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This is an email from Keepin' It 💯, a newsletter by ZORA.

We’re getting lost in Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales


If you haven’t gotten into Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales yet, you’re missing out. Right now, it’s the only thing getting me through the week — and month, actually. Heaux Tales is a necessary escape from what feels like a bonus month of 2020. Something to get lost in and saaang out loud when the music moves you.

The colossal power of Sullivan’s voice drives Heaux Tales, but it’s the 33-year-old’s pen game and story structure that make this concept album her best work yet. Between the bops and ballads, the interludes — tales from women in Sullivan’s life — provide an irresistible resonance. We know these anecdotes because they mirror us, our homegirls, cousins, and even our mamas.

There’s “Ari’s Tale,” from Ari Lennox, which details how a mystery man put it down on her, giving me flashbacks of the backseat taxi chat between Nia Long and Lisa Nicole Carson about Larenz Tate in Love Jones. You’ll get grown woman talk, backed by an organ, on “Donna’s Tale” which breaks down trickin’ and marriage. And in “Antoinette’s Tale,” not one lie was told about men’s fragility and women’s sexual agency.

As ZORA senior platform editor Jolie A. Doggett puts it, the women featured are “candid about their sexuality, not just in the ways they received pleasure, but also in the ways they disappointed themselves. I think that’s truly what sex positivity is.”

During the album’s rollout, Sullivan summarized the spirit of the project: “I wrote Heaux Tales to give voice to every woman. We’re deserving of respect whether we work as a CEO of a company or if we strippin’. It’s about unity. It’s about boldness. It’s about ownership and confidence and also vulnerability and self-reflection. It’s about a woman deciding how she wants to present herself to the world and not being told or influenced by anyone but her gotdamn self. It’s about women writing their own imperfect stories unashamed.”

With the final product, Sullivan achieved all of that. And now there may be room to do even more with the concept. Since Heaux Tales dropped, we’ve seen interest from Issa Rae to collaborate with Sullivan on a short film. There’s also jokes about giving Lori Harvey — now officially booed-up with Michael B. Jordan, after being linked to Future, Trey Songz, and Diddy — her own interlude, a la “Lori’s Tale.” I’m here for all of it. The possibilities are endless.

➡️ READ: Let Lori Harvey Live — And Steal Her Dating Tips!

Anchored by short stories of sexual liberation and autonomy, Heaux Tales is affirming. It’s also a reminder to live and define your life for no one, but you.

Take care,
Christina M. Tapper, deputy editor

Zero to 💯

Who kept it 100 this week? Let’s take a look.

Buss It Challenge has us praying for stronger knees: 💯/💯
TikTok is giving us the joy we’ve been looking for. Similar to last year’s “Don’t Rush” challenge, the new viral dance sensation shows women transforming themselves from drab to fab as they drop it low to Erika Davila’s song “Buss It.” The makeup and outfits are beautiful, but the knees, chile… The knees are struggling. Keep it up if you can keep up!

Kamala Harris’ covergirl moment: 50/💯
The VP-elect recently graced the cover of Vogue and to say folks had thoughts is an understatement. A leaked photo of the cover showed Harris in Converse and a black suit in front of a pink and green draped background. The mag has released a new cover photo, but we were hoping for something a bit more fabulous for Harris. Oh well.

Insecure will end after season five: 25/💯
We’re low-key sad that this is happening! But, we respect the decision. It’s good to see that Issa Rae isn’t trying to Grey’s Anatomy the hell out of the show (Grey’s has been on air for 17 seasons!). It’s been a good run and we can’t wait for the final season.

Rep. James Clyburn wants to make “Lift Every Voice and Sing” a national hymn: 15/💯
Clyburn, the third-highest Democrat in the House of Representative and the highest-ranking Black member, is proposing that we give the Black national anthem equal standing with The Star-Spangled Banner as a way to help unify the country. That’s nice, but our energy needs to be used for systemic change instead of gestures right now.

Gayle King interviews Soho Karen: 🚮/💯
After attacking a Black child and accusing him of stealing her phone (he didn’t) Miya Ponsetto (aka SoHo Karen) sat down with our good sis Gayle King to “defend herself.” But really, Ponsetto just dug herself in a deeper hole. Claiming she can’t be racist because she’s part Puerto Rican (she can), saying she was just a young girl who made a mistake (she’s a grown woman), and shushing Gayle and telling her “Enough!” Phew! Let’s just say she’s lucky the interview was virtual.

The Best of Us

ICYMI, here are some of our favorite ZORA stories

A Literary Friendship Through the Demands of Success

The Taboos and Doubters Alice Walker Defied to Write ‘The Color Purple’

The Call Came From Inside the House

Does Period Fiction Have to Be Racially Accurate?

When Black Empowerment Fuels White Rage

Fatso, Big Head and Other Names My Parents Called Me

🗣️ The Last Word 🗣️

“I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.” — Toni Morrison, Sula

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Christina M. Tapper

Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist.