Nicki Minaj Is Right About The MTV Music Awards

by Aramide Tinubu

I usually try not to pay too much attention to celebrity feuds. I honestly believe that social media can cause things to get a bit out of hand. Also, I'm not sure that Twitter is always the best platform on which to express serious grievances. Therefore, when I heard that Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, women and artists whom I love and respect, were having words on social media, I was more than hesitant to find out what actually occurred. MTV's Video Music Award Nominations were announced yesterday, and though Minaj was nominated for her video “Anaconda” in the Best Female Video and Best Hip-Hop categories, none of her videos were nominated for the coveted Video of the Year spot. I was also stunned that the fan favorite "Feeling Myself," featuring Beyoncé, wasn't nominated for any awards. Considering the hoopla surrounding the video and the amazing feedback from fans, it is a huge snub.

Minaj got on Twitter to discuss her lack of nominations. She said:

"If I was a different 'kind' of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well. If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year."

Considering the fact that the only women whose videos are nominated for the 2015 MTV Video of Year are Beyoncé for “7/11” and Taylor Swift for “Bad Blood," I suppose either of them could have taken offense, but Minaj seemed to be addressing sexism and racism generally. Still, Swift responded:

I don't think Minaj was pitting women against one another at all, nor was she bashing Swift's work. The issue that she was trying to address, though perhaps it was not articulated in the best way, was the appropriation of Black culture, and more specifically, Black female bodies, while Black women are rarely acknowledged or supported in the media.

In the 31-year history of the MTV Video Music Awards, a female artist has taken home the award for Video of the Year just 11 times. Black female artists have won only six times, which includes Rihanna winning it twice, once for "Umbrella" in 2007, and then again for "We Found Love" in 2012. This means that, in the history of the awards, only five black female artists have taken home the award for Video of the Year: TLC, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. If we include "Lady Marmalade's" win in 2001, which was presented to Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink, and Missy Elliot, we can bump that meager count up to nine. It's still not a great number.

But there's more.

Looking at the nominations in this category throughout the years, Black women are noticeably sparse. In 31 years, there have been a total of 17 nominations for Black female artists. This has included "Lady Marmalade," "Scream" from Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, Brandy & Monica for "The Boy is Mine," and Drake's "Take Care," featuring Rihanna. Absent completely from this category are some of the top-selling contemporary artists of all time, including Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Whitney Houston.

It's incredibly clear that Minaj was making valid points about the history of racism and sexism in the music industry. It's written in the nominations over the past 31 years. Instead of taking it as a personal attack and making Minaj's tweet all about her, Swift should have been speaking with Minaj about a system that she has both benefited from and spoken against in the past.

And hopefully, if Swift takes a look at the history of the VMA nominations alone, she might be able to see what the true beef of Minaj's argument was.