The Modern Sarah Baartman

Here’s the truth: I am not a Nicki Minaj fan. Whatsoever. In fact, I am one of Roman Zolanski’s harshest women critics. I might nod my head to “Superbass” on occasion because the beat is catchy, but I mostly engage in heated debates about her endless lack of talent and the oversexualization (not a word) of her image. Whenever she appears on MTV, BET, Fuse, and the host of other networks that seem to feature her once a month, I quickly change the channel. I might flip to Basketball Wives, which is equally as ignorant, but at least I’ll retain more brain cells. That was harsh.  I know. But, it conveys the point, right?

As a millennial womanist who has spent the past two years at an institution designed to educate, celebrate, and prepare women for the world that awaits them, it is natural to resent what Nicki Minaj’s image stands for. Rather than using her intellect to sell records as other women MCs did before her, she chooses to use her large breasts, wide hips, and lewd lyrics to reach the masses. Her sexual image has catapulted Nicki to a level of superstardom that most other women in hip-hop can never amass.

But why?

It isn’t as if her flow is stimulating. I never have to listen to a song more than once to understand what “Superbass” or “Right Through Me” is attempting to communicate. She doesn’t promote activism in the African-American community and she hasn’t used her position to improve conditions in foreign countries. Instead, she is encouraging young British children to sing about content that is much too inappropriate for their susceptible minds. Let us not remember – excuse me forget – her “exorcism” at the 2012 Grammy Awards or her insistence on clapping her cheeks in Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)” video. Nicki Minaj is worthy of my criticism.

She, like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown before her, are the modern Sarah “Saartje” Baartmans. Google her and the historical exploitation of this African woman is enough to run someone’s blood cold. Baartman, also known as the Hottentot Venus, was a freak show display in Great Britain in the 1800’s because her large cheeks and elongated labia were intriguing to the white men who paid thousands of dollars to watch her walk around a small cage. Even after her death, she was still a major attraction. Her remains were included in a French museum for white men to goggle and admire.

Sound familiar? It should. Nicki Minaj is the Sarah Baartman of the millennial generation. The corporate world is devouring Nicki for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For white America, she is hip-hop’s female savior, resuscitating rap for women and bringing the genre to sold-out stadiums and coliseums once again. She is marketable with her flamboyant wigs and colorful antics and teenagers love to emulate her Barbie image. Though Barbies don’t have brains. But, I digress.

The point is, the world has fallen in love with Nicki Minaj. And for that, she has earned little to no respect from me. Yes, she is a formidable businesswoman and she has branded herself using the same formula as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. But at what cost to the image of black women?

You might consider me a “hater.” I’ll be that for the sake and value of the black woman’s image in media. But face this: for fame, Nicki Minaj has sold her dignity. Now, let that be her moment for life.

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