Cleo Ice Queen is a hip-hop artist, radio and television personality born in Zambia in 1989. With an impressive career in all three spaces, she is well known as a reality TV star due to her appearance on ‘Big Brother Africa’, and in 2015 won the AFRIMMA Award for ‘Best Female in Southern Africa’. Following that, in 2017 she won the SunFM Kwacha Music Award for ‘Best Female’.
In addition to, or perhaps as a result of, her decorated career as an artist and media personality, she has been a Proflight Zambia Brand Ambassador, a Lusaka-based airline, and more interestingly for the purposes of this article, she is the Brand Ambassador for the Maximum Diva Woman Condom. The Maximum Diva Woman Condom was a mass campaign in 2016 that marketed a newly designed female condom in an effort to raise awareness about contraceptives, as well as to increase access to them. Using a personality like Cleo Ice Queen was a fitting choice, as contrary to stereotypical gender norms and repressive culture in regards to premarital sex throughout the continent, she has always been outspoken about her sexuality, particularly in her music.
A great example of Cleo challenging stereotypes and unapologetically expressing herself is her new music video “Sensation” released on the 25th of October, 2020. The song suggestively showcases an element of her sexuality and womanhood, yet in a unique way that combines her Zambian heritage and expresses her desires, while maintaining her self-empowerment. The lyrics “You don’t know what you do to me/Boy you mesh up the place yeah/Give it to me all night yeah all night Long” are very clear on intention, yet when combined with lyrics such as “I feel so safe in your arms” adds a layer of vulnerability to the artist. Interestingly, the previous examples juxtapose the persona she takes on with lines such as “We no waste time baby call me”, and “You know that you messing with a Gemini”, both of which carry a much firmer and authoritative tone. A particularly interesting non-lyrical example of how she challenges stereotypes is by having mostly male back-up dancers in the video, to her as the obvious main feature.
This particular song serves purely as one example of many, of how Cleo Ice Queen is an artist making strides in Southern Africa not only in popular culture, but in challenging gender stereotypes, particularly towards women’s sexuality.