Los Angeles Times
Body slam by VMAs?
Nicki Minaj’s point about celebrating body types gets lost in a Twitter brouhaha.
The recent MTV Video Music Award nominations for video of the year sparked a social media debate between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift and raised larger questions about race and body image in pop music.
Rapper Minaj took to Twitter when her video “Anaconda” was snubbed for a top honors nomination. MTV announced its choices earlier this week, and Minaj received three nods in other categories.
Minaj reacted to the announcement, tweeting, “If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, ‘Anaconda’ would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well,”
she wrote. “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” another note read.
Taylor Swift was among those artists who were recognized in the top category (Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars and were also nominated).
Swift, whose “Bad Blood” video stars many of her svelte, famous girlfriends, appeared to have taken Minaj’s tweet personally when she fired back on Twitter: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.”
The pop singer has since apologized, writing, “I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke.”
Minaj confirmed during an interview on “Good Morning America” on Friday that the two talked and laughed about the whole matter.
The earlier exchange between the two, however, underscored a larger question about how women — black women, in particular — are considered in mainstream pop music. Minaj’s video celebrates a full figure and made quite an impact when it was released.
Built around a sample of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Minaj’s ode to her famous bottom is playful and brash. It’s a celebration of curvy black women who have seen their bodies shut out of fashion spreads.
Minaj’s cheeky video featured women of different shades and curvy body types dancing to her innuendo-laden lyrics. The video sparked think pieces on feminism, body image and cultural appropriation in a year when even Swift wanted to get in on twerking action.
Her image, however, became a meme before the song was even released thanks to the cover art for her record. It featured an image of Minaj in an itty-bitty pink bikini, posed in a way that emphasized her backside.
Photoshopped versions of that image showed Minaj as a Google doodle, perched atop the Statue of Liberty and launched into space. Marge Simpson and Kermit the Frog were even animated into the pose.
Within 24 hours of her video’s release, it logged 19.6 million views, breaking a record for Vevo. Ellen DeGeneres even did a spoof of the video for her talk show — and more than 17.5 million people have since watched the clip on YouTube.
“U couldn’t go on social media w/o seeing ppl doing the cover art, choreo, outfits for Halloween,” Minaj pointed out in a tweet this week.
The blogosphere jumped at the opportunity to label the exchange between the two female pop stars as a “feud” and a “catfight.” Many saw Minaj as the aggressor and Swift the victim. Headlines even sided with Swift, despite Minaj never mentioning her.
“Don’t play the race or skinny cards, Ms Minaj — you’re just a stroppy little piece of work whose video wasn’t as good as Taylor Swift’s,” the Daily Mail wrote.
“Taylor Swift shuts down Nicki Minaj racism claims,” Glamour magazine wrote before praising Swift for handling herself with grace and kindness.
Minaj’s dialogue about black women’s influence on pop culture and her views of how they are “rarely rewarded for it” spurred plenty of reaction. It’s a subject that’s long been a topic of discussion, especially when it comes to high-profile award shows.
“I do think if it was one of the pop girls they would have had many nominations for it,” Minaj said on “GMA.” “But it is what it is.”
“I think we have to have both images for girls,” she said. “We can’t have only one type of body being glorified in the media, because it just makes girls even more insecure than we already are.”