frē ˈspirit/ noun
an independent or uninhibited person.
Being a free spirit ain’t new.
Although It seems to be the trend with all the unicorns and mermaids flooding your timeline, this life for women of color, particularly Black women, isn't new. There are generations of “hidden figures” that have led their life against the grain, uninhibited, learned how to make the rules work in their favor and sprinkled #blackgirlmagic and fairy dust all over the damn place.
It took me a while to recognize that I am she.
I’d look at other women and wonder how can I do that, how can I be like THAT, not realizing I was already it and more. A military brat born in the South, raised in the Northeast, product of a divorced home, in an underserved community, part of the Black Baptist community within close-knit family; and when I turned 18, at the first open door, I hopped on the HBCU train and hauled ass down to Atlanta (shout out to CAU). I didn’t care about being the “Yankee” rocking Timbs and a skirt, tongue ring clanging against my teeth, nails longer than life, hair flowin’ like cherry red coke, then in 2 seconds short, dark and brown.
I was always the same and never the same.
Even now as I enter my late 30s, embracing my crystal lovin’, whisky drinkin’, naked around the house, erotica writin’, baby bruja self has not been the easiest task. Accepting the parts of you that others find uncouth or simply refuse to understand, takes courage. How brave is the woman who chooses to be unapologetically herself. Since there’s much emphasis placed on women who color inside the lines and follow the traditional (and patriarchal) paths of “femininity”, the free spirit woman comes off as if she’s an anomaly; however, that is far from the truth.
Below are 4 examples of women, across generations, who live (and have lived) their lives uninhibited and have become innovators, trendsetters as well as legends in their own right:
1. Eartha Kitt gave new meaning to the word versatile as a performer and didn’t being ostracized by her family, hinder her success. She became one of the few performers to be nominated for a Tony, Grammy and Emmy award. Her infamous growl as Catwoman in the original Batman series increased her fame. A featured dancer for the prestigious “Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe”, it was the resurgence of her 1982 interview in the documentary “All by Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story” that redefined what it meant to truly be a woman who gives no fucks.
2. Pat Cleveland is the first Black supermodel who fell into her career by happenstance. Ironically, co-Founder of Ford Models Eileen Ford told her, “…there is no work for colored girls. The only reason I took you is because [photographer] Oleg Cassini recommended you. But I really think you will never make it in the modeling business.” Could she have been more wrong? “This rag doll, no tits, was on her way to Europe,” became the muse of Salvador Dali, entertained the likes of Mick Jagger, and strutted down the catwalk painting the air around her with clothes for Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Christian Dior, Ebony’s Fashion Fair tour and many more. Despite not being dark enough for African American fashion and too dark for standard American fashion, she still excelled.
3. Solange is the magical pen behind many of Beyoncé’s number one hits. Her eclectic style and raw lyrics, coupled with her soft and sultry voice made her the “Knowles girl” that took a different approach. Going from “the Dragon” (aka her weave), to a low fade, growing out her wavy tresses making sure you don’t touch her hair, Solo epitomizes the free-spirited Black girl. She choreographs her own videos (and goes hard on the dance moves), bike rides with her hubby Alan around NOLA, line steps in Mardi Gras, and gives folk that Texas side sway. She received her first Grammy for the timely work, A Seat at the Table – an album for us, by us that proved one doesn’t have to compromise their art and integrity to be recognized for their worth.
4. We watched Rihanna come into her own over the last decade. There’s a clear difference between “Pon di Replay” and “Kiss it Better”. She’s become a fashion icon, International superstar, can still walk through Bridgetown as Robyn and buss ah whine with her fellow Bajans during Carnival. Her no fucks attitude has inspired young girls, and even some seasoned ones, to be their authentic selves. From the traditional Polynesian tat on her hand, to posing in a hijab at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and the Diamond flask at the Grammys, Rihanna continues to live her life free and true to who she is. This month, she received Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year award for her contributions to her home country in oncology and nuclear medicine, under the Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her grandmother who lost her battle with cancer in 2012. In true RiRi fashion, she kills the speech ending it with a quote from her grandmother, “If you have a dollar, there’s plenty to share.”
To the free spirit Black and Brown girl, you my love are not an anomaly, you are not a trend. Cheers to you for refusing to settle, for choosing to live life unbound, for painting the world gold, sepia, terra-cotta, tawny, sandy, and onyx.
*** The Free Spirit Aka Vee is an adult novelist writing under the moniker L.T. Robinson. When she’s not purveying the perverse, she’s living her unicorn life slanging nouns and verbs for other writers just like her. You can find her on Instagram @theauthorlt and @vee_uwrite.