Today is a special day… it’s Missy Elliott’s birthday! Missy is one of my top role models and to give back to what she has given me through her music and creativity, I created a routine celebrating some songs in her catalog.
Missy Elliott is an authentic key figure when looking at feminist icons in pop/rap music. She carved out a niche for women in hip hop in the early 90s along with some of my other biggest inspirations (Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Heather B, Foxy Brown etc). Missy has maintained a strong feminist voice in an industry and genre that isn’t short of openly misogyntic and homophobic narratives. Bigotry is directly antithetical to everything she stands for, and her loud stance and take-no-prisoners attitude to feminine autonomy has helped women gain the confidence to share opinions and creativity.
Before Beyonce performed in front of a big neon ‘feminist’ sign, and before Nicki twerked to ‘subvert’ the male gaze, Missy brought authentic, strong feminism to mainstream music. Feminism as a lyrical topic has too often been used to sell albums and tickets rather than push a real and authentic political agenda. For example when Beyonce used part of a Chimamanda Adiche’s TED Talk on feminism in Flawless (2014) which simultaneously asks women to “Bow down, bitches”, while also releasing a song, on the same album, where she allowed her Jay-Z to rap about how he was going to beat her up…
Missy’s message has always been clear: that wxmen across the gender spectrum, are equal to, as powerful as, and just as important as men. She’s devoted herself to promoting the idea that women can act, exist and contribute, rather than just appear as creativley or intellectually empty mannequins, and that a outspoken woman with an opinion is a valuable thing, and more so, that this kind of woman has nothing to apologise for.
Missy created a space for women to express personal style and self-confidence over male-dictated beauty ideals which especially in this time of social media is more relevant than ever. Today, a woman’s value is too often reduced down to how instagrammable she is or how aesthetically pleasing she is. Missy Elliott makes beauty something highly individualistic, empowering body image to be whatever you as a valuable, powerful individual chooses it to be. For example, in “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” she appears in the now iconic, inflatable, trash bag suit, and in “Sock it 2 Me” she wears cartoonish, form contouring costumes. She values style, individuality and confidence over a man or woman seeing her as ‘sexy’ or ‘picture perfect” by society’s patriarchal standards.
Missy Elliott also inspires me because she’s dedicated much of her artistic career to cultivating the talent of other women, something that few other artists have done, not with stage appearance like some Taylor Swift concert – but by actually spending time with other talented women and helping them to grow and thrive in their careers. This is something I really aspire to, as I grow my skill set, I look forward to collaborating with other women and nurturing our talents together.
My love and appreciation for what Missy Elliott stands for and the example she sets is hard to do justice. Happy Birthday Missy Misdemeanour Elliott!