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What I Learned from Tina Turner
A Rockstar's Elegy
Tina turner taught me that there is life after tragedy. That you could take the harrowing warfare of a life of people embodying the precarity that is imposed and inflicted on to the lives, psyches, bodies of Black women – and you could make magic. Her glittering image came into focus for me as she taught my 6-year-old self that, in fact being over the age of 40, was an invitation to be the best, simply. She was like my mother in that way, and I could never not associate the two. That to become a woman, meant to have battle scars, and a refined taste that only time (and not money) could get you. She taught me that I could make myself beautiful, no matter what anyone else had to say. She made beauty an invention that I could access and retool for my own use. A major key. Tina taught me not to trust no man. Another major key. Tina Turner taught me the art and practice of reinvention and she made that her narrative, no matter how tightly mainstream media hung on to the other story. Tina told the whole gritty truth and said, “that’s enough.” That boundaries are and will always be fabulous. Tina taught me to scream, to rage into the music. She showed me grace, great legs, leather mini skirts with jean jackets, ambiguous accents, rock and roll, and hand sewn blonde wigs. She walked with a strut in expensive high heels, and never once told you what she was wearing (but we know those red bottoms well).
Tina Turner, from the south, but will forever be a downtown girl – brash, raspy, edgy, intelligent, and of course chic. Tina said Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and disproved any superstitions one might have about having faith in something other than what has been inherited. She chose to believe in herself, and the mystical powers of the ether, the spiritual realm, and she proved herself right. She taught me to make a family of my own, to turn my back on kin who would rather see me dead than let me live freely. Tina taught me to give a damn about people, and to KNOW people give a damn about you. She taught me to trust my friends, to listen to them, to hear them, to be vulnerable with my girlfriends. Tina Turner taught me to keep at what I love, even if no one seems to care. Tina taught me that in order to be a light, that you must reckon with your darkness.
Tina showed me how to be an icon, and that to be one you must play the long game. That they will ridicule you, compare you to whom or whatever, they will obsess over your failures, salivate at the sounds of your torture, and then gather in numbers to see you triumph – even if they had doubts. Tina Turner said yes to love, never gave it up, never stopped giving it. Tina went to where she was loved and did so unapologetically. Tina made a luxurious home on her own terms. Tina showed me and reminded me that you make home in yourself first and always – for that will be the safest space, if you want it to be that way. Tina taught me to dance. To be sexy. To be fierce. Tina showed me that you could be the center of the universe, even if it’s just for one magical night. Tina taught me to tell my story just as I want it and to hell with whatever anyone else has to say. Tina taught me there is life after tragedy and to say yes to a future.
Tina Turner taught me.
May she continue her reign as a Rock-n-Roll icon and now as ancestor.
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