this has all been proudly recounted on the socialite’s own Instagram account, which she reposted from her friend, “celebrity doctor” Vicki Belo.

Photo: Tesa Prieto Valdes' Instagram account
Photo: Tesa Prieto Valdes’ Instagram account
Photo: Tesa Prieto Valdes' Instagram account
Photo: Tesa Prieto Valdes’ Instagram account
Photo: Tessa Prieto Valdes' Instagram account
Photo: Tessa Prieto Valdes’ Instagram account

Tessa’s friend, event organizer Tim Yap, emceed at the reception and shared a photo of the couple on Instagram with “Wakanda and Love Forever!” on the caption. (Editor: You thought we were making that up, didn’t you?)

While blackface, a common practice in the United States at least until the 1950s, is now considered wildly offensive, it remains all-too-prevalent in the Philippine entertainment industry.

The most recent example came when comedy show Banana Sundae used actors in blackface to poke fun at the Binay family, a local political clan known for their dark skin.

Last year, celebrity couple Billy Crawford and Coleen Garcia were also accused of cultural appropriation for using locals as props in their pre-wedding photo shoot in Ethiopia.

Several netizens on Twitter have criticized the Valdes’ African-themed wedding anniversary.

@omidong wrote: “Vicky Bello’s (sic) friend had an African themed wedding where Filipino drummers were made to wear blackface to welcome guests.”

“Rich people are insensitive and dumb to say the least,” he wrote.

Photo: @omidong Twitter
Photo: @omidong Twitter

@candidandhonest wrote: “Do either of them have African heritage? If not, the theme choice is as costume and disregards the value to another culture. So here is #CulturalAppropriation — and entitlement of the rich.”

Photo: Frankly Brutal Twitter
@Candidandhonest Twitter

@jnry05 wrote: “They all had the money of (sic) this world to learn cultures and culture appropriation but sadly I think they used it for other things. This is so f*cked up.”

Photo: @jnry05 Twitter

And probably our favorite comes from @Punongbayan_: “So you’re telling me that not a single soul in that events team even raised a hand to tell Tessa Prieto Valdes that it was a shitty idea?”

Photo: Frankly Brutal Twitter
Photo: @Punongbayan_ Twitter

Some people, however, still believe that there was nothing wrong with the event.

@MrMiguelDeLeon wrote: “My God, even with Tessa Prieto’s wedding people have a problem, haha! [You have a problem] with everything! Sometimes I’m scared to go to the restroom because I might offend someone.”

Photo: Frankly Brutal Twitter
Photo: @MrMiguelDeLeon Twitter

Wow, that’s quite an enlightening point, Miguel.

How do you feel about this event? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

Coconuts Manila has reached out to Tessa Prieto-Valdes via Instagram message but she has yet to reply as of this article’s posting. We will update the story once she does. 

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