Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Wednesday that a photo of him dressed in brownface makeup at a party in 2001 was him and apologized for the incident. The photo, first reported by Time Magazine, was confirmed to be legit by Trudeau's spokeswoman, Zita Astravas.
"He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin," Astravas told the magazine.
Trudeau apologized for the photo during an impromptu press conference while the Prime Minister was traveling on a plane. He told reporters the photo came from a 2001 end-of-year gala at the private school where he was teaching, "where the theme was Arabian Nights." The photo shows the then-29-year-old wearing a turban and robes with his skin, including his face, neck and arms, darkened by makeup.
“I dressed up in an Aladdin costume, and put makeup on,” said Trudeau. "I shouldn't have done it. I should have known better, but I didn't. And I'm really sorry."
Trudeau was working as a teacher for the West Point Grey Academy at the time the photo was taken. It resurfaced after Time Magazine obtained a copy of the school's 2000-01 yearbook where the photo appears.
Trudeau also admitted to dressing up for a high school talent show and wearing "makeup" to perform "Day-O," the traditional folk tune made famous by the legendary Harry Belafonte.
“I think there are people who’ve made mistakes in this life,” Trudeau said. “You make decisions based on what they actually do, what they did and on a case-by-case basis."
"It was something I didn't think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do," Trudeau added.
Trudeau faces a tough re-election in October and after admitting to breaching ethics rules by trying to influence a corporate legal case following a report by a watchdog group. The prime minister attempted to circumvent and discredit a report by federal prosecutors that a construction company, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, should face a corruption trial.