When I was doing my research for this article, a lot of it was very negative. Authors described these beautiful women as “a female model who appears in hip hop-oriented music videos. Her only purpose is to show off her body, which is seen as her worth, inevitably becomes a commodity or prop to be used for the viewer’s viewing pleasure” (Ride or Die Chicks, 2015) Sometimes people call these women “video hoes” which I think is wrong. Just because a woman agrees to be in a Hip-Hop video and show her skin does not make her a ho; we don’t know what she does in her personal life and that is none of our business. Some people have issues with video models, as they should be called, because they believe it takes us back to the Hottentot Venus or Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman as she was actually named. Venus was a woman from the Khoisan people who were the original inhabitants of South Africa. To sum it all up, a white scientist was amazed (not in a good way) by her obscure body consisting or large buttocks, hips and hanging labia. The scientist decided to buy her and send her off to be exhibited to multiple freak shows across Europe in the 1800s. She was of course treated as less than a person as patrons came to ogle her and would even pay extra to poke her with sticks. She was original comparison of the wild, savage black woman compared to the docile and normal white woman. Venus was exhibited until her death in 1815, her genitalia, brain and bones put on display in the Paris Museum of Man until feminist groups complained about the degrading display in the 1970s.
As we can see here, it’s not a nice story; we have a normal black woman who was considered to abnormal by a white scientist and put display to be seen in a negative light. I understand people’s concern, but I don’t think of video vixens/models in that way. Venus was essentially stolen, lied to and mistreated; women in music videos consciously choose to be there and are happy to display the body and the image that they have worked hard to create. In the early days when models like Karrine “Superhead” Steffans started out, maybe sexual activity between sets was expected. The way I see it, these days, there’s a choice; you can go to all these shoots and mess around with whomever or you can establish yourself another way. I would say that models should go to shoots where the artist has a good reputation or make their start with female artists first so that these scenarios are less likely. Once established, models can start going to more shoots with any artist they want, difference being that the desperation/thirst to be seen won’t be there. If rapper X tells you to do something you don’t want to do for more camera time, you can do it, but you can also leave with your integrity intact and know that you’re not starving for money because you spent the time building yourself up.
I see video vixens as an alternative to what video models were before. Pre Hip-Hop movement, it was Rock, Pop, Blues and Soul on the TVs. There were video models of course, but there was the tall and thin and mostly white standard to live up to. Hip-Hop really opened the door so that all women of every shape, colour and size could be appreciated and have a chance to show off. Video models are the ultimate “suck it” to mainstream media expectations and beauty standers because anyone can be a star; we got bald head and tatted up Amber Rose and girl next door Lauren London. Some have braces, some have glasses; some are thick, some are thin. There is still the issue of women dancing to lyrics that can be misogynistic, but at the end of the day it’s just a job and I think it’s empowering to take those jerks’ money anyway and give them no play! Most video models are smart enough to make a better career out of it anyway; Melyssa Ford went into real estate, Blac Chyna has an online boutique and a beauty bar, and Keyshia Dior has a cosmetics line. My only issue with music video models these days is the trend that less black women are being used than before. The original Hip-Hop movement was all about uplifting the minority population and getting the message out there so minority women are in the videos. However, due to the recent “Kardashian-ing” of the world, we’re seeing more and more white women being idolized for their “exotic features” and praised in rap lyrics. I believe this is due to the many unfortunate stereotypes that exist against black women today. Sure, its okay by everyone if white and Hispanic women wanna give their man problems, but when it’s a black woman who has a bone to pick, it somehow becomes a big headache… I blame reality TV, I blame world star and I blame everyone who wants to “do it for the gram/vine”. I’m not telling any woman to go pick up a pencil skirt and become a “positive influence” but I am saying to be mindful of stereotypes out there and try not to get engulfed by them. Professionalism and positivity are always appreciated on set and it’ll get you somewhere; perhaps a J.Cole video, he appreciates all shades! - Asha Mullings