At the end of last month, during a cold snap here in NYC, my neighbor’s burst pipe and flood my basement. I lost so much of my Hip Hop and music archive: many vintage copies of The Source, my massive Death Row plaque celebrating multi-platinum sales by Dre, Pac, Tha Dogg Pound and Murder Was The Case, and samples of the ad campaigns I created for Destiny’s Child Survivor among other autographed original pieces of memorabilia.
Fortunately, my husband was able to salvage a commentary I wrote over a decade ago for the now defunct BLAZE Magazine called Lil’ Kim’s Treasured Chest. Though water had seeped into the frame, the purple colored, chemically treated missive remained largely undamaged.
I had written about Kimberly ‘Lil’ Kim’ Jones choice to opt for cosmetic enhancement via breast augmentation, and though she had never been one to hold her tongue, she was being barred from speaking with me about it by her then-manager, P. Diddy (now Diddy).
Here’s a piece of our collective (and Kim’s specific) hip-hop history:
I was awestruck by how different she looks today, compared to the photo from the now decade old commentary. It was like looking at a story about another woman entirely. How ironic that amid all the sopping wet and damaged hip-hop treasures, a vintage image of vintage Kim was saved.
Since “Treasured Chest”, Kim has also had a number of cosmetic surgeries. Compared to the brown-sugar toned woman I interviewed at GAVIN in 1995 who changed into her interview outfit in my office bathroom (yes, she rolled up in GAVIN in her curlers), she now looks markedly different. She used to just throw on a colorful wig (remember the “Crush On You” video?), a ponytail fall or sew in some weave tracks. Then came the addition of contacts; her brown eyes started showing up blue-gray. Given her petite frame, her A-cup bustline was proportional from my point of view. Today, she looks like she’s at least three-cup sizes bigger. Once the color of caramelized brown sugar, her skin seems lighter. Her lips and cheeks are now noticeably plumped up. I wonder how many procedures she’s undergrone?
Kim’s been to jail for perjury, was a judge on Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll, and had a hit reality series on BET, which coincided with the release of her fourth album, The Naked Truth. According to the website http://www.realitytvmagazine.com she “wrote over 200 songs while in prison”. No longer with Atlantic Records, she is completing her fifth CD which she has opted to release independently. In another twist of irony, she debuts as a participant in the eighth season of Dancing With The Stars on March 9th, a date that also marks the 12th anniversary of the passing of The Notorious B.I.G., her musical mentor and lover.
If this transformation was designed to make her more bankable and help Brand Lil Kim become more profitable, I’m not sure that mission’s been accomplished. Am I off base? Did appearing in an Old Navy commercial and a shared MAC Viva Glam ad with Mary J. Blige solidify Kim’s brand equity?
I believe Lil’ Kim is a dope lyricist and an electrifying onstage performer. Biggie taught her well, and with her own hit singles and a Grammy win (“Lady Marmalade”) to her credit, she proved she was more than a fluke long ago. I respect Kim’s artistry and her ability to take a woman’s open discussion of sexual prowess and (dare I say sexual liberation?) to unprecedented levels in music period, not just rap. Who knows if she remembers that GAVIN visit? We’ve crossed paths many times since; most recently after I wrote the campaign for her top-rated BET series Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown. Every time we’ve interacted, she’s been nothing but sweet, gracious, and professional. I’ve always wanted to her to be successful. I just felt like it was a shame that for her, going about it included literally giving a pound a flesh, when she was already beautiful inside and out.
Some research suggests that women report boosts in self-esteem after breast enhancement procedures. But is it temporary? Dr. Will Meek of psychcentral.com asserts:
“ If a person is bothered by a physical feature enough to seek surgery to change it, then it is expected that the person would get a mood boost after it was completed. However, drawing this type of conclusion is flawed. For people that are chronically dissatisfied with their appearance, an alteration would provide a temporary self-esteem increase. However, if the underlying issue of equating one’s self-worth with appearance is not worked on, then this mood increase will eventually fade back to a baseline of dissatisfaction, and a new negative object of obsession to be fixed.”
And according to the New York Times, surgery for teens has skyrocketed like the American obsession with celebrity, all in an effort to fit in, and with parental permission and underwriting!
After a stint in jail and enough surgical procedures to land her on the Top 15 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Disasters You Will Ever See (topsocialite.com) it pains me to say that her turn on DWTS all but seals the deal on whether Lil’ Kim is a has-been.
The Queen Bee is officially in need of comeback—right up there with The Lady of Rage and Lauryn Hill. I desperately want her to prove everyone wrong and bounce back beyond even her wildest dreams. Here’s to the Victorious K.I.M.
How many nips does it take to get to the center of one’s self-esteem? How many are too many? Where do you stand on the cosmetic surgery issue? What do you think about the impact of surgery on Lil’ Kim’s career? Let’s talk about it!
by Thembisa S. Mshaka,
Author, Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertianment] Business
In stores April 23rd
Tags: Lil Kim