Aisha K. Staggers

Aisha K. Staggers

Vanity 6 Presentation Panel Presenter

Vanity 6 and the Sexual Aesthetic of 1980s & Beyond

Being born a Black woman is an unintentional revolutionary act. Not only are you set to experience a life that many believe doesn’t matter because of your skin color and the racism that comes with it, but you also have to deal with the misogyny that comes with being a woman. Specifically, a particular brand of misogyny reserved especially for Black women that combines both misogyny and racism into something called  “misogynoir.” Along with that are sexualized stereotypes that you must encounter while trying how to figure out how to express yourself as a sexual being without being exploited. This is particularly true of Black female musicians.

The first Black female musical group to gain worldwide recognition was The Supremes, coming out of Motown in the 1960s. In the 1970s there were groups like The Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge, and The Jones Girls – all of whom were groups of siblings. By the 19880s, you began to see different representations of Black women in the groups Klymaxx, Mary Jane Girls, and of course among the first of these was Vanity 6. In the 90s, TLC challenged the notion of the female sex symbol in how they dressed and what they sang about, but by their second album, Crazy Sexy Cool, which contained a Prince cover, the group vastly changed their image and other girl groups of that era pulling from the 80s women and began crafting a new style of sexy Black women – in fact, there was an abundance of groups, mostly one-hit wonders, who followed this style as well and that style transformed a generation of young women born in the 70s and they inspired the women who came after them like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lizzo.

A historical look at how the images of Black womanhood over time were ultimately challenged by Black female artists in the 80s.

Aisha K. Staggers, M.F.A., is a writer and literary agent. She appears weekly as a political analyst and culture critic with Jill Jones and Dr. Vibe on the award-winning, internationally syndicated Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, Medium, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, AfroPunk, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, The New York Review of Books, and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. She agented the book, There Was A Time: James Brown The Chitlin’ Circuit And Me (Post Hill Press, 2020), by Alan Leeds with a foreword by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She is currently the Managing Editor for Sister 2 Sister magazine and News Onyx.