Singer Rihanna performs “Umbrella” at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas September 9, 2007. Rihanna won the award for Monster Single of the Year for the song. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
When the nominees for MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs) were announced earlier this summer, acclaimed rapper Nicki Minaj pointed out the glaring absence of women of color in the Video of the Year category. She had a point: The video for her song “Anaconda” broke VEVO viewing records, racking up 19.6M+ views in 24 hours, and propelled a huge cultural impact. (I know you know of at least one person who dressed in one of Nicki’s outfits for Halloween.) To have Minaj’s video snubbed ignores all of those not-insignificant achievements.
I had a sneaking suspicion that the numbers were pretty dismal, not just for women performers of color, but also for women performers in general. I wanted to see exactly how skewed the numbers were, so I looked up the data.
First, some context:
31: Years the Video of the Year Award has been presented (this year will be the 32nd)
69: Number of solo musicians who’ve been nominated
16: Number of solo musicians who’ve won
67: Number of groups who’ve been nominated (including feature artists, not counting 2015 nominees)
15: Number of groups who’ve won (including feature artists)
Let’s look at the stats of the women:
13: years where women solo artists or groups won
0: years after the award began that the first woman artist was nominated (Cyndi Lauper in 1984, nominated during the Award’s first year)
6: years after the Award began that the first woman artist won (Sinead O’Connor in 1990)
4: times Madonna has been nominated
1: time Madonna has won (1998)
And the stats of women of color:
9: years after the Award began that a female group of color was nominated (En Vogue in 1993)
11: years after the Award began that a female group of color won (TLC in 1995)
1: times a women of color group won (TLC in 1995)
- If you counted the “Lady Marmalade” group who won in 2001, which had Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, and Mya, the number goes up to 2.
1: time Missy Elliott has been a double-nominee in the category (2001)
2: winners that have won twice (Missy Elliott in 2001 and 2003, Rihanna in 2007 and 2012)
1: time that Beyoncé has won (2009)
2: times that Beyoncé has been nominated, not counting her 2015 nomination (2007 and 2009)
You don’t have to be a math genius to see that Minaj was correct about the institutional bias in the music industry with regards to awards, and that this should not be tolerated.
This year’s VMAs will air on Sunday, Aug. 30th.