Nicki’s Performance to Her Barbz

There are few celebrities who have created a “performance of the self” better than the one and only, extremely talented Nicki Minaj. Through her obsession with crazy makeup, wild hairdos and bright costume, there is no doubt that Nicki has created a unique persona within the physical world. I decided to investigate Nicki’s social media presence assuming that she would reflect the wildness we see through her music videos and concerts on her social media profiles. With close to 15 million followers on Twitter and 22 million Facebook page “likes,” she is one of the leading celebrities who utilizes social media platforms. Extremely active on both these social mediums, Nicki uses her Twitter and Facebook profiles as powerful self-promotion tools. The majority of her tweets and Facebook posts are about her new songs, videos and concert performances. Nicki’s posts seem to promote her celebrity identity as a vehicle to reach her dedicated fans, specifically her female barbz. While she composes only an average of a few tweets daily that are associated with her music and celebrity character, she primarily uses Twitter to retweet countless fans.

In Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd’s article, “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience,” they discuss the disconnect between Twitter users and their audience. They explain,

“a tweet’s actual readers differ from producer’s imagined audience”

and there is also a large disconnect between the number of followers celebrities have and the amount of people they follow back (117). Marwick and boyd discuss using Twitter for publicity and acknowledge that audiences value whatever grabs their attention. When Twitter users display themselves in a way that people respond to positively, they are rewarded. We often see audiences responding well to celebrities especially when celebrities themselves reach out to fans through retweets or comments. Nicki demonstrates this exact pattern. Although she has many more followers than people she follows, she seems to have an extremely dedicated fan base. Her tweets about performances and new music attract followers so they stay in the loop of what she is up to and her latest productions. While Nicki may not know most of the people included in her audience, as a celebrity she tweets messages that fans all over the world not only want to read, but are craving to read. This becomes a win-win situation for both Nicki and her fans. Nicki is able to “perform” on social media platforms portraying a specific identity, and in turn her fans are able to connect with her on a relatively personal level.

Nicki understands well that using her social medium profiles to promote herself is essential in today’s world. If she was living outside of the limelight, I would assume that Nicki would wish she did not need to utilize social media for the sole purpose of advertising and marketing herself. However, because of her extreme celebrity status, she has created an identity online that reflects aspects of her career as an artist and performer.

In Hugo Liu’s article, “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances,” he claims that people create their profiles in a certain manner to depict specific personalities. He explains that the tastes portrayed on our social media profiles communicate who we are and where we fit into the public social media world. His stance is that the outside world judges us based on the tastes displayed on our profiles. In other words, others assess us superficially through our likes, dislikes, education status, economic status, professional status, feelings, political views, sexuality, etc.

On Nicki’s “About Me” section on Facebook, she only provides her website ( hyperlink http://www.mypinkfriday.com/.) This is because Nicki understand that her social mediums are strictly to represent her celebrity persona. She has no need to share private passions and aspects of her life, such as her favorite television shows, because that is not the purpose of her account. Instead of adding personal information to her profile, she provides a list of the websites where she is featured, such as Myspace, iHeartRadio and IMDb.

Liu focuses on four taste statements: prestige, differentiation, authenticity and theatrical persona. While it is difficult to box Nicki into one specific taste statement category, I would argue that she creates a very authentic taste statement. While she does not often tweet about anything personal, her tweets all include many “!!!,” “xoxo,” and abbreviated words, portraying herself as authentically as she possibly can given her extreme celebrity situation. As she cares deeply about her fans and connecting with them, her authenticity shines through when she is constantly retweeting, acknowledging and showing them appreciation. Nicki acknowledges that her fans’ passion for her music is vital to her career and retweeting acts as a form of repaying them.

For celebrities, it can be difficult to find a balance between utilizing social media in the most efficient, successful way, and not sharing too much private information with the public. Nicki is definitely on the extreme end of this, as she almost only uses her social mediums for self-promotion.  Alice Marwick argues in her article, “I’m a Lot More Interesting Than a Friendster Profile,” that there are limitations in using social networks to present one’s identity as

“the fixity of profiles creates conflict in user self-presentation strategies.”

In other words, Marwick is concerned that social mediums push society into pre-determined categories. This pushes us into specific identities that we would have otherwise never determined ourselves. Marwick believes that social networks are highly responsible for constructing our identities and blames this on advertising and consumerism. As Nicki uses social media strictly as a celebrity platform to reach her fans and market herself, according to Marwick, she is making her fans and followers feel like consumers. Even though Nicki does actively retweet and give major shoutouts to barbz, this may all seem like marketing tactics to form her followers into “products of Nicki.”

In analyzing Ms. Minaj’s social media presence, it has been surprising to see how little she shares about her personal life compared to other celebrities. If she were to provide her fans with some pictures and information that are not directly associated with new songs, videos or concerts, I am sure her fans would be very appreciative. However, I do understand the difficulty in striking a balance within the social media realm in an attempt to keep “celebrity-work life” separate from personal life.

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2 comments

  1. It is definitely interesting to see a celebrity like Nicki Minaj, who has a very dedicated fan base, limit their social media engagement to music promotion. Instead of making it a point to interact directly with many of her followers, she nurtures and keeps secure her relationship with fans simply by retweeting. I think another instance in which one could observe her reluctance to immerse herself in Twitter as a famous celebrity is when she temporarily deleted her Twitter account. Without explanation, she simply expressed that she had to go, and said the change was for good, but she eventually rejoined. The few days she was missing fans tweeted, expressing how much they missed her and begging her to come back. I never actually followed Nicki, but I’ve glanced at her account more than once and it does seem there’s a difference between pre-deletion and post-deletion, that being she tweets much less personal and direct to fan content than she did in the past. Using her account strictly to promote material and herself as an artist, expressing prestige, may be Nicki’s way of keeping her private, “backstage,” or authentic self to herself.

  2. One thing that is interesting to consider with Nicki Minaj’s Twitter presence is that while it might be a great twitter for her biggest fans to follow, it might not be ideal for everyone that likes her. I think that she’s an incredibly fascinating celebrity and I do like her music, but I would never consider myself to be her number one fan. I followed her for a while because she’s obviously someone that guarantees to be entertaining. But once I realized how often she retweeted her fans, I felt like my entire newsfeed was Nicki Minaj spam. I think her support for her fans truly is authentic, but I wouldn’t consider this to be an authentic identity. She obviously has to try to put these positive chains of support for her fans out there, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be her hitting the RT button. So this brings up two interesting questions– can one person have an “authentic” identity even if someone else is performing it for them? And when a celebrity targets and appeals to only her biggest fans, is it worth the followers she loses due to indifference?

    Leah Clancy

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