The Political Perspective on Missy Elliott
By Jaylin Paschal
Missy Elliott. 46 year old Hip Hop icon. Underdog. Grammy Award Winner. Rapper. Producer. Fashion Symbol. Visionary. Legend. Feminist. Political Statement. Known for gold hoops, customized tracksuits and innovative visuals. She's one half of an epic duo with producer Timbaland. She's the "Plan rocker, show stopper/ Flo fropper head knocker/Beat staller, tail dropper."
But she is so much more.
Born in Virginia, Melissa "Missy" Elliott grew up a self-described "lil chubby chick" and faced the odds. She was a black woman with a big nose and full lips in the south of a country glorifying whiteness and European beauty standards. Furthermore, she didn't offer the overt sex appeal offered by Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. She wasn't supposed to blow up. She wasn't supposed to break rules, push boundaries, top charts and win awards.
On a recent Instagram post, she wrote "I will try to use my platform more often to keep you all uplifted because I know 'shit' get tough out here." As if she hasn't already.
Missy Elliott has used her music to relay feminist, pro-black messages. From defending Hip Hop as a legitimate culture and art form to positioning women as the protagonist in her raps, her voice has countered hegemonic ideals since she debuted with Supa Dupa Fly in 1997.
She taught me that timidity, modesty, politeness and other "feminine" traits should not limit female expression; that we can be just as loud, as vulgar, as cocky, as goofy as the boys. She taught me to stand beside and work with men without ever shrinking myself for their glory. She taught me that women's opinions are valid enough to rap over serious, aggressive beats, and that our whims are valid enough to rap over playful, experimental beats. She taught me that as a woman, it was okay to express and embrace your just as much as the boys do. She taught me that sexy is self-defined; that you can be sexy in a track suit or athletic wear. She taught me to withstand pain by how she dealt with Graves' disease. She taught me, after the loss of her close friend and collaborator Aaliyah Haughton, that it's okay to mourn publicly; to "feel out loud;" to express vulnerability--and still be a "strong black woman."
In short--there's a reason Virginia residents want to replace confederate general statues with a statue of Missy. She's a much more positive and deserving political symbol, having used her career to take every black-woman stereotype and "flip it and reverse it."