All hail Queen Badu…
Today, the Cut released its annual “Fall Fashion Issue” with Erykah Badu as its cover star. For the profile, writer Casey Gerald spoke with Badu for a wide-ranging interview about the singer’s artistry, her spirituality, and her greatest fears.
The magazine sent over quite a few pull quotes — which we’re happy to share — AFTER we tell you the glorious story she told them about why she stopped wearing the headwrap that was such a hallmark for her in the ’90’s.
So the story goes — in around 2000, Badu’s then boyfriend Common planned a trip to Cuba for them shortly after the release of her Mama’s Gun. The pair went to the home of a well-known priest in Havana so that she could receive a Santería reading. Badu recalls waiting outside on the curb with a small crowd of others also looking to speak with the priest:
“I had on my best whites,” she remembers. “Long white dress. I didn’t have any shoes on. But I had on a verrry tall white headwrap. I was clean.”
“So I’m sitting on the curb and I’m waiting. I’m meditating. I’m breathing. But I’m annoyed.”
The annoyance was in part because while she was waiting one man reached across her to pass a cigarette to another man.
“I look down at the guy who passed the cigarette, and he had on,” she takes a quick deep breath, “some Pumas that was tied so tight that you couldn’t see the tongue of ’em.” The Pumas were once blue suede, she says, but they had turned a kind of grayish color: “I just remember these details and being annoyed by them passing a cigarette over my good. White. Muslin. Dress.”
Eventually it was Erykah’s turn and a priestess walked Badu into the house and began to prepare Badu’s body, taking some cotton and making rubbing motions around her head:
“That means clearing your head so that you can receive — or give, if necessary.” Then, somebody else came in. “It was the dude with the dirty fingernails and them suede Pumas tied tight. Tight.” He was now drinking a beer. “I looked at Pablo, who was the interpreter —Common’s friend, who brought us down to Cuba, which was illegal at the time — I looked at Pablo and I said, ‘Eyyyy, c’mon man. This, you know, this ain’t it.’”
Pablo looked at her and said, “He’s the priest.”
“I think I exploded into glitter,” she says in fresh disbelief. The Puma Priest, she later learned, had come from a long line of healers. “And there was nothing that he could wear — or not wear — that would erase that history.”
This moment pushed Badu to think more deeply about her headwrap, and it’s meaning to her and others.
“I got special treatment on the airplane when I had that big dignitary headwrap on. I got special treatment in the hood. I got special treatment everywhere because doesn’t that look like a swami? I think so. No matter what I really knew, they just respected me because of that and the way it looked.”
“I didn’t wear the headwrap anymore after that day — not in that way.”
Badu further expounded to The Cut that she realized giving up her headwrap was risky since
“many people are not looking for a leader. They’re looking for someone who looks like one.”
“I was evolving and growing, still, and dedicated to the work, you know? But people saw it as me changing. That I was different, changing, different,” she circles around this in a loop of painful memories, “and I couldn’t explain because it wasn’t important to me anymore to explain.”
What an interesting reveal! Have you ever heard this story before? Anyone ever wondered why Badu stopped wearing her headwrap?
The photos that Zhang Lin shot of Badu for this issue are STUNNING! These are just a few. She’s such a stylish celeb. Since this story was for the Fall Fashion Issue, we figured we’d throw in some of our favorite fashion week photos of Badu along with a couple more interesting quotes.
Badu on her greatest fear:
The Path, that old black magic, comes at a cost. “My biggest fear is the same as my biggest hope,” she confides. “That I am seen.” When I wonder what she fears might happen if she’s seen, she answers quickly, honestly: “I don’t know. I haven’t even thought that far. It’s just some kind of barrier, you know, some kind of thing that makes me afraid.” Thinking it over, she alternates between defiance and anxiousness: “You can’t shame me. You can’t creative shame me. You can’t What-nigga-I’m-with shame me.” She pauses. “You can hurt me, though. You wanna do that? You wanna hurt me?”
Badu on being Jesus in her past life:
Badu had been ashamed, not proud, of this discovery. “We’ve all been Jesus,” the healer told her, meaning that we’ve all been the Holy One and also all been the Monster, perhaps many times. “My question is,” the healer continued, “Did you get the lesson?”
On her past controversial statements:
I really don’t, but I do ask about some of her controversies. Many couldn’t understand, for example, why she said she was “putting up a prayer” for R. Kelly. She admits to me, “I’m scared to express things that are not the most popular opinion,” but holds firm: “I’m confident that my truth is relevant, so I go ahead and say it.”
Besides the headwrap detail, what was your favorite Badu revelation from this story? You can read the full article HERE.
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