I remember the Monica/Brandy, Brandy/Monica rivalry. I remember liking Brandy and Monica! But at the same time, when I heard Monica’s voice as a 14-year-old? Chile, you couldn’t tell me nothing! And I was wearing my hair short in high school anyway?! For whatever reason, my parents wouldn’t let me have ‘Brandy Braids.” But that is another conversation for another day.
The conversation surrounding this Verzuz Battle got me to thinking. Why is it such amusement to see Black women at each other? Why is the rivalry (or any rivalry) a sport between Black women a source of amusement for the entire world? Yet, it reminded me of a conversation that Tyra Banks had with Naomi Campbell when she had her talk show. Now, for those of you who are my younger tribe members, let me tell you who these two people are.
Tyra Banks (before she hosted/created America’s Next Top Model and had a talk show (Tyra)) was a supermodel in the late 1990’s. She is Black. She is still gorgeous.
Naomi Campbell is a supermodel, and has been a model for at least 30 years. Not an exaggeration. Not a typo. Naomi is 50 now, and still incredibly stunning.
I bring them up in this space of rivalry and competition because there are themes I saw in this Verzuz that I saw on the Naomi Campbell came on Tyra’s show! The thing that Tyra said to Naomi was the industry they were in (modeling, beauty) seemed to not be able to handle there being more than one Black supermodel in the industry.
Tyra went on to say that she felt that Naomi didn’t like her, she felt alone, and just wondered why it was Naomi (seemed) not to like her! Imagine that! Tyra Banks was a young, pretty, Black girl that is modeling–a very non-Black space, and the person that could help you–hates you! That struck me, deeply. It was from that show–that moment!–that I purposed I would not tear down another Black woman for my own gain.
With Brandy and Monica, Monica and Brandy I see the same thread. Women in an industry that thrives on talent, yes, but also exploits! This is the same industry that helped to take WHITNEY ELIZABETH HOUSTON from us! It is so easy for the world to put lanes and limits on Black women; to compete for things that we should have access to and for. Instead of fighting the industry by which we are making our way in, confronting the people/entities that control it, we fight for access to the one door they offer.
We fight each other for the one door.
The killer part? There was so much shade thrown on social media, that it overshadowed the fact these women have had careers in an industry that devours women or replicates them! What was the sweetest thing was this 30 second clip Verzuz didn’t show–Monica and Brandy actually hugging back stage. There was shade thrown at their outfits, and how they tried to make small talk. What I will say is the conversation did look forced. But, that is from the context of not seeing what happened backstage? Yeah, it does look more forced than it probably was.
But the history, the innuendo, and the need to have Black women compete for what should be shared or built to accommodate–it’s more amusing to have us fight. And we fall into it. Brandy has had so much success, and tragedy. Monica has had so much success and tragedy. And it is said that from great tragedy comes great art.
This rivalry was supposed be 20 years ago…so can we leave it there? Please?
This year has been hard enough. The easiest thing to do now, I feel, is celebrate more than we criticize. The winner last night for this Verzuz was the culture! It was us! It was good to just jam and reminiscence for a couple hours, man! It was lovely! They aren’t best friends, and they don’t ever need to be. They were grown-ass women with careers, babies and a bag to secure!
The most beautiful thing? They did it for us…because that’s what Black women do.