Jazmine Sullivan on the Power of Heaux Tales and Singing at the Super Bowl

We hadn’t heard from Jazmine Sullivan in almost six years. The singer-songwriter had spent over a decade gathering commercial and critical success, ever since her 2008 debut with Fearless, only to take a hiatus from her art after the well-received Reality Show in 2015. So when she released a new single, “Lost One,” at the end of last year, it was time

And yet I don’t think any of us were prepared. In just 32 minutes Sullivan’s conceptual EP Heaux Tales epically chronicles the experiences of millennial Black women in life and love. Her pen and voice take us on a journey, from the opening line of “Bodies”—“Bitch. Get it together, bitch”—to “I ain’t wanna be, but you gon’ make a ho outta me” in “A Girl Like Me.” Sullivan’s artistry is a North Star to a place where Black women’s sexual liberation is the standard, our experiences revered and our stories told. 

In short, Heaux Tales did what very few projects can: present Black women as confident, vulnerable, erotic, flawed—whole.

RCA Records

After listening to the project for hours on release day, January 8, I asked if any Black women wanted to discuss it in a community setting. Over 500 women joined me, entertainment journalist Gia Peppers, sex educator and influencer Ashley Cobb, and theologian and life coach Rozella Haydée White on the Clubhouse app the following day to examine the album’s impact. What happened was nothing short of magical. We shared stories of real joy and great sex. We told tales of unimaginable pain and deep heartache. We shared the stories of Black womanhood, all prompted by the offering of the one who seemed to know us best.

Over Zoom, I had the opportunity to talk with Sullivan about her EP (now number one on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart), growing up in church and into our own womanhood, and what her upcoming performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl means to her. 

Glamour: How do you feel?

Jazmine Sullivan: I actually didn’t know it would get this response. Because it was an EP, I didn’t know how people would respond to the tales. For me, they were the meat of the project and a huge part of why I even wanted to do this. I needed these stories told. They are personal stories. These are my best friends and members of my family. It started off so small—literally just our regular conversations. I knew it was special to me, but I didn’t know how deep it would be to other women. 

But I get it. Our stories aren’t told enough—or at all. We don’t have a lot to be able to say, “Oh, that’s me right there.” Or, “That’s my story, and I relate to that.” Or even, “That’s not my story, and I want to know more.” We don’t have enough stories as Black women. I’m happy people are feeling it on a different level outside of the music.

I’ve always considered you a Black girl’s psalmist. You’ve been able to write our experiences in a way very few can. I think it’s because you don’t shy away from all the parts we try to hide.

I just feel like there are things that need to be said. There’s so much truth to be revealed in the dark places. In order to grow and change, you have to go there. You’ve got to tell the story, and I’m okay with telling it.

In our Clubhouse conversation, so many Black women spoke about their experiences with sexual violence. Then Antoinette Henry came into the room and shared the context behind “Antoinette’s Tale.” So many sisters have said Heaux Tales made them believe they can reclaim their power in sexual agency. How much of that figured into your insistence to have those tales be on the EP?

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