Tyra Banks telling America’s Next Top Model contestants to “hoe, but then make it fashion” is easily one of the most iconic ANTM moments. The strange but perfect advice told the contestants exactly what was expected of them in order to be successful in their industry.
Now it seems that Tyra’s advice can be applied to any field in the public eye. Women who are sexual, quirky, loud, assertive and a million other adjectives that don’t exactly fit into the description of “ladylike” are winning and I’m loving every minute of it.
Cardi B, who is a retired stripper, has a Number 1 single. Issa Rae, who has never shied away from sexual topics or explicit language, is literally everywhere. SZA, who sings from the point of view of a sexually liberated woman, broke into the mainstream this year. And Rihanna, who hasn’t been at all conservative since her “Good Girl Gone Bad Days,” is building an empire.
These women are producing work and creating images for themselves that may not win your grandma’s approval, but they’re definitely honest and relatable. Just like everyone else, Black women want to see people who think and talk like them in the media and we’re finally getting that.
From Issa’s mirror pep talks to SZA’s musical anecdotes, it may not always be clean but it’s always real. Although we may not have bloody shoes like Cardi, listening to her feels good because the energy is genuine enough and her personality is familiar enough for us to feel. And Rihanna is literally an embodiment of almost every young Black woman’s alter ego so we’re going to support anything she produces.
The times of having to have a squeaky-clean image and the ability to be a perfect role model in order to be marketable have passed. We don’t want an angel to look up to, we want a “hoe.” We want someone who isn’t perfect, we want someone who reminds us of our friends, sisters, cousins, aunties and mostly ourselves.
Be the zeitgeist.