Em-URGE-ing Voices

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“On My Mama”

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November 3, 2023

“On my mama, on my hood, I look fly, I look good.”

Victoria Monét has made it clear with her latest release, Jaguar II, that she will no longer accept flying under the radar. Much like the title of her seventh project, the R&B singer-songwriter is moving out of the shadows and stepping into her power as a vibrant, unapologetic, songstress, and entertainer. However, as her career continues to skyrocket, she is constantly reminding her supporters that before anything else, she is a mother. 

Monét gave birth to her daughter, Hazel Monét, in early 2021. At just 2-years-old, Hazel has made a few appearances on her mom’s projects. Monét’s efforts to include the significance of motherhood in her artistry is similar to several other Black female entertainers and public figures, such as Beyoncé, Teyana Taylor, and Serena Williams. 

Navigating motherhood and simultaneously working in the entertainment industry is no easy feat. In fact, Monét’s viral single “On My Mama” was written at a time when she was battling postpartum depression. 

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a medical condition that many folks experience after childbirth, accompanied by symptoms such as depression, anxiety, extreme sadness, and dissociation. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 8 new mothers are impacted by PPD, but Black women, in particular, are more vulnerable to the disorder. They are also less likely to reach out for help. 

On her experience with PPD while writing “On My Mama” Monét vocalized on The Ebro Show:

“This record actually happened in 2021, probably… Maybe eight or nine weeks after I gave birth, right? So I’m in the mental space of, I was really having a hard time, I had postpartum depression. I was still breastfeeding, just adjusting to the life, but also in the midst of COVID.

So we’re in a pandemic, everything’s a little bit risky, scary to even be in the studio with a child. And ‘On My Mama’ was the first record I did that I actually liked. But it came while I was in a place of disbelief in what I was actually saying.”

Monét’s willingness to openly discuss her struggle with PPD as a first time mom and as an entertainer helps destigmatize the condition and, more generally, destigmatize the realities of Black motherhood. Black women in the U.S. are at the crux of the maternal health crisis, being three times more likely than white women to face maternal mortality due to pregnancy-related complications and are more likely to experience PPD and other negative maternal health outcomes. Celebrity status or not, Black American women are bearing the burdens of their intersecting identities as they experience motherhood. 

Similarly, after giving birth to twins Sir and Rumi, Beyoncé opened up about how she would approach postnatal care differently from the birth of her first daughter, Blue. In a 2018 article with Vogue, the singer-songwriter admitted, “I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it.” She goes on to discuss how after enduring an emergency C-section with her twins, she gave herself more grace: “I accepted what my body wanted to be.” 

Victoria Monét and Beyoncé’s stories are just two that highlight the pressure Black women face before, during, and after pregnancy. For Black women, rest and recovery is often viewed as an unattainable luxury. The “Strong Black woman” stereotype urges Black women to demonstrate resilience despite the challenges they may be facing. The fact that both these artists felt inclined to get right back to work after pregnancy speaks to the expectation that Black women keep moving forward without taking time for themselves to heal. 

“On My Mama” is a song that exudes confidence, swag, and self-affirmation. Even so, it’s important to remember that the song was written at a critical time for Monét. Adjusting to motherhood ─ be it through preparation, the experience of childbirth, or post-partum life ─ is a sensitive time for everyone, but especially for Black women. We must encourage our community to take the time they need and deserve to regain their health, and to remember that, in the words of Audre Lorde, “rest is our birthright.”

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