Hey Mama

I’ve been thinking about Kanye West all day, following the news that his mother — Dr. Donda West, the former professor and chair of Chicago State University’s English department, author of Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar, CEO of Super Good, the parent company of Kanye West Enterprises — had passed away at the age of 58. The circumstances of her passing are still murky — doctors are coming forth for their fifteen minutes on TMZ, and an autopsy will be performed tomorrow in an effort to find out exactly what caused her untimely demise. Right now, what we do know is this — this weekend, Dr. Donda West died from complications following cosmetic surgery.

Kanye wears his heart on his sleeve so much, his whole life has been laid out for the world so plainly, it’s impossible to not feel for him now. He is known for having a great, strong relationship with his mother. He’s alluded to her so many times in his lyrics, and payed tribute to her time and time again. She made him who he is, and he will admit that proudly. Anyone who has lost a parent – especially their mother – will tell you it’s a pivotal point in your life. A moment that lives with you forever. The worst news you could get. I cannot even imagine the pain Kanye’s going through right now.

The news has made headlines worldwide – it’s being repeated over and over again on CNN, and the blogosphere has been going nuts on the story since it broke. Most of the reaction has been respectful and seemingly genuine. And then there’s the idiots. I swear, I don’t even know why I continue to look at the comments on mainstream gossip websites, where racists and degenerates and broken minded people flock to spout their most cruel and depraved thoughts under guard of internet anonymity. I know the people who post the kinds of comments I saw aren’t worth the time I spent skimming over their poorly spelled words, but I keep seeing a repeated kind of statement that really, really bothers me — that she somehow deserved her death because she was having voluntary plastic surgery. People saying things like, “what was she thinking?” and, “at her age…” Please. Give me a break. The stink of that hypocrisy is making me light-headed, and I feel the need to address it. The whole incident makes me think about the things we women do to be beautiful.

Why do most people have cosmetic surgery, anyway? There are so many reasons, most of which lead back to self esteem. We want to look beautiful. We’re conditioned that way, thanks to society and the media and those nagging voices inside ourselves. We aspire to be slender but stacked, sculpted and soft in the right places all at the same time. If your pockets are deep enough, you too can create the perfect visage — wrinkle-free, with a pert nose, wider eyes, perkier boobs, and a flatter stomach than the next woman. As a woman grows older, feelings of insecurity tend to increase. We live in an ageist society, it’s now commonplace for a woman to botox the years off her forehead to stave off the inevitable.

In an era when there’s Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover, and Nip/Tuck, when plastic surgery is shown in television shows on a regular basis, it’s easy to think that it’s not that big of a deal to go under the knife. It’s generally depicted as the ultimate solution to a lifetime of self esteem issues. Rarely do those programs show the downside, the painful recoveries, the possible risks, the psychological damage. But surgery is still surgery, and there are always serious risks.

The fear of death or disfiguration is the one thing that’s prevented my Mama Bella from having some kind of work done, our family history of high blood pressure gives her enough cause to say no despite her admitted vanity. But I know if she had a clean bill of health and the money to pay for it, she’d totally go for it. Even though I’d be extremely concerned — extremely — as her daughter I would support her in whatever she wanted to do, so long as it made her feel good about herself. I know so many older women who would spring for a nip here and a tuck there, if it were just that simple. You look at women like Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Vivica Fox, Demi Moore, and Nicole Kidman — all of whom have been accused of undergoing cosmetic surgery procedures to stay eternally gorgeous — and there’s a desire to emulate that kind of glacier-paced aging. It’s such an understandable desire.

I told a friend of mine about Dr. West’s sudden death yesterday. His first response was “Wow.” Then a heavy sigh, a long pause. Then he said “Damn. I guess that’s life, huh?” The comment struck me as kind of cold, it seemed amazingly fatalistic at the time. But it’s resonating with me now that it’s past midnight and I’m up late writing, alone, thinking about life and death. None of us know when it’s coming. All we can do is live every day to the fullest while we can, and let the people we love know how wonderful they make our lives. All we can do is be thankful for what we’ve got, and try to not take this gift of life for granted.

Dr. Donda West was an intelligent, strong, loving woman who did the best she could to raise her child. She comes across so wise and warm in this recent interview on WGN. As he said in his song, Hey Mama – “I just want you to be proud of me.” Kanye’s lucky in that aspect. His mother was extremely proud of his success, and she was right there alongside him to realize their dreams.

Kanye made an official statement that I read on Miss Info. It reads in part — “In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Dr. West’s name to the Kanye West Foundation/Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute. Those donations can be made by visiting the Foundation’s Web site, www.KanyeWestFoundation.org or by mail at Kanye West Foundation, 8560 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069.”

My heart goes out to the West family at this terrible and tragic time. If you haven’t talked to your mom or dad in a while, maybe this could be a catalyst. There’s no time like the present to pick up that phone and let them know how much you love them.

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Comments

  1. Hi Bella,
    when I heard about the death of Dr. Donda West my heart was truly broken and it made me think of my mother and my own life. Tomorrow, is not promised to anyone and it is so important to express how you feel to your loved ones. Live life to the fullest each and everyday, no matter what the task at hand. Things of this nature, really make you stop and take a look at your life (for me it did). I’ve been letting things stress me out and also snapping at other’s because I feel like my back is against the wall…..however, when I heard the news about Dr. West…I was just floored because it could have been my loved one or even me….the West Family, will be in my prayers.

  2. My heart goes out to Kanye. It hit me very hard when I heard of her death even though I do not know them personally. Somehow there was a bond forged through personality. As a mother of a 8 year old son who has been a performing drummer since age 4 and athlete. I roll hard with my son, oddly enough before I was even really down with Kanye, years back people made comparisons to my son being a mommas boy like Kanye and me managing his future. It always struck me as funny but I understood where it was coming from. I lost my mom a few weeks after my sons birth so I understand how hard it is. I always respected Kanye for always reppin his mom and understanding how she loved and went all out for him. I only hope my beautiful son and I will continue to keep a bond close to what was so evident between Kanye and his mom.

  3. I cant imagine what he is going through right now my condolences to the West family.

  4. Bella. Your words always touch the center of my heart. Keep doing what you do. On another note; its so sad that women continually succumb to society standards of what true beauty is. True beauty is inner beauty. Period. And I know Dr.West possessed that beauty. She is and was such an accomplished woman. She raised Kanye to be unique, unafraid of criticism, bold, self-confidant, and unafraid to pursue his dreams. How many black mother’s can lay claim to raising a black man like that? Not many. I know plenty of single mother’s that love their sons; but they also baby their sons and make them their man. It’s just tragic that Dr. West felt the need to go under the knife. She was already beautiful, black, educated and strong. I say that we start moving towards the East; or more holistic thinking. We need to think with our hearts and our spirits. The Western philosophy of life will always have you believing that you will never have enough and that you will never be enough. Shortcuts will never give you true happiness; only putting in the physical, emotional, spiritual work into your divine self will set you free. That means putting yourself and God first, prayer, meditation, exercise, proper diet for your body type, having fun, and being non-reactive to everyday stress. It’s work; but in the end its worth it.

  5. I cannot even imagine what Kanye is going through right now. . .I just lost a close friend two weeks ago and another close friend a little while before that and I’m feeling that life is so fragile and fleeting. Now my best friend is being sent to Iraq on her birthday no less.

    Please take the time to validate and appreciate those who you love and care about, you may not get another chance.

  6. Slightly OT, but I don’t know if anyone remembers because media coverage was minimum. James Brown’s most recent wife also died to complications from cosmetic surgery. As a matter of fact, I believe she died during her recovery time in one of those posh type recovery places just 2 days after surgery.

    I know that getting any surgery is risky, but I think someone really needs to seriously look at what’s going on.

  7. Gee:

    What’s going on is that women hell bent on getting plastic surgery are passing up the 7 “No’s” from doctors and going ahead with the first “Yes” they encounter. Trust me, for every doctor who does his/her job and turns down a patient for health reasons, there are plenty of less ethical ones who are willing to proceed.

    Surgery is not really tricky if all precautions are addressed. Most surgeries are quite routine. Surgeries, however, put your body through so much trauma. If you are not given the green light to proceed, then you should not.

    Not too long ago, I had oral surgery. The doctor told me to not eat after the midnight before the actual surgery. I ate a popsicle thinking that nothing would happen and during the middle of surgery, I woke up. I most likely through off the “formula” they use to when calculating how much anesthesia to give a patient of my height/weight/length of surgery….

    Based on Dr. West’s age and body composition, surgery is very, very risky. More so due to her age than anything. I have to agree with bella here, Dr. West had so much going on for her, why did she feel the need to succumb to plastic surgery? She was beautiful and intelligent. I know many women would give up an arm and a leg for a slither of what she has accomplished.

  8. I meant “threw off” sorry…

  9. Very sad indeed. My heart goes out to Kanye. He’s only 30. That’s very young to be burying a parent. Thankfully, she did get a chance to see him sell millions of records, win Grammys and pen songs in her honor. But I’m sure its the phone calls and the thoughtful messages and the hugs and all those little things that her son will miss most. Hopefully, he will find a way to creatively and positively channel his emotions.

  10. Kanye West losing his mother has been very sad. I have a very dear cousin who has plans to have work done in the next month or so. I don’t want her to do it and I thought this unfortunate occurrence would deter her thoughts about surgery, but it hasn’t. I just wish that people knew more about the downside of cosmetic surgery. I hope this wakes a lot of people up.

  11. My heart is full of empathy for Kanye West. His mother has shown to have quite a positive influence on his life, and her grandeur and nurturing is truly shown in his craft. When I was first introduced to Kanye’s music, what stuck out in my mind, was the love, respect, and admiration he has for his mother. It is truly enlightening as a young woman, pursuing a career as an English professor and the mother of a young son. I express my dear condolences to Kanye West and to his immediate family. May Jah bless.

  12. As an only child, like Kanye, i can NOT imagine what it would be like to lose either of my parents. I am truly sorry for him. he seems to be such a sensitive person and his mother was a good stabilizer for him. Afrobella, as usual, your words are poignant and thought provoking. I have to admit that I was almost one of those people who seem to be blaming Dr. West for this tragedy. “if only she had listened to the first doctor who told her “No.”"….But life happens, even horrible, sad things like this happen. The only thing we can do is remember the positive and learn from the negative, so that we don’t repeat it. I am praying for Kanye and the rest of Dr. West’s loved ones.

  13. I just wanted to say that often plastic surgery is not about some idealized view of perfection or beauty. Sometimes it’s just about having a kid and having your body get completely wrecked.

    She went in for a tummy tuck and breast augmentation according to the reports. Possibly something she’s thought of and put off her whole life, and maybe she finally decided to do this for her. Even at 58. Treat her self.

    It’s so logical. So understandable. And so undeniably tragic.

  14. I also give my heart out to Kayne. Both my parents and grandparents are gone. My grandparents raised me, and not a week goes by that I don’t think of them (grandfather gone 16yrs, grandmother 8yrs). Right now, you can bet Kayne can hear the kind words, but he feels dead inside. And knowing how that feels makes my heart ache for him even more.

  15. Very sad. I really feel for Kanye.

    That it was elective surgery makes it more upsetting. I hope anyone considering any kind of plastic surgery makes sure their doctor is board certified. The doctor who did the surgery on Dr. West was not. I hope his license is taken away. Who sends someone home after 8 hours of intense surgery? Awful.

  16. I was so shocked when my friend told me that Dr. West passed away, I thought it was a sick prank on the Net or something. I have read some cruel comments on gossip blogs too, Bella, about Dr. West’s cosmetic surgery and it made me really upset. Personally I’m not down with cosmetic surgery, but I told myself: Dr. West worked hard all her life, raising her son by herself and raising him to be a fine young man, working hard on her doctorate and becoming the head of the English Department in a university, and let’s not forget, being a Black woman is hard-work in itself. If she wants to treat herself to a tummy tuck and a boob-lift, it ain’t none of my bees’ wax. It’s sad she had to go that way and so soon, but I believe that God saw that her work on earth was done, she fulfilled her life-purpose and it was time for her to come home.

  17. I feel so sad for him, although I don’t like rap today, I can only imagine the
    pain and deep lost he is feeling. So sad……….

  18. Trying to hold the tears back after reading some of the comments. I too feel for Kanye. He did love his mom so much. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling, but, I hope he can get through this, and stay mentally healthy after an occurence like this.

  19. I agree with Summer, sometimes it’s just you think you might treat yourself, not that you’re trying to be perfect. Pregnancy blew my chest, and I don’t want to hear about it being a badge of motherhood. I don’t like it and I have considered work, but have come to the conclusion that I’ll live with it. I also agree with the poster who commented on making sure a doctor is board certified. If she was truly sent home after 8 hours of surgery, that is totally irresponsible, to say the least. The biggest risk of surgery is usually not the surgery itself, but the anesthesia. I don’t like today’s rap, either, but I feel for anyone who has lost a parent. I don’t think you are ever ready for that. My mother’s father was 97 when he died and she wasn’t ready. To say that she brought this death on herself is….we all have done things, that, if we had died doing them, people could say the same thing. Speeding is the most common one I can think of. If anybody is to blame, it is the doctor who sent her home. I cannot believe that anyone who loved her son as deeply as she loved hers would knowingly do anything that would cause her to leave him so early. To say that she did by having elective surgery is to ignore everything she had done up until her death. As any mother knows, one of the biggest reasons you want to stay around is to raise/be there for your babies.

  20. I know what Kayne is going through right now. I lost my mother suddenly 5 days after Christmas in 2004. She was only 61. I do believe she’s in a better place. I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a parent. But the hurt does slowly subside. I pray that he stays strong…

  21. Let me first start out by saying that this whole situation is HORRIBLE. Even those that don’t particularly like Kanye for whatever reason have got to be feeling for him. Losing a mother is something you never get over. We’re the same age and I can’t bear to even think about it without tearing up because I’m as close to my mother as he was to his.

    That being said, I wrote a post about this on my site titled “Unpretty.” I have to disagree with you on one point, Bella. I could not fathom me supporting my “mature” mother in any type of cosmetic surgery of that nature. I would need for her to dig inside herself, get some help if needed, and figure out what’s really going on. That woman was an accomplished PhD and had raised a son like Kanye on her own. She was heading up his empire, administering his nonprofit organization. Doing GREAT things. Why wasn’t she able to look in the mirror and only see what was lacking? Whatever she was seeing was not going to be fixed with that doctor’s knife. She needed some help. She knew her health issues and ignored a sane doctor’s warnings and put her life in the hands of a doctor that she must not have researched. This woman was a PhD and I know she had to have 2nd and 3rd and 10th thoughts about this. I just feel terrible that she didn’t listen and say hey, I’m over 50 and fabulous just the way I am. I know it sounds like I’m blaming her. But she’s dead so I can’t do that. I just feel terrible that we lost such a great woman who had so much more to do. RIP Donda.

  22. I was shocked when I heard Dr. West died on Sunday. It is such a tragedy and is just tragic. I cannot imagine the pain Kanye is going through right now. And its true on various blogs people write the most cruel and disgusting comments. Its hard to get mad at these people because they obviously have no class.

    I agree that Dr. West definitely was a very positive and profound influence on her son Kanye. I am not a rap music fan but I think Kanye is important because shows a different side of black male masculinity. Kanye isn’t a stereotype he’s just himself. I think Dr. West she really taught Kanye to be true to himself and be his own person.

  23. As awful as this tragedy is, I sure hope it brings to light the many dangers associated with unnecessary cosmetic sugery. There isn’t a single person on this planet who is a perfect 10. But there are tons of would-be normal people walking around looking like the undead because of some botched up cs. Hopefully this unfortunate incident will stop another from choosing this unnecessary path.

  24. I felt for him and the rest of his family. However, one of the key questions that remains unanswered is was there a need for the plastic surgery? What about exercise and diet. I hear that tummy tucks are generally dangerous. The wife of the former Nigerian Pesident had a similar surgery in Spain and she died from complications. I also find it interesting that she went ahead with the surgery in spite of the fact that she was made aware from a previous doctor consultation the high risks especially with her personal health history. Again, unfortunate.

  25. This makes me so sad. It’s a shame…such a useless tragedy. My heart goes out to Kanye and his family.

  26. I’m truly sorry for Kanye and the rest of the West Family. I truly how they feel b/c I lost my mom to IBC cancer in Sept. 2005. Believe you me, losing your parent is something I wouldn’t wish on even my worst enemy. Every experience is different, but I understand the depth of the emotions running through Kanye. I can only continue praying for him and his family that they channel their emotions in the best way possible and continue seeking guidance from above.

    As for the main topic, people are going to do whatever they want to do. Once someone decides to even seriouly entertain the idea of plastic/cosmetic sugery, all you can do and hope is that they’re exposed to ALL available information and conditions pertaining to their case.

    I had fatham the thought of lipo once. I did all the research…the info IS out there. I found it. And I chose NOT to follow through with it. I’m losing my 50 pounds naturally…slowly, but surely. It’s the best feeling seeing the results from…right now not so hard…work.

    Those surgeries are for EXTREME cases. Cosmetic surgery were setup for people with extreme weight, deconstructed from a fatal accident and disease of some sort. Our society has turn it into something completely different…almost to the point of glorifying it and the doctors who practice it in less than extreme cases.

    Knowledge is power people. Always was, is, and continue to be.

    If you know someone wanting to suck out, tuck in, lift up, replace, remove,&/or implant, make sure they know EVERY single thing there is to know about the surgery. Get the best possible doctor, if you can’t afford them…WAIT if you MUST.

    If you ARE the person looking into the surgery, get as much advice from as many different doctors as possible. Get the BEST doctor, and nothing less. Can’t afford them yet, WAIT! Until you can. While you wait, walk, laugh, read, dance, sleep, and live life as it comes to you.

    Peace and Blessings to all. Happy Holidays!

  27. Hey Afrobella, I’m so glad you covered this. It is so unfortunate that she passed – I am a huge fan of Kanye’s and what he represents.

    When it comes down to it, whether his mother voluntarily went in for cosmetic surgery or was in dire need of reconstructive surgery, I am with you when you say that there are risks and complications to EVERY type of cosmetic surgery. As editor of a plastic surgery resource Web site, I can say that EVERYONE who is considering surgery should research not only the procedurer they want, but the doctor’s background as well. Accidents can happen, but putting your body and health is so important. I really feel for his family. This might just raise more awareness among prospective plastic surgey patients, as well sa those who are addicted to going under the knife.

    Peace out Afrobella. I really enjoy reading the topics you cover. I know that if I miss a newsworthy piece elsewhere, that I can come her and catch up…with great insight.

  28. Hello Bella,

    Thank you for your posting. My heart sank when i heard the news of Dr.West’s death,not only for Kanye West but for all of us,especially black women. In a day in age when black women make up the majority of single-families, its always a blessing to see a positive view of single black mothers. So many people have a negative view of single black mothers because of the media’s depiction of them. As we know, many of our most successful black men in the world were raised by single mothers. The other issue that saddened me was that, her death was completely preventable. As you said there were some bloggers saying it was her own fault for messing with what god gave her. i read alot of the comments as well, and i found them to be extremely distasteful, and most of all disrespectful. If blame must be placed, i think as you said in your blog, it needs to be on society. As a 26 year old senior in college i see how these societal pressures are effecting our young black women, and all women first hand. I took four years off of school, only to return at 24, and attend Clark Atlanta University,and now currently at SJSU in California. I see these 18,19,20,and 21 year old women, and they are so disillusioned with the ideas that they need to be skinny,or light-skinned, and series of others things, its driving them insane. I can’t help but to look at them and feel sorry, and to sympathize,because i was them before and i recall the feelings i would get when i’d see the skinny girl who had all the football players talking to her,and wish i could be her. It took me a long time to be happy with who i am, and now almost 27, i’m so proud of the woman that i am. I alot of it my confidence was gained when i moved to Atlanta to attend school at Clark,i was taken out of element of all-white people,and put in at the time a very uncomfortable situation amongst all black people. I had never been around that many of my people,but as i started to settle into my new surroundings i found it refreshing to see so many beautiful black people. They were skinny, light-skinned, heavy-set, tall, short, dark-skinned,had straight hair, or afros, they were all expectional people. That is when i started to realize i am who i am, and god made me, as he did everyone else as he saw fit. If there is one thing i’ve learned and i am still continuing to learn is that i should not let society form me,i should form society. May Dr.West rest in heavenly peace,and may god bless her family and all those touched by her life.
    Thank
    Amera Nia

  29. look i just heard the news about kanye mommy iam so sorry about what happen to your mother right now just look inside your heart she is not dead she live in you never foget never stop talk about the news people dont give a damn they just try to make paper but me i care i never knew my mother she die when i was one you know i use to think i kill her since i was the last one born but as time move on i grew up i know better now i feelllllllllllllll your loss i still cry to know her but i focus on the bigger picture on fine day i will see her again and you will too . so cry for now you will be fine one day give your self time okay your mother loves you always. and uck the media……………………………

  30. Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] It’s been widely reported that the surgeon who performed the cosmetic procedures on Ms. West may have ignored some possible signs of risk. AfroBella writes a thoughtful commentary on the issues related to cosmetic surgery, this beautiful world we live in. In an era when there’s Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover, and Nip/Tuck, when plastic surgery is shown in television shows on a regular basis, it’s easy to think that it’s not that big of a deal to go under the knife. It’s generally depicted as the ultimate solution to a lifetime of self esteem issues. Rarely do those programs show the downside, the painful recoveries, the possible risks, the psychological damage. But surgery is still surgery, and there are always serious risks. [...]

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