For my next article, I wanted to write about something as far away from pop culture as possible, in part because I didn't want to be labeled as that teenager. The teenager obsessed with stars and becoming one, with no moral findings to her role models, but glitz and glamour; the naive teenager that falls for the fame, money, and lavish lifestyles.
After all, by writing about culture I fit the idiosyncrasy that fits all teenagers -- the label put on my generation, the clueless ones who don't know just yet what they're doing and foolishly fall for the celebrities who seem to have it all.
But what I've realized the more I've grown older, is that at times, that ignorance and that naivety so accustomed to me and those my age, comes from the very people who label us.
I know who to look up too, what defines a role model. Just as I become aware of who I am, I become aware of whom my role models are, whether they may be politicians, teachers, family members or, dare I say it, celebrities.
And as I read the Rakhi Kumar's "Open Letter to Michelle Obama," I couldn't help but squirm. There it goes again: I'm being labeled to fit this mold of pitiless idolization, and in this case, Ms. Kumar, I think you're the one to reconsider your mindset.
I am part of the Beyoncé generation. Since the Destiny's Child circa, I've grown up with her, own all of her albums, and have watched all of her world tour documentaries. And just as prominently, I'm part of the newly galvanized Michelle Obama fan base, having gotten the opportunity to meet her personally, watch her speeches and read her books.
Two women, completely different from one another in every aspect and way, and yet, I look up to them.
Michelle Obama, because she is the epitome of educational success, elegance, intelligence and can command a room to inspire.
Beyoncé? Because I have watched all of her interviews. Because I, on my own, found qualities that made her a pinnacle for my admiration. Because I know the difference between an entertainer and a person. Because she sings songs and talks of female empowerment -- empowerment that radiates as she walks down a stage and leads her all-female band. Because I know that being risqué, and showing some skin, does not constitute what someone's character is compromised of or banish her from being someone to look up to. Because the way
Beyoncé performs does not equate to girls going into prostitution, as their stories are an amalgam of experiences we cannot equate or place a source to, when we ourselves have never felt it. Because we live in a society where we're telling girls to adhere to certain restrictions, before teaching young men that there are seals of honor they should never break. Because I know that the same people telling me to be proud of my body and the skin I'm in, tell me to cover it away because the way I appear somehow also constitutes who I am.
Trite classifications are outdated. Being "sexy," being confident, being risky is synonymously considered a threat to character, and I know that more than anyone. Being a Muslim-American my religion gets the same classifications -- a woman wearing a niqab, hijab, and long sleeves is labeled off. To me, these women showcase their modesty -- modesty that I respect and admire wholeheartedly, and on the other side of the spectrum, understand just as equally. So, do not tell me that covering up, or showing too much skin dictates the character I posses.
As a woman who has solidified herself in her industry, Beyoncé is the female artist with most Grammy awards won in a single night -- six. She is tied with Dolly Parton for holding the most Grammy nominations for a female artist (45) and is one of the most successful female artists in music.
Beyoncé has become synonymous to power, command and dominance, all at the age of 30.
So yes, I'll fit that premeditated notion you've made of me, and defend Beyoncé. But I want you know exactly why.
A role model comes in a variety of looks, careers and attributes.
You're right Mrs. Obama, Beyoncé is a role model. Both of you are, and that's something I've come to find on my own. And it might change as I grow older, or become even more firmly affirmed.
You're right -- all that's gold doesn't glitter, but it's our job to find exactly what does.
Or take it from Beyoncé herself who said in an interview with Vogue, "I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I'm just a woman and I love being a woman..."