Growing up, I was taught not to worship celebrities, but to celebrate those with real talent, especially those who use their talents to elevate and inspire others. So while many of my friends are free to deify the Madonnas of the world, as a child I was taught that there is much more to him than a handsome man singing “The Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte; he was a pioneer who made the path easy for Black creators like me. That’s why losing Tina Turner so soon after Belafonte’s death felt like a double blow – because she represents the image of a strong female celebrity that has almost completely disappeared in the social media age, and an image of a Black femininity that’s just as perfect. was doing. it was deep.
For starters, Turner’s journey from poverty to superstardom represented a world of possibilities few have for women from backgrounds like hers. Diana Ross and the Supremes were fascinating, but unless you’re near a big city like them, being Supreme seemed just as likely as being an astronaut. Meanwhile, other Black female superstars from previous eras, from Lena Horne to Dorothy Dandridge, have summed up very narrow definitions of beauty—elegant and Eurocentric—that many Black women don’t fit.
Then Tina Turner came along. Just like my mother, a Black woman who grew up picking cotton in the South allowed other Black women with limited expectations and possibilities to dream and imagine what they were doing. One thing I’ve learned about privilege is that one of its biggest advantages is that it gives you the ability to see dreams as potential realities in a way rarely imagined for the underprivileged. This was a wonderful gift that Turner had given to many women. This is not the only one.
At a time of endless debate about the role of celebrities in society (should they stay out of politics and Twitter? Should they be considered role models?), Turner truly represented the celebrity at its best. She was not only fun and charming, but she became one of the most important Black women to walk (or tremble) on this planet because of her ability to break racial stereotypes. Black women have long been stereotyped as angry, aggressive, and overly sexual. And while a typical Tina Turner performance might certainly be considered aggressive and sexy, here’s the thing: She took the stereotypes used to humiliate us and made them their own, reminding us that there is a time and a place, no matter what society tells us. for righteous anger And In a world where an increasing number of female celebrities think showing off their nipples or wearing see-through dresses on the red carpet represents sexiness and feminism, she has proven that by showing some leg when you have confidence, flair and quality. Might be the sexiest thing ever.
Turner was one of those rare celebrities who refreshingly valued their peace and privacy. Today, we sting a celebrity and smash their emergency room visits on Instagram. Yet the last few years of Turner’s life have not been overposted on social media, even as his health has deteriorated. This does not mean that he lived any less than a completely real life; In fact, her frankness about the abuse she suffered by her former mentor and husband, Ike Turner, is one of her most enduring and influential contributions. Domestic violence was something that has long been overshadowed and rarely discussed, especially among successful people. For Black women in particular, enduring and surviving all forms of humiliation and suffering has long been viewed as part of our strength or so-called “superpowers.” In fact, perhaps the most damaging stereotype is not that we are angry or easy, but that we are too tough and indestructible. (Studies have shown long-standing racial disparities in healthcare, partly due to the bizarre notion that Blacks have a higher pain threshold than other races.)
It’s as if the strong Black woman stereotype, “Do whatever you can to a Black woman and watch her move on,” exists as a kind of endless challenge to the world. But only because we to be Moving on doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or there’s no scarring – physically, mentally and emotionally – from doing it. But Turner showed his wounds in front of the world to help other survivors know that like him they could not only survive, but thrive.
Turner not only succeeded; proved that you can heal and rise without rolling in the destruction of others. One of the unique challenges of black femininity is living in a world where many of the men in your life will be hurt every day by the inequality they were born into. Some of these men then vent their anger to those closest to them, which is usually the women in their lives. This means that while Blacks may feel more empowered to talk about racial violence today, talking openly about community violence, especially domestic violence, is difficult and can feel like betrayal. Yet Turner did not let this be the defining story of her, or even her life, as she spoke the truth about the horrific abuse she suffered by her ex-husband. She didn’t make it her duty to destroy him when she was completely liberated and back on top. HE made Aim to be a guiding light for other women who may find themselves in similar situations.
Turner even showed us how to do this better than anyone else as we get older in an industry notorious for not forgiving aging women. It hasn’t been a sad attempt to stay “relevant” by trying to shock younger audiences with outlandish promotional stunts, which made a phenomenal comeback in her forties and continues to sell out decades later. In fact, he did the opposite. She gave her best when she was on stage, and when she wasn’t, she stepped away from the spotlight.
He was just the best. Today’s stars can learn a lot from him. We all can.