By Desiree Browne
I love Tamar Braxton. She’s hilarious and talented and I’m glad to see her getting some shine. Plus, I applaud her for being so real and saying that no, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when her baby was born; that new mom thing isn’t easy. But when I saw the video for her new single “Hot Sugar” I felt a way. Not because people are accusing her of biting Beyonce’s ponytail swag, but because the video’s really gay and I’m not sure I like that.
All the currently cool signs of gay culture, especially black, gay culture, are there: voguing, booty poppin dancers, men in makeup, and Tamar as the queen fruit fly among her (overtly sexual) subjects. The all leather everything is more leather daddy than high fashion. When I see her flipping her ponytail, I don’t see Beyonce; I see her taking a page from the book of the men tearing up the ball scene. And in a video for a song about a woman putting on a show for her man, it doesn’t quite make sense. The song’s concept doesn’t matter; cementing Tamar as queen of the gays by using gayness as a prop is what’s important. She is, by no means, the only one borrowing from gay culture while only paying lip service to inequalities, but the way the dancers are treated in this video seems especially egregious.
I can’t lie. I think the Instagram idea is creative, poking fun at the obsessive way we share information and document our lives and sometimes even our sex lives. Nothin’ wrong with two grown people sexting. But with photo filters like “done,” “yaass” and “fierce,” you can see Tamar in a different shade of gay. And when you see her, she’s using the gay male bodies around her as inanimate objects. That flexible gentleman doing a damn impressive vertical split in the Fawk me pumps? Tamar leans on him almost as though he’s a cane. Later on, the Queen Tamar sits on a throne—made from a whole pile of queens.
I’m hoping on some level she’s doing this as self-parody. Tamar made a name for herself because of her outsized personality on Braxton Family Values. She had a drag persona before a man had the chance to impersonate her, and she always used black gay slang. But as she got bigger and she became known for that persona, the “huntys” came a little more often, her eyelashes batted a little harder. And just like that, Tamar became a gay icon. So maybe, just maybe, she’s winking at her own acquired gayness.
I don’t doubt for a second Tamar loves her gay fans or that she loves gay people. But she’s doing the men that love her a disservice by making their culture—the thing that’s given people a way to define themselves when others said they were unimportant or worse—just a backdrop for her own star. Which isn’t to say she shouldn’t give voguing or waacking or j-setting space in her performances, but there’s a big difference between putting that talent front and center and inserting yourself into it in a way that doesn’t add anything. People say Tamar isn’t much of a dancer, but this would be a place where it’d be really important to actually learn the dance she’s using. And if that didn’t work, she could’ve separated herself from the dancers (who kill it, by the way), showing appreciation rather than appropriation. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next video to see Tamar deathdrop for the children. And when she does, I’ll be the first one saying “girl, yasss.”
Desiree Browne is an editor and freelance writer in New York City. She can’t vogue but she does tweet @itsdlovely.