I adore Lil’ Kim. Have loved her profanity-laced, raunchy meets hyper-sexualized fem lyrics and mouthy, tough-girl bravado since the first time I heard the opening lines of “Hardcore” riding shotgun on I-95. “I used to be scared of the d---; Now I throw lips at the s---; Handle it like a real b-----.” You want to see me on a dance floor? Drop the intro to “It’s All About the Benjamins” and let it play till Kim’s verse. Or how about "Player's Anthem"? I swear to you, I will sweat out my hair and not even be mad.
Kim made -- catch the past tense -- hits. She’s got a classic album under her belt, a boast that not very many rappers, much less female emcee can claim with any authority. So I sort of get Kim’s beef with Nicki Minaj, who Kim doesn’t believe has shown due deference and respect (especially since Nick’s blatantly jacked her look). It’s sad to see two grown and talented women go at it so publicly even in hip-hop where beef is par for the course.
So when I saw Kim’s latest PR move to celebrate her 36th birthday this past Sunday— a Michael Antonio photo that features Kim as Black Barbie with blonde hair, blue eyes, pink lips, and lightened skin, in tact— it wasn’t the subliminal shot that she was taking at Nicki, who holds the most recent claim to the Black Barbie moniker, that bothered me. (For the record, Kim holds the initial Barbie claim. On “The Jump Off” in 2003, Kim rhymed “Whoa…Black Barbie dressed in Bulgari; I’m trying to leave in someone’s Ferrari.”
It is the realization that two grown-ass women were equating themselves to a child’s plastic doll with disproportionate curves and a dumber than rocks blank-stare that bothers me here.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved -- catch the past tense -- Barbie. But I never wanted to be her. And even if I had, I would have been an actual Black Barbie, not the blonde one. For all the jockeying between Kim and Nicks for who is the Black and Pinkest of them All, I can’t help but notice that both of them consistently do their Pecola Breedlove (of Toni Morrison’s classic “The Bluest Eye”) best to look like the White Barbie.
Black Barbies showed up on the scene in 1980 (some 20 years White Barbie), and while she had the same features and proportions as her white counterpart, she actually had dark, poofed hair (read: coarse) and brown eyes. It took until 2009 to get a Black Barbie with more traditional Black girl features like accentuated cheekbones and a wider nose, and even she had brown hair and brown eyes. The blond, blue-eyed chick has always been unquestionably White.
My apologies if I can't take sides in the nonsensical Barbie beef about who is the fairest of them all. The side I'm taking is against both Black women who compare themselves to and emulate a White Barbie doll. If Nicki and Kim insist on continuing their beef, I need it to be over something that actually matters -- not pink plastic, blonde hair and blue eyes.