"Queen Cleopatra" Was Accused Of "Blackwashing" — Here's How Actor Adele James Responded

Queen Cleopatra is one of the biggest shows on Netflix right now.

Starring Adele James as the Egyptian queen, Queen Cleopatra chronicles Cleopatra's life and her rise to ruling Egypt.

closeup of cleopatra putting on a crown
Netflix / Via youtube.com

But since the show was released, there has been some backlash. The official Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Cairo, Egypt, called out the show for having Adele, who is Black and biracial, portray Cleopatra, who was "light-skinned" with "Hellenic features (Greek)."

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Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Via Facebook: tourismandantiq

A lawyer in Egypt also sued Netflix for casting Adele as Cleopatra, stating that Netflix is guilty of "Afrocentrism," and others have used the term "blackwashing."

cleopatra and a man with their foreheads touching

"Whitewashing" is essentially when white actors portray BIPOC characters, so one can deduce the meaning of "blackwashing."


Egyptian writer Bassem Youssef told Piers Morgan that the show falsifies Egyptian history and is ultimately cultural appropriation.

According to scholars — and as discussed by historians in the Netflix series — Cleopatra's exact heritage is not known.

closeup of cleopatra

Now, Adele has responded to the backlash on an episode of The Wayne Ayers Podcast. “Blackwashing isn’t a thing, is it?” Adele said.

closeup of adele as cleopatra

“I find it sad that people are either so self-loathing or so threatened by Blackness that they feel the need to do that, to separate Egypt from the rest of the continent," she continued.

closeup of adele

The producers have only spoken about the controversy and backlash surrounding the show in a statement on their Netflix Tudum site. "Her ethnicity is not the focus of Queen Cleopatra, but we did intentionally decide to depict her of mixed ethnicity to reflect theories about Cleopatra’s possible Egyptian ancestry and the multicultural nature of Ancient Egypt."

Closeup of adele as cleopatra

There you have it. You can stream Queen Cleopatra on Netflix and listen to Adele's podcast interview here.