R&B/Dance music icon Jody Watley is so peeved about the images of Black women in the media that she felt compelled to pen an open letter on the topic. In the letter, which appeared on her website, Watley expressed her frustrations with various issues, from the portrayal of Black women in media to misconceptions and misinformation about her former group, Shalamar.
“It’s no secret that Black women are generally the most marginalized, disrespected, diminished, and dissected across social media and in society. It makes no difference if you’re the First Lady of the United States, an Olympic gymnast, the greatest women in tennis, pop stars, actresses like Leslie Jones attacked for taking a role some thought she shouldn’t be in, executives, journalists – who came to defend mega -star, my colleague and more than baby sister of King Of Pop Janet Jackson, after the Superbowl..or you could be working mothers or students who take heat for wearing cornrows or natural styles, welfare recipients, “baby mamas”, too loud, too spirited, too quiet, too reserved – and so on when so many of us are working our asses off to make things happen and hold things together,” wrote Watley.
“We get demeaned constantly – it’s our hair, our weight, our looks, never good enough for some – doesn’t matter the socioeconomic background or level of intelligence either. Often some of the negativity and hate sadly comes directly from other black women and men. In the midst of being an artist it was my duty to raise another intelligent, strong daughter knowing the challenges not just of being a human being, a woman – add to the mix a girl and woman of color.”
Watley first rose to fame as one of the original members of the R&B group Shalamar in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Before breaking up, they enjoyed several hits including “Dead Giveaway,” “The Second Time Around,” “For The Lover In You,” and “A Night To Remember.” Then as a solo artist Watley, a singer/songwriter/producer, continued her hit making streak with “Real Love,” “Looking For A New Love,” “Don’t You Want Me,” and “Friends.”
With a career like that, it’s no wonder Watley isn’t happy about how Black artists have come to be pigeonholed musically now.
“It was as if universal acceptance by way of music was somehow perverse and wrong, a betrayal of sort to a Black or ‘urban’ (a generic term at best) fanbase. There are those that don’t like me for what they think I represent..not being a true soul R&B artist in their eyes, not Black enough in their eyes, not gospel enough in their eyes..not ratchet enough in their eyes..not a woe is me hasn’t suffered enough from what you see or know in their eyes artist…So, when people set about to destroy you for what you’ve worked hard for all of your life and career, to tear that down, for being determined, tenacious, smart, strong, talented, determined, independent, classy on constantly on my music and business grind, it’s like – wow really? Even at your job, whatever you do there’s bound to be someone in the shadows – mad. Could even be family and those you may have considered a friend. It’s life,” wrote Watley before rehashing the breakdown of Shalamar and fans’ incessant request that they reunite.
While you can read that trilogy in its entirety here, tell us what you think about Watley’s comments on Black women and Black artists.