Whitney and Bobby. Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri. Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielsen. Lauren London and Lil Wayne. Ciara and Future. Eve and Maximillion Cooper. The list goes on and on, but the fact is that celebrity culture has long been rife with unlikely pairings—some seemingly out of nowhere, others seemingly out of convenience and all simply fascinating in their novelty. And inevitably, eyebrows are raised, along with questions, starting with this one: How exactly did this happen?
Yet happen it does, with enough frequency that you’d think we’d barely bat an eye by now. But since a rumored relationship between R&B royalty Toni Braxton and Cash Money Records co-founder Bryan Williams, better known as “Birdman,” was confirmed last week, shock and awe—with a healthy side of disgust—have been the overwhelming responses.
Now, conventional wisdom might suggest that this latest odd coupling really isn’t so outrageous. After all, these are two high-profile individuals who work in the same industry and, therefore, may have more than a few things in common. But of course, despite a glowing endorsement from Braxton's mother, there have been countless theories about how—and why—Birdman and Braxton have become an item, with renewed discussions of her much-publicized money troubles, inferences about his sexuality and, most hilariously, suggestions that she’s under duress.
But aside from the obvious entertainment factor in speculating on the whys and wherefores of this union, what’s really interesting is how offensive some of us seem to find the attraction of these apparent opposites. Indeed, despite the fact that most of us don’t know either Braxton or Birdman personally, many have taken the news of this pairing as a personal affront, which bears some examination of its own. What is it about a “beauty and the beast” matchup that rubs so many of us the wrong way? If, indeed, this might be love, then why all the hate?
We Hate Seeing “Bad Boys” Get “Good Girls”
From his song lyrics to his virtual collage of facial tattoos and his much-hyped beef with his flagship artist (the similarly tatted Lil Wayne), the man known as Birdman could aptly be described as a bad boy—a public image that he’s actively cultivated. After his recent antics on The Breakfast Club radio show, he gained even more notoriety but also lost some “respeck” in the process.
There’s a general presumption that a man like this doesn’t deserve nice things, let alone a nice woman, as Braxton is generally assumed to be. But if this coupling flies in the face of our commonly accepted logic about the types of people who belong together, our judgment turns us all into respectability politicians in the process. Reality shows notwithstanding, the fact is that none of us observing from this significant distance really possesses more than our assumptions about what either of these people is like behind closed doors. Truth is, “good” and “bad” are entirely subjective terms. Given that none of us presently has to date either Braxton or Birdman, "good" and "bad" are likely not our labels to bestow.
We Hate It When Reality Contradicts Our Fantasies
“Beautiful.” “Classy.” “Angelic.” These are some of the adjectives associated with Braxton, one of R&B’s most celebrated chanteuses. They are not, however, words that generally come to mind when describing Birdman. For at least one generation of men (and likely a few women), Braxton was an early crush—the seemingly unattainable type of woman who not only fed teenage fantasies but also informed romantic ideals well into adulthood.
But to simultaneously idealize Braxton and reduce her to a female archetype is to deny her womanhood—and a woman’s needs. I have no idea what type of attention and affection Birdman might be offering—and won’t try to ignore the added security his purported personal fortune might afford her (or how attractive that kind of business savvy can be). But what I do know is that she’s not alone or wrong in desiring these things. And who knows how long she’s gone without them?
We Hate What It Suggests About Our Own Prospects
This hits a bit closer to home than I’d like, but if Braxton represents a fallen fantasy to legions of straight men (who at least may now feel more inclined to “shoot their shot” with seemingly unattainable women), she may represent something else entirely to single women over 40, who are weighing their own dwindling options in the dating market.
“Is this what’s left?” we wonder, after being urged to “quit being so picky” and abandon our ideals in favor of just finding someone suitable enough to pair off with (as if pairing off were the sole priority). At 48, Braxton still looks better than your average 38-year-old, but she no doubt faces the same obstacles as the rest of us in finding a mate she’s “evenly yoked” with—in age, accomplishments, lifestyle, etc. And if we average Jills are struggling, what’s a multi-award-winning diva to do?
Of course, I’m not suggesting that dating a multimillionaire music mogul—even with a face full of distracting doodles—is to be considered “settling.” But if Birdman seems an unusual suspect, it might simply be that Braxton is thinking outside the box, as so many of us are encouraged to do as we continue to look for love. And ultimately, as unexpected a choice as he might be, if love is what she’s finding with him, is it really any of our business? After all, it could be a typical temporary celebrity fling, or it could be the real thing, over a decade in the making. And as off-putting as the optics might be, can we really begrudge them taking a chance on love? Maybe, after all this time, it’s simply their time.
Maiysha Kai is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, fashion model, devoted auntie and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based, single black bombshell who recently strutted into her 40s. She is also an expert at oversharing who chronicles her attempts at dating—and adulting—on 40onFleek.