Pharrell Williams has always been on his own wavelength. The 41-year old hitmaker has never been afraid to do what makes him comfortable, and it has worked for him since he came onto the scene. In his latest GQ interview, his otherworldly way of thinking is on full display as he weaves in and out of subjects to answer questions. Although you can usually understand his main point, you have to extract it from the haze of his ‘stream of consciousness’-like thoughts. And all of that’s just fine. However, the following passage has a lot of people, particularly black women, up in arms:
There were people who criticized you for not including more black women on the cover of G I R L. How did you feel about that?
Do you want me to be honest with you?
It’s insecurity. If you love who you are—and I’m not saying that there’s not a plight out there for people who have different skin colors, because Mexicans go through just as much discrimination, if not more discrimination, than black people do in this country. Right? That’s why I wrote “Marilyn Monroe,” man: That which makes you different is what makes you special. You don’t gotta be waif, white, and thin to be beautiful. You can be anything that you want to be, and what I chose to do is put my friends on the cover. The girl that was closest next to me is black, but they didn’t know that, so they jumped the gun. And it wasn’t all black women. There were a lot of black women that were really angry at some of those girls, but some of those girls are the ones that instantly get mad when they don’t see somebody that’s dark. And it’s like: “Yo, you don’t need nobody to represent you. You represent you. You represent the best version of who you could be. You go out there and change the world.” Because I’m black, and I wouldn’t trade my skin color for nothing. But I don’t need to keep wearing a badge that tells you that I’m black every time I do something! I’m black! In fact, the media will tell you I’m the first black person that’s had a number-one record in America in a year since Rihanna’s “Diamonds” in 2012—the first black person! The media tells you that. So why do I need to roll around with a scarlet letter on my forehead that says “Black”? My mother’s black, who’s a big part of my business; a black woman runs my business; and I’m married to a black woman. What more do you want? And why are we talking about this? And if we’re going to talk about degrees of black—what is it in this country? I still believe that if you are at least 1/32nd of black blood in your body, even if you look like you, you are deemed black. Right?
Ok, there was a lot going on in that passage, so we’re gonna break it down.
First, I will agree with the notion that “You represent you.” This speaks to what I was saying in a previous post about the actions of one individual not defining who we are as a race. I’m not placing the onus on Pharrell to create an album cover that will speak for all black women everywhere. He’s no more responsible for being the black women’s representative than Rihanna is for being a role model to little girls. And for all the hoopla, there was in fact a black girl on the cover, regardless of how it may have appeared. However, his flippant dismissal of black women’s “insecurity” is negligent.