Everybody Hates Kelis

I had to ask myself today, “why is everyone jumping on Kelis’ back today?” The answer: Yesterday, Nasir Jones was ordered to pay Kelis Rogers back child and spousal support stemming from a 2009 order (TMZ). What I’ve seen on the internet today in response to the judge’s ruling is outrageous and indicative of a deep-seated contempt for women in general and common misconceptions about the legal process involved in a divorce. Think I’m reaching? Stick with me.

Let’s start with a cursory glance at what’s floating around the interwebz:

A trending topic #IHopeKelis and tweets like:

The blogs and online magazines aren’t any better with headlines proclaiming:

My question is how does a woman who, after over five years of a celebrated, high-profile marriage and one very much wanted child become a pocket-raping gold-digger in the eyes of the public in a year’s time? What is it that she did besides get a divorce?

When Nas and Kelis were dating, the media was abuzz with the new couple. Hip-hop fans, while sometimes being critical of his work, have by and large maintained a healthy respect for Nas as a rapper. Kelis drew early praise for her work which was always a little left of center and became even more popular in the media after dropping her Milkshake album, showing off a sexier image. The two combined were a hip-hop fairy tale of sorts, compared to so-called hip-hop royalty Jay-Z and Beyonce. Folks would often debate which was the “hottest chick in the game”, Kelis or Beyonce , posting pictures of the women with captions that simply said “Nas won” or “Jay won”.  The good feeling continued when the pair got married. No one was accusing Kelis of being with Nas for his money back in 2005, a time when his portfolio was looking much better, I’m willing to bet.

For reasons we do not know for sure(speculation has put forward everything from the existence of a Kelis sex tape to infidelity), Kelis filed for divorce on April 30, 2009, citing irreconcilable differences. Kelis has taken to twitter in the past with messages about infidelity that don’t directly name Nas but certainly infer her estranged husband is on the receiving end.

Sometimes, an artist’s work can contain clues which belie his/her true feelings. According to Vibe Magazine, “a leaked version of the Nas/Damian Marley song ‘Strong Will Continue’ contained lyrics addressing the failed union.

How in the hell am I supposed to stay comfy /When I pay child support, alimony monthly?…So I’ve stuck with some married women so fine/Cheating while their husband rushing on the 40-yard line / Wonder if this is what my ex did the whole time.

I don’t know if that’s a reflection of the truth, artistic license or vengeance so I’ll leave it up to you. Honestly it’s not really that important what was underlying the separation. The filing was for irreconcilable differences and as far as I can tell, neither party’s fidelity was considered by the judge. Irreconcilable differences is a broad legal term which can include conflict of personality, resentment, distrust, constant bickering or financial difficulties.  As defined by the California Code of Civil Procedure (the divorce was filed in LA County),

Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved

Clearly there’s a lot left to the judge’s discretion. I had an opportunity to take Economics of Divorce while in law school and assist a divorce and taxation attorney. I spent a nice chunk of time reading about divorces, interviewing clients and tallying up figures to present to family court judges. That might explain why I don’t get filled with shock and outrage when I hear about someone’s divorce settlement. I just think that’s the way it played out in court; that’s what you get when accounting meets the law. Others apparently are coming from an entirely different place and that’s one of entitlement and sexism.

If there was no real reason for people to believe that Kelis was a gold digger before the couples’ separation, then the only thing I can see bothering them is that she’s getting anything at all. Without knowing how much money Kelis or Nas currently has sitting in their bank account, it boils down to an injustice for him and a windfall for her.

The blog titles linked above suggest that Kelis is taking something from Nas that is not and never was hers. She is undeserving to the point of being conniving and underhanded. She is perverting the system and “milking” him for everything he’s got. Poor Nas is even in trouble with the IRS! I suppose if you are generally against awarding ANY sum of money to an ex-spouse, well then nothing in this post will make much of a difference to you. If you’re of the belief that Kelis should have had enough money from her own career, I invite you to look at cases such as TLC who went bankrupt after dropping one of their biggest hits ever, “Waterfalls”. I’m no music industry insider so I can’t tell you why some artists are balling and others are not. I’m guessing most of you don’t either.  But for those of you who can make room for the idea that a spouse (male or female) should receive child support in the least and spousal support in some cases when the marriage is dissolved need to tell me why Kelis’ and Nas’ situation is any different. It can’t be simply because they’re both famous.

I saw a question posed on Facebook today asking why was Nas being ordered to pay Kelis’ legal and accountant fees. It is painfully obvious to me that the majority of people are simply upset that a woman is getting something else from a man and not at all concerned about what happens in an actual divorce. Let me show you a little something to help enhance your understanding. In California, the law is as follows for determining child support:

  • Order for support: In any proceeding where there is at issue the support of a minor child…, the court may order either or both parents to pay an amount necessary for the support of the child.
  • Enforcement of right of support: The county may proceed on behalf of a child to enforce the child’s right of support against a parent.  he court may order the parent to pay reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • Statewide uniform guidelines for determining child support:
    • The statewide uniform guideline for determining child support orders is as follows: CS = K [HN – (H%)(TN)].
      • CS = child support amount.
      • K = amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child support
        • K = one + H% (if H% is less than or equal to 50 percent) or two minus H% (if H% is greater than 50 percent) times Total Net Disposable/Income Per Month
      • HN = high earner’s net monthly disposable income.
      • H% = approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent. In cases in which parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children, H% equals the average of the approximate percentages of time the high earner parent spends with each child.
      • TN = total net monthly disposable income of both parties.
  • If the amount calculated under the formula results in a positive number, the higher earner shall pay that amount to the lower earner. If the amount calculated under the formula results in a negative number, the lower earner shall pay the absolute value of that amount to the higher earner. (California Code of Civ Pro §§4001, 4002, 4055.)

Get it? I don’t expect everyone to whip out their calculators, but I do hope you see that it’s not an arbitrary determination. In New York, a noncustodial parent will normally pay a pre-determined percentage of adjusted gross income in child support. So if we are talking about one child, the percentage is 17% of AGI. But that only covers income under $80,000.00.  For income over $80,000, then you are looking at the marital standard of living, ability to pay, needs of the child, judicial discretion, and a host of other factors (Child Support Standards Act). Basically, Kelis can’t go into court and “rape” Nas’ pockets because the support order stems from a codified set of formulas. No need to get into spousal support except to say it’s a similar, coded process. If anything, it’s theaccountants and lawyers for each party who submit financial affidavits valuing their client’s net worth and income potential which impacts the final determination. My message to Nas: get a better lawyer or learn when to settle.

It was really disturbing for me to see all of the negativity today about Kelis not just because I get annoyed at people who rah rah all day without regard to logic and fact, but because it made me uncomfortable as a woman. I abhor the stereotype of the woman out to get into the man’s pocket. Of course there is a fair share of people who do just that, but I think feelings about women fuel that belief more so than pure data on the number of gold diggers out there. Heather Mills, Juanita Jordan, Shaunie O’Neal, Kimora Lee Simmons, down to what Elin Woods would get in a divorce; folks are preoccupied with whether the woman “scored” or not. Since when is it a game? If folks are so bothered, why aren’t they lobbying their state legislatures about changing the laws around spousal support? How come no one is asking why the men in some of these situations are fighting to be the primary caregiver and thus decreasing the amount they have to pay? Why are YOU angry at how much money  Nas must pay Kelis?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter, preferably thoughts that aren’t preceded by a #IHopeKelis hashtag.

  • santagati.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I think the attitude towards Kelis exists in large part because there is already a dominant theme in popular culture of the gold-digging ex-wife of a rich man. So the burden is her’s (unfairly) to prove she’s otherwise. Just like when they initially were separated, the accusation was that Nas must have cheated, because there is another dominant theme of the rich male philanderer, and the burden of proving otherwise was his (also unfairly). We joke about these themes when it involves “black men on the downlow” or “black women can’t find a man” but I think there are very real consequences for the way we think about events and people that result from the pervasiveness of these ideas, whether we profess to believe them or not. This foolishness in our music/movies/books/tv shows doesn’t float in the ether (sorry) neutrally.

  • santagati.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I think the attitude towards Kelis exists in large part because there is already a dominant theme in popular culture of the gold-digging ex-wife of a rich man. So the burden is her’s (unfairly) to prove she’s otherwise. Just like when they initially were separated, the accusation was that Nas must have cheated, because there is another dominant theme of the rich male philanderer, and the burden of proving otherwise was his (also unfairly). We joke about these themes when it involves “black men on the downlow” or “black women can’t find a man” but I think there are very real consequences for the way we think about events and people that result from the pervasiveness of these ideas, whether we profess to believe them or not. This foolishness in our music/movies/books/tv shows doesn’t float in the ether (sorry) neutrally.

  • http://www.studio-griz.com ihsanamin

    I ain’t even gonna pretend to have a working knowledge of divorce law, or even front like I understood that equation ^up there^ properly.
    Nor will I act like I give a crap about either party’s personal lives, BUT…

    Something about this just seems out of whack to me.

    I can see if Kelis was just some regular lower/lower-middle class sista who married into money, but she was doing fairly well on her own prior to Nas.

    Child support should go to the baby, but why does SHE get broke off so much?

    And what looks really weird is every time I see a picture of Kelis, she’s wearing some high-fashion gear or doing something that just looks mad expensive and financially irresponsible. That’s all gravy if it’s the money she earned that she’s blowing, but why is Nas obligated to fund THAT lifestyle?

    Learn me something, Lady of Law.

    - Signed, Ihsan the Layman. (LOL w/ me.)

  • http://www.studio-griz.com ihsanamin

    I ain’t even gonna pretend to have a working knowledge of divorce law, or even front like I understood that equation ^up there^ properly.
    Nor will I act like I give a crap about either party’s personal lives, BUT…

    Something about this just seems out of whack to me.

    I can see if Kelis was just some regular lower/lower-middle class sista who married into money, but she was doing fairly well on her own prior to Nas.

    Child support should go to the baby, but why does SHE get broke off so much?

    And what looks really weird is every time I see a picture of Kelis, she’s wearing some high-fashion gear or doing something that just looks mad expensive and financially irresponsible. That’s all gravy if it’s the money she earned that she’s blowing, but why is Nas obligated to fund THAT lifestyle?

    Learn me something, Lady of Law.

    - Signed, Ihsan the Layman. (LOL w/ me.)

  • Steph

    I think it is also important to note that at the time she filed for divorce Kelis was 6 months pregnant and had been on a career break for about 2 years. So her personal earnings were significantly lower.

    It is also important to note that Nas has not paid a dime to her since they settled last year and that is why the amounts are now so high.

    Lastly, Nas had the option of settling last year, but chose to fight her knowing he had no pre nor post nuptual agreement to protect himself.

    I fail to see where there is any room to be upset with her. He basically shot himself in the wallet.

  • Steph

    I think it is also important to note that at the time she filed for divorce Kelis was 6 months pregnant and had been on a career break for about 2 years. So her personal earnings were significantly lower.

    It is also important to note that Nas has not paid a dime to her since they settled last year and that is why the amounts are now so high.

    Lastly, Nas had the option of settling last year, but chose to fight her knowing he had no pre nor post nuptual agreement to protect himself.

    I fail to see where there is any room to be upset with her. He basically shot himself in the wallet.

  • Kia, JD

    @ihsanamin: Ah Ihsan, let me see if I can answer ya.

    Yeah, the perception is that Kelis was well off before marriage and she might have been, but that doesn’t exempt her spouse from having to abide by family law statutes. It’s all relative. You know I watch Platinum Weddings on WE sometimes and that show is about really extravagant weddings. People on the show spend tens of thousands of dollars on FLOWERS for one day. To you and I that’s crazy. To those people, it’s not. That’s because tens of thousands of dollars don’t mean the same to them as they do to us. I spend $2.50 on coffee some days. My grandfather would be PISSED to know that. Outraged. So you can’t judge Kelis’ or any other “well off” person’s lifestyle against your own reality.

    Why shouldn’t she get broke off so much as you put it? There’s an idea that you can only get what you put in. Unfortunately, what some people “put in” isn’t valued. The law accounts for the intangible things that a relationship brings. You could be married to a woman who doesn’t know shit about your business, never helped you do the books or wrote a song or whatever. But when you came home to talk about your stress she listened. What about the fact that married men live longer and get promoted more quickly at work? My point is that you benefit from your marriage (men and women) in ways that affect your work and earning. If your spouse dies, you can sue someone for loss of consortium (loss of their company, of being able to have sex with them!). If it’s valuable in that case, why isn’t it valuable when they’re alive? To bring it back to Kelis and Nas, I think she contributed to his public profile which is key to a career in the spotlight, no?

    Why does what she wears or buys have any bearing? You just said that she was well off before the marriage. No one questioned her purchases then. Now all of a sudden she’s living off of Nas’ money? Well Monday’s ruling showed that Nas hadn’t paid shit since he was first ordered to last summer.
    It’s also unrealistic and kind of ridiculous to say “you married me and we have this together. you divorce me and now you gotta learn to tighten your belt.” Especially since we don’t know why they split.

    That help? LOL

  • Kia, JD

    @ihsanamin: Ah Ihsan, let me see if I can answer ya.

    Yeah, the perception is that Kelis was well off before marriage and she might have been, but that doesn’t exempt her spouse from having to abide by family law statutes. It’s all relative. You know I watch Platinum Weddings on WE sometimes and that show is about really extravagant weddings. People on the show spend tens of thousands of dollars on FLOWERS for one day. To you and I that’s crazy. To those people, it’s not. That’s because tens of thousands of dollars don’t mean the same to them as they do to us. I spend $2.50 on coffee some days. My grandfather would be PISSED to know that. Outraged. So you can’t judge Kelis’ or any other “well off” person’s lifestyle against your own reality.

    Why shouldn’t she get broke off so much as you put it? There’s an idea that you can only get what you put in. Unfortunately, what some people “put in” isn’t valued. The law accounts for the intangible things that a relationship brings. You could be married to a woman who doesn’t know shit about your business, never helped you do the books or wrote a song or whatever. But when you came home to talk about your stress she listened. What about the fact that married men live longer and get promoted more quickly at work? My point is that you benefit from your marriage (men and women) in ways that affect your work and earning. If your spouse dies, you can sue someone for loss of consortium (loss of their company, of being able to have sex with them!). If it’s valuable in that case, why isn’t it valuable when they’re alive? To bring it back to Kelis and Nas, I think she contributed to his public profile which is key to a career in the spotlight, no?

    Why does what she wears or buys have any bearing? You just said that she was well off before the marriage. No one questioned her purchases then. Now all of a sudden she’s living off of Nas’ money? Well Monday’s ruling showed that Nas hadn’t paid shit since he was first ordered to last summer.
    It’s also unrealistic and kind of ridiculous to say “you married me and we have this together. you divorce me and now you gotta learn to tighten your belt.” Especially since we don’t know why they split.

    That help? LOL

  • http://www.studio-griz.com/ihsanamin ihsanamin

    I agree with the bulk of it.

    But I brought up the issue of her clothing and activities as more of a question of sensible spending.
    She showed up at some party looking like one of the N’avi from “Avatar” one time.
    And even her Twitter feed speaks of her numerous expensive purchases, activities and exploits.

    Is ALLA THAT being factored into the ruling of how much SHE (as an individual) gets from Dumb-ass Nas?

    I can see getting him for child support. Child care. Medical costs. Educational funds. General baby stuff that babies get.
    The child is entitled to that.

    The dollar amounts seem ridiculous to me.
    How much is this cat paying for his other daughter? Is it comparable?
    Why did the court costs run that high?

    So many questions. I need to stop asking them and remind myself that it affects me not one bit. LOL

    PS: I like the come up you done made on this blog. I remember when it was a baby…

  • http://www.studio-griz.com/ihsanamin ihsanamin

    I agree with the bulk of it.

    But I brought up the issue of her clothing and activities as more of a question of sensible spending.
    She showed up at some party looking like one of the N’avi from “Avatar” one time.
    And even her Twitter feed speaks of her numerous expensive purchases, activities and exploits.

    Is ALLA THAT being factored into the ruling of how much SHE (as an individual) gets from Dumb-ass Nas?

    I can see getting him for child support. Child care. Medical costs. Educational funds. General baby stuff that babies get.
    The child is entitled to that.

    The dollar amounts seem ridiculous to me.
    How much is this cat paying for his other daughter? Is it comparable?
    Why did the court costs run that high?

    So many questions. I need to stop asking them and remind myself that it affects me not one bit. LOL

    PS: I like the come up you done made on this blog. I remember when it was a baby…

  • T_alexander719

    I love Nas as an artist … I shouldn’t comment on his personal life that I know lil about from this media storm over his divorce … But I do believe that the amount being ordered is ridiculous… There is nothing fair about him having to pay that much money…. I think the judge is being completely awful & unjust.