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Myth of Crazy

The Soul Music of Justice series decode stereotypes surrounding African American female artists

American+singer+Whitney+Houston+performing+on+Good+Morning+America+%28Central+Park%2C+New+York+City%29+on+September+1%2C+2009
American singer Whitney Houston performing on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009

American singer Whitney Houston performing on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009

Aster Tecson

Aster Tecson

American singer Whitney Houston performing on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009

Merna Nashed, Contributor

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In ‘The Soul Music of Justice’ series, the panel discussed the stereotype around the idea that African American women are crazy. They brought up three inspirational African American women that have gone through dramatic changes in the music industry not by choice but by the pressure of the people in their lives and the media.

The first woman that was discussed was female rapper, Lil’ Kim. The panel and attendees talked about her background and how her mother died, in addition to a broken relationship with her father. In fact the relationship was so bad that she was kicked out of her home. In spite of this Lil’ Kim pushed forward and won a rapping  contest that changed her life and career forever.

As she advanced into the music industry she was compelled to prove herself. The panel showed us the covers of her music albums, which degraded her in every single way. In an interview, Lil’ Kim stated that she was a women rapper among many men rappers, and with that she had to talk like them and be like them in order to succeed in the industry. She needed to stand out. She used vulgar language just to become equal with the men.

As time went on competition grew fiercer. To keep up with her image, Lil’ Kim started to make changes to her body. She got implants and even bleached herself to make herself look lighter. The media became outraged at the things that she was doing to her body and deemed her as crazy.

The next artist that the panel discussed was Lauryn Hill. Hill was only 13-years-old when she first performed at ‘Showtime at the Apollo’ the famous Theater in New York. She was immediately booed of the stage. That night she went home and told her mother she never wanted to be booed on stage ever again, that next time all she wanted to hear were applause from the audience. Lauryn Hill was not only a singer, but a songwriter, a record producer and an actress.

In 1993 Hill joined The Fugees, however soon after she left to focus on her solo career. It wasn’t long after that her fame began to skyrocket. Ultimately the fame took a toll on her, she started to turn down movie roles and forced herself into exile. She became irritated to the point that she couldn’t even step out of her house to do simple errands. When she did do concerts she would show up late, if she showed up at all. She wore strange outfits and put on pounds of makeup on. Quickly after she was deemed crazy by the media.

The last artist that the panel talked about was Whitney Houston. Whitney Houston was around a lot of music growing up, in fact her father was the one that was managing her music career. However, instead of watching out for her he restricted her from being herself. He kept her away from her girl lover and made sure that Whitney did not show her true self when it came to music. She had a difficult time identifying with the African American community and she of course could not label herself as white. She lived in depression most of her years until she eventually overdosed on drugs. Ironically her daughter was given the same fate.

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