I hadn't paid much attention to what’s been going on with American Idol, but the onslaught of entertainment news about which celeb judges — notably Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj — would be joining the cast actually piqued my interest, the desired result of AI hiring them in the first place. Carey’s a well-documented diva — who remembers the episode of MTV Cribs that showed her exercising in high heels? — and Nicki is, well, Nicki. You never know what you’ll get with her, and that’s the whole point of adding her to the lineup. Drama was to be expected, and even before the new season has aired, we’ve already had our first taste.
Last Tuesday, TMZ released a video from an AI audition in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Nicki was seen in the midst on a full-on verbal tirade against “her f***in' highness over there,” a.k.a. Mariah Carey. According to the TMZ transcript, Carey calls Nickster a “3-year-old” and a “crazy b****h.” After a few more exchanges, Nicki declares, “If you say one more disrespectful thing to me — off with your head!”
I watched the clip knowing how juicy these shenanigans would be for entertainment sites, and how much fodder would come from it. But I cringed thinking of how these two Black superstars fed into the stereotypes about how women, especially Black women, are catty, backstabbing and confrontational. Mariah and Nicki aren’t random housewives, former girlfriends or singers with stalled careers trying to get put (back) on; they’re both talented, relevant, multiple award-winning entertainers who have broken sales records. All they needed to do was show up and people, even me, would gladly watch. As much as some bickering was expected, I never thought it would get this ugly… or even uglier.
Two days later, Barbara Walters took to The View to recap an interview with Carey during which Mariah claimed multiple people heard Nicki say of Mariah, ”If I had a gun, I would shoot the b***h”. I do not believe Nicki meant that, even if she said it in anger. Despite holding down a few tough-talking verses, Nicki’s as pop as they come — more cuddly house cat than menacing gangster. Notably, on Twitter, she denied threatening Mariah. “Hey yAll. Lets just say nicki said smthn about a gun. ppl will believe it cuz she’s a black rapper. Lmao,” she wrote.
Of the feud, AI host Ryan Seacrest said, “It got heated between Nicki and Mariah… There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, and that's gonna happen, and that's OK."
Is it really? Disagreeing is fine, but name-calling and cursing at each other is not. Granted, AI is a reality show of sorts, and sadly we’ve been accustomed to seeing women of color at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively, in that genre. But even as every part of me thinks this feud has been completely orchestrated for ratings, it disturbs me that two Black women of Mariah and Nicki’s professional caliber felt like they have to get down and dirty with one another to boost ratings. It might have been asking a lot to hope that these two could get along — but if they couldn’t, I do wish they could have saved the worst parts of their feuding until the cameras were off.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk