factual ent: Trading Races

Trading Races

The BBC’s Trading Races ambitiously billed itself as exploring ‘how people’s attitudes and feelings change according to the colour of their or others’ skin’. It took four members of the public, changed their skin colour using prosthetics and makeup, and filmed them spending time in everyday situations as members of a different race.

Sofina, an Asian student aged twenty-four, was transformed into a white woman while Carolynn, a white nurse aged forty-two, became Asian.

Carolynn was relaxed about her transformation and the makeup though she found it a shock at first:

I found that was the most shocking and horrifying moment of it all once I was revealed for the first time. I was lost and confused, I lost my identity… I hated it at the beginning but I got to really like it because I thought I looked better, a bit younger. Saying that, what I am is what I am and that’s it… The skin colour was very alien to begin with but I got used to it and quite enjoyed it. The culture was more alien as there’s a lot of differences. There’s still so much to learn about the culture.

The makeup

Amber Sibley was responsible for designing and applying the makeup but Dave Elsey & Colin Ware designed the prosthetics for the male black-to-white transformation.

As well as a wig and makeup, Sofina’s transformation from asian to white required prosthetics to change the shape of her nose and upper lip: a more ambitious transformation to a blue-eyed blonde look was only blocked by her inability to wear contact lenses. Carolynn’s transformation required makeup, contact lenses and a wig.

Sofina found wearing the makeup to be very challenging:

I hated mine! It just looked disgusting and nobody should ever have to change their skin colour … For me, I think the bit I enjoyed the most is when I could be myself. I hated it when I was in the makeup as I couldn’t be myself … Seeing my face at the beginning, the first initial look. I just lost all my confidence. It was a big deal for me, I could no longer see myself … I think I could do it again, but it really traumatised me to put that face on. Once I got used to it I’d be fine.