Nicki Minaj’s Reclamation of Barbie

Cute. A toy store in the Midwest apparently sold brown Barbie dolls for roughly half the price of blond Barbies. Although $5.93 price tag on the blond dolls is roughly seven cents less than twice that of the brown dolls. It’s hard to tell what all this really means. Black History Month special? Supply and demand economics? Some sort of deep metaphor about “aspirational pricing”? Even the snarkiest of us can’t help but think of this unfortunate pricing–and positioning of merchandising–exemplifying a trope from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. But Barbie’s always had a checkered past with racial sensitivity. Case in point. In spite of this all, it’s brilliant to see the tenuous mythology of this creepy doll get reclaimed–and by none other than hip-hop poetess Nicki Minaj.

Minaj has historically made the imagery of Barbie the centerpiece of her own body of work. She cops 28 seconds from Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as an intro to her Barbie World mixtape, which bears the following cover:

On “1234,” she raps:

It’s Barbie Bitch! I’m the Barbie Keep alotta plastic Little pink stars Put em on my jacket Somebody tell her Ima put her in a casket

While on “Go Hard,” she modifies Barbie with “Harajuku”–an appropriate nod to Japanese street fashion:

Carter called, lemme get the car key, you don’t want it with the Harajuku Barbie
Keep a marquis, everything sparkly (man down! ) hit em on a walkie-talkie.

She also uses it as the art for her It’s Barbie, Bitch mixtape:

And for good measure, here’s Minaj telling Mariah Carey, “You’re such a Barbie!” about 20 seconds into her “Up Out My Face” video:

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