1OFF: 10 Thoughts I had While Reading Amandla Stenberg’s Interview by Solange Knowles

Amandla Sandberg interview


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something done apart from a regular series. This is a 1OFF. It may not be specifically about Chicago or travel, but we want to talk about it. So, pull up a chair and let’s talk.

Leaving my dorm, drinking coffee, filling my Treo 650 with parties and deadlines, it all felt so adult-like. My first year in college and I imagined myself at the pinnacle of intellectual sophistication. Crossing my ankles, taking another swig of Starbucks, I sat down on the dirty grass of the quadrangle like a wobbly ironing board smashing to the floor. In my bag, a copy of TeenVogue waited. Being all of nineteen, I was still allowing myself the guilty pleasure of colorful magazines with “teen” stuffed into the title. This wasn’t Vogue. This was TeenVogue. Vogue was wordy, greyish, and taught readers how to dress for their age. TeenVogue was about lip-gloss, quizzes, and boys. It was candy for the brain and I had a strong sweet tooth.

It would be almost 10 years before I purchased another issue. A decade, a songstress, and a mouthy girl with big hair stood between me on that campus and me picking up the February issue of TeenVogue last week from The Book Table.

amandla stenberg interview

  1. The cover reads, “Finally, the best makeup for dark skin.” “Activist: Amandla Stenberg by Solange Knowles.” “Model Adwoa Aboah opens up… What trickery is this? Who shrunk down the pages of Essence and made it all so unapologetically inclusive?
  2. Graphics galore. In 30 minutes (don’t judge me if you finished it in 10) I’ve read every word of the entire magazine, from cover to cover. This is a treat because I’m used to wading through the essays of adult glossies for weeks until finally giving up and elevating the bi-monthly to coffee book status. Looking for a copy of Honey, the infamous “All Black” Vogue Itaia from ’08, or a Russian bridal magazine? Under a few inches of dust, they’re all somewhere on my coffee table.
  3. Backtracking to Amandla’s profile, I see nothing but hair, prints, and athleisure. Clearly, Julia Sarr-Jamois had a hand in this. (I was right.)
  4. TeenVogue is very fortunate to have scored Solange for this feature, and Solange knows it. Evidence: She didn’t prepare for the interview and is so secure in this fact that she makes it the opening line of her piece. Really, though, who would have contributed the same amount of high-style, otherworldly brown girl power if not for Solange Knowles herself? Okay, maybe Willow.
  5. Speaking of otherworldly brown girl power, boy, does she let us have it. My three favorite lines:
    • “There’s a secret language shared among black girls who are destined to climb mountains and cross rivers in a world that tells us to belong to the valleys that surround us.” A bit grandiose, but the message is for everyone. Don’t conform your standard of living and beauty to fit the insecurities of society. Whoever you are, live like you’re worthy.
    • “Connecting [Solange and Amandla] as two descendants of powerful queens who made the journey before us and whom we hold in the highest regard.” Why is this sentence here? Confidence is a great thing, but without the support of strong mothers (and fathers) who plant seeds of assurance in their girls and boys, it can be difficult for these children to grow into mature people who believe in themselves. Basically, we should all be calling our parents right now.
    • “…when you become friends with other powerful, like-minded people, you all just shine brighter,” Amandla finishes her interview with this doozy. Iron sharpens iron.
  6. In many ways, social media is both to credit and blame for the racial disparities of our time. Amandla has been exposed to more prejudicial bias and hateful words than I have my entire life. When she was 12, strangers called her the N-word and wished death on her character in a movie based on fiction. Repeat: Adults wished for the death of this child both on screen and off, I’m sure many behind the protection of their screen via social media. We’ve become a generation of cowards and faux heroes. She admits, “That was the first moment I realized being black was such a crucial part of my identity in terms of the way that I was perceived and how it would affect any life of work that I wanted to pursue.”
  7. We are all exhausted. Many of us are over explaining our existence. It’s exhausting. Amandla opens up, “I have definitely had moment when my hair felt too big or like I needed to make myself…” “Smaller,” Solange finishes. “Exactly. Smaller and easier to digest.”
  8. Seriously, what magazine is this? When did teen magazines get so brave? Kudos to TeenVogue for telling this story and making it all easily digestible without sacrificing realness.
  9. I really need an Adidas tracksuit…
  10. …and another faux fur coat.

Copies of this issue are selling like hotcakes. Did you grab yours? What did you think?