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A video vixen (also hip hop honey or video girl) is a female model who appears in hip-hop-oriented music videos. The video vixen image has become a staple and a nuanced form of sex work within popular music; especially within the genre of hip-hop. Many video vixens are aspiring actors, singers, dancers, or professional models. Women from various cultures have been portrayed either as fragile, manipulative, fetishistic, or submissive within contemporary music lyrics, videos, concert and movie soundtracks, although this is not universal, as demonstrated by the archetypal Ride-or-die chick.
The image of the jezebel is incorporated through the over sexualized Black women. The idea of the stereotypical jezebel in the Black American women is the stereotype that Black women are valueless through the hyper-sexualization of a video vixen. A contemporary "Jezebel" can be found in any modern day Hip-Hop video dancing and embracing their sexuality by being highly underdressed. Jezebel can be the stereotype of a Black women embracing her sexuality because of the idea of the chauvinist. The Black female video vixen is viewed as being loose by those even close to the Black female because of the stereotype of a women having a high insatiable sexual appetite.
The work of video vixens and their portrayal in music videos have drawn criticism. Critics suggest that music-video models are typically placed in subordinate and submissive roles while male artists are shown in positions of power. Others argue that music-video models are depicted as sexual objects, signs of male power, and referred to in derogatory terms such as "bitch" and "slut".
In 2004, Nelly's video for his song "Tip Drill" came under particular criticism for its depiction and sexual objectification of women. While some people pointed out that the women who appeared in Nelly's video voluntarily chose to participate, others insisted that male rappers continue to sexually objectify hip hop models while denying that the hip hop artists' career is, at least in part, based on the exploitation of other people.
In 2005, former hip hop music-video model Karrine Steffans authored the book Confessions of a Video Vixen, in which she depicts the degradation of women in the world of hip hop. The book's publisher describes it as "part tell-all, part cautionary tale". The book went on to be a best seller in the US. Another hip hop model, Candace Smith, said in an XXL interview, "what I’ve seen on [hip hop music video] sets is complete degradation".
Female Rappers as Video Vixens
Female rappers have most substantially felt this pressure, where sex appeal is now the currency by which women in the music business are valued and devalued. In particular, female rappers such as Lil’ Kim and Trina occupy what T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting calls a “peculiar place of cultural antipathy”, often accused of selling out and blamed for participating in the exploitation of women. Similarly, Nicki Minaj is arguably a ‘video vixen’ who is the ‘object, subject, and author’ of sexually explicit music videos.
Female rappers who have shown themselves off as "video vixens" include Nicki Minaj, Trina, Eve, Rasheeda, Foxy Brown, Remy Ma, Da Brat, Jacki-O, Shawnna, Gangsta Boo, Angel Haze, LoLa Monroe, Diamond and Princess. Women have evolved over time in the hip-hop world. Rapper Roxane Shante and Salt-N-Pepa were at the beginning where they were rapping about defending women’s image. They were responding to male hip-hop artists for degrading women. Rappers Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, Nicki Minaj and many others are all opposite in accepting hyper-sexuality. Women entering the music world have no choice but to come in the business hard core and sexual if they want to succeed in today’s hip-hop world.
Black Women in Hip-Hop
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” This quote is by Audre Lorde, who speaks out for black girls who are considered video vixens. (although she herself was never a video vixen or closely associated with hip hop). The images presented in mass media, specifically in music videos, portray hyper-sensual images of the female sex. These images created within the world of hip hop reinforce the negative stereotypes associated especially with the black female.
It is pressuring for women musicians to conform to the porn standards because if not they will have to compete with the women who do. Black women in music videos are bonded to the stereotype of sexuality. Women in the videos have made it hard for African American women to define themselves in society because people do not see them to exist outside of male domination and independent of their representation.
People realize that images of women is what rap music videos sell whether the women in the videos are playing the part of cheerleaders or die-hard groupies. Women in the videos are what gets the attention of men and guarantee a males’ audience. The images are still shots of women taken from videos displaying their appearance. Women are tended to dress half naked and moving their body in sexual ways. Media have given a clear definition that African American women are only seen as sexual figures in the society. Once these images are put out there these women are not the owner of their representation anymore.
Despite the negative portrayals of females within hip hop having been reinforced by the misogynistic nature of hip hop itself, Jan Fairley proposes that in different cultures, sexuality is accepted in various forms. In her book, How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender, and Sexuality in Cuba she deducted from her studies of Cuban hip hop culture that the body is seen as convertible form of currency. The body is seen as a major asset with performative attributes which are expressed through the gender relations and gender roles of females and males within the musical culture. Women dance to be looked at, and men dance to be danced on. The sexualization of hip hop in Cuba is polar to the western ideologies that demonize video vixens.
Expressing femininity in Hip Hop
Gender Performance is an evolving category where hip hop artists express femininity in nonconventional ways that break the stereotype of the passive, hyper-sexualized female body as an object to be consumed. Throughout the genre in graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping, women are addressing the issues associated with the passive stereotype of female representation in hip hop. Feminist activism in hip hop re-examines the relationship women have to the hip hop culture, and how women choose to assert their sexuality.
A form of femininity in hip hop is through asserting sexuality and using it as a dominant source of power, creating the notion of being liberated and a subject as opposed to an object. Artists within this category use blatant sexuality to their advantage as a part of their marketing and work, by using sexuality to their advantage. Due to the commodification of hip hop and stereotyping, the "sex sells" concept became prominent within mainstream hip hop culture. Artist like Lil' Kim uses her sexual assertion and "pussy-power platform" as a way to "glamorize and glorify" the hard core sex, drugs, and street life realities women in hip hop have faced. Artist like Nicki Minaj take a similar approach in how she asserts herself and expresses her sexuality.
Successful career paths
Some video vixens who have made a name for themselves in the music video industry, as well as girls with limited work as hip hop models, have gone on to other types of work with greater success, mostly by marketing themselves.
Nicole Alexander became an American reality TV show contestant and is known for winning the VH1 reality television shows of Flavor of Love in its first season and I Love Money. Another reality show winner was Chandra Davis who won the second season of VH1's Flavor of Love competition.
Leila Arcieri was voted Miss San Francisco in the 1997 Miss California pageant and went on to act in television series, such as Son of the Beach, a parody of Baywatch. Melyssa Ford is an on-air personality for Sirius Satellite Radio's Hot Jamz channel.
Vida Guerra has modelled for many magazines, including DUB, Smooth, Escape, and Open Your Eyes, often as the cover girl. She has also made multiple appearances on several Spanish language television programs, such as entertainment gossip show El Gordo y la Flaca, and commercials for Burger King's TenderCrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch. She's lent her voice to the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours. Lauren London has a successful career in movies and television. Angel Melaku, Nicole Narain went on to acting careers, while LisaRaye McCoy became a famous actress.
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