Lauryn Hill's Private Life

Lauryn Hill (Getty Images)
Lauryn Hill (Getty Images)

Thankfully, I read Demetria Lucas' new book, A Belle in Brooklyn, after we met for drinks last week at Dirty Martini in downtown D.C. Otherwise, instead of having a normal tête-à-tête con tequila, we would have had an entire conversation that consisted solely of me prodding her with questions: "So, whatever happened to 'Greg'? Who's 'Nathan'? Can I beat up 'Dakar'? What did your dad say about pages 15, 183 and 249?"


At that point Lucas would be forced to be "on." But because we met up before I devoured her memoir-relationship manual, I was able to restrain myself.

Try as we might, in the age of Twitter and 24-hour personal stock tickers, the line between TMI and "tell me more" is often confusing for fans.

The same thing happens to me whenever I'm standing within a mile of my book. On Monday a young lady who'd read it stuck her hand out, congratulated me and then hit me with the same line I get from my grandmother, aunties and married cousins: "So, are you still single?"

The easiest answer to that is to flash my currently vacant ring finger. "Well, I'm not married," I tell her with a smile on my face, as hers begins to droop. She expected more from me.

Giving up too much information is like sharpening knives and handing them over to strangers in an alley. You turn your back, and who knows what might happen. Maybe they'll build you a bonfire, or maybe a funeral pyre. Lauryn Hill, the bard of my generation, found out as much in the decade since her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

In songs like "Ex-Factor," "Nothing Even Matters" and "Doo Wop (That Thing)," a 23-year-old Lauryn preached to (and about) a generation of women who were previously invisible to mainstream America. Then she all but vanished, leaving a zealous fan base that still calls her "Lauryn" like they know her. She bolstered and buoyed by breaking down her life, so it's no surprise that many have clung to every morsel of her for dear life.


The most recent Hill-related flotation device has been the birth of her sixth child, whose paternity has been in question. Wait, that's not right. "In question" would imply that Ms. Hill was herself unsure about who her child's father is, and that I doubt.

Her child's paternity was simply kept private, so the Internet went aflame when Rohan Marley, the father of Hill's five older children, announced via Twitter that he was not the father of her newest son. This week, Hill confirmed Marley's "claim" — as some folks call it — by taking to Twitter herself.


"Mr. Marley and I have a long and complex history about which MANY inaccuracies have been reported since the beginning," she wrote. "To speculate without the facts can only cause people to form WRONG conclusions. We both value privacy and for that reason defend and preserve our right to it. Contrary to the numerous reports, Mr. Marley did not abandon me while pregnant with his child. We have had long periods of separation over the years but our 5 children together remain a joy to both of us."

Hill hasn't written any songs about Marley that we know of. She has yet to rhyme the ups and downs of their many years together for folks to feast upon, never getting their fill. For some, Hill's right to privacy is a tough pill to swallow because her success was directly related to her raw vocal vulnerability. We love(d) her precisely because we assumed that we knew her.


In the introduction of her book, Lucas writes, "I hope you can learn as much by reading about my trials and triumphs as I did by living and growing through them." I believe that's exactly what Hill was hoping for 12 years ago. Really, that's what anyone who mines her or his life for a living hopes for: that people will listen and learn and eventually grow. I'm still going to ask Lucas about "Greg," though. I've got to know what happened! But I'm not going to assume that I know what should.

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.


Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.