TikTok has an unofficial flag, though it doesn’t bear any of TikTok’s symbols or make any reference to the app. Instead, it features our lord and savior Nicki Minaj in front of an American flag, giving a big, toothy smile as she salutes the camera in a blue push-up bikini top.
Over the summer, the Nicki flag has dominated the platform, with videos of Barbz flying it on the Fourth of July or from their parent’s flagpoles that would otherwise bear the more traditional American version. But the most fun installment of the trend comes from the country guys who love Nicki Minaj, flying their Nicki flags from the back of their pickup trucks or hanging them in their rooms otherwise decorated by camouflage and hunting-themed decor.
The flag in question features a photo of Minaj taken for a July 2015 profile in Cosmopolitan. In the full photo, she wears not only the blue bikini top, but matching red, white and blue bottoms to boot. According to Google Trends, searches for “Nicki Minaj Flag” were essentially nonexistent until May of this year when they began to spike, peaking right on the week of July 4th. There doesn’t appear to be one official source of the flag — it can be bought for $10 from a handful of Amazon sellers, for $12.50 from an Etsy shop called “DC Homos” or for $21 from the site “The Gay Bar Shop.”
As those latter two store names might suggest, Minaj has a strong fanbase in the queer community — such that Lil Nas X didn’t identify himself as a Barb prior to coming out because he feared that alone would out him. The Nicki flag has therefore served as a queer alternative to the American flag, or even a Gen-Z alternative to the rainbow flag. At very least, the flag demonstrates you’re not only a Minaj fan, but also likely LGBTQ+ friendly.
Whatever the case, in many of the TikTok videos featuring the flag, the song “Different ‘Round Here” by Riley Green plays, focusing on the lyrics, “We stand for the flag and if you don’t like it we don’t care, ‘cause we do things a little different ‘round here.”
In two of the most popular videos, TikToker @juanfoster shows himself singing along to the lyrics — he wears a cut-off T-shirt in both, and a Carhartt baseball hat in one and a baseball hat featuring a set of deer antlers in the other. As referenced above, he uses the song to show off his bedroom, featuring a camouflage comforter and deer-related wall art. At the last moment, he reveals that the flag in question is the Nicki flag. In the second video, he sits in the passenger seat of a pickup truck, accompanied by another tough-looking country dude in a pair of Oakleys. In the end, they reveal the truck going down a rural dirt road, flying the Nicki flag high.
The joke, of course, is that they look exactly like the other patriotic country folks on TikTok who earnestly use the song to show their allegiance to the American flag. Based on their appearances, we might assume they’re going to display this patriotism themselves. By extension, we might also assume they’re conservative. And by even further extension, we might assume they have opinions that aren’t quite friendly to the queer community often associated with Minaj’s fandom.
But a deeper look into @jaunfoster’s TikTok shows that his appearance isn’t some sort of cosplay — he and the other guy featured in the video really do look like that and live in rural Alabama. That said, they’re a gay, married couple who just so happen to be into both “redneck” aesthetics and Nicki Minaj. Elsewhere on his page, @juanfoster refers to the lifestyle as “Barbz-Back Mountain.”
He’s gotten some backlash for this, but he pays it no mind. No amount of negativity will “hinder his freedom” to wave the Nicki flag, and besides, she means something to him. “Nicki was a big part of my upbringing during the high school years from 2010 to 2014,” he tells me. “Her music inspired boldness and fearlessness during times I wasn’t out of the closet yet. Beyond her music, she’s an inspiration for humbleness and to never forget where you come from in life, as it makes the journey to your goals all the sweeter.”
In many ways, these country-boy Nicki flag TikToks are simply a shitpost or mild satire of the veneration some have for the American flag. But they also prove a few things: First, you can’t draw assumptions about who someone is based on their looks alone. Second, regardless of what she does, Minaj will always be one of the biggest memes on TikTok.
More than that, though, it’s a nice example of people feeling comfortable being themselves and showing pride — whether that be in their sexuality or their country. At least on TikTok, the Nicki flag serves as a symbol of both.