Thursday, September 10, 2015

What's Good? Not My Edges: Reflections on the 2015 VMAs

Every single day I mention at least twenty times that someone or something has stolen my edges, but last week NICKI MINAJ LITERALLY stole my edges. At the 2015 Video Music Awards Nicki Minaj won the award for best Hip-Hop video, and the speech she had for the night differed from the generic acceptances speeches we have heard before. Nicki started the speech by thanking her fans and her pastor, then Nicki turned to Miley Cyrus and said, “And now... back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me in the press. Miley, what’s good?” This might be a confusing statement if you do not have background on the situation.

In July, Nicki Minaj went on a twitter spree expressing her disbelief for not having either of her videos “Anaconda” or “Feeling Myself” nominated for Video of the Year. One of Nicki’s tweet said, “If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, ‘Anaconda’ would be nominated for best choreo and video of the year.” Another one of her tweets mentioned that when “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get a nomination. Out of nowhere, Taylor Swift took to twitter and said, “I’ve done nothing but love and support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your spot.” This was completely unwarranted because Minaj never said that any of the artist nominated did not deserve their nomination.  Minaj was merely pointing out that her video “Anaconda” achieved record-breaking numbers, with over 76 million views within the first week of its release. The views for “Anaconda” also happened to be the biggest hauls in YouTube history until Taylor Swift broke it with her video “Bad Blood.” Therefore, Minaj’s video should have been nominated as one of the videos of the year. Also, Nicki was expressing that black artists do not gain as much recognition as their white counterparts, even if they are doing equally as well. Taylor later understood that the statement was not about her and apologized for having a typical white feminist moment. However, this story does not end with the apology.

Miley Cyrus told The New York Times that Nicki Minaj made the situation more about her than she did about race and mentioned how Minaj’s approach was not very polite and if she was more open and loving it would have been better, which is complete nonsense. The fact that Minaj has to be polite to get people to understand systematic racism within the music industry is ridiculous. It is also white feminism come to life. Miley and others are trying to focus not on what Nicki said but how she said it. That way they can disregard the fact that even in the music industry there is racism and not every artist’s work is respected or represented. 

This all may seem like senseless gossiping, which to an extent it is, but it’s important to analyze the media attention each woman is receiving. When Nicki first came out about being disappointed some media outlets like The View portrayed Minaj as entitled angry black woman, using her race as a reason for not being nominated. They did not question why a video that had over a million hits and widespread reception was not nominated. Instead, they combatted Minaj’s disappointment by pointing out there were other artists of color that had been nominated for the award, none of whom won, and stating that Nicki Minaj was nominated for other awards. The women on The View and other media outlets tried to explain that Swift’s video was more about female empowerment and Minaj’s was merely selling sex. Even though throughout the entire “Bad Blood” video, Swift and her fierce female friends are training to fight another group of women. It is ironic that certain depictions of women are empowering, provocative and feminist and others are objectifying. It is also strange how certain bodies have to be be on their best behavior to have their truths gain acceptance. It was appropriate for Minaj to be upset about not being nominated. It was also appropriate for her to call out Cyrus in her acceptance speech because Cyrus had missed Minaj’s point and belittled her statement. 

So, What’s Good? We still do not really know because Cyrus has yet to answer Minaj’s question. However, what is not good is the constant tone policing and respectability politics for women of color and pretending that systematic racism is not embedded into every aspect of our lives.

- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural and LGBTQ Affairs Intern


  1. I think they are definitely on the same playing field in terms of talent. But you it is very unrealistic to expect that Cyrus or Swift would ever have the same mindset or perspective as Minaj.