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Of Bustiers and Bodysuits:
Sartorial Choices and the Celebration of (Hyper)sexuality in Dancehall and Reggaetón Music Videos

Bustier (Back)_edited.jpg
Bustier (Front)_edited.jpg

My bustier attempts to shed greater visibility on the bodily agency of women in the colonial Caribbean and in our present moment. I should note that the purpose of this paper is not a project about recovery as it is about understanding and tracing processes that have created these contradictions surrounding sexuality as it pertains to the black female body. I only attempt to highlight how these contradictions and paradoxes exist. Thus, this project is not about untangling as it is about examining how women entangled in these paradoxes find agency and empowerment within them.

This bustier top is part of a larger project that explores the intersections of race, costuming, and the female body in dancehall and reggaetón music videos. My project is inspired by discussions of representations (and erasures) of female black bodies in art and visual culture; how colonial depictions objectify and encode women to be perceived as hypersexual; the politics of race and ethnicity in music; and the idea of living in paradox under the structure of colonialism. I take on a (trans)colonial lens to analyze how colonial depictions and stereotypes of black women are seen in present-day dancehall and reggaetón videos. By observing the ways in which resistance and agency manifest within what Charmaine Nelson describes as "the process and practices of cultural production, representation, and viewership,” I seek to explore how black female artists use their bodies to reclaim or speak against these stereotypes and historical erasures. With the medley of costumes, bodies, and movement featured in this project, I contend that female sexuality, particularly of black women, is paradoxical. Ultimately, music, dance, and bodysuits allow for reclamation of bodily agency often denied in plantation narratives of the past and current hypermasculine societies and music scenes.

In 2022, this essay was awarded Honorable Mention by the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) for their 5th Annual Graduate Essay Contest.


To read the essay in its entirety, click here.

Bustier Making Process, November 2020

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