Ad Critique: Minajesty

This advertisement follows the typical expectation for fragrance marketing: a gorgeous, highly feminine white woman and the suggestion that using that perfume will give the consumer those same narrow traits. Only this portrayal is more offensive and unnatural than that; though the woman looks authentically white with her bleach blond hair and lightened skin, she is actually hip-hop artist and woman of Trinidadian descent Nicki Minaj. This decolorization (for lack of a better word) is the marketing counterpart of the cinematic racism that bell hooks described in Oppositional Gaze, or the “violent erasure of black womanhood.” Instead of portraying Nicki in a less stereotypically white way or perhaps revealing her true ancestry, she follows the mainstreams of white representation. This ad reveals the ridiculous ideal of white womanhood that Killing Us Softly 4 alluded to. It caters to white audiences, while implicitly telling women of color that the ideal of whiteness is supreme.

And beyond the marketing sphere, this advertisement is also disappointing in the larger context of Nicki Minaj’s career. Nicki is one of the few salient female artists in hip hop, and as such, she holds the potential to be influential in an industry mostly dominated by misogyny and the objectification of women. But instead of using this power to become an empowered role model for female audiences and a defiance of objectification, she lapses into the familiar narrative of an ethereal and sexualized princess. Also, the appearance of the perfume bottle in the bottom left hand corner literally objectifies her, as her torso and head compose the perfume bottle, a literal object. Instead of Nicki being a subversive force in advertising and hip-hop, with this ad she merely corroborates both white supremacy and female objectification.

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