It’s easy to mock the way celebrities use social media. Every day seems to bring a new crop of stories of celebrities behaving badly – launching Twitter feuds against rivals, trolling their enemies, shilling for products they have no intention to use, and filling our feeds with selfies and self-promotional activities. But there is hope for celebrities on social media, and it comes in the form of Nicki Minaj.
Nicki Minaj and her fans
Ok, Nicki Minaj is probably not the first person that comes to mind for many people. But something very remarkable happened over the May 7-8 weekend that simply blew up on social media. When some fans of Minaj happened to tweet at her, telling the hip hop star about their student loan problems, Minaj responded by saying that she’d help to repay the loans (“I’ll pay a cpl of them. Send ur bank info & ur contact”).
That response immediately went viral, and soon Minaj agreed to cover the costs of even more people, especially if the aspiring students could prove they were getting good grades. And, along the way, she might have created a whole new term – “Minaj Scholar” – the modern Twitter version of a Rhodes Scholar. By the end of the weekend, Minaj tweeted out, “Ok u guys. It’s been fun. Let me make those payments tmrw then see if I have any money left… “
The bigger student loan crisis
Even the mainstream media got in on the action. Why not? This was a feel-good story with a celebrity angle to it. That’s solid gold for anyone looking for social media traffic. The financial news site MarketWatch – the same site you might check for updates on the performance of your 401(K) – even posted a story, “Nicki Minaj Just Revealed How Dire the Student Loan Crisis Really Is,” that gave a lot more context to the story.
As most people are aware, the nation is on the brink of a vast student loan crisis, similar in size and scope to the real estate lending crisis of nearly a decade ago. Things are getting so tight that students are tweeting at their favorite celebrities, asking them to help with basics, like the high cost of books. (Books!) That’s something that wealthy bankers who don’t hang out on Twitter probably can’t wrap their heads around.
Could Twitter become part of the solution?
Of course, one charitable gesture by Nicki Minaj isn’t going to solve the student loan crisis. But it opens the door to a possible solution: a crowd-funded solution in which students who can’t afford the spiraling cost of a higher education hit up their friends and followers on social media for help. And, as the MarketWatch article made clear, that’s already what many people do. They launch GoFundMe pages and ask the crowd to help out. Nobody wants to graduate college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. In some cases, celebrities are setting up their own scholarship programs to help people get through college.
The part about the whole Nicki Minaj story that might be surprising for many is that the same person who’s best known for risqué songs like “Anaconda” also cares deeply about the right of all students, regardless of income, to a quality higher education. That’s right: the new celebrity face of the student loan crisis might just be Nicki Minaj, and she’s figuring out a way to solve the crisis one tweet at a time.