SAWEETIE ON SELF-LOVE, SHUTTING DOWN HATERS AND SHOWING UP FOR HER BESTIES

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Saweetie has always been one of the most confident artists in the game. She effortlessly shrugs off haters, drops music, pushes out some of the best content on Instagram, and steadily gets to the back. And that’s on period.

It’s crazy how I was just watching the “Back To The Streets” rapper on the latest episode of Grown-ish as Zoey Johnson’s latest client, Indigo, and now she was talking to me on the phone. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, I was able to connect with Saweetie about the importance of loving on your friends just as much as you love on your partner and, more importantly, how to love on yourself.

It’s always important to check in on your friends, family, or interviewees – especially the ones that grind extra hard, so I had to ask how she’s doing. The rapstress, born Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper, told me that she’s been reading a lot and watching documentaries and interviews for inspiration. 

“Because I’m so conscious of my mental health now, I feel like I’m in a good space,” Saweetie says with a calm demeanor. She definitely had that chill Bay Area native vibe going on. As excited as my inner Brooklyn girl was to speak with her, I successfully matched her energy and set my tonality cruise control to autopilot.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I knew that Saweetie was going to get a lot of questions about the plans that she and her man Quavo had for one another – I wasn’t interested in any of that. As a journalist, I wanted to get to know Saweetie’s love for Saweetie. What does that self-love look like when she’s away from her man, her friends, and the press? 

“Self-love is being conscious of self and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself,” she explains. “It’s almost as if it’s a high maintenance requirement to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally. It’s about being conscious of all of the things that you intake, think and say. When you love yourself, you don’t want to pollute your mind, body, soul, and spirit and you protect yourself from the things that pollute the important things.”

Saweetie suggested to “Tap In” to self-care through a variety of avenues including massages, retail therapy, and affirmations, but she also gave an important disclaimer: “None of these things,” she emphasizes,  “are going to work if you’re not constantly keeping up with yourself to make sure that you’re loving yourself.” She asked if it made sense, and I reassured her that it absolutely did.

The world knows that Saweetie and Quavo are big boss relationship goals and have taken over the Internet with their iconic GQ spread, “Emotional” visual collaboration, and their viral couples’ quiz. While they’re the new prince and princess of hip-hop royalty, Saweetie acknowledges that self-love is the primary and most essential step before strolling into a romantic partnership with another being. 

“If you can’t love yourself, I think it’d be hard for someone else to love you,” she says. “If you don’t love you, how are you going to accept someone else’s love if you can’t even accept your own?” I’ve always heard RuPaul’s “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else,” but Saweetie’s explanation about acceptance was right on point. 

While Valentine’s Day is centered around roses, chocolates, and stuffed animals, Saweetie found time to celebrate people who love her unconditionally beyond all her glitz, glam, and gold certified records – her girlfriends. “I didn’t know that Galentine’s Day was an actual holiday. I thought that it was another word for Valentine’s Day if you didn’t have a valentine,” she laughs. 

Galentine’s Day, which lands every year the day before Valentine’s Day, was something new for Saweetie to learn about, but the idea of giving love and affection to her friends was exciting. She even hand-delivered a few of her friends, including Grown-ish castmate Yara Shahidi and bestselling cookbook author Ayesha Curry, a few Icy Galentines goodies including sneakers, lingerie, and pretty much everything a girl could want on this special day. She shut it down for her besties!

“Loving on each other is important,” she expresses. “That’s the reason why I came out with the ‘Best Friend’ song to uplift all the besties, ride-or-dies and the people who help you get through the tough circumstances. It’s about celebrating and highlighting the people who love you, the people who you party with and the people make life so colorful.” I can tell it brought a small smile to her face when she said that, because one came across mine as I thought about my main girls, too.

The “Best Friend” single featuring Doja Cat hit the industry wavelengths as an instantaneous anthem for women empowerment in a world where women are pitted against one another. “I just wanted to have a good time on the song,” Saweetie confessed, as she told me about her first time meeting her collaborator in London, UK. She and the “Say So” singer met two years ago, and Saweetie couldn’t have thought of a better person to hop on the track. “As much as it is such an empowering moment,” she shares, “the purpose of the song was to highlight your bestie. Through doing so, I’m happy that it was an act of uplifting another woman.”

“Best friends are important,” she notes. “They’re like your bodyguard, your therapist, your stylist and everything in one because they care about every piece of you. They have a 24/7 job and that 24/7 job is to make sure you’re happy. I think it’s reciprocated through best friend relationships.” Even though she’s showing her man and her friends some love on the famed candy-coated holiday, Saweetie wants anyone who may have spent Valentine’s Day by themselves to know that love begins and ends with you and the love you pour into yourself.

“Set the mood for yourself. Get yourself flowers, clean your house, set it up, put some candles on, cook a nice meal. Get on FaceTime with your mom, your aunt, your bestie, your cousin – keep yourself company!” she exclaims. “If someone is conscious that they don’t have a valentine, put the effort into making sure that you do have a good holiday because we do enjoy the aesthetics that come with it. If I were single for Valentine’s Day, I would get myself flowers, put on a nice little red lingerie piece, I might do my hair and my makeup, do a group FaceTime, put on a chick flick, bake some cookies – it’s all about setting the environment.”

She continues, “I have fun by myself. That’s something that I’m good at. Hopefully people can learn how to have fun by themselves.”

We know Saweetie as the spicy and self-assured Icy Girl on social media, but she revealed to me that this version of Saweetie wasn’t built in a day. She began to love herself with purpose and pure deliberation about a year ago, but not from a point in which she loathed herself or didn’t like who she was. “Being conscious is an important thing to do because when you do that, you have purpose, you have intention,” she expresses. 

“I grew up in a loving household but there’s some things that I wasn’t too happy about or things I didn’t necessarily love about myself. I never really identified or got to the root of it, but last year when I became intentional about loving myself, there were things that I didn’t like and things that I would reflect about. I would get to the root of it to make sure I got those negative thoughts of self out of my system,” she says.

Quarantine and stepping away from the normalcy of hustle and bustle life was good for Saweetie, as it made her more introspective about inner issues and demons that she may have been too busy to face head on. Unfortunately, as we see with most public figures, or even in our own day to day lives, sweeping feelings and negative self-talk under the rug happens to be a special skill we’ve all shared at some point in our lives – whether we’d like to admit it or not. Having this moment of vulnerability with a being of Saweetie’s celebrity and influence made me grateful that this conversation was a moment of transparency and rawness was one about mental health that both she and I could relate to.

As far as her journey to embracing both her undeniable outer beauty and her beautiful, in-tune spirit, Saweetie has grown into her own. “There’s this misconception of when you’re pretty, life is easier, but for me, it’s actually been the opposite,” she confesses about her constant battle. Most people may think that pretty is powerful, but her flawless gene pool worked against her instead of, as she said, “worked for my benefit.”

“I’ve been to at least 12 plus school growing up,” she confides. “I was always moving, I was always the new pretty girl and I was always getting judged. It wasn’t fun because people had this misconception that I might be stuck up and they wanted to beat me to the punch of being mean to me. I’ve always been judged in the worst ways because of my looks. I wasn’t necessarily thinking negatively about myself, but it wasn’t fun being me so I didn’t like being me.”

Sadly, Saweetie isn’t the only woman facing her own demons of negative self-talk and doubt. But one could only imagine the amount of both consistent ridicule and praise a public figure of her caliber experiences on a daily basis. Especially thanks to the self-made appraisal tools and platforms we know today as social media. 

With certified gold and platinum records and over 10 million followers on Instagram, the “My Type” rap star knows that even the brightest star in the sky can be told to dim their light due to the insecurity of others. Because of the history of people prejudging her, Saweetie tried to hide her energy and star power in order to remove the stigma of her being the cocky, boastful pretty girl. But 2020 was definitely the year of unapologetically embracing her most confident version of herself. 

“I’ve always been a confident person, but I was embracing myself and not giving a fuck about what anybody else thinks, which is why I’m labeling my album Pretty Bitch Music,” she says. “I am a pretty girl and I’m gonna be confident in that but that’s not the only thing that makes me pretty. I feel like being pretty is more than how you dress and your face. Being pretty is about your soul, your spirit, and your energy. That’s why I campaign for Pretty Bitch Music so hard.”

For Saweetie, there’s no monolithic definition of “pretty,” especially when women come in all shapes, sizes, shades and aesthetics. While presentation is a plus, she acknowledges that character is the meat of the person and “pretty is more than face value.” Pretty Bitch Music will be her lyrical advocacy and ode to the non-physical perception of beauty. 

“I can tell you that it’s a vibe or about the lyrics,” she says, “but it comes from when I break it down. I have two really controversial words in my album, but I’m using them for a greater good. Bitch is for boss, independence, tough, CEO, and hyphy so that’s the acronym that makes the word. It has such a loaded meaning but I feel like I’m changing the discourse of what it means to use these words for a better, stronger, and empowering meaning.”

Saweetie is also challenging the discourse of what it means to embody confidence in and out. Though she is in the public eye and all eyes are on her wherever she goes, she doesn’t do it for the likes, comments, or paparazzi flashes. Despite the negative connotations of women being portrayed as “thirsty” or being slutshamed because they want to show off their curves and assets, Saweetie wants everyone to feel good about themselves in their own skin and the clothes that go on top as the finishing touches – no matter what a hater has to say.

Speaking of empowerment, why has there been so much controversy around a woman’s self-empowerment when it comes to her own body? From slutshaming to calling women “thirsty” for the male gaze, women can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to baring their natural assets. While it might be hard to grasp, fellas, we don’t put on a show for you. We do it because we love what we see in the mirror and we think we’re so damn fine – and Saweetie agrees. 

“We all want to feel some sort of emotion that makes us proud to be in our own skin, so it’s important for people to be comfortable in their own clothes and whatever they’re wearing because it’s just a good feeling. I don’t think there’s that much more to it,” she puts simply. “It’s kind of hard to say how to deal with the criticism or critiques that come with it because at the end of the day, that comes with just living. Your makeup, your hair, what you’re wearing – it’s not about the critiques, but how you deal with it. That all comes down to mental toughness.”

She followed up with two options: Are you gonna brush it off, or are you going to let it ruin your day? “As much as we talk about the issues that we face in our day-to-day lives and overcoming these hurdles, those hurdles will never go away. It’s how you deal with them,” Saweetie added – and that’s a fact. “I think being conscious is such an overlying theme in this conversation. It’s so easy to say but happiness and all those other emotions that we strive to attain are all by choice. It’s by choice when you’re conscious of what you’re doing.”

Right before we ended our phone conversation, I had a last minute spur of the moment question to ask Saweetie: if you could give your younger self any advice about self-love, what would you tell her? 

“I’d figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are,” she admitted. “I’d hone in on what my strengths are and perfect them because when you’re proud of self, that’s a form of self-love. Figure out what you’re good at, be better at it and be proud to be yourself. A skill set should be something more to brag about than your looks. When you’re able to do something beyond face value, that’s when you begin to feel good as a person.”

And that’s on Saweetie and her Pretty Bitch Music.

CONNECT WITH SAWEETIE

INSTAGRAM // SPOTIFY // TWITTER // BEST FRIEND

Photos / Blair Caldwell and Dennis Leupold

Story / D’Shonda Brown (@SignedShonda)

Edited / Sam Berlin (@Spberlin)

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