Ancestor in spirit if not in blood.
Unless you've totally cut yourself off from pop culture, you've heard Nicki Minaj's Anaconda. And your life is probably better for it. You probably saw the video too. The one with the campy jungle theme and the gleeful banana destruction. You know what? Let's watch it again. Because it is GREAT.
Yeah. That's awesome.
But have you heard of Josephine Baker? She was a dancer, singer, and actress from 1921-1975. She was also a war hero. During WWII, she used her status as an entertainer to gather information for the Allies (for which she was awarded the Croix de guerre). And she and Nicki have a lot in common.
It's (not just) bananas!
Both women grappled with the challenge of being women of color in the entertainment industry head on. Instead of struggling to avoid stereotypes and being criticized for every single failure or misstep, both woman have worn them as a badge of honor. Black woman have been mocked and dehumanzied for decades, and the butt of the joke has frequently been... well, their butts.
"My face and rump were famous! I could honestly say that I'd been blessed with an intelligent derrière. Most people's were only good to sit on!"- Josephine Baker, 1976.
"I've got a big, fat ass!"- Nicki Minaj, 2015.
When you've got it, flaunt it?
Both women also appropriated the imagery used to mock Black people (jungle imagery has often been used to depict nonwhite and especially Black people as savage), and owned it. Black women are often hypersexualized in the media- they're portrayed as having an aggressive and uncontrollable sexuality. Instead of avoiding sexual imagery, both women have reveled in it. They didn't allow stereotypes to limit their options.