Spoken word artist Amanda Gorman is known to be as powerful and poignant as her poetry.
Gorman was crowned the nation’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, and the youngest Inaugural Poet in history after reciting her famous poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration in 2020. Now, she is signed exclusively with Writer’s House, IMG models, has graced the front cover countless publications, written two New York Times bestseller books and is now Allure Magazine’s Inaugural A-List of Beauty Changemakers cover star for March.
Gorman is part of the upcoming generation of movers, shakers, dreamers, and innovators called “Gen-Z,” whose ideals have evoked very polarizing opinions from the generations before them. Although she has accomplished more than most have dreamed of at 23 years old, Gorman has something to say to those who still write her and her generation off as too sensitive or “woke”.
“I think a lot of fingers get pointed at Gen Z,” she told Allure’s Editor-in-Chief Jessica Cruel. “But the word ‘woke’ in itself invokes this idea that you are willing to sit a bit longer with information and think a bit more curiously about history. That necessitates a long attention span. It also necessitates, I think, empathy and understanding as a human being.”
As a young Black woman who was catapulted into the spotlight, Gorman says she struggled with sharing her personal story to the world at first.
“It’s automatically kind of a vain thing to do, to say to yourself, I have thoughts and ideas that everyone should hear,” Gorman explained. “But then I look around, and that’s what white men have been doing for centuries, and it’s called ‘leadership.’ It’s called ‘ambition.’ It’s called ‘inspiration.’ And when I do it, it’s called ‘vanity.’ I’m not necessarily doing it to just hear myself or convert oxygen into carbon dioxide,” she continued. “I’m doing it because I want to make a difference that goes beyond myself.”
It can be very jarring to have your work and personhood critiqued heavily by millions of people across the globe, especially when you are a young Black woman still trying to figure out your own story. However, Gorman will not let the looming threat of metaphorical (and even literal) harm stop her from exploring and sharing her vulnerability with the world.
“Do I feel safe? No. It’s very difficult, I’d say near impossible, to feel safe as a strong voice of color in the United States. Especially given the violence that we see on a daily basis, both psychological and physical,” she said. “I try not to be controlled by my fear but informed by it. So if I’m really afraid, I know this terror is telling me that there’s something to be gained from courage.”
Courage can be a great motivator, but after experiencing centuries of racial injustice towards the Black community in America, that courage can transmute into anger for some people. But not Gorman, who would rather be a voice of hope and optimism.
“As a Black female poet, I think so many people expected my poems to be angry because of that schema. I’m like, yes, I have the right to be angry,” Gorman proclaimed. “But I wanted to really have freedom to speak with hope in the same way that white male poets get to do. Why can’t that voice of a people, a generation, come from someone who looks like me? Not too long ago, my ancestors would’ve been persecuted for reading and writing, and I’m the inaugural poet of the United States,” she continued. “If anything, as a Black woman, I feel like that makes me the most hopeful.”
Check out the rest of Gorman’s insightful interview on Allure.com