Model Leilani Dowding posted this photo on Facebook with the caption 'I just got massacred by a #cowboy Note Fur is FAKE!!! #HalloweenCostume #happyhalloween #americanindian #halloweenMakeUp #halloween'
Model Leilani Dowding posted this photo to Facebook with the caption, 'I just got massacred by a cowboy Note Fur is FAKE!!!' She appended the hashtags HalloweenCostume, happyhalloween, americanindian, and halloweenMakeUp.

Is This Model Wearing the Most Disgusting Native American Halloween Costume Ever?


Leilani Dowding, a British model who appeared on the 2011 VH-1 reality series Tough Love Miami, has worn what may be the most offensive Native American Halloween costume we've seen.

Dowding posted photos of herself in the shocking outfit to her Facebook page. The garments and accessories are typically trivializing of a living culture that remains sacred to many Natives—as we've discussed often, the wearing of a warbonnet-style feather headdress on Halloween is appropriation of a deeply meaningful object for an essentially meaningless occasion.


With the makeup, though, Dowding has taken a run-of-the-mill offensive look to a new level of cultural and historical insult. Nearly half her face is covered in fake blood; a patch of the oozy red stuff runs from her hairline to her chin, and fingers of it drip down her neck and onto her chest.

In the photos' caption, she provides an explanation of her getup, and a reassurance to some who might find the image disturbing:

"I just got massacred by a cowboy. Note Fur is FAKE!!!"

That's right, she has dressed as Genocide for Halloween, and she wants her fans to know that no animals were harmed.


There's a lot that can be said here, but we'll stick to the obvious. There are some standard complaints about non-Natives dressing Native on Halloween or at costume parties. One is that the wearing of the headdress trivializes Native spirituality, which is still held sacred and practiced today. Another issue is that of "redface"—casually putting on a stereotypical (and inaccurate) outfit to become a caricature of a living race. It's dehumanizing to the people being caricatured, and puts them on the level of—well, whatever else people are dressing as: superheroes, vampires, animals, cartoon characters, robots, sexy cheerleaders, naughty nurses, etc.

RELATED: 17 Redface Costumes You Can Buy: Walmart Really, Really Doesn't Get It

With the bloody wound, though, Dowding goes beyond that. This isn't a matter of lightly and disrespectfully donning someone else's culture on a lark. Rather, she has donned the shameful history of genocide against Indians, on a lark. 

Would Dowding dress as a World War II-era European Jew wearing bullet-riddled concentration camp clothing and a Star of David? Would she dress as a Civi War-era African slave, and have her back made up to resemble open wounds from a slave-driver's whip? 

Perhaps it would be easier if she didn't borrow anyone's culture at all—Dowding, as it happens, is half Filipino. Perhaps she could dress as one of the children summarily executed by U.S. forces during the Philippine-American War (which ran from 1899-1902 and saw American soldiers slaughtering the Native population, running concentration camps, and administering water torture). In 1902, following a devastating attack on U.S. troops on the island of Samar, General Jacob H. Smith gave the order to "Kill everyone over 10." Here's what that looked like in an illustration in the New York Journal from May 5, 1902:

Talk about a great costume—that would really knock 'em dead at the party. So to speak. Well, there's always next year.

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Leilani Dowding
Leilani Dowding
Submitted by Leilani Dowding on
Sorry no offense meant. But thank you for bringing attention to the "children summarily executed by U.S. forces during the Philippine-American War" I am embarrassed to say I didn't know about that... As half Fillipino you are right I should, And that is EXACTLY what I will go as next year, so that my friends and other people who also didn't know it occurred will next year...

Ryanbellerose's picture
Submitted by Ryanbellerose on
is there a reason that someone from an oppressed and marginalised group needs to offend another oppressed and marginalised group to make a point? do we really need to play oppression olympics here? why is it whenever someone talks about people dressing up like indians, one of you morons immediately makes a stupid comment about "european jews"? does it really make you feel better to invoke the horrific genocide of another people when in fact doing so marginalises them and us? what happened to indians is beyond comparison, the level of horror requires no comparison. so stop it, it is beneath us.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Frankly, I think she should have made her costume a little more realistic. She should have cut off her breasts (for use as Cavalry tobacco pouches) and her vagina (for use as a hatband).

Anne Howland
Submitted by Anne Howland on
Re: Leilani Dowding. I do not fully understand. What was the intention here? To call attention to the atrocities that were committed against the indigenous people of what is now now as North America? Was this an anti fur statement? I simply do not understand. This costume demonstrated very poor taste. Having read the commentary, I see a rather glib response without proper apologies. It is clear that public figures representing a culture must use a bit more restraint and good taste. I will never be offended by ignorance; however I do see a need for education and history here. And a proper apology would be suitable and accepted as well.

alexjacobs's picture
Submitted by alexjacobs on
This image is a Redskin, by definition. Doug Gottilieb ESPN commentator defends the Redskins name, but what if my team was called the Long Island Lampshades and its mascot was, yes, something terrible like a skinned human being, wouldnt he be offended? And around Halloween all the ESPN commentators were talking about couples dressing up like Ray Rice and his beaten up wife and why people were or werent offended, but none of them could make the connection between such images of violence and Native People, like Red-skins as bounty. There is a politically correct notion in this country that the 6million genocided European Jews is actual Genocide but the 50 million+ genocided Natives in the Americas is not Genocide for some politically incorrect reason. I think "The Washington Genocide" whose logo is a pile of skulls is a perfect sports team name.