I like the bold new world of social media. I really do enjoy “talking” to people I’ve never met, and most likely will never meet. It’s liberating to strike up conversational threads with people who live across the country and even on the other side of the world.

One thing I really like about both Twitter and Facebook is how these sites try to play matchmaker. Like an overly concerned grandma who just can’t keep quiet, or a big sister who fancies herself a shrewd judge of character, both these cyber spheres are always trying to introduce me to new friends and followers.

What’s most eye-opening isn’t how wrong they frequently are with their suggestions, but rather how much I’ve learned from their acquaintanceship offers. For instance, after the word “doll” has popped up a lot in my profiles, status updates, and tweets, I’ve been matched with doll artists, collectors, groups and organizations. Perfectly sensible, and perfectly fine by me.

My next introductions based on “doll” is what got me chuckling and investigating. It was suggested that I should get to know Nicki Minaj. Well, if you’re like me, you could most likely go your whole life without ever crossing paths with Ms. Minaj. But I like to find out new things, and so I visited her sites and her different networking accounts. Here’s what I’ve learned, and let me warn you: Miss Nicki is definitely not your mother’s “Barbie” doll. She comes with a Parental Advisory warning.

Born either in Queens, New York or in Trinidad (there’s a lot of mythology around this young lady), Nicki Minaj is a rapper and a hip-hop entrepreneur. She’s small, sassy, very sexy and extremely candid (despite all her fables and fabrications). She’s graphic in her lyrics, cusses up a storm like the big boys and is one of the most requested performers in clubs, on urban radio stations and at college campuses.

It’s always bizarre—isn’t it?—when you realize there’s a whole world and culture circling your own little, safe bubble. Now, what does this Indian-Trinidadian rapper have to do with a doll? She is the face and body of the “black Barbie movement.”

Yes, this does exist, and it’s actually caused a rivalry and a rift in the rap music scene. It hasn’t elevated to the level of drive-by shootings and gangster throw-downs, but harsh words have been bandied about! Nicki proclaims to be the poster girl of all things sensual, petite and too-too glamorous. However, Lil’ Kim begs to differ. And that’s where the catfight begins.
Until my timelines became bogged down from all the blogging on this subject matter, I read the back-and-forth barbs being flung between Nicki and Kim. Each one declaring she is more Barbie than the other. Then, of course, there are the fans on either side jumping in with their two cents (or should I say, their 50 Cent).

This is a strange concept seeing two women who brag about acts of gang violence, indiscriminate hooking-up, material consumerism to the nth degree, all worked up over Barbie. But when you both want to be the superstar, there is no happy medium. No one will gracefully bow out and accept the second prize of being “Midge” or the booby prize of being “Skooter.”

Since I don’t have a kitten in this fight, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Nicki Minaj is the Barbiest of the battling Barbies. I read about her and she tells plaintive tales of being a young girl in a home filled with domestic tension and turmoil. She used to escape from the noise and the violence by writing poetry, drawing pictures and pretending to be other people. One of these alter egos was called “Harajuku Barbie.”

The music that is making this 25-year-old into a multimillionaire can’t be played on family-friendly radio, and any televised appearance is going to feature lots of beeps and bleeps. But when you read any quotes from her in magazine articles—in between the four-letter expletives—there is a real sense that she emerged from a damaged place and willed herself into this flashy, bodacious, alternately coy and domineering character.

Is Nicki a black Barbie? Will Mattel ever make a Barbie out of her? (I don’t want to hold my breath waiting.) One of the Tweets I read from a Minaj admirer warned her to “drop this Barbie BS be4 Mattel slaps yo ass with an injunction.” Wiser words might never have been tweeted.

Who knows what awaits this woman in her future life? All I know is that a Barbie doll kept her safe and sane in her past. And for that, she and her millions of followers are extremely grateful.

Photo Captions

Called in to add some “street cred” to the “Up Out My Face” lyric, Nicki Minaj (top right) supposedly stole the limelight away from the older, more mainstream Mariah Carey (top left). In the video shot for their collaboration, the two divas—both known for their doll-collecting real-life ways—played the role of haute couture fashion dolls.

Lil’ Kim (bottom) was a revelation on Dancing with the Stars, but her hardcore rap persona wouldn’t play in Peoria. The very forthright rapper is often likened to being a “Barbie,” but is she THE Barbie?