Lessons from Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s feminist friendship

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

Anyone paying attention to the world of pop culture knows that it’s a hostile one, with feuds and rivalries between artists being the norm. When it comes to relationships between female artists, infamous Twitter battles between Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks and notorious showdowns between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim lead many to think, as T.I. recently put it in an interview with Vibe, that women simply can’t get along. In an industry known for its long history of female rap beefs and cutthroat competition, the inspiring and sisterly relationship between Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj is a welcome change. Since we could all learn something from their fierce feminist friendship, here are five lessons from the Queen of Rap and Queen Bey.

1. Beyoncé and Nicki celebrate each other’s sexuality. Their recent collaborations, “Flawless (Remix)” and “Feeling Myself,” are feminist anthems that honor and elevate sexual empowerment and agency. The artists’ message is especially important when taking into account the long history of sexual exploitation and stereotyping of black women. Womanist scholar Emilie Townes explains that the stereotyping of black women is an example of “the history of dominant culture resorting to denigrating myths to maintain the status quo.” Townes explains that the contrasting images of the asexual Mammy and the highly sexualized Jezebel show how white culture has destructively shaped perceptions of black women’s sexuality. Beyoncé and Nicki’s musical collaborations challenge and deconstruct these damaging stereotypes and celebrate a sex-positive view of black women and their bodies.

2. Beyoncé and Nicki teach us the importance of feminist mentorship. As an artist, a businesswoman, and a public figure, Beyoncé has broken down barriers for women everywhere. Through her friendship with Nicki Minaj, it’s clear that when Beyoncé breaks through doors, she doesn’t close them behind her, but instead opens them for others to succeed. Beyoncé supports and encourages Nicki, and Nicki has been vocal about the influence Mrs. Carter has had on her, both personally and professionally. In an interview with Paris radio station Skyrock FM, Nicki shared that Beyoncé “represents drive and passion and everything that I would like to be, in terms of being an artist and a businesswoman at the same time.” When speaking about her notorious VMA wardrobe malfunction on the MTV documentary My Time Again, Nicki revealed that in a time when she felt embarrassment and failure, Beyoncé called her just to say, “As an entertainer, I gained so much more respect for you for how you handled that.” Their mentor/mentee relationship is something we should all emulate.

3. Beyoncé and Nicki understand the importance of sharing the stage rather than stealing the spotlight from one another. During Beyoncé’s On the Run tour concert in Paris this past September, she invited Nicki to join her on stage for a surprise performance of “Flawless (Remix).” Yoncé welcomed the “special lady,” her girl Onika, on stage and let her friend shine — not behind or in front of her, but beside her. Together in matching Versace cat suits, the flawless feminists taught us all what it means to have a friend who genuinely honors your talent and celebrates your success.

4. Beyoncé and Nicki’s music is body-positive. In both “Flawless (Remix)” and “Feeling Myself,” the women embrace their curvalicious bodies and celebrate blackness as beautiful. In a society that degrades black and brown complexion, hair texture, and body shapes, Beyoncé and Nicki’s declaration of their own beauty (see also: “Anaconda”) resonates with all women who do not conform to Eurocentric ideas of beauty. When a woman of color who has been objectified, oppressed, and subjugated for her appearance belts out “I woke up like this,” affirming she’s flawless, singing “I look so good tonight,” she’s countering western standards of beauty that label bodies that look like hers as inferior, worthless, and less beautiful. On their albums and in their collaborations, Nicki and Beyoncé sing a message of body positivity and self-love.

5. Nicki and Beyoncé show their appreciation for one another. Like any good friends, Nicki and Beyoncé shower each other with love on social media. Last August, Nicki Minaj posted an image of a diamond “FLAWLESS” necklace Beyoncé gifted her, along with a heartfelt caption that thanked Mrs. Carter for her positive influence on women and girls worldwide. On Nicki’s birthday, Beyoncé shared a heartfelt birthday Tumblr post for her friend, revealing their intimacy by using her birth name, Onika, and choosing to use a black and white yearbook picture.

One of the mothers of womanism, Alice Walker, tells us that an important part of being a womanist (black feminist) is being “a woman who loves other women, sexually and/or non-sexually.” Positive female relationships are at the center of womanist ways of being and knowing. In Walker’s literature, Sethe and Beloved’s intimate connection and “thick love,” the way Celie’s heart beats for her friend and lover Shug, Janie and Pheoby’s companionship through the best and worst of times, are all examples of life-affirming bonds that elevate women’s needs and prioritize women’s well-being. Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s relationship ranks among these important examples of feminist friendship and companionship. The Queen of Rap slaying with Queen Bey make them the poster girls for Walker’s idea of black feminist friendships. Lifting each other up as they climb, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj provide an example for women everywhere. The dope girls have us all fantasizing about Nicki and Bey.

Header image credit: The Huffington Post/Beyonce.com

Durham, NC

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

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