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Analysis: Was Nicki Minaj’s SNL Performance Cultural Appropriation?

Nicki was the musical guest for the 43rd season finale last month.

Ojanae Marshall

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Saturday Night Live had its 43rd season finale on May 19th and Tina Fey hosted and Nicki Minaj was the musical guest. After the show, most of the conversation was around whether or not Nicki Minaj’s performance of “Chun-Li” was cultural appropriation.

My answer is no.

The main reason is that first and foremost Nicki Minaj’s use of Chun-Li and her apparel is cosplay. Chun-Li is a video game character from Street Fighter and that is the persona that Nicki Minaj is taking on. The video game actually loves Nicki Minaj’s use of Chun Li. They use it as a marketing tool now.

People dress up as characters for conventions like Comic-Con and talk of appropriation is not brought up. Minaj is also attempting to take part in the the erasure of the people of the culture. In her performance, she had background dancers of Asian descent.

With that in mind, it could be said that the performance reinforces stereotypes of Chinese culture. That is understandable but the idea that an artist cosplaying their favorite video game character is hilarious.

When Micheal B. Jordan expressed that some of his outfits in “Black Panther” were inspired and designed after his love of anime and Dragonball-Z, everyone loved it, no one tried to say he was appropriating culture.

The reason it is brought up when talking about Nicki Minaj and Chun-Li is that people love to dehumanize and attack black women. Legitimate criticisms are acceptable but just attacking the woman for the sack of attacking her is sad.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

My name is Ojanae Marshall. I am a rising senior at Montclair State University. I am majoring in Religion with a minor in Psychology. I have been writing all my life, I love it. I started getting published as a writer for Sex etc. a sexual education magazine and continued my career from there. I am excited to be apart of CMN. When I am not writing or in school, I am a full-time infant teacher at a daycare. I love working with the babies, it makes me extremely happy. In my free time, I love Netflix and music for which I have eclectic taste. I am also ready to learn and laugh.

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