Hip-hop honeys, video girls, vixens — however you know them, the leading ladies of music videos have been staunch setters of trends and fads since the ’90s and early 2000s. As many of these trends find their way back to present-day prominence, these women are once again being used as reference points for beauty ideals in the Black community. So, as we reflect on 50 years of hip-hop, we cannot ignore the cultural and aesthetic impact of video vixens —the original influencers. 

Before we had Instagram models and TikTok influencers, vixens were our liaison to aspirational living, and the beauty standards they set are back in an undeniable way.

As we move away from the trends of the late 2010s, the aughts era’s fondness for a thinner brow, softer face, and “natural” body frame is now lusted after by those who find themselves disillusioned with the trending aesthetics of today. Being “90s fine” is now considered a badge of honor, with people of all ages sharing their photos online, claiming their likeness to this distinct period attractiveness. Similarly, the dazzling ladies from Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” video are the subject of significant fanfare on Twitter, rooted in a nostalgic wistfulness for trends past. And these ladies are far from the only vixens to cement themselves in hip hop’s history book.

From long-reigning champs like Melyssa Ford, whose video modeling catalog boasts hits like Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin” and Sisquo’s “Thong Song,” to Karrine Steffans, now going by Elisabeth Ovesen, who famously shook the industry up with her tell-all book about the realities of her time as a video vixen, starring in music videos for Jay Z, LL Cool J, Mystikal and more, these women had the music, beauty and fashion industries on lock, often decked out in the finest of designer garbs on par with the name brand stylings of the video’s featured artists.

But beyond sporting the latest in custom furs and avant-garde heels, video vixens were one of the few large-scale displays of representation for Black women in mainstream media. Unlike the unrealistic standards set by the runway industry, the “everyday” girl was still able to see herself in this idealized standard of beauty. They were inspirational without veering too far off into the unattainable standards that are being perpetuated today. Thanks to social media, though, the aesthetic contributions of these women, who were instrumental in the visual success of some of the biggest songs in hip hop, are able to be appreciated in real-time. Whether that be in the form of viral social media posts or a costume designer paying homage to these women by recreating some of the vixen’s most famed looks, it’s great to see these ladies getting their flowers while they can still smell them.