In a new profile with Teen Vogue, emerging rapper Tierra Whack addresses one of the music industry’s most poorly-kept and prevalent dirty secrets: Colorism. As one of only a handful of emerging female rappers to have darker skin, she says that she struggled with “low self-esteem” and has noticed that many of the performers receiving much of the limelight tend to be lighter-skinned, but that she won’t let that discourage her from showing up.
“I recognize [that] I am dark,” she admits. “I remember being younger and being teased for my skin being darker. My mom, she just was always there like, ‘You have to love yourself.’ Seeing Lauryn [Hill] and then seeing Missy [Elliott] — they were making it. I don’t think Missy was like, ‘I’m going to be a dark girl making it.’ I think she just did it. You just do it… If I could change [colorism in the industry], that would be really nice.”
However, she says, “it’s not my focus.” Instead, she confesses that she’s a little more self-possessed: “I just want to do what I feel inside and make it work to the best of my ability and whatever comes with it, comes with it. I can’t change how I look. That’s how I showed up, in my dark skin. I dress kind of cool. Either y’all gon’ take it or not.”
Fortunately for Whack, her video for “Mumbo Jumbo” and her appearance on Beyonce’s The Lion King: The Gift have earned her Grammy nominations and more attention, allowing her to become a beacon of representation in the industry along with rappers like Rapsody, Dej Loaf, Kash Doll, Kamaiyah, and Dreezy. Slowly but surely, the industry is beginning to shake off its old ways; from the emergence of stars like Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, and Normani to Tierra Whack’s own impending superstardom, the rap and R&B music world has begun to reflect the variety of the wider world we live in.