“I’m So Bored By This Question” Chimamanda Adichie Tells Vogue How She Feels About Beyonce Sampling Her Work
For her 2013 self-titled album, Beyonce sampled Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” oration for her “Flawless” track. Although Adichie would be considered the “Queen Bey” of Millenial literature, her following has increased since “Flawless” hit international air waves. Yesterday, “We All Should Be Feminists,” based on Adichie’s Nigerian childhood and how it intertwines with the academic definition of feminism, was released as an Ebook and to commemorate the occasion Vogue spoke to the literary laureate and she gave insight on what success really means to her post-Yonce sampling.
What was it like to have your ideas about feminism go so viral?
It felt strange and surprising. I had done one TED Talk and I felt that I had already said what I could, in fact, say, and I didn’t think I had anything else worth talking about. But then I also realized the one thing I cared about is gender, feminism. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” But I thought, This is not going to be popular, because it’s obvious that feminism for many people is a bad word, even if you believe in it, the word is off-putting. I thought seven people would care. I was surprised, but pleasantly so.
Is it always the goal of a writer to reach as many people as possible?
I don’t think in those terms. For this speech, it was an audience of mostly Africans, an audience I wanted to reach. I remember when I started off, just having a sense of push back, I knew that it was a subject that wasn’t popular, so when people stood up and clapped, that was success. My expectations had been low, so I was just surprised.
What was your first thought when Beyoncé asked if she could sample the song?
I’m so bored by this question, but I will say that I’m happy that my thirteen-year-old niece calls herself a feminist—not because I made the speech, but because of Beyoncé. Having attained the status of “cool” to my niece is wonderful.
Your 2013 book Americanah is being made into a movie by Lupita Nyong’o. Does that kind of Hollywood exposure frighten you a little?
I don’t really think very much about it. I’m just sitting here trying to write a good sentence. The kind of fiction I write isn’t the kind of fiction that Angelina Jolie or George Clooney seem likely to make into a movie, so you don’t think it’s going to happen. Particularly with Americanah, I was writing the book I was trying to write and having fun, and I never thought it would translate into a movie. But also, I just think that books are much more interesting than films, and there’s a part of me that resents that the world is much more interested in movies. People say, “Congratulations, you have a film!” But I think, What about the book?
I will say, particularly because it’s Lupita, who I admire very much, I’m excited. I love the space that she occupies. I love that she exists. So I’m quite happy. But it’s not for me a measure of success.
What is a measure for success?
Being read. Being read by people who get it. For me, success is that I have a book out and maybe I get an email from a friend of a friend who I don’t really know that speaks to what the book is about. That people get it: That can keep me depression-free for a month. That it means something to someone else, particularly in a positive way. A woman said to me, “Your book made me feel less alone.” That is success.
To read Adichie’s entire interview, click here.