The Y2K nostalgia cycle has been in full swing for quite some time now but something about it has been so decidedly…white. Online, most articles and fashion videos dedicated to Y2K feature people dressing like Megan Fox or Hilary Duff's Lizzie McGuire character. There’s the crimped hair and the gauchos and the butterfly clips.
But when I think of the early 2000s, my mind goes to Baby Phat, the velour tracksuits, the pink bedazzled phone cases, FUBU, and impossibly beautiful women dressed in scantily-clad outfits surrounded by some of the world’s biggest rappers and singers. For many Black women who were just merely girls in the late ‘90’s/early 2000s, our beauty idols were the women who appeared in music videos for artists like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, or LL Cool J — or as they’ve come to be known more succinctly as video vixens.
The 2000s Video Vixens Were Stars In Their Own Right
Models appearing in music videos were not new by any means but during this particular period in time, the women who appeared in the videos became icons in their own right. We know the names of Melyssa Ford, Claudia Jordan, Buffie Carruth who was known as Buffie the Body, Karrine Steffans (now Elisabeth Ovesen), and many others who first entered the spotlight with their show-stopping beauty.
A combination of factors made video vixens the subject of lust and envy. They were unquestionably sexy. More than that, however, video vixens possessed this quality of chicness that couldn’t be found in the pages of Vogue. A viewer’s gaze was permanently fixed on them as they danced or posed or simply existed in the video, like art to be marveled at. They were the kind of Black girls that were often shut out of mainstream modeling for being too thick, too dark, or too extra. They were in videos mixing Versace pieces with Rocawear. As a wise man once said, they were “ghetto with a runway quality.”
How 2000s Video Vixens Influenced a Generation
Fast forward to today, their influence on the culture is immeasurable. Just taking a quick survey at the current landscape of hip hop, the video vixens are now oftentimes the rappers. Girls like Saweetie, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, and many others all possess the same glam and sex appeal qualities that video vixens did, while also being at the helm of creative control.
Even looking at the work of some photographers, I can see the clear through line from the video vixen era to today. Popular photographer Edwig Henson, who has worked with artists like rapper Ice Spice, Chloe Bailey, Latto, and more, has gained prominence for his work that evokes the aesthetics of King, the now-defunct magazine from the early 2000s that featured many of the vixens as a centerfold. His photography bridges the imagery of millennial and Gen Z online sensibilities with the sultry and sleek 2000s video vixen. Henson’s work leans into the hyperreal as it does the raunchiness, as his models are often portrayed as towering figures.
The 2000s Video Vixens Deserve Their Credit
Elsewhere one can find the preservation of the video vixen look with people like online pop culture archivist Bri Malandro who has dedicated her online presence to her endless love and devotion to all things ‘90s and 2000s Black culture. On her YouTube channel, she has a video specifically dedicated to breaking down her favorite vixens.
You can look everywhere and find the influence of video vixens from the door knocker earrings to the tiny tinted sunglasses to even the curves some women go under the knife to achieve. At the peak of their stardom, these women were derided by many people as being whores, bad influences on girls, and a poor reflection of what women should be. But today, they’ve been vindicated by many women for being the fashion icons they always were.
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Feature image by screenshot from Nelly's "Hot in Herre" music video/ YouTube