Was Nicki Minaj’s SNL Performance Racist?

This weekend, Nicki Minaj hosted Saturday Night Live with a star-studded group of talents that included Playboi Carti, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, and more. While the cast was incredibly diverse, Nicki was called out for her performance of the single “Chun Li,” which online critics are labeling as cultural appropriation.

After an introduction by Fey, Minaj and a group of four backup dancers stormed the stage all wearing traditional Asian garb. The dancers looked like characters from a Mortal Kombat video game in their embroidered silk outfits and rice hats.

Meanwhile, Minaj danced on stage in a sequined (and belted) kimono before she threw it off to reveal a latex version of what looks like Japanese samurai armor. The entire time, Minaj wore two giant chopsticks in her hair.

Many people took to Twitter to voice their disappointment in the rapper and the double standards that exist when celebrities borrow from another culture

It seems like Minaj can’t catch a break, between rumors of beef between her and fellow New York rapper Cardi B, and now this.

But for one Chinese-American woman, the performance was an ode to Chun Li—the first female character in an Asian fighting game—and, perhaps most importantly, female empowerment. In her viral Twitter rant, the Minaj fan also notes the historical links between African American and Asian cultures.

“Chun Li”, which appears on her upcoming album Queen, has been out since April 12, so it’s interesting that fans are just now voicing their concerns over the song’s apparent Asian theme. I mean, the song is literally called “Chun Li,”  opens to the sound of a gong, and there’s even a verse about Minaj putting chopsticks in her hair.

“I went and copped the chopsticks / Put it in my bun just to pop shit,” the line goes.

Pictures are (apparently) worth a thousand words. Watch the full performance below and decide for yourself whether or not it should be considered cultural appropriation or appreciation.

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