FLY and BME Campaign condemn treatment of Fashion Show headliner

Image credit: Alex Bailey

Members of CUSU’s BME Campaign and Cambridge’s network for women and non-binary people of colour, FLY, have published an article criticising “the disgraceful public display of sexism and misonynoir directed at Cambridge University Charity Fashion Show’s headline act, Princess Nokia.”

Princess Nokia, an alternative hip hop and R&B artist, asked an audience member “are you being disrespectful?” during her set, before throwing a drink over him and hitting him three times.

The audience member in question has told The Cambridge Student: “I was standing in the audience and was told by a fellow audience member that the name of the performer was ‘Abigail’. Given that I was enjoying the performance, I shouted out ‘Let’s go Abigail!’”

However, speaking to representatives of FLY and the BME Campaign Richelle George and Jason Okundaye after the incident, Princess Nokia described the behaviour of the white male student, who allegedly harassed her, “mouthing dirty obscenities like 'show me your tits.'”

Princess Nokia added that she “does not condone violence”, but that she has a “zero tolerance” stance towards “instances of sexism and sexual harassment”. She also said that she wanted to “let the women of colour know she was sorry”.

In the article, entitled “Cambridge’s Treatment of Princess Nokia is an Embarrassment”, George and Okundaye note that “such occurrences of harassment are neither unusual nor unexpected for women of colour. The incident at the Fashion Show is emblematic of the routine degradation of women, especially of women of colour, who attempt to operate within spaces dominated by white men – spaces like Cambridge.

“It is typical of the entertainment industry to fetishise black culture for the pleasure of white audiences, yet with this fetishisation comes the inherent objectification and dehumanisation of black people.”

Speaking to Varsity, organisers of the Fashion Show commented: “Thank you to all who took part in and attended a wonderful evening of celebrating diversity, beauty and body positivity. It is unfortunate our headliner ended early under unforeseen circumstances, and we hope this did not taint the overall message of the night.”

George and Okundaye also criticise the language that has been used to describe the incident, arguing that claims “that she ‘launched an attack’ on a student before ‘storming’ off stage […] frame[…] Princess Nokia within the trope of the ‘angry black woman’ and is an easy, lazy way of turning a blind eye to the real issue at hand, while also conveniently erasing the real provocation and harassment she faced at the hands of a white man.”

They end the article by imploring Cambridge students to “respond to this reality with an embarrassed readiness for change.”

The Cambridge Student awaits comment from event organisers and FLY.

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