Woman Interrupted

Naomi & Serena

Naomi Osaka is so much more than a tennis player. Like her idol, Serena Williams, she is a talented, strong, compassionate, vocal leader! Plus she bodied that cover of Vogue Hong Kong… just saying.

Both Naomi and Serena have been basically unapologetic about taking time to heal from mental and physical exhaustion and the undeniable pressure and stress the press and the sport put them under. They are examples of women who were able to, by controlling their image and business, gather the reigns and do an about face before they were dragged down…Naomi by social anxiety and depression and Serena by standing up for herself amid racist and sexist actions by tennis umpires and staff and her decision to slowly come back to tennis after her life threatening childbirth. Both were ridiculed tremendously by mainly white reporters and members of the press, but supported wholeheartedly by their teams and fans. Both have been vehemently attacked when they were being held up as aesthetically pleasing… surprise surprise. God forbid any standard of beauty that strays too far from the White standard be exalted and celebrated… especially on magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Although these women are athletes, they are both also celebrities. Famous well beyond the tennis court, they have both managed to find safe havens for themselves away from the patriarchal judgment of their bodies and looks and unfair treatment during bouts of trauma.

Sadly, other female celebrities haven’t fared as well.

Amy

Harpers Bazaar UK recently wrote an article on Any Winehouse, and how unprotected she was during her career. The article by Ella Johnson, recalling a Winehouse performance in Mayfair, stated, “Her legs were spindly and frail and her beautiful messy beehive looked too big for her tiny head. I remember her collarbone that gave way to deep hollows. Her make-up was smudged, and she looked so terribly sad… I didn’t understand why she was there, why she wasn’t being looked after and why anyone had allowed her to get on stage. Looking back, it was public humiliation…”

The many times we saw Winehouse looking disheveled and clearly in need of emotional help, but she was just left to continue to perform is maddening now…but we just watched then. Her documentary “Amy” chronicled her downward spiral, often surrounded by boyfriends and a team. These people weren’t exactly hands off, but in some ways they sat by idly while she was unable to control her habits because she sang heartier, with more passion, overflowing with emotion. She sang her face off… while clearly facing off with her own demons. She often looked unsure of where she was, just opening her mouth and letting the notes escape. “They tried to make me go to rehab..,” she sang. But arguably none of us bothered to treat her better on this side of the rehab doors. She deserved better.

It’s Britney bitch…

After suffering from an emotional breakdown, The huge superstar Britney Spears was run into the mud by her family, temporarily lost her kids, and lost control of her finances in a conservatorship. “Don’t you know that you’re toxic…”

During that time she released albums, went on tour, and was featured in a Las Vegas residency for four years, yet she was deemed unable to care for herself and exploited by her own family, as she has recalled. Plagued at one time by severe anxiety that led to a chemical dependency, after postpartum depression and a nasty divorce, she was diagnosed as bipolar and hospitalized, leading to the removal of her children from her home. After emerging from a psychiatric hold she lost control of her finances and personal affairs. Even years after being stable, she continues to fight for her personal freedom. Only now as we are more educated, compassionate, and sensitive to mental illness are we outraged at how she’s being treated. Sadly, this is how celebrity women with emotional and mental health issues have been treated throughout history. Paraded around, humiliated, left to protect themselves, used, and often forgotten.

Lady Day

“Stop haunting me now
Can’t shake you nohow
Just leave me alone”-Good Morning Heartache, Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was a troubled but wildly talented jazz singer who Winehouse was often compared to. She suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse, and memories of a traumatic childhood and traumatic heartache. Unafraid of politicizing her music, her drug use was used by the government to scare her out of performing “Strange Fruit”, her song about America’s history of lynching. A historical human victim of the same attempt to hide and erase America’s ugly racist culture… eerily similar to today’s critical race theory battle.

While she was a classy and beautiful talent, her alcohol and drug abuse were known and taken advantage of during her career. She died handcuffed, under arrest for drug possession, and denied medical care. Taken advantage of by music, men, and the law, she, like many Black women entertainers, was never protected as the national treasure she was. It could be said mistreatment and racism were largely responsible for her emotional and mental difficulties like Nina Simone, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, and others.

Her last recording, “Last Recording” is accompanied by the iconic photo of her looking gaunt, sickly, and melancholy holding a glass of scotch and a cigarette in a recording studio, turtleneck and plaid pants not the least reminiscent of her former glamour. Her voice is much more raspy and haunted, with recording tricks used to mask it’s imperfections. This is how we often leave and allow our female icons with mental health troubles to fare. While our most troubled and troubling male celebrities….we fight for their legacies to stay intact… Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Chris Farley, Tom Cruise always have a fan section. Male icons are exalted. Female icons all too often die broke and alone.

Or in a bathtub.

Whitney

Pictures of her drug filled bathroom broadcast on tabloid covers. Put on stage to sing, body so emaciated and ravaged by drug abuse she looked like death walking. We once said Whitney Houston had the greatest voice of all time. Yet she died in a hotel room bathtub alone.

Her story is perhaps most tragic. Introduced to drugs as a child, by family. Plagued with drug addiction while simultaneously attempting to portray a public persona that was neither true nor her own conception. While we often blame drug users, addiction is a mental illness one needs treatment for, as no amount of criticism will heal it. The inability to live one’s life authentically is known to cause depression, mania, anxiety, and many other negative emotional responses. To watch this woman’s incredible talent and spirit whittled down to the nub was hard for m m those of us who sang “The Greatest Love of All” at our lung’s peak was very sad. To ultimately see her and her beloved daughter die similarly, alone, was heartbreaking.

If women are valued… we must start acting like it. We hear over and over, it’s okay for men to cry and show emotion, and it is. Yet when women, especially celebrities, are weak, sick, broke, ragged, looking less than beautiful, helpless, and in pain, we are often discarded and forgotten. That woman isn’t sexy, she’s not pretty, she’s not desirable… she’s human and should be treated as gingerly …and much more… as she is when she’s made up and fancy. If we would let the people we bestow fame upon to wither away, imagine what we do the other 98% of women. We are the bearers of life… we deserve our very best.

Update: We should be outraged the way young women are being treated in the Tokyo Olympics. In addition to archaic rules forcing them to wear skimpy outfits to compete in competitions that men are fully dressed for, and pushing them out of competition. Now, archaic and arbitrary rules are being used to penalize them for being great. When they pull out, don’t show up, and are critical of the often sexist and racist promulgation of the rules, a hush goes over the crowd. Simone Biles, Shacarri Richardson, Naomi Osaka were offered as human sacrifice. It’s so surprise these are Black women. It’s no surprise the world doesn’t understand how these constant attacks at who we are affect our mental health. But as we pull back, challenge their status quo, and avenge our trauma, we simultaneously show America and the world for the sexist and racist institutions they are and how resilient but unburdened we will be by their constant disrespect.

Oh, you lost lost

Nigga…

Excuse me in advance to anyone “nigga” averse reading this… if the word nigga makes you uncomfortable… too bad because I’m gonna say it a lot!!!

I need to talk to my Black men for a minute, this is serious business. I am up to my eyeballs in this toxic Black masculinity. In so many ways, Kanye West unfairly becomes the poster child when there are a lot of y’all doing some regular level type bullshit. He was diagnosed right… dude is bipolar, and that’s okay. But when he goes off his meds and says it makes him feel more like himself, he displays his pain… and he did exactly that yesterday. But y’all healthy negroes, what’s your excuse!?

Sitting in that room of White people putting his mental illness on display was hard to watch. It didn’t make me, a Black woman, the person most hurt by toxic Black masculinity, angry… it made me sad for Kanye. If that made you want to curse him, cancel him, get on Facebook and talk about how much of a disappointment he is, you are not really sensitive to mental health, you are just talking. Dude is ill… and someone convinced him he’s not… another person seeking to gain something from him. No one is helping him.

Despite some of the viable arguments he makes, they get lost in all of his animated theatrics and pain. As he ranted and spazzed out, as Don Lemon called it, he put on a minstrel show for massa, talking about “bringing back father’s to the home”, his lack of a father, how “I’m with her” promoted gender separation in his mind, and male bonding with Trump. (Note: If I’m agreeing with Don Lemon the world must be about to end. ) It’s the typical “men will save the world” diatribe. And in front of the Potentate of Patriarchy, it sounded like a love letter. To the ears, he sounded stupid stupid. But to anyone with an ounce of understanding of mental illness, he sounded lost lost. Like lost in space, floating in the atmosphere, on a island in the middle of nowhere with strange people…

He is still grieving for his mother and his lack of a father. That family he married into does not love him. They like the publicity they get when Kim can disagree with him wearing the MAGA hat or saying the 13th Amendment should be abolished… like she’s the woke one. When Kim Kardashian is the woke one, in any situation, shit is fucked!

But Kanye is not you niggas caping for Bill Cosby and every other foul ass Negro man, wanting Black male liberation at the expense of women because White America protects its monsters. They make movies about Ted Bundy and Charles Manson, idolize them. Ain’t shit entraining about cutting up folks-in REAL LIFE. But still, some Black men want a piece of White patriarchy so bad they reject Black liberation in favor of saving only themselves. I challenge you… since you think Cosby should get that Kavanaugh treatment, I say when you sneak around on LaKeisha she should get that Lorena treatment… Lorena Bobbitt, not guilty by insanity. You basically leave your women and your soul on the auction block in an effort to walk alongside massa. But until you, as a man, seek total freedom which is the antithesis of supremacy, you will just be Stephen to Calvin Candie. In a suit, talking back, eating the first bowl of chitterlings and chicken feet, running the house…Still nigga!

I wholeheartedly believe some of you desperately need to invest in some yoga, therapy, and meditation before you find yourself in Yeville. The fear of public execution, we have all been watching videos of Black male killing for sport on social media for the past few years, along with some deep desire to share in the often stolen wealth, male privilege, and patriarchal power White men own has some of y’all tripping. But eventually you’ll fall. And frankly, I’m not trying to fall with you when you have abandoned me for your own feigned favor. You sound stupid stupid. But you too, are really lost lost! Difference here is your mind isn’t fighting against you… use that mug.

As for Kanye… I don’t rock with too many people, but I rock with him. I’m gonna pray for him. He’s a genius sonically… but he can’t hear himself!

That’s why I fuck with Ye / That’s my third person / That’s my bipolar shit nigga / That’s my superpower