Shore to Shore: Exploring our Personal Black History
HOW NOLLYWOOD, FEMMES IN HIP HOP, AND QUEERNESS IS SHAPING A NEW GENERATION
What do Nollywood Babes, Queerness, and Black femme-hood in hip-hop all have in common? Well, these are the key ingredients that have shaped my existence. I grew up in a conservative Nigerian household, raised with my younger brother by my parents and my paternal grandmother (who did not speak a lick of English). We started out in a one-bedroom apartment in Koreatown and then moved to a house in Riverside County.
Growing up in the early 2000s, I had a lot of access to a mixture of media from all over the diaspora. I grew up watching all the femme fatales kick ass in Nollywood films, spent a lot of time with my older cousins who listened to femme rappers like Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot, and although I lived in a homophobic household, I gained a lot of strength from seeing the rare moments of Black Queer representation on TV.
For those who do not know, Nollywood is Nigeria’s Hollywood! It is such a niche form of media on the African continent, one of the only forms of media my family allowed me to watch. I remember how badass the women were in these films, truly the definition of femme fatales. One of my favorite actresses was Genevieve Nnaji, who would always play the woman trying to kill her rich husband for all his money, or the woman performing witchcraft on rich married men so they would fall in love with her and she could steal their money. She always had the goal of being an independent woman via the avenue of ruining the lives of misogynistic men.
Like Genevieve, all my favorite rappers are Black women who created their own lanes within the very misogynistic genre of hip-hop. Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, and Gangsta Boo are some of the best rappers the game has ever witnessed. They birthed new generations of rappers who continue to impact the lives of Black femmes globally — rappers like Junglepussy, Bbymutha, Flo Milli, Megan Thee Stallion, and many more. Listening to their lyrics gave me the strength to look at my womanhood outside of the patriarchy.
There are several connections between the original Nollywood babes and women in hip-hop, with both groups offering many examples of how Black femmes fight every day to escape the shackles of misogynoir. These women eventually taught me how to also come into my queerness. The power it takes to be yourself despite what the world says. To be a Black Queer Woman is to exist on a planet that is constantly trying to get rid of you, so it is important to find your power from within … and/or with a LITTLE help from Nigerian femme fatales and the women of hip-hop.
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