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Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Official Nelly Apple Bottoms Model



“"It is easy to tell right from wrong, but the hard part is choosing the wrong that is right." Sawaad Amen Ra
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Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
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Ignorance:
(Lat. in, not, and gnarus, knowing)
Ignorance is lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself. Ignorance also means Nelly.


The Official Nelly Apple Bottoms Model Search kicked off in New York City in July of 2004. The slogan is to liberate and celebrate the natural curves of a woman’s Body. That seems very propitious but it is hard to divorce the Apple Bottom efforts from the public legacy of its creator Cornell Haynes a.k.a. Nelly. Nelly has become a poster boy for misogyny in rap music. Pimping is misogynist and so are Nelly’s videos. It’s an image he worked hard to create by fashioning himself as a "pimp". On his resume he sports a Pimp Energy Drink.

Nelly launched Apple Bottoms, a female clothing line to go with his male label, Vokal. Nelly launched a six-city tour to find "the" Apple Bottoms Girl. It appears that finding this young lady between 20-26 was going to be a yearly adventure. Leslie Ungar, president of the line, said the clothing line is "about the correct fit, in combination with being fashionable. The clothing is designed to fit the woman, rather than the woman trying to fit the clothes." The entire line made its debut in August 2004, and Apple Bottoms jeans sold out in the first two weeks of sales. The idea of jeans designed to hoist the curves of women of color was very appealing considering that most jeans had been designed to hoist a smaller Caucasian frame. Nelly’s national search and road tour, for a 19 -26 year old "big-butt" woman is basically the same type of exploitation that happened with another lesser known 20 year old Black woman named Sara Baartman, who was literally exploited to death. Sara was nicknamed Hottenot Venus. I doubt that Nelly knows her story since he does not even realize the meaning of his own name.

Sara Baartman 1789-1816

Sara Baartman, "the Hottentot Venus", was born in 1789. She was working as a servant in Cape Town when she was noticed by British ship’s doctor William Dunlop, who persuaded her to travel with him to England. We’ll never know what she had in mind when she stepped on board of her own free will a ship for London. But it’s clear what Dunlop had in mind to display her as a "freak", a "scientific curiosity", and make money from these shows, some of which he promised to give to her. No one knows if Dunlop was true to his word and paid Baartman for her "services", but if he did pay her, it wasn’t sufficient to buy herself out of the life she was living. When 20-year-old Sara Baartman got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would never see her home again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw her homeland disappear behind her, could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 175 years.


She was put on display in a building in Piccadilly Circus, exciting crowds of working-class white men who viewed her with a mixture of morbid curiosity and malice. Baartman had unusually large buttocks and genitalia, and in the early 1800s Europeans were arrogantly obsessed with their own superiority, and with proving that others, particularly blacks, were inferior and oversexed. Promoters described Baartman`s genitalia as resembling the skin that hangs from a turkey’s throat.


Contemporary descriptions of her shows at 225 Piccadilly, Bartholomew Fair and Haymarket in London say Baartman was made to parade naked along a "stage two feet high, along which she was led by "her keeper" and exhibited like a wild beast, being obliged to walk, stand or sit as he ordered". In 1814 she was taken to France, and became the object of scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of European ideas about black female sexuality. Once the French got tired of the Baartman show, she was forced to turn to prostitution. She didn’t last the ravages of a foreign culture and climate, or the further abuse of her body. She died in 1816 at the age of 26. The cause of death was given as "inflammatory and eruptive sickness", possibly syphilis. Others suggest she was an alcoholic. Whatever the cause, she lived and died thousands of miles from home and family, in a hostile city, with no means of getting herself home again. But even after her death, Sara Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation. In the name of Science, her sexual organs and brain were displayed in the Musee de l`Homme in Paris until as recently as 1985.

Several prints dating from the early nineteenth century illustrate the sensation generated by the spectacle of "The Hottentot Venus." A French print entitled "La Belle Hottentot," for example, depicts the South African woman standing with her buttocks exposed on a box-like pedestal. Several figures bend straining for a better look, while a male figure at the far right of the image even holds his seeing-eye glass up to better behold the woman’s body. The European observers remark on the woman`s body: "Oh! God Damn what roast beef!" and "Ah! how comical is nature." The Apple Bottom search has turned Nelly into a modern day William Dunlop. Not because he does not pay these women, but because his only actual motive is to exploit. Reading the Apple Bottom Rules and Regulations, there is a clause stating: "Participants understand and agree that Participants may be required to pose and be photographed or videotaped while clothed, partially clothed, or nude for any campaign associated with the Producers." The winners get "prizes", a modeling contract and a chance to star with Nelly in a music video!

1 comment:

Gail said...

Wow. The writer of this blog draws some frightening correlations. But exploitation is alive and well.