Category Archives: music

Why Girls Love “Beyonce”: Redefining The Rules Of Modern Femininity

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“Perfection is so… eh.”

Like every flip wrist wearing, Lisa Frank binder toting girl growing up in the ’90s, I had the Janet album as an 8 year old on repeat. In my eyes, Janet Jackson was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, so self assured and sexy as she’d slink across MTV in her music videos, grabbing men by the neck, having her way with them. Those days have come and gone, but between that time the messages were dulled with even more messages.

Meet the overachievers. Once young girls are selected to be the “smart ones,” they are bred to be high performing, high achieving scholarship winners, with pristine GPAs and even more pristine reputations. Anything that would deter her from that one track Ivy League and corner office plan was a distraction, and was therefore dangerous to the blueprint set before them.

When Beyonce dropped her latest album last week, out of nowhere, Twitter went into a frenzy, and it seemed like for women, Christmas came early. And like Janet, the album and all of its visuals have definitely ignited a spark like a moth to a flame for the women listening. You can see it in all of the status updates and every Instagram selfie with the #Beyonce hashtag.

On her terms, the perfect pop star with the perfect life and the perfect body showed us one thing: she’s not perfect. From the way it was dropped, Beyonce has shunned her pop Queen crown but retaining it, shaking it off and redefining it so that the new image fits the woman she’s become. The cool lesson in it all? She’s still the Queen B. Like only Michael Jackson has done in the past, Beyonce was able to command the attention of the world and drop the mic. Just because she could.

Beyonce’s latest is already my favorite of her catalog. Maybe it’s because she’s a peer, and I’ve felt that need to buck the stereotypes about female identity at this stage in my life. Maybe it’s because at this point in my career, I’m able to assert myself and make “power moves” in a way I couldn’t before. I’m blessed (and worked hard for) the opportunity to be innovative and lead, negotiate and nurture talent. And maybe because I’ve become in tune with my power through running that’s made me love and notice my body more than I ever have in the past. It may have to do with the confidence I feel as a girl from New York City to not feel the need to cover up when I’m walking through the streets because of unwanted attention of men who think they know everything they need to about me when I pass by in skinny jeans. And maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of “50 Shades of Grey” these days.

I applaud Beyonce for the vulnerability that she’s allowed herself at this stage in her career. In a year when images of women objectifying themselves for a quick 15 minutes of fame on a reality show or on a “Wrecking Ball” seemed like the only way for relevancy, Bey owned both her art and her sexuality.

The reason I love the new “Beyonce” record, is that she let herself be vulnerable. And in that way, she carves a niche for the listener to vulnerable as well.

When she presses play, she can let go of the pressure to be perfect, close her eyes and picture the dreams, fantasies  and memories of her own story. She can do her own little bounce in the mirror as she gets ready for her day, wink at herself and say, “I woke up like dis.” She can chop off her hair, rock it in a sleek bob, or let it flow free on her shoulders. It’s all beautiful and feminine simply because the woman herself is the constant. She can be reminded that women can be powerful sexual beings who do not need to aspire to marriage when she needs a wake up call. She can envision herself making love to her man in every possible way, and take control when the mood and the need hits her.

It’s hard not to romanticize the album so soon, but I’m just a woman writing what I feel. Vulnerable isn’t scary anymore.

Thanks, B.

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “We Should All Be Feminists”

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Dirty Dancing Turns 25: The VHS That Shaped My Life

Dedicated to the Baby’s and the Ana Steele’s of the world…

I love a good story. I love them so much that I had to pull myself away from the 50 Shades Of Grey trilogy long enough to write this. 25 years ago today, Dirty Dancing was released. I was just a kid when it was a hit in theaters, but once I got my hands on the VHS, I fell hard. The dancing and music drew me in, and when I became a teen, the story was totally my so called life. Pun intended. What’s up, Claire Danes.

Baby was the good girl’s shero. We didn’t have many of those, but she wore cardigans and long dresses. She had big dreams and wanted to change the world. This time around, the bookworm meets bad boy, and for once bad boy loves bookworm.

I remember that one exciting moment in high school that could have turned disastrous when my all-girls senior class attempted to recreate the final dance scene. We even felt brave enough to have a girl jump off the stage for the dramatic lift. Thankfully the Dean stopped us, but it’s a night we’ll always remember.

25 years since my first introduction, Dirty Dancing is still my favorite movie of all time. I still have “I carried a watermelon” moments, when I can’t say in words how I feel, but I can find the perfect ones in a song. In one of those moments, I collaborated with my buddy December on my first official mixtape, LOVE. We used Dirty Dancing as our arc, to tell the story of a girl in love. Turns out it plays like a modern day romance, and once I curated the tracks, it became clear that it’s a reflection of how I love. It’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done. Listening to it almost two years later, I can feel the purity, hope, fearlessness, and joy, and it makes me smile knowing that it’s a direct reflection of my heart.

Love like the movies.

Cinderella Leaps Of Faith

I feel like I can do anything now…

In September, I turned to my blog to express my overwhelming excitement and panic about taking one of my biggest career leaps. Now, almost five months to the day, everything has changed.

When I got the news that I would become the newest editor at Styleblazer.com, I did three things. First, I said yes. Then, I called my parents. Then, I remembered that the Knicks were playing, and that final thought inspires me to glide my fingers across my keyboard tonight…

Jeremy Lin’s promo song on MSG is Eminem’s “Cinderella Man.” The song sums up his journey to becoming a Knicks  phenomenon like no other. A Harvard grad with an Economics degree,  almost on his way out of the NBA forever, was  given one more chance. And within two weeks, he went from sleeping on his brother’s couch (shout outs to NYU), to becoming the biggest player the Knicks have seen in ages, playing among his idols and giving them a run for their money on the basketball court. And that’s exactly the kind of journey that we can all relate to, but it’s one that hits me to my core.

For me, all signs pointed to medical school. As a full scholarship NYU grad, giving up the stability and prestige of practicing medicine for an uncertain journalism career seemed insane. Especially for someone who doesn’t do well in uncertainty. But for every pang of anxiety I felt after making that decision, there was another pang of excitement, that “knowingness,” or God-given intuition, that tells us we’re meant for something else. And that’s something I’ve never been able to ignore.

When I graduated from NYU, I was almost immediately thrust into layoffs. A stop and go journalism path left me exhausted, discouraged, doubtful of my talents, and barely making ends meet. But I just kept trying. Once I found that stability, in a media job where I barely wrote, I felt that excitement vs. anxiety fight in my core again, and I knew I had to make a change. But this time, God shook those tectonic plates, and I was forced to fight or fly. And I fought and flew.

Five months after leaving stability, I have helped to shape TanningofAmerica.com, a site with a message that’s so important to me. I helped a Love & Hip Hop star find the beauty in herself, talked about fourth grade crushes with R&B singers, and gushed to Johnny Gill. And now, I’m starting the chapter I’ve been anticipating since I asked my mom for a Talkboy, and started recording my own talk show at nine years old. Or when I asked my Nana to teach me words in the dictionary so I could write stories when I was three. The path was there all along, and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to keep dreaming those big dreams. Finally, I can show them what I can do.

To everyone who has e-mailed me, and told me about their dreams, please, pursue them. Let me be the proof that it can be done. Chart your own journey, and live out loud. You aren’t too old, or too young, or not enough of anything. You are enough right now. It’s hard, you will get knocked around, but you can win. Take your Cinderella leap of faith.

Lots of love to everyone who has been there for me throughout this process. I love each and every one of you. There’s no me without you.

xo,j

The J List: The Whitney Houston Edition



Find your strength in love…

The J List: Whitney Houston Edition
http://open.spotify.com/user/121546021/playlist/1LzrM1xpOhtDz77dpPFNMq

Beyonce & Jay-Z Welcome Baby Blue Ivy

Baby, it’s you…

IV. The Carter-Knowles were so enraptured by the Roman numeral that they sported matching tattoos on their ring fingers before tying the knot. Now it’s the perfect namesake for their brand new baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter.

And although most of the world is awaiting first photos, and the chance to watch the Wonder Woman-like Beyonce transition into motherhood, all I can think of is the happiest father in New York City, Shawn Carter.

Little girls are awesome. I know this because I used to be one. They’re bubbly, a perfect blend of sweetness and sass, and are way too much fun to dress up. Moms love them dearly, but there’s something about a little girl that melts a father’s heart. I’m fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my dad, and an uncle who was like my bonus dad. They’d both let me get away with things that my mom never would, like eating pickles and drinking soda at midnight, or watching that extra episode of Married With Children. I would alter the Sunday morning New York Times into a mangled form, just to look at pictures, and they would just say, “It’s ok, she’s reading. Let her have it.” Or they would pick me up and carry me around Six Flags on their shoulders when my legs got too tired.

These are the moments, and a million more, I wish for Jay-Z. Can’t wait to see the car seat in the Maybach. And little Miss Carter has a million godparents across the world, so excited for her arrival.

Jay-Z feat. B.I.C.: “Glory”

Video Premiere: Taylor Swift: “Ours”

Your hands are tough but they are where mine belong in,
And I’ll fight their doubt and give you faith,
With this song for you…

With everyone traveling home for the holidays next week, Taylor Swift’s new clip, “Ours,” seems so fitting for upcoming airport hugs and kisses. Billboard‘s Woman of the Year shines in her concept videos, and this one finds her getting through a mundane day at the office by watching videos of her special guy on her tablet. A sweet reunion is inevitable, and just adds to the warm and fuzzies.

Most aww-worthy moment goes to the “I loved you first” post-it.

Katy Perry & Robyn Take Over SNL

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Katy Perry hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and virtually all the cast members tried to make out with her. Kristen Wiig got the closest in the opening monologue. The newly blonde pop star donned a dark brown wig for most of her skits, and made for a killer Pippa Middleton in a Royals spoof.

For me, the best part of the show was that musical guest Robyn got to bring her quirky dance robotics to network TV. I’ve been a fan of hers since the 90s, and with every year she just gets fresher. She performed “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own,” off her electronica Body Talk series, that’s still going strong a year after its release. Dance moves, stretchy pants, and all Robyn’s voice is still on point.

Digital Short: Happy Holidays (Peep a really creepy Matt Damon!)

Robyn: “Dancing On My Own”