PR Scaries: Celebrity Halloween Costumes that Received Severe Backlash

As Halloween creeps up on us, many people are searching for inspiration for a last-minute costume. However, there have also been many examples of what not to do. Public figures are in the limelight year after year as their costumes get judged by the media, often causing large PR scandals for celebrities who missed the mark. Here are a few infamous Halloween costumes that have recently offended the public and received major backlash.

Ellen DeGeneres 

It’s no secret that the formerly-adored public figure had a life-changing year in 2020. DeGeneres was exposed by past employees for being condescending and disrespectful to her staff, along with accusations of racism. 

This led to her 2020 Halloween costume being ill-received when she went as “the real superheroes of 2020.” DeGeneres revealed a nurse’s uniform under a superhero costume as a way to highlight the front-line workers during the pandemic.

However, people found this attempt extremely performative considering the cruel behavior DeGeneres had allegedly shown her staff for years.

“I’m assuming Ellen had to do this after being a supervillain for years,” typed Twitter user @ArmandoGJR. Ultimately, the costume was received as an empty attempt to sweep the accusations under the rug and instead gain positive publicity.

Image source: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Tana Mongeau

The social media mogul put a twist on a JoJo Siwa costume, and it did not go over well.

Mongeau referred to her 2018 Halloween costume as “Hoe Hoe Siwa,” where she wore Siwa’s signature hair bow and tutu while also revealing a thong and bra. 

Fans felt disturbed by the blatant sexualization of a child, as Siwa was only fifteen years old at the time and had a very young audience. Mongeau at first defended herself and said she had Siwa’s approval, but eventually apologized as the public pressed on the inappropriate nature of the costume and how it could be dangerous to children.

Image source: Girlfriend.com

Shaun White

Olympic gold medalist Shaun White specifically received backlash from the Special Olympics in 2018 when he dressed as Simple Jack, a disabled character from the movie “Tropic Thunder.”

People found it insensitive of White to make a costume out of a character with a disability that he did not personally have. Furthermore, neurodivergent people found Simple Jack to be an offensive character when “Tropic Thunder” initially came out in 2008, making it an even poorer decision by White to choose this as his costume.

White apologized profusely to the Special Olympics and those with disabilities after seeing that his portrayal was insensitive, and ended his apology by declaring “lesson learned.”

Image source: exclaim.com

Hilary Duff and Jason Walsh

Hilary Duff and then-boyfriend Jason Walsh caused an extreme PR scandal when they dressed as a Native American and a pilgrim for their 2016 couple’s costume. 

Their costumes were deemed racist and severe examples of cultural appropriation that made light of the colonization of indigenous people.

Duff and Walsh apologized to the indigenous community and claimed their costumes were “not properly thought through.”

Image source: Time.com

***

Every year fans look forward to seeing what their favorite celebrities have prepared as Halloween looks. However, people are also growing more socially aware and accustomed to calling others out for being insensitive to specific cultures and/or communities. As this Halloween rolls around, we hope to see celebrities learning from their mistakes and avoiding major PR scandals like these.

-Mia DeRobertis, Account Associate

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