Erykah Badu somehow manages to be both on the periphery of popular culture, yet a central part of the conversation. Stepping out on the scene nearly 20 years ago, Ms. Badu continues to push herself artistically and while some many not always get it – what we do understand is her undying commitment to creativity and individuality. Which is why Hennessy selected her to be a part of their 'Wild Rabbit' campaign. What's a wild rabbit, you may ask? Find out below, as Erykah chats with EBONY about her collaboration with our favorite cognac brand, her passion for being a doula, and what being a role model means to her.
EBONY: What inspired you to partner with Hennessy for the Wild Rabbit campaign?
EB: I first got with Hennessy through Ahmir (?uestlove) from the Roots. Hennessy had a project called the Art of Blending and the Roots were the curators, mainly Ahmir and he did a really good job. You had these prestigious names, very famous, well-respected people on the stage with artists who were not signed and it was the most uncontrived things that I have ever been apart of. It was very refreshing. I work with a lot of brands. When a brand allows an artist to be free to express, explore and experiment, that’s where you want to be, especially in partnership and this is what Hennessy does. So the next year, they invited me back to be a curator along with Ahmir. Apparently they had noticed my enthusiasm. That project ended up being canceled, but then they came up with the Wild Rabbit campaign and invited me to join that instead. I was like "The Wild Rabbit, what is that about?" And they told me that your 'Wild Rabbit' represents the passion inside of you. It doesn’t die. It comes equipped. It’s whimsical. It is a part of a person.
EBONY: How do you think your 'Wild Rabbits' inspire your fans and your followers to be their authentic selves and how do you think this campaign will allow you to do that?
EB: Like me, it is a very elegant and a very conscious power. I mean I’m in very good company, with Manny Pacquiao and Martin Scorsese It’s a very simple portrait with a very heartfelt idea. I think that gives yet another way to drive people towards their 'wild rabbit.' The wild rabbit, being that passion inside of them that cannot be contaminated. In Egypt, we call it the Kah. It means the inner self that cannot be contaminated. I think that’s what this is about.
EBONY: Who inspires you?
EB: I look up to my grandmothers and how they handle themselves in certain situations. How they raise their kids, how they handle their business, how they handle their men. I know that when people say they look up to people, I know why. But they encourage me to still experience things for myself and don’t just repeat what they’ve done.
EBONY: Speaking of role models, there aren’t really legions of girls trying to duplicate you. Why do you think that is?
EB: (Laughs) I think you’ve missed it. I’ve seen 1000 ankh tattoos, I’ve seen all the head wraps.
EBONY: But you have always been more than just 'a head wrap from the coffee shop.' You have a little Mary and a little Beyoncé in you. And I think that’s why we love you. Why do you think there aren’t more people trying to emulate that?
Erykah: I don’t think that my image appeals to normal American culture as Beyoncé’s would. I’m a little eclectic and to the left in expressing who I am and it doesn’t exactly go with the reality, of what everybody else feels or thinks. Whether the people admire it or not, groupthink tells them their not supposed to. So they, in groups, decide to not support what’s different and they have no respect for the individual. I see people who are silently feeling encouraged to do them because that’s what I encourage. The reason why you don’t see people looking like me is because I don’t encourage that. I encourage you to be YOU.
EBONY: How does that make you feel?
EB: If you have the opportunity to last through this business that you want to influence some people and you have to be ready to accept the compliment. Learn how to really do that because I just really realized how much of a contribution that I may have lent. Still learning. It’s hard to grasp because I’m still the little girl in love with Chaka Khan.
EBONY: Tell us about your life as a doula.
EB: I’ve been a doula since 2001. I had all my babies naturally. My first son, Seven, was born in 1997 with a midwife. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years, I’m a holistic health practitioner – anything that has to do with healing and art, I’m involved with pretty heavily. One of my girlfriends was pregnant and I wanted to be there. Her labor was for 52 hours. I stayed awake for 52 hours. I walked with her for 52 hours. We prayed, we cried, we laughed.
And then there was another friend, and then my sister, and then I got pregnant again. So it's just become a part of my life. It’s a very natural thing. I really enjoy being the child's 'welcoming committee' and to help someone usher his or her spirit into the world in a very peaceful way is very effortless to me.
Officially, I am becoming a midwife, which means that I 'll be certified to catch babies. I have to be monitored while I am doing this for 30 births. I’m on birth number eight. It’s taking me a bit longer. I’m a little busy but I study during my down time, when I’m flying, when I’m backstage waiting to perform. When my kids are doing their homework, I do mine. I’m a better student now, than when I was in college, but I guess that’s because one of my "wild rabbits," is being a doula.
EBONY: How do you think the peaceful entry impacts the baby life?
EB: I can only give you examples of my children and my friend’s children that I’ve seen. Having your baby at home – that means that there’s no anesthesia, there are no painkillers. It means that your diet is probably a vegetarian diet or something of that sort. It means you practice that kind of lifestyle already. Those kinds of parents already have a creative way of parenting. Creative parenting creates genius children. I continue to learn, how it’s affecting the baby. I’ll keep that in mind as I’m studying. I don’t do it so that
EBONY: Speaking of kids, as a black girl and I’m not a mother yet, but to witness people coming at you because of your parenting choices was hurtful, even from the outside. What’s your philosophy on motherhood?
EB: I got this. I got this. That’s my answer.