Mike Tyson may be the most controversial person I’ve decided to paint…and here’s why

Mike Tyson may be the most controversial person I’ve decided to paint…and here’s why

Mike Tyson may be the most controversial person I have decided to paint. Here’s why 👇🏼


[Trigger Warning - Sexual assault]


One of the greatest boxers of all time, ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson still holds the record for the youngest ever person to win the World Heavyweight belt. It was only after after I had found a reference photo and started prepping the background that I learned about his tarnished reputation outside the ring. When reading through articles looking for material to use, I discovered that then 26 year old Mike was convicted of raping a beauty queen who was only 18 at the time, and that in the last week or so another anonymous woman has come forward saying that he assaulted her in the early 90s too. He always maintained that he was innocent, but still served 3 years of a 10 year sentence in prison back in 1993. There are also multiple reports that he had been violent in the home and a serial womaniser, cheating on his wives with both paid sex workers and various women he had seduced throughout the marriages.


My initial reaction was disgust and that I couldn’t possibly paint him as a hero and celebrate his achievements in the ring when his personal life seemed to contradict everything I value.


Then I sat with the feeling and remembered something which has been my worldview for a very long time.


I don’t believe in cancel culture, and I believe that everybody has made mistakes and it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a monster.


Now hear me out.


There is absolutely NO excuse for sexual assault, domestic violence or any kind of violence for that matter.


But where do we draw the line? If someone behaved terribly in their twenties and served time in prison, does that mean they can never change? Does that take away all of the merit of the things that he achieved in his professional career? Can someone be a product of their environment when they were growing up and learn the errors of their ways? Is there potential that he was actually innocent and was jailed unfairly?


I don’t profess to have all of the answers to these questions as I have no idea how any of the events unfolded, and I am 100% not saying that he is innocent and should bear no consequences to his actions because he is a boxing superstar. I just think it is worth digging a little deeper and seeing how we are all extremely complex individuals and will never know all of the answers.


I decided to use articles that represent both sides of the coin in the background of this piece. There are posters and newspaper pieces showing his greatest achievements in the ring, articles about the charity he has set up to help children in impoverished communities. Newspaper clippings from both fights he won and lost. Articles about his troubled childhood, losing a single parent and sister when he was young, about losing his child in a freak accident in the home. Articles about his conviction in 1993 and being imprisoned for rape.


It’s not down to me to convince you that he is either hero or villain, but I wanted to give as holistic a view as I could manage on the person behind the gloves.


My intention isn’t to dismiss the severity of these issues. I believe it is important to be able to talk about these issues openly, and I hope that this brings up a conversation that can educate people, rather than to bury it because of someone’s celebrity status.


If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned above and need support (and are based in Australia), please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline (13 11 14) for free confidential support 24 hours, 7 days a week.


My inbox is always open ❤️


Sending all of my love,

Danielle xx

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