Afrobella of the Week: India.Arie

I distinctly remember the first time I heard “I Am Not My Hair.”

I was in Chicago with my husband and my sister-in-law, driving the minivan to the mall the day after Thanksgiving (Wow, I can’t believe this year has flown by so quickly!). Steve was flipping stations, trying to find something good. Can I just tell you guys, the radio stations in Chicago are so much better than what we’ve got here in Miami! At least in Chicago there’s real diversity – you’re likely to hear classic soul, neo-soul, old school rap, alternative rock that isn’t the same ten Nirvana/Pearl Jam songs that they always play on the “alternative” station… I had to quit the radio in Miami because it got too monotonous for me. I digress.

Anyways, Steve was flipping stations and I heard a husky female voice sing “thirteen when I got a relaxer, I was the source of so much laughter.” “Waaait!” I said. I wanted to hear more. I was instantly enthralled that someone, anyone would make a song about the complicated relationship black women have with their hair. Plus, it had a decent beat and I was totally feeling it (I mean, a song by a woman getting radio airplay that isn’t about love, dancing, or being sexy? That’s practically unheard of nowadays). At the end of the song, the DJ announced that it was India.Arie’s new one.

Ah, India. I’ve loved her since “Video.” She’s always dared to be different. I can’t help but respect that. (For those of you who don’t think India is hip-hop enough, peep this remix. I love the original, but I would bump this in my car.)

I had no idea there was a remix of “I Am Not My Hair” featuring Akon until I saw the video. Which I love. I read this explanation for the song on her website: “As a Black American woman, a lot of your integrity is dictated by how you wear your hair,” she explains. “The concept for the song was sparked when I decided to cut my locks, and all the different attitudes people had about it. This is my hair – and it’s my life. I’ll choose how I express myself.” Preach on, sista!

That quote really made me think about how much black women obsess about their hair, how much we spend trying to rectify our hair issues, how the ultimate goal is length by any means necessary. I’ll admit, when I first saw the Kelis video for Bossy, I was mad. How dare she hack off those beautiful curls that I would kill to have? But her journey is different, and so is India’s. I gotta respect that.

India takes it a step further – she’s stayed natural and just shaved the whole thing off. She’s rocking less than a TWA here, singing “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” as a dedication to her mom. And she’s working it to the max, with fabulous earrings and subtle makeup. How freeing is THAT?

And in her video, she proves that she’s fly under any circumstance. Check my girl out.

This song is basically the Afrobella anthem. Check out my very first post for evidence. Basically do YOU, be who you want to be, and don’t transform yourself into who the world expects you to be. Be beautiful under your own conditions. If you can’t get behind that, then this isn’t the website for you.

Now there’s another remix of “I Am Not My Hair,” bringing the fire with my favorite punk-pop feminist Pink (I love Pink, and I would love to see her play Janis Joplin in that long overdue movie).

Because breast cancer has affected both of their lives, these two fierce singers recorded the song for Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, a recently released Lifetime movie that I loved. Sarah Chalke (who plays Dr. Elliott Reid on one of my favorite TV shows, Scrubs, which is written by one of my favorite writers, Angela Nissel) did a fantastic job, and Patti LaBelle (another beautifully aging afrobella!) makes a surprise cameo as a cancer patient.

Even though breast cancer awareness month is now over, you can catch the flick in reruns on Lifetime – I think it’ll be on again this Sunday at 5. Check your local listings. You can also buy the single on iTunes to support breast cancer awareness. Listen to it first on her MySpace.

India.Arie is not only beautiful and amazingly talented, she’s using her skills towards positive ends. Gotta love that. She embodies the essence of afrobella. Someday I hope to be able to tell her that in person.

Congratulations, India! You’re Afrobella of the Week!

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Comments

  1. another good one sista!

    i cracked up on an interview that india did. cuz her fade finally grew out and she started rockin the chunky ‘fro but then she shaved it off again.

    so she explained “i was in the car one day touching my hair, but it was HOT! do i was like “Ugh, its hot, lemme shave my hair!!!”

    hands down, that was the best reason for her to shave her head to me! lol

  2. MzBeauty901 says:

    Hey! Just wanted to comment that I loovvee India.Arie! I wish I could get the courage to go “all natural” but it just seems that my hair would be totally unmanageable…. so I gotta respect the people who are daring and bold enough to be free and confident to do that!

  3. love india arie, when her newest release reached number one, i was so happy for her. the radio stations in Chicago are so cool, i miss them since i’ve moved to Seattle.

  4. nattygirl says:

    OMG….India is one of my favourite artists, I played her Sophomore CD sooo much to the point of no return and I presently have her current one on my rotation….I love her style…I’ve worn my head shaved for the last 15 yrs (I started growing it out 2 yrs ago) I work with fashion photographers and for her first album cover one of them was being considered for the job (we didn’t get it) but her record label sent us a copy of the CD….she blew me away back then!!! Thanks Afrobella for this forum……your Trini sister!

  5. love india!

  6. I love India Arie, she is one of the few artists who have made it into the mainstream arena and kept the depth in her music. I can remember listening to I am not my hair for the first time and feeling a sense of comradery with her hair journey for i like every black woman i kno have a hair story

  7. jerseybred says:

    I love India, please check out her songs. My favorite joints: There’s Hope, The Heart of the Matter (a hot remake)and This Too Shall Pass.

  8. Watch_and_Learn says:

    You are not lying about the Miami stations!!!! They might as well take 99 Jamz, 103.5 the beat, and Hot 105 and combine them into one cuz It’s the same playlist!!!! Once upon a time, How 105fm had a Neo-Soul hour but that was many moons ago…

  9. I love India Arie! I can not even express in words how much her words, messages, and inspiration has encouraged me.

  10. First time visitor…. what a cute site, just love the concept! Plus my sis’ name is Bella!

  11. I never expect anything less than a ten from India.Arie and she always gives at least a twelve. One of the best singers out there today and truly a voice for the intelligent and independent.

  12. I just discovered your site via my friend, Brunsli. You have a new fan! I too am an India fan. I just saw her in Dallas/Fort Worth on November 17 and blogged about it. It was a moving, spiritual, visual, healing and melodic experience. Her latest CD is da bomb. I got it when I was going through a very difficult period. As I wrote in my blog, “I have no idea how this sister got into my heart and mind, but she is ministering to my very soul.” I’m axious to explore more of your site…so until then,

    Stay strong, stay lifted and stay natural.

    BlaqKofi

  13. I’m also a fan of both India and Pink. Thanks for the info on their collaboration!

  14. I TOO AM IN LOVE WITH MS INDIA! i HAVE BEEN A FAN SINCE VIDEO AND i FEEL THAT SHE IS A TALENT,STRONG INDEPENDENT, POSSITIVE ROLE MODE FOR OUR YOUNG BLACK GIRL TODAY. I GREWUP A FAT LITTLE GIRL WHO WAS SOMETIMES TORMENTED BY MY PEERS. BUT MY MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER TAUGHT ME TO LOVE MYSELF AND THAT GOD DON’T MAKE NO MISTAKES,AND THA WE ARE ALL CREATED IN HIS IMAGE. AND THE FACT THAT I AM ONE OF HIS CHILDREN MAKES ME SPECIAL AND BEAUTIFUL. IT WAS WITH THIS INCOURAGEMENT THAT I GREW INTO A STRONG, BEAUTIFUL, PLU-SIZE GODDESS, WHO EMPRACES MY SIZE AND WHO I AM. I WAS AT ONE POINT ONE OF THOSE SISTAS WHO WOULD NOT STICK MY HEAD OUT MY DOOR TO CHECK MY MAILBOX UNLESS MY HAIR “FRIED, DYED, AND LAYED TO TH SIDE!” BUT IREALIZED THAT I AM A AFRICAN AMERCAIN GODDESS, AND I WEAR MY HAIR TO EXPRESS WHO I AM, ,NOT TO PLEASE OTHERS , OR TO CONFORM TO WHAT WHITE AMERCIA’ IDEAL OF BEAUTY IS.I CHANGE MY HAIR COLOR AT MY OWN WHIMS. I HAVE BEN JET BLACK, AUBURN, LIGHT BROWN, A RED HEAD, AND AT THIS PERTICULAR POINT IN TIME IROCK MY HAIR SHORT,NATURAL, AND PLATINUM BLONDE! AND I LOVE THIS AND GET QUIT A FEW SISTAS COMPLIMENTING ME ABOUT MY BOLDNESS TO WEAR MY HAIR LIKE THIS! TOO INDIA: KEEP ON BEING YOU AND INSPIREING YOUNG BLACK WOMEN TO EMBRACE WHO THEY ARE AND THEIR AFRICAN HERRATIAGE. TO BE STRONG, INDEPENDENT, AND MOST IMPORTAINLY, LOVE YOUSELF.

  15. coiltastic says:

    when she first came out i didn’t get her…but in the past couple of years. i am a fan. “i am not my hair” lead to many tears from me on many days. and she is so beautiful.

  16. sad- i loved india.arie until i saw her live (world premiere of “i am not my hair”) and she came off as micromanaging and pretentious. now i still like her songs, but i can’t love her. walk good.

  17. I only heard of this specific song, “I am not my hair” through this website, although I had listened to a few songs by India.Arie growing up. I am white – but I have had very many circumstances when people ask me whether I’m mixed, since my hair is so curly. I get it from my dad, and after that I have no idea where he gets it, since none of my grandparents have curly hair. My hair was something that I was very, very insecure about. There were some days where I didn’t even want to leave the house, I just felt so different. All my friends have straight, bone-thin hair, as did every other white girl I saw on tv, so at the time, when I was about 9 or so, I thought something was wrong with me. There was a time when all I wanted to do with my hair was straighten it, but it ended up taking hours upon hours with constant maitnance, and still not being that stick-straightness I wanted to achieve. Given up, I used to only put my hair in tight tight buns, gelling away all wisps of curls or slight frizzies. Only when I started seeing more curly-haired actresses and singers did I suddenly start to grow more confident with what I have, and after I found some products that really worked. Now you barely ever see my hair straightened, and I am proud of who I am. I was born with this curly hair, and while I see some of my friends work so hard to get spirally curls that I have effortlessly, I remember that it makes me stand out, and be different. Sometimes I still get insecure when I see so many straight, seemingly “perfect” haired young girls like me in all the magazines, but then I remember how much more at peace I feel now, how I barely need to do anything with my hair after I shower, it just becomes lush curls instantly, and I’ve gotten more attention from it than I ever have. (good attention!)
    I wish that India.Arie continues her success, and to keep inspiring young girls everywhere to be themselves, appreciate their god-given gifts, and maybe, everyonce in a while – let their hair down.

  18. Breanna says:

    I’m not sure who runs this website, but I’m writing a music review for my journalism class and need permission to use the picture you have of india arie, do you mind?

  19. Fantastic post full of good quality writing! My site is fairly new and I am also having a problems getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a idea “nobody wants to be first”.

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