The MTV Video Music Awards are a reminder of two things: success in music and just how ruthless the music industry can be, especially for women.
The red carpet was full of celebrities trying to make a statement with their looks which, mostly, involved a lot of bare skin.
I’m all for female empowerment and women wearing what they want. If wearing a barely there dress makes you happy, then go for it. But there’s an undeniable underlying tone of “this is how the music industry expects females artists to be”: all rhinestones and leotards and pristine makeup.
It’s the law of the land and, to succeed as an artist, females must obey.
But not all obey.
Gaga carved a name for herself by deliberately rejecting norms and expectations of her style and art.
Lizzo loves a leotard but she challenges tabloid body norms and empowers women everywhere every time she gets on stage or in front of a camera.
Missy Elliott is right up there with the likes of Gaga and Lizzo and more. She was just awarded the VMAs Video Vanguard Award – an award which recognises a performers outstanding achievements.
Missy achieved an impressive career without selling her soul to the music industry: she wears baggy tracksuits not leotards, dances hip-hop not pop, and is sassy and tongue-in-cheek with her lyrics.
She is everything a female artist (and just a female in general) is expected not to be. And she is a legend – an award winning legend, at that.
Missy’s body of work speaks for itself.
For her debut music video, ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),’ released in 1997, she wore a garbage bag. Rather than conform to the industry’s expectations about how female artists should look glamorous in a music video, Missy challenged them.
It showed her determination to make a name for herself in pop culture without compromising any aspect of what she stands for. She was – and has continued to be – completely and unapologetically herself.
Over the years, as her music repertoire grew, so did Missy’s bank of music videos. She would use her videos not to promote a product or fuel her ego but, instead, to make cultural statements and provide a platform for other young hip-hop stars. Timbaland and Ludacris featured a lot in Missy Elliott film clips.
She also experimented a lot – the film clip for ‘Get Ur Freak On’ is, well, totally freaky.
It makes no sense, but it didn’t need to — the video further established Missy as a visual artist as well as a musical one and helped her challenge expectations once again. No glamorous ball gown or handsome date here, just a tribe of jungle people and a bunch of dancers dressed in camo.
Twenty years after her debut, Missy’s still pushing the envelope with her fashion, sound and videos. She’s at the top and still climbing, all while remaining true to herself.