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09th Oct 2022

Craig David says Bo’ Selecta was racist and ruined his life and sent him to a ‘really dark place’

Tobi Akingbade

‘When he put blackface on, that was being racist.’

Craig David has slammed Bo’ Selecta! as “bullying” and called out the impressions performed by the show’s star, Leigh Francis, as ‘racist’.

Bo’ Selecta! was first broadcast on Channel 4 in 2002 and ran for three series until 2009, spanning several spin offs.

The sketch show saw comedian Leigh perform as Avid Merrion, a stalker who is obsessed with celebrities and featured the comedian doing impressions of various stars using latex facemasks.

Craig was the subject of many sketches alongside Mel B, David Beckham and chat show host Trisha Goddard.

Now, the 41-year-old singer has blasted Leigh for the depictions, saying they had a hugely negative impact on him.

Speaking to The Times, Craig said: “It felt like a vendetta and when it got a following, it became something that affected me.”

“People would shout at me on the street and I felt the same feeling I had when I was bullied at school. Leigh Francis had normalised bullying by making it comedy.”

In the show, Leigh would wear rubber masks of celebrities faces, to which Craig says: “When he put blackface on, that was being racist.”

Leigh apologised for the sketches back in 2020, tearfully admitting he “didn’t realise how offensive it was back then”

But Craig said he felt like the apology was insincere and that he doubted that the comedian had learned anything from the backlash.

He said: “We can all apologise when on the back foot. The moment of expressing his apology seemed very coincidentally timed. Has he reached out to any of the people he did on his show? He hasn’t reached out to me. Has he gone to communities to talk about bullying? Racism? And to be educated? You can only ask him.

“All I’ve seen since his apology is people still tweeting him thinking Bo’ Selecta! is fun and the tone of his response being very much still, “I’m the funny guy here”. That he still plays it like a joke after his apology tells me everything.”

Craig added that the caricature from the noughties show had impacted his mental health and put him in a ‘really dark place’.

Craig went on to say that he didn’t want to take anything away from Leigh, but that he wanted him held accountable for the show and its effects.

Leigh aka Keith Lemon said he was “deeply sorry for any upset” he caused for using blackface to dress up as celebrities.

In light of awareness being raised in regards to the Black Lives Matters movement, Leigh tearfully admitted it made him rethink.

He captioned the post: “I want to apologise to anyone that was offended by Bo’selecta. I’m on a constant journey of knowledge and just wanted to say I’m deeply sorry. #blacklivesmatter.”

In the video, the Celebrity Juice host said: “My name’s Leigh Francis. I play a character called Keith Lemon on television.

“It’s been a weird few days, I’ve sat and thought about things and what I could post to help things.

“Back in 2002, I did a show called Bo’ Selecta, I portrayed many black people. Back then I didn’t think anything about it, people didn’t say anything- I’m not going to blame other people.

“I’ve been talking to some people. I didn’t realise how offensive it was back then.

“I just want to apologise, I just want to say sorry for any upset I caused whether I was Michael Jackson, Craig David, Trisha Goddard, all people I’m a big fan of. I guess we’re all on a learning journey.”

This comes after TV presenter Melanie Sykes says she was left distressed after appearing on Keith Lemon’s Through the Keyhole back in 2018. The panel show follows Lemon as he explores celebrity homes, the panel of guests then have to discover whose house it is.