When Erykah Badu walked naked for 13 seconds (when the video was shot, she had the full song sped up to one minute and 32 seconds, then slowed back down in editing), it was for her art and not sexual consumption. It’s a stance she feels contributed to the outrage. “We’re just not fashioned for [nudity],” says Badu. “Especially the Black women, the ‘Hottentot Venus’ women, big-booty women, the large posterior, with no shoes on and a scarf on her head, you know that ain’t sexy.” [...]
“Society has a problem with female nudity when it is not . . . ”—Badu pauses to get her words together; she wants this point to be very clear—“. . . when it is not packaged for the consumption of male entertainment. Then it becomes confusing.” [...]
“To me it’s like traditional performance art like Yoko Ono, or Nina Simone. Research some of those women. They all seem to live by the same theme: Well-behaved women rarely make history. Even looking at people like Harriet Tubman and those types of women. When you have strong convictions about something you know what you already gonna do. I look at some other videos. I’m not naming names, because I don’t want that to be mentioned. There is the thing with sexuality. I’m naked for 13 seconds, and these people are naked the whole time and gyrating and saying come “lick on my lollipop,” and “suck on my cinnamon roll,” and, you know, suggesting sex. People are uncomfortable with sexuality that’s not for male consumption. Could be ‘cause I did it in public too. Do you think people would have been complaining if I had on high-heel shoes?”
— From the June/July Vibe Cover Profile of Erykah Badu
Arise: Earlier, you called performance your therapy. Is performance how you deal with pain?
Erykah Badu: I accept pain as part of growing. Everyone goes through it. And in the process of it, it’s unpleasant, but I’m still peaceful and happy.
A: Does pain ever blind you?
EB: Not at this point. Joy blinds me. Joy, happiness, sadness – they are all blinding, if you lose yourself in any of those things. I feel that I have to stay very accepting and in the moment and not get to a point where I am complacent. I am continually evolving.
A: Do you practice meditation?
EB: Yes. It’s at a point where I walk in meditation. I practise being here, being present, and not being consumed with the chatter of my mind. Being aware of my experiences and the people that I meet. Truly giving them my full attention. I am practising it now.
A: Do you feel fear?
EB: I don’t know if it’s fear I feel. Sometimes, I have caution. And it’s based on fears I’ve had in the past. Neurologically, sometimes I see something that reminds me of something I’ve feared before. I caution myself. But I don’t think there are very many things that scare me right now. Especially human beings.
A: Have you ever experienced betrayal?
EB: [Long pause] What I perceived as betrayal. But it wasn’t really betrayal. Each person has his own path. I mean I don’t blame people for the things they do. That is not for me to judge. I can’t believe I am saying all these things to you because I generally don’t get into conversations like this. Because sometimes, when it’s written, it’s not written in the spirit that I’m saying it. So it becomes confusing. I’m cautious of that. But I don’t believe in betrayal. People follow their own minds and hearts. I guess that’s a part of what detachment is about.
A: How can you be present and detached at the same time?
EB: Well, being present means you are aware of everything around you. When I say detachment, it means that you don’t connect with the emotion that others have for you. The fear or envy someone has for you, the need to leave you, or leave the situation. That’s their stuff. What they feel or think about you is really none of your business. Your business is to be aware and always know that you are synonymous with what is going on around you. And that way, your feelings don’t get hurt when they make a decision that doesn’t agree with you.
A: Which brings us to love. What is love?
EB: Love is the opposite of fear.
—From “The Naked Truth,” published in Arise, Issue 11
(Image Credit: Vibe)