Jody Watley, Harper’s Bazaar 10 Most Beautiful Issue (Women from 21 to 48 Talk About Their Looks and Lives), September 1989
I was in great company as the ‘The Top 10’ list also featured Academy Award winning actress Jodie Foster on the cover, other inclusions were Faye Dunaway, Whitney Houston, Susan Sarandon, Kelly LeBrock, Julia Roberts, Melanie Griffith, and Anjelica Houston.
Clothing – Rifat Ozbek
Photography Matthew Rolston
For me – though having a strong visual presentation and identity as an artist is important – your looks never define who you are as a person nor have anything to do with substance, character, talent, tenacity and perseverance. One must have something going on beyond what’s on the outside. Over the decades I’ve found in some ways with women physical appearance when others consider you ‘beautiful’ can work against you too, you almost have to work double to be taken seriously not to mention those that may resent what they see and some to their own personal biases, misperceptions and so on – it’s a double edged sword. That said, looking back it’s special to have broken through some of the barriers that often exist for black women and artists in the lexicon of beauty and fashion opening the door a bit wider for others that have followed. This was my second of 3 features in Harper’s Bazaar.
No matter what – don’t forget to be awesome not matter what you look like!
“Always believe in yourself and be happy being yourself. I’m glad my Dad instilled in me the principal that it’s not what other people think about you – it’s what you think of yourself.”
This night was special on so many levels – the presentation by music pioneer and legend Little Richard egregiously never given his props as the Architect of Rock and Rock and father to many sub genres of influence in style (I always think when he saw my name and said “..the winner really is me..” he felt a connection. He consoled me backstage and then came Michael Jackson – King Of Pop – it really is a biopic worthy scene and moment!
It was an cool to be a part of the “People Magazine 50 Most Beautiful Summer 1990” issue needless to say (actress Michelle Pfeiffer was on the cover). I believe true beauty radiates from the inside out and honestly having smarts is higher on my list though being in the entertainment industry there is a level of superficial so I get it. In my interviews it’s always been key to get that across, not just being a ‘pretty face.’ The feature makes mention of my godfather music legend Jackie Wilson who will finally be honored with a Star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood September 4, 2019.
In this opportunity it’s noted that I was ok with my crooked bottom teeth..they are still crooked though I could easily have them straightened. Perhaps I will before all is said and done but they don’t bother me and are a part of being distinctly me. Imperfections are a part of who we are, it’s also what I replied recently to someone trolling me on Facebook who mocked me for my bottom teeth ‘you have enough money – why don’t you get your teeth fixed, people are talking about you behind your back..” Sure, we are all works in progress and if definitely fix or work on what needs improvement if it makes you feel better about yourself – go for it but don’t let society or certain standards make you feel less than or inferior in any way. You decide – I decide.
Going with short hair was also a statement in itself and somewhat rebellious in it’s own way..it’s not about my hair but my artistry and quest to always be what and who I want to be at any given time – not who and what other’s want to define or box me into. The short hair was not received well at the time with fans, or my record label. As an artist and a human being most of all, it’s often challenging to hold on and fight to be who you are and want to be while others may only see you one way and try to keep you marginalized to their vision.
This was also around the time I was photographed by legendary Herb Ritts for the GAP groundbreaking ‘celebrity’ ad campaign ‘Individuals Of Style’ – loved this session. Herb Ritts was so kind and easy going. Any intimidation I may have felt going into the session melted away as soon as I met him. We shot in natural light on the rooftop of his Hollywood studio, I wore my own denim jeans and Doc Martens, customizing the white GAP t-shirt to suit me, just a simple snipping off of the sleeves. Peter Savic, another legend in the fashion and celebrity hairstylist..actually he’s a master of hair, an artist not just a stylist worked with Herb Ritts often but it was a first for us. Wanting to do something fresh, modern and bold but not sure what – Peter suggested short and so we agreed on the pixie cut and he knocked it out of the park! An image from this session was also used for my “Precious Love” single…as well it was around this time I was nearly booed off the stage and received heavy backlash after by my only performance on the Soul Train Awards…that’s another post entirely. I do touch upon being black and forward thinking as an artist back then, the politics of the music business .. in my work in progress memoir.
Be bold if you feel like it – be you – live your life!! Wattage!