Why Nicki Minaj was actually right to call out Miley Cyrus at the VMAs

The unnecessary comma in this meme irks me.

Nicki Minaj got it right.

Now, I’m not a big Nicki Minaj fan myself (ever since she diverted from “Itty Bitty Piggy” and sold out with the pink wigs and pop music), but if you actually pay attention to her words and look past her delivery, she was speaking some truth!

In the aftermath of the Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus debacle, I see people attacking Minaj’s artistry and dragging her for her image, but people are ignoring the message. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Let me remix it: look past the messenger and listen to the message.

Now, let’s look at why Minaj was angry and what led up to this infamous altercation. Keep in mind to pay attention to the actual message.

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It all started with a series of tweets from Minaj. She was upset that “Anaconda” wasn’t nominated for the VMA’s Video of the year award.

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Minaj criticized the music industry for not valuing the bodies of larger women of color. FACTS.

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Taylor Swift felt personally attacked although Minaj did not direct any tweets at her. “I’ve done nothing but love and support you,” Swift wrote back. “It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.” It’s not about you, Taylor.

Minaj assured Swift that it wasn’t directed at her and Swift apologized. Their bad blood was officially resolved when they performed alongside each other during the opening for the VMAs.

In an interview with The New York Times, Cyrus was asked to address Minaj’s VMAs comments and Cyrus was not happy because Minaj was “not too kind” and “not very polite.”


“People forget that the choices that they make and how they treat people in life affect you in a really big way. If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement,” Cyrus said, “But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.”

“If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that,” Cyrus continued, “But don’t just make it just about yourself. Say: ‘This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.’”

And then this happened:

Nicki Minaj calls out Miley Cyrus during her acceptance speech and says, “Now, back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” [Link to video]

Now that we’ve got the background story out of the way, what was the message here?


Is the message that Nicki Minaj is a rude person with a nasty attitude? Or that she was impolite and not coming from a place of love? Was the message that “Anaconda” is not even a good song or video? Or that she’s not a good artist anyways?

I’m pretty sure the message was that time and time again black women in the music industry get snubbed at award shows because they don’t represent the Eurocentric standards of beauty of white and skinny. Hell, black people in the whole entertainment industry get snubbed. Because racism.

But Cyrus didn’t hear that. Here’s why.


There’s this thing called “tone policing” in which you ignore what someone says and focus on the way they say it instead. In order words, tone policing means, “If you don’t say it in a nice way, I’m going to completely disregard your entire message and say it’s invalid and not listen or help because being angry’s just not nice!”

This is what Cyrus did when she said that if Minaj were sweet, THEN she would listen to her.

But what about the message, man? What about the issues that are being expressed, the issues that beg to be resolved?

Tone policing happens all of the time. It happens in debates about racism and systemic oppression. It happens in discussions about feminism. It happens when you argue with your boyfriend about something super fucked up that he did, but he has the nerve to tell you to calm down and refuses to listen to your hurt feelings! (Now that was in no way personal.)

Now even me ordinarily I’m an advocate for “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” But not when it comes to really fucked up shit. You know like the sex trade in Nepal, modern day slavery in China, poverty in the United States, and racism throughout the world. It’s kind of hard to be sweet when people just don’t get it. Especially when you experience it directly.  

Why not focus on the message that actually matters?


Innocent, unarmed lives are being taken and people want to focus on broken windows. People want to focus on the very small minority of protesters who riot and loot and dismiss the entire cause because “that’s not what MLK would do!”

Tamir Rice could have been my little brother, whose Autism could have led him to make the heinous mistake of playing with a toy gun in public while being a black little boy. I’m sorry if the thought of my little brother’s innocent, unwarranted death makes me a little angry. My people are dying by simply going to bible study, but I’m not supposed to be mad.

I don’t think it’s right to insult people, but I certainly feel where the anger comes from. Try to see past tone and your hurt feelings.

It’s hard to be sweet about things that are fucked up. And if swallowing my anger and emotions is the only way to get you to answer my cry for help, that’s just not right. Because it’s going to take all of us to make any real change in the world. Gay people need straight people to care and people on the other side of the world need Americans to care and women need men to care and black people need white people to care and etc. Don’t let tone policing get in the way of that.

It's hard to be sweet about fucked up stuff.
It’s hard to be sweet about things that are fucked up.

So yes, I agree with Minaj and support her for calling out Cyrus and all of the millions of other tone police officers. I stand with her and say, “Miley, what’s good?”


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