Nicki Minaj Is A Boss, And So Can You!
5:45 pm, March 14th | by Colette McIntyre
I love Nicki Minaj. While I acknowledge that there are legitimate and valuable feminist critiques of the rapper’s visual politics and lyrics, I can’t help but have admiration and respect for a woman who is transcending sexist attitudes, challenging heteronormative structures, and flipping the traditional hip hop script. Also, I just really love a lady who can rock a pattern.
Just when I thought I physically couldn’t love Nicki Minaj any more, the woman formally known as Onika Maraj did it again, dispersing her own brand of fly feminism in the new US edition of Elle. I actually had to stop loving the smell of hardware stores just so I could devote more love to Nicki. (Sorry, hardware stores.)
Rap isn’t know for it’s gender inclusivity and yet Minaj is a hip hop phenom, striving and succeeding in this male-dominated world. She was dissatisfied with the status quo and so she set out to change it. In her Elle interview, the rap star advises women on commanding respect, saying, “Even if you’re doing a nine-to-five job, treat yourself like a boss.”
“Not arrogant,” she continued. “But be sure of what you want — and don’t allow people to run anything for you without your knowledge. You want everyone to know, ‘Ok, I can’t play games with her. I have to do right by this woman.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
Minaj approaches her craft and her brand with a businesswoman’s mindset; she is fiercely independent, assertive, and outspoken. For these reasons, among many others, Minaj has become a mini-mogul at the tender age of 30. “My goal in the beginning was to buy my mother a house,” She explains. “Now I realize, OK, if I really focus and become a key player in business, then I can build an empire. I’m thinking of a legacy that I can be proud of and wealth that my grandchildren can use to go to college. So world domination – in terms of providing for my family – is absolutely my goal.”
Like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and those other oft-praised female icons of the business world, Minaj doesn’t conceal her ambition or the power she wields; unlike those other women, Minaj wears colorful wigs and revealing clothing, so we fail to discern her work as feminist. (Also, unlike those other women, Minaj is Black, but that’s a whole other blog post.) Don’t let her eccentricities fool you — Minaj is actively engaging with sexism in the music industry and media. In a now famous scene from the MTV-produced documentary My Time Now, the rapper discusses how important it is for a woman to know her value and demand nothing less. “You have to be a beast,” she says. “That’s the only way they respect you.” She goes on to address double standards in the business:
When I’m assertive, I’m a bitch; When a man is assertive, he’s a boss…When you’re a girl you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet and you have to be sexy and you have to be this and you have to be that and you have to be nice — I can’t be all those things at once.
It is time we recognize how empowering it is to see a young woman of color building an empire — any kind of empire — and to hear her speak about power dynamics, regardless of how tight her bedazzled jumpsuit is. It is time we consider feminism and its multiplicities. We should begin by giving credit to Nicki Minaj for pioneering an alternative female persona in the music industry. Oh, and being such a boss.