Hip-hop and pop music icon Nicki Minaj publicly accused shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti of being racist because of an unwillingness to collaborate with her on a shoe collection shortly after he debuted 24 shoes named “Nicki.” Nicki Minaj also claimed that she was an inspiration to Zanotti and his work. Nicki Minaj set Twitter ablaze with an onslaught of tweets aimed toward the Italian shoe designer, starting with, “This is wonderful. #GiuseppeZanotti seems to think it’s ok to name his sneakers after me but his PR says they won’t take our call. Lol.” She went on to allude to shoe collections that Zanotti released in collaboration with other artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Zayn Malik. This is not the first time Nicki Minaj has taken to Twitter to voice her angst with racism in the industry. Back in 2015, she started a three-way tiff between herself, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift when her video for “Anaconda” was not nominated for a Video of the Year award at that year’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Many have painted Nicki Minaj as the stereotypical angry black woman in these situations, including Swift who misinterpreted Nicki Minaj’s tweets as a personal attack on her. Nicki Minaj is not just a regular hip-hop and pop artist. Her latest single with Diplo and PartyNextDoor, “Run Up,” recently marked her 71st entry on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, leaving her only two entries behind the most acclaimed woman on the list, Aretha Franklin. Nicki Minaj has two No. 1 albums and 10 Grammy nominations under her belt and is often credited with revitalizing the scene for female rappers. This is not the first time a black artist was denied a collaboration by a top fashion designer.
Back in 2014, Kanye West went on a similar rant during a concert, stating, “I’m not dissing Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissing the Gucci group, I’m just saying don’t discriminate against me because I’m a black man or because I’m a celebrity and tell me that I can’t create.” Nicki Minaj is not a newbie to the fashion world. In the past, she released a collection of her own and collaborated with other top designers on several campaigns. Her ventures into the fashion world include a clothing line with Kmart and three fragrance lines named Minajesty, Pink Friday and Trini Girl. She also had endorsements with MAC cosmetics and OPI cosmetics. In addition, she was the face of Roberto Cavalli’s spring 2015 campaign.
A collaboration with Zanotti, however, would have marked Nicki Minaj’s first collection with a designer of Zanotti’s caliber. Regardless, the bigger issue here is racism in the fashion industry, which did not begin nor does it end with the Nicki Minaj-Zanotti situation. Racism is alive and well in any and every industry in the modern age and it is going to take more than just Nicki Minaj speaking up about the issue for it to finally dissipate.
Despite the industry’s effort to become more diverse, a report released in Fall 2016 by The Fashion Spot showed that less than 25 percent of models on Fashion Week runways in London, Milan, New York and Paris were non-white. Another survey by the same magazine found that 78 percent of models in fashion advertisements are white with the other 22 percent being divided among Asian, black and Hispanic models. Although these issues are separate from the one Nicki Minaj is facing, it goes to show that a lack of representation is found in every crack and crevice of the fashion industry and they offer some justification for her frustration. If only the fashion industry would reinterpret the long-standing claim that black goes with everything, it can become more inclusive and diverse.