Craig David Speaks Out Against Bo’ Selecta!
More than a decade after Bo’ Selecta ended, Craig David has taken a firm stance against it. He accuses Keith Lemon, the persona behind the show, of bullying and racism. Notably, David, an R&B sensation who gained prominence in 1999, found himself caricatured alongside other celebrities such as Mel B, David Beckham, and Trisha Goddard.
Claims of Bullying and Racism
David strongly criticised the Channel 4 show, which aired between 2002 and 2009, stating that it deeply impacted his life. Additionally, he has challenged Keith Lemon, real name Leigh Francis, over his impersonation of celebrities, including himself. In a poignant interview with The Times, David shared, “[Leigh] was highlighting characteristics he felt would trigger us personally. Every sketch felt personal.”
Continuing, he detailed the hurt the show inflicted on him. “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.” David’s first encounter with the show left him baffled, especially watching alongside his mother, Tina. The exaggerated representation of him on the show depicted a wildly inaccurate version, including portraying him as someone with a colostomy bag at the young age of 21.
Moreover, David did not mince words when addressing the issue of ‘blackface’ used on the show. He stated, “It was bullying across the board for everyone,” and went on to add, “When he put blackface on, that was being racist.” Following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Leigh Francis issued an apology for his past actions on the show, especially his use of blackface. However, David remains skeptical of Francis’ sincerity. “We can all apologise when on the back foot. The moment of expressing his apology seemed very coincidentally timed.”
Apology Under Scrutiny
Despite Francis’ apology, David raises some pressing questions, “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.” Furthermore, David expressed his reservations regarding Francis’ online interactions since the apology, observing, “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.”
Past Reconciliation and Continued Impact
Interestingly, back in 2014, reports suggested that David had approached Francis during Fearne Cotton’s wedding, potentially resolving their differences. Nevertheless, David’s experiences of depression and harmful introspection made him understand that the negative effects of Francis’ impressions went beyond surface level. In an attempt to reinvent himself and distance from the show’s portrayal, David relocated to Miami in 2009. There, he embarked on a journey of healthy living and intensive exercise. Yet, in 2018, his workout regimen led to a severe back injury, forcing a hiatus.
During his recovery, David delved deep into introspection regarding Bo’ Selecta’s comedic approach and its bullying undertones. He reflected, “I used to lean into an idea that [Bo’ Selecta!] was all funny. I’d laugh it off, or run from it. When you’re younger, you think you can ride through this but it chips away until… you’re in a really dark place.” Emphasising the damage, he concluded, “A lot of victims of bullying make excuses for the person bullying them but I don’t want to make excuses for him. He’s moved on. He has to put food on the table. He’s got family. But you know what? I’m not here to take anything away from him. I’m just showing that you, Leigh, need to be accountable for what you have done in a way that is more than just crying on social media.”