Amber, I think I owe you an apology.
Not because I’ve ever disparaged you; I haven’t. By contrast, I was likely dismissive—not always an easy task, given how strikingly you present. But I now consider it a blind spot in my personal brand of feminism (womanism), since admittedly, I’ve clearly never given you the credit you deserve.
So, my apologies. Let’s just say I was late to the party. I can be contrary that way.
When you first appeared on my radar, like some sort of Amazonian buzzcut Barbie, you appeared a stunning but often silent accessory to a charismatic but megalomaniacal personality whose increasingly escalating antics seemed to include parading you about as evidence of his appeal (which now sounds eerily similar to another megalomaniac occupying our collective consciousness).
By all accounts it was love, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t occasionally awkward as hell to watch. Of course, things got far more awkward after the fact, when the obsession outlasted the relationship … even after you’d both long since moved on. Suffice it to say, your influence and impact became clear (at the very least, it seems to have inspired one hell of an album).
But even as you moved on to fall in love with another high-profile man and become a media maven in your own right and, most importantly, a mother—or, as you’d say, “muva”—I remained unfazed, lazily lumping you in with the current crop of celebutantes du jour … even those you openly feuded with.
At best, I’d occasionally raise an interested eyebrow. At worst, I’d shrug in ambivalence.
Truthfully, it wasn’t until you launched your inaugural “SlutWalk” that I began to perk up and take notice. Like most of us, I don’t think I know a woman who hasn’t at some point had her sexuality used against her; I was, of course, no exception. Your insistence upon publicly owning yours—past, present and future—while confronting not only patriarchy and rape culture but also traditional (read: tired) feminism was refreshingly blunt. You officially had my attention, and I was impressed. And though I’ve yet to sit down with How to Be a Bad Bitch (I like to think I’ve already got that covered), I became a reluctant fan … albeit on a very late pass.
So, please take the following with a grain of salt and not an ounce of condescension, because I’m likely not entitled to say it, but …
I am so proud of you.
When I heard yesterday that you’d led a team of investors in purchasing legendary adult entertainment venue Ace of Diamonds, I thought, “Now, that’s a bad-bitch move.” You’ve never shied away from your early career as an exotic dancer, calling it “the best time of [your] life” as you casually made your announcement at Tuesday night’s All Def Movie Awards. Fittingly, you were accepting an award for activism.
If your mission to “help other women find success in the entertainment industry” (expressed with the launch of MUVA Management last summer) remains consistent, then empowering and cultivating the talent at Ace of Diamonds would seem a natural next step—in addition to being a potential goldmine for everyone involved. If so, it’ll likely be far more stimulating to watch than mere adult entertainment—especially if one of the premium channels swoops in to make sure this particular revolution will indeed be televised. (Seriously, can we make that happen? Sounds like must-see TV to me.)
As Candice Benbow, lecturer of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University and creator of the Lemonade Syllabus, posited to me:
Amber continues to be part of expanding what it to be feminist and unapologetic about your sexuality. If she runs Ace of Diamonds from that perspective, we’re about to witness a revolution. Strip clubs operating with a black feminist lens center the needs and agency of these women in a way that has never before been possible. It’s going to be amazing to watch what happens.
Amazing, indeed. While the color of your personal lens may remain publicly up for debate, your proximity to blackness (biologically, socially and professionally) is far less so. And interestingly, your particular type of feminism could represent a new chapter in the oft-hidden American history of so-called working girls bossing up. Matter of fact, the civilization of your current stomping grounds—what was once known as the “Wild West”—wasn’t so much due to the pioneering efforts of prospectors and cowboys as it was to enterprising sex workers, as humorously depicted by TruTV’s Adam Conover.
And Amber, if those women were pioneers in providing a blueprint for a still-unsettled American landscape, perhaps you can now provide a master class for a new generation of often underestimated women. After all, as you said to the crowd Tuesday night: “This is to every girl out there; every stripper. … Y’all can one day be onstage with Russell Simmons, receiving an award.”
How to be a bad bitch, indeed.