The first part of a three-part special titled Nicki Minaj: My Truth aired on E! last night, during one scene, Minaj voiced some annoyance and frustration regarding how she is perceived: "People purposefully don't see the strides I made for hip-hop and black women in general," she said. In an interview with Chris Witherspoon of The Grio, Minaj went further, explaining why she is so very vexed:
People hear me talk sometimes and they think I'm trying to be cocky. No, I'm trying to be real. I'm trying to give facts. Me coming out and having and album that went number 1 in Japan, Australia, U.K, and the U.S.; name one female rapper that's ever done it. You can't. When I say things like that, I'm not discrediting anyone. Again I want to say I respect and love every female rapper that paved the way for me, okay, but I do think that people don't respect the roads I'm now paving for others.
The rapper continued:
For instance, there has never been a black woman judging American Idol. That is the biggest TV show in America and a black woman has never been represented on the show, number one. That is the biggest TV show in America, and I don't think people understand that.
I'm sitting here right now in my dressing room about to play to a sold out crowd at the 02 arena in Ireland. Name a female rapper that's ever done it and I will give you $100,000.
There are certain things that I have to say because of the scrutiny that I get. For goodness sake I just did a Pepsi commercial. I did a multi-million dollar Pepsi campaign. Name one female rapper that's done that. You can't.
But perhaps even more compelling is her claim that she is disparaged by other black women:
A lot of times within the black community, especially the older black women, they kinda just write me off. And I think it's important for you to look at the companies that I've done business with and realize that every time I do a campaign and it's a successful campaign, we show mainstream America that black women can sell a product and that black women are influential and that we can have our own people support something that we support. And so that's what I want black women to understand. I'm not asking you to love everything I do. But I'm asking you to keep it real with yourself and really see exactly what I have been doing. It's very important that they realize these things weren't really being done like this before Nicki Minaj.
Consider Yours Truly as being guilty of this. It's not that I don't like Nicki Minaj. It's great that she is holding her own in a male-dominated genre, aggressively creating characters and starting trends and influencing fans. And yet! Sometimes I find myself disappointed in her choices. Do I want a black female rapper to succeed? Absolutely. Do I wish she were doing so while embracing her natural hair? Yes. Maybe it's not fair to hold her to a certain standard — it doesn't bother me when Gaga wears wigs, for instance — but it's hard not to. Because I wonder how Minaj's fondness for blondness impacts little black girls. Whether her embrace of Barbie — fetishizing the straight, long blonde hair, long legs and slender nose — is also a rejection of blackness.
And then there's the butt, a full-fledged reminder of the Jezebel stereotype. In ye olden days, white slave owners would accuse black women of being wanton Jezebels, leading them on. That was the excuse for raping the slaves — the black women were so sexual, so round and curvy — the asses! — that they were begging for it. The Jezebel stereotype persisted for decades, and the visual of black woman as sex object, evil seductress, untamed lusty beast is still around. So when Minaj shakes that allegedly manufactured butt on SNL, it just seems sad. She may have a multi-million dollar Pepsi campaign, but she doesn't seem to recognize her role in perpetuating stereotypes of blackness while rejecting characteristics of blackness. Which is not to say she needs to listen to Malcolm X ("Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?") or turn into a different type of artist. Her success is impressive, and she has the right to do as she wishes with her hair and ass. But when she accuses "older black women" of writing her off, she should consider why some of us might have issues with her pop persona. And to be honest, she obviously knows what she's doing: Although there's no doubt Minaj is talented, as much as I hate the ass and the wigs, I'm not sure she'd be making million-dollar deals and selling out arenas overseas without them. Then again, we'll never know, will we?