Jonathan Van Ness, the scruffy, long-haired Grooming Guy from the Netflix makeover series Queer Eye recently criticized American rapper Nicki Minaj for appearing on the magazine cover of Harper’s Bazaar Russia. In Van Ness’s opinion there never should have been a Nicki Minaj Harper’s Bazaar Russia cover because she should have refused in protest of the ongoing campaign of kidnapping, torture and murder happening in Chechnya and Russia‘s infamous national law banning any “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.”
In a tweet posted late last week Van Ness wrote, “Russia has anti LGBTQIA propaganda laws, Chechnya (supported by Russia) tortures its LGBTQIA citizens, & with your LGBTQ+ fans you can’t even speak to that in this interview because it’s illegal in Russia. What’s good @NICKIMINAJ? This should’ve been a hard pass.”
Less than an hour later, after numerous comments from both his and Minaj’s fans, Van Ness tweeted, “Anyway really happy today. Didn’t mean to start a Twitter war. I’m just disappointed in some people from where I’m sitting in life and start noticing things. Biggest hug to everyone.”
Here is Jonathan Van Ness’ tweet about the Nicki Minaj Harper’s Bazaar Russia cover.
Russia has anti LGBTQIA propaganda laws, Chechnya supported by Russia tortures it’s LGBTQIA citizens, & w your LGBTQ+ fans you can’t even speak to that in this interview bc it’s illegal in Russia, what’s good @NICKIMINAJ , this should’ve been a hard pass. pic.twitter.com/6WqZdXSKKl
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) July 13, 2018
Van Ness’s criticism of Minaj raises an interesting question of how celebrities can use their fame for political purposes abroad.
One astute commenter pointed out that Minaj’s appearance as a self-made black woman on the cover of a major Russian magazine will inevitably challenge the racist and sexist beliefs of some readers. Another commented that it’s a mistake to assume any celeb who appears in another country’s publication automatically supports that country’s behavior.
Critics have also questioned why Van Ness singled out Minaj for criticism when many other female celebrities have also appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Russia, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell and Madonna. (Van Ness responded that he doesn’t support any American celebrity who would appear on Russian magazine covers.)
Russia is more than just its anti-LGBTQ policies, and Minaj undoubtedly has LGBTQ fans there who will appreciate reading the Nicki Minaj Harper’s Bazaar Russia issue, even if it doesn’t mention Russian LGBTQ politics.
There are also lots of ways a celebrity can show support for a country’s policies. Appearing on a magazine cover isn’t a strong way to do it.