A longtime fan of hip-hop star Nicki Minaj has become the center of attention today for questioning why the performer hasn’t publicly relayed any thoughts on the Orlando shooting tragedy. In a Twitter post made Tuesday, Johnny Berrios, a gay man who, at one point, was followed by the Queens-born musician on the social media website, made note of the fact that Minaj had no trouble promoting an upcoming collaboration with music makers DJ Mustard and Jeremih, but seemingly couldn’t be bothered to express condolences for the victims of Sunday’s Pulse nightclub massacre.
Minaj, in response, unfollowed Berrios.
Nicki unfollowed me because I called her out for promoting her song and not even acknowledging the tragedies. pic.twitter.com/4Vf58qTPxD— johnny (@jxhnnybxrrios) June 15, 2016
The contentious moment immediately sparked a debate on whether or not Minaj, an artist who definitely has benefited from the LGBT+ community, or any other celebrity, had an obligation to make a public statement during a time of crisis. Most fans seemed to be split on the issue with some saying that her career would not be as prominent as it is without her gay fans, and others expressing that she isn’t the only one who hasn’t spoken openly on the tragic matter (they’re definitely not wrong, by the way).
In Minaj’s defense, we truly do not know what she is feeling about the Orlando shooting at this time — it’s not as if we are mind readers — but Berrios has seemingly, albeit unintentionally, brought up a good conversation point: is there an obligation for celebrities to speak out at a time like this, especially when they once depended on, or pandered to the LGBT+ community for attention and relevance?
There is definitely some weight to the idea that they should, even if it is something as simple as “thoughts and prayers for Orlando.” In the case of Minaj, the Pink Friday starlet was, once upon a time, largely treated by the hip-hop community as someone who seemed to shine better when she assisted other rappers, but never on her lonesome. In fact, by the time her first big single, “Starships,” was released in 2012, many rap bigwigs — including Peter Rosenberg, a well-regarded DJ from New York’s biggest hip-hop station, Hot 97 — considered Minaj to be anything but “real hip-hop,” due to her propensity of releasing songs that felt more like pop than rap, and the fact that most of her early singles… well, kind of sucked (anyone remember “Massive Attack“?).
Fortunately for her, queer listeners loved the mesh of the two genres (the style now even has its own sub-genre: “hip-pop”), and she was able to linger around long enough to change more than a few necessary minds in the entertainment field. Had it not been for the LGBT+ community at the start of her career, Minaj would probably still be regarded a lot less than she is today, but as stated, it’s not just her who has been eerily radio silent since the heartbreaking Orlando situation.
To call out a more specific example, everyone surely remembers Macklemore, the Grammy-nominated artist behind “Same Love;” a song that not only changed history by becoming the first tune to ever publicize such an important topic of queer life (marriage equality), but one that was said to be of an incredibly personal nature to him. Unlike Minaj, who once straight-up lied about the fact that she was bisexual before claiming it was nothing more than a publicity stunt (yeah, that happened), Ben Haggerty — Macklemore’s legal name — has never identified as anything other than heterosexual. However, there is a big connection here: his uncle, who was not only a huge influence in Haggerty’s life, but is actually spoken about in the song (while also featured on the single cover and the music video with his partner), is openly gay.
That fact alone makes this all a lot more personal to Macklemore, but we can get even deeper here. Almost every single time someone claimed that “Same Love” was recorded solely to create a shtick for him, Macklemore was quick to counter that he truly did care about what was going on in the LGBT+ community (also, let’s not forget the performance of the song that accompanied a mass wedding that he, Madonna, and Queen Latifah officiated at the 2014 Grammy Awards). And yet somehow, here we are; nearly a week after the deaths of 49 people in a gay establishment, people Macklemore swore he understood the plight of, and not a single word on his Facebook page, a tweet, an Instagram post of a rainbow flag — nothing at all.
And perhaps it is unnecessary for him to make a public statement — again, just because something’s not said doesn’t mean it’s not being felt. Maybe he’s just as emotionally affected as everyone else is, and he’s dealing with it as best as he can on a personal level. But with that being said, it is definitely interesting that he seemed to be a lot more vocal and open about these issues when his thoughts about the queer world were gaining him points, attention and award nominations. Why not now as well, at a time when it’s once again greatly — and gravely — needed?
In closing, it’s understandable why so many of the LGBT+ community are bothered by the silence of people like Minaj and Macklemore. Truthfully, their words and well wishes may not mean anything in the hope of an actual change in this country, but occasionally, folks just want to know that their “faves” really give a damn. At a time when so many people are confused, hurt and angry by the loss of the Orlando victims who may have, at one point, danced to their songs, paid for tickets to their movies, or associated with a quote or lyric from them, a little #PrayForOrlando isn’t too much to ask for. Heck, it’s barely asking for scraps from those who are eating well thanks to the money, time, and attention from the LGBT+ community.
Those people who died in Orlando, and those who are mourning those people deserve a lot more than they’re getting from you, celebrities. Don’t leave them — or us — hanging. They had your backs, remember?
[Photo by Bryan Steffy / Stringer / Getty Images]