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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.
Biblical imagery accompanied by chauvinism morphs black female performers into "The Black Jezebel." This caricature portrays black women as promiscuous, unintelligent, and deceptive. This comes from biblical implications that Jezebel's "beauty" captivated King Ahab, in such a way, that it drove him from reason and he turned from God, to instead worship idols because he was blinded by his lust for her. Black women under this type of social gaze are not seen as valuable. The only value given to them is derived from their physique highlighted by form fitting clothing that exaggerates the female form. There is continued hyper-sexualization of the video vixen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Hot Jamz is about to get a lot hotter: Melyssa Ford has joined our squad!
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