Robin Shumays

Vanity 6 Presentation Panel Presenter

Like a (Nasty) Girl’s Group?

How Prince Refashioned & Reimagined the Archetype of the All-Girl Singing Group

The beginning of the video for Vanity 6’s biggest hit “Nasty Girl” starts with 3 beautiful women emerging from what appears to be the ladies’ lounge of a nightclub. They are wearing matching form-fitting sheath dresses in different colors; not dissimilar to what many girl groups wore in previous years. Halfway through the song, they go back behind the doors and return wearing lingerie in styles revealing who they are underneath; Susan: the lolita, Brenda: the punk rocker, and Vanity: the sexy badass vamp. If the lyrics hadn’t already enlightened you, this wardrobe change was a definitive statement that this wasn’t going to be just another girl group.

This presentation will first examine the history of the “girl group” and the effect those performers had on fashion and style in their respective eras. Then, we will take a deeper dive to explore female sexual liberation of the 1960s, and the blaxploitation female action stars of the 1970s; what impact did they have on young Prince, and how was that conveyed through his vision for an 80s girl group? How did the lingerie-clad Vanity 6 make a statement of female empowerment for the modern 80s woman? Next, I will define the “characters” portrayed by Vanity, Susan, and Brenda. Finally, I will take a look at groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child and delve into the clear influence Vanity 6 had on them.

Robin Shumays is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in Queens, N.Y. Her fashion line, hennaflower, has been featured in various shows in New York City, including Harlem Fashion Week, Africa Fashion Week, and Fashion Envie. She has also worked professionally as a web developer, graphic designer, social media consultant, and model. In June 2021, she presented a paper entitled “Punk, Paisleys and Polkadots” on Prince’s influence on fashion through the 1980s at the 78-88: Prince, The First Decade: Interdisciplinary Conference. In March 2022, she presented “Bedlah Bedlam: An Exploration of Orientalist Fantasy and Fashion Via the Lens of Prince Rogers Nelson” at the @polishedsolid #SexyMF30 virtual symposium. She is also co-director and dance performer with Zikrayat, an Arabic Music and Dance Ensemble that has performed at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum, William and Mary College, and throughout the Northeast. Once upon a time, Robin held a short-lived dream job as an administrative assistant at Paisley Park Music (Paisley’s short-lived music publishing wing). From 2020-2021, she produced and co-hosted a webinar podcast on Prince called The Purple Paradigm. Currently, she works full-time as a User Experience Engineer with a life insurance firm and is a mom to a very precocious tween daughter.

The Purple Paradigm
Bedlah Bedlam: An Exploration of Orientalist Fantasy & Fashion Via the Lens of Prince Rogers Nelson
Punk, Paisley & Polkdots @ 78-88: Prince, The First Decade