Thursday, March 10, 2016

Unlikely Role Model: Amber Rose

I knew Amber Rose and Kanye West had dated. I had seen pictures of them at events, but even though I loved Kanye’s music, I never got super invested in his personal life. The first time I ever really noticed Amber Rose was a little over a year ago when "Kanye's ex took some slutty pictures on a balcony." I was shown pictures of her by some coworkers from her Insta
gram in a black string bikini. As a lover of selfies and self love, I felt I was missing a problem that everyone else one saw. When I looked at her Instagram, I just saw a woman feeling herself. I've kept tabs on Amber Rose since that day.

Amber Rose hasn't always been the anti-slut shaming feminist that we know her to be today.

“I was always about girl power, but I didn’t quite get it because I did always feel like I had to be completely submissive to a man. I was always very unhappy doing that,” she explains. “I think I needed time to grow up. You get to a certain point in your life where you really find out who you are, and sometimes that happens when you’re 25, but for me, it was 31. I didn’t quite know that before. I guess social media did help create the feminist monster that I’ve become.”

She was born in South Philadelphia in 1983. She grew up with dreams of being a model in Hollywood. Everyone she knew, her best friends included, told her over and over that she would never get out of Philly.  In her book, How To Be a Bad Bitch, she talks about wanting more than having kids young and staying in her hometown. She also acknowledges that if that is your life path, to embrace it and live your best life. She’s careful not to shame other people or their choices in life. She encourages people to “create your ideal self” and not be discouraged if your risk doesn’t work out. “There’s no way every attempt will turn out perfect,” you just have to make a plan and follow it to the best of your ability.
At 18, she moved to New York alone, living in the projects and working as an exotic dancer. It was lonely and scary at times, but she had gotten out of Philly just like she wanted. She kept her dreams of being a model, working out and saving her money. She says not having friends actually helped her stay focused on her dreams.  She continued to dance for seven years.

Everyone thought it was a bad idea to shave her head, but she still wanted to do it. So she did. And now she has her signature look. At 19, she asked a barber to start straight down the middle so she couldn’t turn back. Then she dyed her hair blonde – and she’s been blonde and buzzed for 13 years, ever since.
She was Kanye’s girlfriend from 2008-2010 and referred to as “Kanye’s Ex” by some ever since. She was with him during what I think was a very pivotal moment of his popularity. Graduation was a huge record debuting at number 1 of the Billboard US Charts in September 2007. Two months later, his mother passed away and Kanye broke up with fiancée Alexis Phifer, who he had been with since 2002. Kanye pursued Amber after seeing her in Ludacris’ “What Them Girls Want” music video in 2008. Quickly, Amber became the eye candy, the trophy girlfriend on Kanye’s arm for two years. She was there in the crowd when Kanye infamously took the mic from Taylor Swift during her VMA speech. Amber was there for the media tour that followed and when he went into self-imposed exile from the press. 

From 2009-2010 she was signed with Ford Models. In 2010-2012 she appeared on various TV shows and campaigns. In 2012 she released two singles with her then husband Wiz Khalifa. She also opened a clothing line that year called Rose & Ono. She and Wiz had a son together in 2013. As she forged ahead as a mother, she was still living her dreams of modeling.

This last year, 2015, is when I think the world, me included, started really paying attention to Amber Rose. In August, Amber and her best friend Blac Chyna showed up to the MTV VMAs in matching nude outfits covered with graffitied insults: Gold Digger, Stripper, Hoe, Slut, Whore, Bitch. They were literally wearing the labels that they had been given by society or specific people in their life and told they should feel ashamed for. They were wearing the hate and looking flawless. This fashion advertisement for Amber’s upcoming Slut Walk was a game changer.

In September, she starred in the Funny or Die video “Walk of No Shame” which went viral. It’s a short minute and twenty six seconds that packs a huge punch of anti-slut shaming. I shared this video on my Facebook the first time I saw it. Women are definitely shamed for having sex and enjoying it and seeing this undeniably hot woman fighting against that stigma was remarkable to me. Slut shaming is something I’ve spoken about in the past; I believe you should have complete control over your body and everyone else should mind their business.

She organized the Amber Rose Slut Walk in LA in October which was the inaugural event for the Amber Rose Foundation for Women Empowerment. Hundreds of supporters showed up to this event, notably including Tess Holliday, a body positive model, and Matt McGorry, star of OINTB, who was also a costar in her Funny or Die video. Nicki Minaj donated $5,000 to the cause and Amber ultimately raised $56K of her $65K GoFundMe goal.

This event brought a huge wave of a media attention for slut shaming which can also translate to victim blaming and shaming women for the choices they make regarding their sexuality. The event not only let Amber speak about the negative things people think about her for simply existing as a sexual being and performing as an exotic dancer, but also as a platform for survivors of sexual assault and feminists all together. She released her book How To Be A Bad Bitch later that month, which was a smart business move after all the following publicity.

Until Next Time,
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