There are a couple women for whom I know no matter what I write about them, someone is going to bring up a particular negative aspect of their pasts that is not only irrelevant to the topic at hand but serves to do nothing more than fuel a negative perception of them. Those women are Alicia Keys and Gabrielle Union, the only two Black women in the world who’ve made a mistake, apparently.
Alicia began dating producer Swizz Beatz in 2008 and the label of homewrecker has followed her ever since. In September of 2009, Swizz’s ex-wife Mashonda wrote an open letter to Alicia on Twitter accusing her of assisting in destroying her family. And while the singer never denied her husband was married when they began dating, she told Essence magazine in June of 2011, she and Swizz, “didn’t start seeing each other until months after they had separated.” She went on to say, “I was aware of all the false things that were being said about me it definitely hurt.”
Fast forward to 2018 and hurtful things are still being said. When I wrote an article about Alicia Keys’ speaking yet again about the #NoMakeup movement that resulted from her decision to hit red carpets barefaced over the past couple of years, a choice that’s proven to be as controversial as her relationship with Swizz, one commenter wrote:
“What she’s saying is great and I can respect women feeling empowered over their appearance but I still have little to no respect for this woman. Any woman that can play a part in the destruction of a marriage even after the wife asks you to fall back is really disappointing. The fact that she acts like that behavior is acceptable because the man is cool with proves that she is not someone to look up to or admire and shows her lack of respect for marriage.”
Off topic and assumptive– treatment Gabrielle Union, another woman who faces scrutiny over the start of her relationship with Dwyade Wade and the end of his marriage to Siohvaughn Funches, is no stranger to. But while the mistress titling may have subsided a bit, some still can’t get past her self-professed mean girl past. When I wrote an article on Gabby discussing her displeasure with being the token Black girl in Hollywood for so long, one person responded:
“I’m sorry but I just find her late and tired… it’s great that she’s ‘woke’ now but I’m still working on forgiving her years upon years of being the mean girl and taking joy in other peoples failings etc… Good for her but i’m not impressed.”
When I first thought about a title for this piece, I wanted it to be “Who Hurt You?” That’s the phrase a male co-worker uses every time we engage in some sort of gender battle and I bring up the shortcomings of men that may or may not be relevant to the topic at hand. Although I opted for a different headline, the question still stands. As does this one: Are individuals not allowed to grow?
I get that people, famous or not, like to gloss over their missteps and present a picture perfect image of their lives to the public when the reality couldn’t be further from that perceived truth. I also think at some point we have to allow for personal growth and consider these women are not the same as they were 10 or more years ago. Does that mean you have to forget their transgressions? Not necessarily. But it also doesn’t mean they have to be brought up in any and every conversation about them. Further, if you have not been personally affected by these women’s actions, I’d also argue your “forgiveness” of them is wholly unnecessary.
If Mashonda can make peace with Alicia and Swizz’s marriage and their extended blended family, who are we to still hold grudges?
Experience our journey through song . “Blended Family” is a true testament of love, growth and healing. I’m BEYOND proud. This is only the beginning!! #whatyoudoforlove #blend #blendedfamily #creatingtheblueprinttoblend
A post shared by Mashonda (@mashondatifrere) on Oct 6, 2016 at 2:49pm PDT
If Gabrielle Union is getting along just fine with other women in Hollywood, even routinely shouting them out on Instagram, who are we to be hung up on the woman she once was?
Today’s #WCW is the unstoppable filmmaker, director, producer @ava DuVernay. I’ve known Ava for almost 20 years and when we shot the short film “The Door” for Miu Miu’s ‘The Women’s Tales’ series, we had the opportunity to travel to Venice Italy to speak about the piece, and truly bonded. Maybe it was the food or the late night dancing on furniture or the lifelong friendships that were sealed on this trip but we truly saw each other and I must say that Ava is an absolute force and I am blessed to know her. She was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe AND Academy Award for her work in Selma, not to mention the countless other awards she has earned over the years (Critics Choice, NAACP Image Award, Sundance Film Festival Award, Gotham Award and more). Her upcoming film A Wrinkle In Time is already breaking barriers, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with the budget of its size. She is calling her work a “love letter to black girls everywhere,” and I cannot wait to cheer you on in theaters this Friday! #awrinkleintime #queensugar
A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on Mar 7, 2018 at 1:55pm PST
To be clear, I feel the same way when it comes to men. I’ve never believed in sayings like once a cheater always a cheater. In my own personal life, I’m hesitant to even accept Facebook requests because I know who I was on the social media platform when it was created more than 10 years ago is nowhere near reflective of who I am today. Yes, I put those aspects of my life on the Internet for public consumption; no, I do not want to be defined by them for the rest of my life. I think the same can be said of Alicia, Gabby, and other women whose private sins have become public sensations.
At the end of the day we’re all human. We’ve all done things in our past that we’re not proud of. And we’d all feel more than a type of way if any time we did some good, someone made it a point to note that time we did something bad. If these women’s behavior reminds you of a way you were once wronged, I get it. But then you might truly want to ask yourself, “Who hurt you?” because it wasn’t them. And trying to make sure the public never forgives their wrongdoing isn’t going to help you forget your pain. As one person commented on a story about Alicia and Swizz supporting Mashonda’s art show earlier this year:
“You can choose to be mad forever and block your blessings or get up, dust off and keep moving. Better days are ahead. That’s what happened to Mashonda.”