We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty
(Excerpt from Vogue )
As we await the premiere of Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea’s new music video, it would appear that the big booty has officially become ubiquitous. In music videos, in Instagram photos, and on today’s most popular celebrities, the measure of sex appeal is inextricably linked to the prominence of a woman’s behind.
For years it was exactly the opposite; a large butt was not something one aspired to, rather something one tried to tame in countless exercise classes. Even in fashion, that daring creative space where nothing is ever off limits, the booty has traditionally been shunned. Though nipples have long been a runway staple, the industry was scandalized when Alexander McQueen debuted his bumster pants back in 1996. And who can forget the horrified reaction to Rose McGowan’s barely-there beaded dress at the 1998 Video Music Awards? Today, Rihanna shows up to the CFDA Awards practically naked with her crack fully on display and walks off with a Fashion Icon Award.
Perhaps we have Jennifer Lopez to thank (or blame?) for sparking the booty movement.
CORRECTION: Vogue and by extension mainstream America is in the era of the "big booty". The brothas have been celebrating all things gluteus maximus since forever!
The excerpt from that Vogue magazine article is a puff piece to promote Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea but I'm a bit annoyed with the tone of the article. It speaks as if the country, collectively, was on the same wavelength in terms of pop culture. We weren't and aren't. While reading it, I remembered the things she was talking about that happened during the 90s but my perspective of it is completely different. So different that it had me thinking even though we all lived through the same time period, we were having such different experiences that its seems like two different realities running parallel to each other: the mainstream (White America) and Hip-Hop (Black America).
In this instance the author of that article, Patricia Garcia, Vogue magazine and mainstream America are all waaay behind the curve. There are a number of truths in the article like there was a "waif look" period and the fashion industry did and does shun curvier shaped women by and large. But the article failed or refused to acknowledge that 20 years ago there was in fact a "booty era" and Hip-Hop and Black America lead the charge.
The first glaring omission from the article is:
Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty. Going back to the late 80s when Janet wanted to assert Control of her life and career, the first thing she did was flaunt her sexual independence by showing off her assets proudly. The nickname brother Michael gave her was "Donk", short for donkey, a direct reference to her big booty. Janet in the early days was not known for overt booty shaking (that would come much later in the 90s and 00s), we just noticed the curves she had particularly around her hips and the sway of her back. But Janet did have an over all tight body. The article says "the look of pop music was set by Britney Spears over-toned abs." But I submit that Janet Jackson was the prototype whose playbook and style Spears, Lopez and pretty much every single female pop performer after her borrowed/copied from for years to come.
In her brief retrospective, Garcia says that in the late 90s Lopez's "derrière quite literally stood out against the other sex symbols of the moment, signaling a shift away from the waif era of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss and the outrageously large-breasted Pam Anderson." For mainstream America maybe but, again, this was not the case in the Black America. In my previous article on Jennifer Lopez's desperate grab for attention, I mentioned that back in the 90s there wasn't that many big butts to chose from, other than Lopez there was Salma Hayek and Janet Jackson, by that I meant that's what mainstream America was paying attention to, although Garcia omitted Jackson and Hayek in her recollection. In Hip-Hop there were a number of plush round backsides and the talented ladies those booties backed up to choose from.
Starting with Patra. Around the early 90s there was an influx of Reggae dance-hall music that began to dominate radio and video (in Black America). Led by artists like Shabba Ranks and Maxi Priest, the Caribbean sound was a major influence on Hip-Hop and R&B at that time. And Patra was one of the queens of that movement.
In fact you can trace all the nasty/overtly sexualized dances directly to this period. All the booty shaking, hip twisting, leg spreading you may as well be screwing dances were all Caribbean islands influenced. Any ass twisting moves American girls were doing at that time and before was a more fast paced go-go dance type of style. The Jamaican women slowed it down and pumped up the sex factor to about a thousand and its been that way ever since.
Not too long after Patra showed us how its done, Adina Howard took booty shaking to the next level. Adina was twerking long before that word would reach public consciousness. She was grinding it out on stage while Miley Cyrus was an infant in the crib watching a mobile. In 1995, while Jennifer Lopez was still a back up dancer and up and coming actor, Howard came out the starting gate with a hit single, Freak Like Me, and put the booty front and center. It would be her biggest single and signature song but if there was ever a shift in pop culture to the booty era, it was then.
Those two weren't the only ones either, there were a number of vocal girl groups (remember those) who sported round booties as well as R&B singer Mary J Blige and female rappers like Salt-n-Pepa and on the west coast, Yoyo. Actresses in film and television who were bootyful included Vivica A. Foxx, Halle Berry and Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold from the Fox sitcom "Martin." While maintream America was debating whether the heroin chic look of Kate Moss or ultra skinny look of "Ally McBeal" actress Calista Flockhart was a proper image to promote to the masses. The brothas were debating who would we tap first Gina or Pam.
You've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned any white singers or actresses who were curvy or had big bums during this period. Well there were a few but they were C-list at best and ignored by the mainstream. Women like Jenna Von Oy who played Six LeMeure on the sitcom Blossom and grew up to be kind of thick and juicy and Natalie Raitano from Pamela Anderson's action series V.I.P. Like Jen Selter, Raitano was a fitness trainer and still is today.
At that time white women built like that were disregarded by the mainstream but they weren't by the brothas. Not by a long shot. If you notice, most if not all of the non-black women then and now noted for their posterior talents are either into Hip-Hop or black men in a major way.
- Jenna Von-Oy did a layout for King magazine, an urban magazine in the vein of FHM or Maxim.
- Raitano reportedly dated black men in the 90s
- Kardashian almost exclusively dates and marries black men
- Lopez got her start as a Hip-Hop dancer and choreographer
- Coco Austin is married to Ice-T
- Miley Cyrus figured out the best way to get distance from her Disney image was to surround herself with as many black rappers and strippers she could find.
- Iggy Azalea's big ass is from Australia and while her speaking voice sounds like Hermione's roommate at Hogwarts, her rap flow sounds like a sista from the 9th Ward plus she's dating a black rapper.
Even Taylor Swift in her parody video "Shake It Off" has many references to Hip-Hop and chose to accessorize with black booty shaking back up dancers. Anyone else see a pattern here? And why all of sudden now is this notable? Well because now we see a number of prominent white women owning their curves and asses proudly. And that's what I find most irksome about the Vogue article.
Even though black and brown people have been doing it for decades, its not a thing until mainstream America notices it. And this is not the first or only time its happened in pop culture.
Braids and cornrows are as old as Africa yet it became notable only after Bo Derek wore the style back in the 70s.
As I just recapped, Black women have been twerking or some form of booty popping for decades but it only became popular country wide after Miley Cyrus did it a couple years ago
Being proud of and owning ones curves and shape is the in-thing today even though black woman have been flaunting it from the beginning. Now Vogue's Associate Culture Editor proclaims we're in "the Era of the Booty" but only after an aging Jennifer Lopez collaborated with the current flavor of the moment, Iggy Azalea, in a desperate bid to stay relevant.
That brings us to the end of Garcia's article: "Which brings us full circle to J. Lo—the original trailblazing butt girl—and the imminent video for “Booty,” which she teased last week with the clip below. It features the 45-year-old doused in what looks like Vaseline or honey, prompting listeners to “Throw up your hands if you love a big booty.” It’s safe to say that, this time around, the world is thoroughly ready for the jelly."
I understand the Vogue article is just fluff piece for promotional purposes but I've seen it referenced in a number of different places in media and the net and that's how history gets recorded. Whether its something serious like wars and conflict or politics or culture, popular or otherwise, how things get remembered and reminisced depends on who's telling the tale and how often that version gets repeated. And I'm just tired of how only the mainstream's version of a period or event or thing gets told and repeated as its a universal experience. The true trailblazers for the "booty era" happened long before JLo hit the scene.