Given that I’m a wimpy white British girl, Nicki Minaj is probably the last person you’d expect me to adopt as a role model. And yeah, she’s not perfect. No one is. And her music? You can love it or hate it. But in the 21st century – where female empowerment has come far but still has much further to go – Nicki might just be the role model that women need, and here are 5 reasons why.
1. She controls her own career
Minaj is the only female hip-hop artist to appear on the Forbes ‘Cash Kings’ list ever. And according to L’Uomo Vogue, she “personally manages all of her business affairs”, because “[Watching my mom be abused] had a profound influence on my way of being a woman – never let a man cross the line or control me, especially in my career.”
2. She’s actually super-talented
From my perspective, as a person who’s studied music for 8 years: Minaj has a superb command of rhythm, writes very complex lyrics laden with wordplay, and can do a flipping hilarious English accent. But she doesn’t get credit for it. She’s recently returned to “real rap” in her own words- The Pinkprint is a work of stripped-back, emotionally impacting and refined art.
3. She acknowledges and fights against gender bias in her industry
In every interview where Minaj is described as a “female rapper”, the person speaking is quickly put in their place. Because she’s a rapper. You don’t hear about “male rapper Jay-Z”, do you? She’s also spoken out a lot about the differences between male and female artists making demands on set. As she points out in the clip below, “When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss.” She goes on to say that “There are no negative connotations behind ‘bossed up’. There are a lot of negative connotations behind being a bitch.”
4. She doesn’t tolerate transphobic comments
About 24 minutes in to the interview below, Minaj refers to herself as a “girl with vagina.”
The interviewer responds “as opposed to girl without vagina?”
And she says “Right.”
Whereas the radio interviewer was trying to make a joke at the expense of non-gender binary individuals and transgender women, which many a less educated interviewee would have laughed at, Nicki let them know it just wasn’t going to sit. And more people need to be doing that.
5. She is unapologetically sexual
It’s easy to forget that women are sexual beings outside of the male gaze. It’s also easy to forget that a song about sex is typically not accompanied by a video of cats and teacups. Just like every single music artist has done since the dawn of time (or at least since Madonna’s first solo album), Nicki uses her sexuality to express herself and the messages in her music, the most prominent example of this being in the Anaconda video.
The video features five scantily-clad, grinding dancers including Minaj. Each woman is wearing an identical outfit and is given equal status in the video. There’s no incidence of women without identity being placed in the video as decoration; in other music videos, these are often women of colour backing up a white singer. Take note Miley Cyrus, Lily Allen, etc. Check out an awesome and much more detailed response to Anaconda by Kettle Mag Women’s editor Alice Wolff here.
When the internet was blowing up about the cover art, Minaj responded by tweeting pictures of swimsuit models. Her point? Similar to #NoMorePage3’s point actually: society seems to think that female nudity is fine if controlled and distributed by anyone other than the female in question. Nicki controls and distributes her own assets (pun intended), and she doesn’t intend to apologise for that.
Nicki Minaj is a powerful, talented, influential woman. There are millions of women who are worse role models than her.
Now go listen to The Pinkprint.
What do you think? Do you agree? Have your say in the comments section below.