Ladies, remember this video?
Oh, my GOODNESS! Not only is he a vision of sculpted perfection, his voice also melts every pussy within hearing distance. Excuse my vulgarity, but tell me I’m lying. He wails “how does it feel?” as you wonder what those chiseled arms would feel like beneath your fingertips. His voice transports you to heaven, but that sweaty torso makes you feel like sinning. Lawdamercy. Watch it again if you want to…Then feel SHAME, nasty bitches! Because D’Angelo lost his damn mind after making this video. Lusty ladies objectified him and subjected him to the same leering creepiness that we deal with on a regular basis. The catcalls at the construction site were switched up and amplified in a sold-out arena. Horny women were tossing their panties, their cash and their dignity up on the stage. D’Angelo was overwhelmed by their adoration and unnerved by the demands to “take it off!”
Once I saw the male review at a gay bar in town. I’ve never seen women act so incredibly insane before! Unlike at a female strip club, the ladies were allowed to touch the male dancers. They didn’t just touch them. They nearly ripped them to pieces! One poor dude was manhandled and scratched up so badly, he was left bawling in a corner with a shred of g-string hanging out of his butt crack.
So, D’Angelo was a sex god after that video came out. Obviously, they meant for him to make a sexual sensation, but it ended up making him feel like a piece of (choice) meat rather than the artist that he was. Eventually his career was derailed by drug and alcohol abuse. He packed on weight and hid from the public eye for a dozen years. A few trips to rehab failed. A serious, drunken car accident nearly took his life. The son and grandson of Pentecostal preachers was set adrift and nearly destroyed by fame. As a black artist, he felt the immense pressure of those who came before him as well. So many young black stars have died young, or self-destructed just as they were coming into their own.
A part of me is thinking, “dude, you asked for it.” But as a woman, I know that I don’t “ask for it” simply by being attractive. How many times have I been called a “stuck-up bitch” when I didn’t turn my head to acknowledge a man who made sexually explicit comments to me? The aggression and the audacity made me feel threatened and demeaned. To view a person in a strictly sexual way strips them of their humanity. The person is reduced to a vessel, an object. To feel that your talents and your essence are secondary to your appearance and sexual utility is soul-crushing. For a young person, it can permanently alter their self-image.
According to a fascinating report by Amy Wallace in GQ, D’Angelo is making a comeback. At 38 years old, he is still looking fine, but wiser. He keeps his torso covered in Versace and seems to have finally found himself. His first live performance in over a decade is in a Pentecostal church in Stockholm. Wallace asks him, “Is your head straight?”
“Straight,” D’Angelo says, his eyes locked on mine. “Yes, my head is straight.” Just because you’re black, he adds, doesn’t mean you have to look or sound a certain way, “or, you know, act ignorant or what have you, whatever the fucking gatekeepers have us doing because they think that that’s the formula to make money. And a lot of motherfuckers, they just fall right into line.” D has a term for artists like this: “minstrelsy.” If he’s learned nothing, he’s learned this: He’s no minstrel.
Anyone who has ever felt they had to play a role can take a lesson from this story. Don’t play the minstrel. Don’t allow yourself to be reduced to tits and ass or chiseled abs. Physical beauty is nothing without the mind and spirit to animate that beauty. To allow others to deny that which makes us human is to sink into the abyss.