ELK CITY, Okla. – An Elk City mayoral candidate is at the center of controversy after several YouTube videos were shared around town.
In the video, Bill Helton, an Elk City commissioner and mayoral candidate, is seen dressing up as a black woman called “Pollyester Kotton.”
Some say it is racist and offensive, but others don’t see anything wrong with the character.
Helton, who is also a hair stylist, says Kotton’s character was born at the beauty shop.
“The character came about from one of my clients, who was African-American, from Texas,” Helton said.
With his client’s help, Helton says he transformed into Kotton.
He has acted as her at numerous community events, raising money for people in need.
The last fundraiser was in 2013.
“We filled the house and raised over 20-something-thousand dollars for three families in need,” Helton said.
Helton says the character was never intended to be offensive.
“Anyone that’s offended, I would sit down and talk to them. Because my heart is, I would never do that and want to help whoever I can help,” Helton said.
“I don’t find it offensive at all. He’s out to do some good,” Marisa Garcia said.
“Yeah, I kind of think it’s racist because why should a white man dress as a black woman?” Judy Wright asked.
“If they were offended, then I apologize because that was never my intent, never my heart, to set out to offend someone,” Helton said
We asked Rep. Mike Shelton what he thought of the character. He said he understands the act is satire, but does not find it funny.
He says it is disappointing and hopes Helton is reminded of the sensitive nature of his actions.
Anthony R. Douglas, President of the Oklahoma State Conference NAACP, says the use of black face crosses the line.
“Yes, this is a character. Men playing women or a woman playing a man is not new and can be very funny. But in black face? Have we learned nothing at all? This ‘character’ could have been just as effective done without the black face makeup and would be far less offensive,” Douglas said.