Summer Walker is Anxious and Awkward and I’m Glad She’s Here
Summer Walker is weird. She is awkward. She seems perpetually uneasy. And her presence and visibility is definitely not parallel with the “confident, Black woman” who we love to see and champion.
And that is why her existence and visibility is even more important right now. I don’t think the vitriol she’s been receiving is okay. She’s literally trying to figure herself out after being thrust into the limelight.
You might be reading this and thinking “who is Summer Walker?” She’s an R&B artist who got popular in this last year for her mixtape “Last Day of Summer” and then just dropped her latest album “Over It.” She’s also the “Best New Artist” of 2019, according to the Soul Train Awards. Her star is on the rise.
But there’s already some stumble blocks and she’s already been on the receiving end of public contempt. Summer canceled her tour and took to her Instagram to say it’s because she has social anxiety and it makes it hard for her to do a lot of peopling. Coupling that with some of her posts on social media about not loving showers, there are a lot of people who are sending hate and criticism her way. Folks have been DRAGGING HER, and oddly enough, that is how I learned of who she is.
I’ve seen people go “well if she doesn’t wanna be famous, she should do something else.” I haven’t listened to her music, but I see her as a person who seems to have some gift that put her in the front of people, because clearly folks can’t ignore her. For her to be all up on folks playlists means she does have something that makes her magnetic. She seems really shy and not at ease in front of cameras, judging by her red carpet pics at the Soul Train Awards and even her acceptance speech, and somehow people think she’s putting on an act.
Summer used to strip, and that seems to be enough for people to want to discredit her claims of being an introvert and having social anxiety. And I’m tired of people being obtuse. Do they think strippers wake up everyday cartwheeling and doing coochie tricks for breakfast? These are regular people who happen to spend evenings doing brash things for cash. They aren’t some 24/7 hyped up cartoons. *Newsflash* Strippers can be introverts and can have anxiety but still barrel through. That is why it is called PERFORMING. Just because someone has a very public craft doesn’t mean they aren’t privately introverts. Beyoncé herself, who I think is the best entertainer alive (I’m not arguing) is an introvert, and her alter ego Sasha Fierce is who takes the stages she’s on. Now I wonder if people think Queen Yonce be at home on the couch in glitter onesies as she makes Blue Ivy and them Carter kids pancakes.
We are a culture that talks about authenticity a lot and we want people to be “real” and then we weaponize their vulnerability against them. Summer has been really transparent about having anxiety, and her struggles with mental health, visibility and all that comes with it. People have often responded with “do something else then.” Sheesh. When you are someone who loves to do something, and you barrel forward, fame is often not the motive but you can find yourself with a massive platform that no one prepared you for. So your stumbles are very public and you’re like “shit how did I get here?” See: one of the reasons why I go to therapy.
It’s a lot. And let me remind people that Summer Walker is 23 years old. 23. So many of us were weird AF at 23 and didn’t have anything figured out. Shit, we’re weird RIGHT NOW but at 23, we were running up our credit cards, making terrible decisions left and right and being the reasons why we currently have testimonies of failures that didn’t keep us down. Being a screwball is a 23-year old rite of passage. The difference is, many of us didn’t have millions of people watching us stumble.
And we’re ALL weird in different ways. It’s just that some of our weirdness is considered more socially acceptable.
Above all, what this Summer conversation has further affirmed to me is how harsh we are on Black women. Summer ain’t weirder than Tyler the Creator. Or Frank Ocean. Or Jaden Smith. Or any of the A$APs or Savages. But people swear she’s the spawn of Satan and should disappear. I’ve seen people say she looks “dirty” because she has tattoos on her face. Do you keep that same energy when talking about Kodak Black and other men with tatted faces? I don’t see us keeping the same “go to hell” energy for some of the men who we misunderstand.
Summer Walker seems like the “tortured artist” and that’s usually celebrated in anyone who isn’t a Black woman. Artists are supposed to be odd. Isn’t that the trope?
We’re basically telling sisters: “be who you are, as long as that person isn’t shy, introverted, anxious from time to time, awkward… AS LONG AS YOU AIN’T THAT, then be who you are.” Oh. Folks ain’t gentle on real awkward Black girls and it’s exhausting. We’re telling people to perform who they are, instead of just being.
There is no manual to this visibility thing, and one thing I wanna be, that I may not have been in the past (because in the words of Kelechi Nekoff, I’m a recovering dickhead), is especially graceful to Black women. We are often harsher to one another than anyone else. Then the world at large also uses our babyhairs as a rope.
So I’m glad Summer Walker is here, existing in all her strange glory. And I hope she has the fortitude to continue to be who she is, in spite of the messages she gets that tell her that she’s too square for a round world. Black Girl Magic ain’t just for those of us who walk into every room like we belong in it. That Noir Pixie Dust needs to spread to the girl who is hiding in the corner, alone in a crowded room.
Thrive, Summer! In all your rainbow haired, gay, awkward, don’t like to be hugged glory!