It's always fun to think celebrities are just like us...until they act just like one of us. Last night, Nicki Minaj decided to be transparent with her fans about her vaccination status and ended up spreading harmful misinformation in a reprehensible manner.
In a series of tweets, Minaj admitted to having caught COVID-19 recently, revealed Drake was vaccinated when he was infected with COVID-19 himself, and that she couldn't attend the Met Gala because she isn't vaccinated. She only recommended vaccination for the people who won't be able to get a job due to being unvaccinated and affirmed she'll probably get vaccinated because of touring. She's presumably leaning towards vaccination for touring because the two biggest concert promoters in America, Live Nation and AEG, implemented policies around it. She stated she won't get the jab until she does "research," which apparently involves polling her nearly 23 million Twitter followers on the best vaccine, and sharing info about her cousin's friend's testicles.
The mark of an anti-vaxxer is their susceptibility to believing clearly illogical stances. Minaj voluntarily sharing a story about her cousin's friend becoming impotent with swollen testicles in order to encourage people to not be bullied into being vaccinated is like when people claim they saw Big Foot because they saw a really hairy creature in the park. Sure, you may say you don't believe in conspiracy theories, but your brain going to Big Foot and not any of the myriad of hairy animals in the wild says otherwise. All of Minaj's vaccine-related tweets were generally centered around vaccine hesitancy, and not an open discussion on the pros and cons of vaccination, making her stance as clear as day. But her decision to misinform millions of people is exactly why celebrities being transparent can be dangerous.
Minaj didn't open a discussion on vaccine hesitancy because Trinidad and Tobago experienced 135 new positive COVID-19 cases in a three-day span, or because the Delta variant is responsible for 97% of recent positive COVID cases in her hometown New York City, or because at one point this year Black women were dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate than white men. The catalyst for the pseudo-PSA was a random Twitter account mentioning how Minaj hasn't made a public appearance in over a year and she felt the need to clarify it was because she didn't want her son to be exposed to COVID-19. At the end of the day, Minaj is a public figure and her number one priority is protecting control over her public image in a way no average person would ever feel the need to.
For better or worse, social media destroyed the artist mystique by creating a culture of almost mandated transparency among celebrities. Fans have always wanted more access to their favorite celebrities, and celebrities always want to control how their fans see them. At its best, celebrity transparency can inspire compassion for Britney Spears's revelations about her conservatorship and relatability with Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrating his first NBA title with Chik-Fil-A. When it backfires, you get celebrities exposing their disgusting showering habits and rappers coming out the closet as homophobes. Celebrities are just like the rest of us, until they aren't.
The average person doesn't command an untold number of dedicated followers who will attack anyone who even remotely discusses them in any light that isn't lime. When Minaj offered her Twitter followers some transparency into the harassment she was receiving from unknown phone numbers in a group chat, she shared their phone numbers to all of her followers. You can already guess what happened next. Her followers gleefully defended their queen by flooding them with texts, including some threatening homicide if the unknown texters wouldn't stop messing with Minaj.
If people are willing to not only threaten violence but share photos of those threats as a macabre sign of devotion, what do you think those people will do when Minaj implies their balls could become grotesque due to vaccination? We can clamor for celebrity transparency all we want — but we have to be aware of the consequences.