I try to stay on the bright side or semi-diplomatic side of things when it comes to race relations among black and white women. Whenever plausible, I wedge some common ground on topics that can get rather intense and personal. Sometimes because of the differences in us culturally or physically, it can cause a lot of misunderstanding. As a writer, I try to prove once again that despite some hard truths and definite realities, we are all more alike than we may want to admit or acknowledge. I can almost get very kumbaya with it.
Yet, randomly amongst my online travels of reading up on everything and anything in between last night, I remembered how Lana Del Rey admitted in her recent cover story to Complex magazine that in subliminal hopes of getting a record deal, she had sex with a number of men who were also music industry professionals. Del Rey’s admission was certainly shocking as it hints to that age-old case of the casting couch controversy in which women in particular were pressured to sleep with Hollywood producers to score a coveted role and this hearsay has plagued the stories of overnight successes and even some of the most famous actresses, past and present.
So again, while definitely surprising to hear, not that much of an uproar has emerged since that excerpt was released by Complex. Extremely popular with her core fanbase, it seems as if they were the only ones that really cared about her revelations with minor jokes from others that she should be glad she actually earned the record deal she currently has now. In revealing oneself, her epiphany registered low on the pop culture radar, but this wasn’t the case when Nicki Minaj unleashed that unforgettable cover art for her single “Anaconda”. Following the epic photo of libidinous proportions, Minaj met the obvious and split reactions of her photo bordering licentious or in representing the new reality of how today’s woman expresses her confidence and should be allowed to do so. Many of her critics recognized that yes, Minaj can do what she wants but why resort to resembling Show magazine with the amount of success she’s had? What’s the point when the whole world knows your name? Do we expect this kind of wanton behavior from artists in the game who are largely more green to the chaos of viral opinion?
Not one to stay quiet and choosing to defend her “art”, Minaj went to Instagram and posted four photos of Caucasian models posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She captioned each picture as “acceptable”. When she re-posted her “Anaconda”, she wrote “Unacceptable”.
Okay. We get it. When Kate Upton and similar folk pose in thongs, it’s okay or no one says much of anything. But when she, Nicki Minaj, chooses to wear a g-string, a nationwide discussion of whether or not she should became America’s new hot topic. You can sympathize with Minaj a tad on this level, but it’s not to say that the SI annual Swimsuit issue hadn’t come face to face with disapproval before. In the past, there were feminist protests against the issue that some women felt subjected women to sexual objects, primed for hungry male eyes. Same goes for magazines like Playboy and the even more lecherous Penthouse and Hustler rags. Minaj didn’t explicitly imply that because the models were white that they got away with posing and having their butts and breasts out, and while she did her commentary in a light-hearted manner, the suggestion is pretty clear and she has a point. But then again, is Minaj and her “Anaconda” photo perpetuating the very thing she finds unfair when it’s only her receiving remarks? Is it really too much to ask of America to let women be free with their bodies and choose on their own accord how many partners they collect sexually over time, or how little clothes they have on? Does everything we do really affect the next person?
Britney Spears back in 2000 experienced the same kind of reaction Minaj received for “Anaconda” following her show-stopping performance of “Ooops! I Did It Again” at the Video Music Awards in which she wore a flesh-toned, crystal studded crop top and leggings, showing off a toned physique. Her performance was the provocative highlight of the night, and the days following MTV dedicated an entire half-hour special called “When Sex Goes Pop” based upon the criticism Spears got after the VMAs. While she had a lot of celebrity supporters, the parents of her fans were not amused, and even some young music fans took it was an opportunity to jab the singer as a manufactured pop creation that uses sex for attention.
Well, say what you will, but Spears was one hell of a dancer in her prime as a pop princess.
The criticism of Minaj’s photo, though praised by a majority of her blacks fans or “Stans”, some of those that largely disliked it were also black (feeling that she was going backwards in how she wanted to perceived in the public). In past studies, African-American scholars have delved as deep as they could into the analyzing the presentation of the black women’s body in America. Even I once referred to Minaj as the “Rainbow Brite, Hottentot Venus”.It is a topic that can transpire as extremely heavy-handed with scholars believing that the physique of a woman of color, that is often but not all the time exposed as more lofty, curvaceous, or rounder than their Caucasian counterparts, has been lampooned in the land of the free because of racism and even a little sexism. It’s a subject matter that bothers me personally because while I understand the historical context, it uncomfortable because as time has gone by, I’m not quite sure who’s more of a culprit: the over eager scholars; society in general; or the unfair standards supported by the black community and black men.
So while I prefer to not see Minaj mimicking an ad for a Flatbush Avenue house party, how come Lady Gaga didn’t meet the same extreme level of verdicts when she released the cover art for her duet with R. Kelly “Do What You Want” which was a close-up shot of her cute posterior in a floral thong?
Whether Sports Illustrated, a pop star, or a hip-hop star, such images of sexual or carefree candor will continue to affect the everyday woman, no matter what color or shape she is. This is certifiable to happen when they’re also too attuned and influenced by popular culture’s most famous figures (literally). What we can do is observe these images, conceive our opinions of them, and keep it moving because whether or not Minaj, Gaga, or Upton are wearing granny panties or not, if we’re not comfortable with ourselves and surrounded by those who love us just as we are, we cannot expect the aforementioned ladies to do the work for us.