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Are We Ready For Fergie’s Imminent Comeback?

Music
Photo by Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Considering Fergie in Iggy Azalea’s wake

Fergie released "London Bridge" nearly a decade ago (its official 10-year anniversary is Monday, July 18). Since then, our collective culture has gotten more, well, woke. Some might even consider it overly sensitive. Whichever way you look at it, though, many things that flew in 2006 would not fly today. And with Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson's comeback in full swing, the question of how ready we are is ringing louder. Even though the message behind her new single "M.I.L.F. $" is a solid one, the post-Iggy Azalea world wonders how questionable its delivery is. 

"M.I.L.F. $," like a sizeable portion of Fergie's music, is a sing-song rap track complete with a spelling verse. Its concept is simple: Becoming a mother does not take away a woman's sexiness. Rather, it amplifies it to a new echelon of sexy—one akin to Beyoncé's BEYONCÉ. She rebrands "M.I.L.F." as "Mom(s) I'd Like to Follow," spinning the misogynistic acronym into a positive one. Of course, innuendo is peppered throughout, but what's a pop song without some bit of tongue planted firmly in its cheek? It's a track whose fame was planted by the viral punch of its music video. The day it was released, it racked up millions of views in 24 hours, inspiring many "yes!" moments in social media posts. The secret to its immense success isn't just the song, though; it's who Fergie enlisted to be in the video. Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Devon Aoki, Amber Valletta, Alessandra Ambrosio, Ciara, and more high-profile mothers parade their M.I.L.F. money around the hyper-stylized visuals. Fergie's M.I.L.F. squad rivals other Hollywood squads. However contagious their confidence (and, subsequently, the song) is, it exists within a gray area.

In 2016, the intersectionality between race and performance is more apparent than it was a decade ago. Fergie was a quasi-early adopter of the "blaccent." It was not (and still isn't) as overt as Iggy Azalea's, but because of the backlash Azalea received for her performance style, our ears have become more acutely aware of all things cultural appropriation. Unlike Azalea, who only received more backlash when she tried to defend her accent and presence within the hip-hop community, Fergie has acknowledged her outsiderness. "I'm not claiming to be a battle MC," she told Rolling Stone in 2006. She said she pays homage to the women she looks up to, "like Roxanne Shanté, Monie Love, Salt-n-Pepa, [and] J.J. Fad." Fergie continued to say she's always been an outsider looking in, viewing the scenes in South Central and East L.A. as "just interesting and sexy." The whole seeing and trying to emulate a culture but not living it is the heart of cultural appropriation. The question now becomes does it matter who and, more importantly, how the information is being conveyed? Her bops—"Glamorous," "London Bridge," and "Fergalicious"—still bop, but can we ignore the package Fergie's newfound empowering message comes in? We'll see when when Double Duchess drops.

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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"Nothing is truly a binary"

We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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We put the two activists in conversation

Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Dani Okon + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Charlotte Prager

Illustrated by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Because traveling far doesn't have to suck

Travel can be tough. Sure, there are definitely the exciting aspects to it, especially when it means we're going on vacation, but if it involves traveling to different time zones, then we have to deal with jet lag, which is... not fun at all.

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