GQ’s full profile of Amber Rose, titled “Amber Rose: How to Be a Bad Bitch” after her forthcoming book, has been released online and in many ways, it raises more discussions than it settles. On Tuesday, Rose briefly expressed her disappointment in the piece, which she felt reduced her to her relationships with rappers Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa.
She posted a picture of the dek (which is a summary of the piece that appears below the headline). It may not officially be part of the story, but it’s the hook. It’s the first thing many readers will see, and is generally meant to frame what is to come.
(Later, she posted a photo comparing herself to Channing Tatum, another former stripper who has appeared in GQ. Tatum had his stripping and relationships remarked upon, actually more than once, though not in the dek of those pieces.)
This is what Amber was mad about. Amber Rose is a smart, self-aware woman. We see this in Carrie Battan’s GQ profile, as Rose describes her approach to a lecture she delivered to a group of college students:
I know before you guys got in here, you had conversations with your friends, like: “Why would I go listen to Amber talk? She’s only famous because she fucked Kanye…who the fuck wants to listen to her?”
“It’s a fair point,” she admits. “I get it. But now that you’re here, we’re gonna really talk about slut shaming.
Here we have the crux of this entire situation. Discussing a woman like Amber Rose is a bit of a catch-22. She is, of course, so much more than her past relationships, but they are also the reason many of us know who she is. How do we contextualize her while also respecting her individuality?
Overall, the story itself is fair—and even, at times, effusively complimentary:
Calling Amber Rose hot is like saying caviar is a good source of protein: It’s technically true, but insufficient to capture her unique, otherworldly perfection. Rose is one of the few women in history who was meant to walk the earth with her head shaved.
Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa do appear frequently in the piece, but always in context and never without hearing Amber’s side of the story.
It is clear that Battan spent a considerable amount of time with Rose. We don’t, however, know how much real time Amber truly devoted to discussing her exes versus what Battan thought would fit best in the story.
It’s fascinating to watch a woman like Amber Rose navigate the world of fame and her journey to build a real career and name for herself outside of the men she was and is linked to. She, like many celebrities in her position, is sort of doing this backwards. She became famous first and is now establishing the framework to maintain that notoriety.
What we’re also seeing at play is the larger issue of how women are and are not allowed to frame themselves. To some degree, we’re all at the mercy of public opinion, but Amber Rose is challenging how much she will allow those opinions to play into her future.
Kim Kardashian appears in the story, unsurprisingly, and she is perhaps the best lesson in all this. Although Kim had the privilege of family wealth and whiteness, she has been playing this exact game for years. (If the world had seen Kim as anything other than white, that sex tape would not have gone the way that it did. Further, while Amber has vaguely referred to herself as “mixed,” she certainly isn’t seen by the world as white.)
When Kim’s sex tape with Ray J leaked back in 2007, she took her newfound notoriety and, with her mother’s help, leveraged it to build an entirely new brand for herself. But that took many years—and even now, the sex tape will probably always be part of her narrative. Her husband, Kanye West, even references it on the song “Clique” (“My girl a superstar all from a home movie”).
Much like her own days as a stripper, Amber doesn’t believe that Kim’s sex tape is a bad thing, just that it’s perceived as such.
Rose wonders whether Kim, deep down, might feel the same way about that sex tape. “She probably had a fucking blast. And guess what? At the time she was in love with that guy,” Rose says. “So don’t think you’re better than me, because we’ve all had trials and tribulations.”
Amber Rose certainly doesn’t regret her past, but she also doesn’t think that being a stripper and dating rappers precludes her from being known for other things. She seems to be wondering how much longer she’s going to be qualified by her relationships with men. It’s a problem that women—particularly those who are beautiful and enjoy sex—face much more often than men.
The GQ story clearly wasn’t some sort of hit piece, nor does it attempt to frame her in a false or negative light. Still, Amber Rose is the only person who gets to decide if a portrayal of her is satisfactory. And if she doesn’t speak out and define herself for herself, no one else will.
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Image via AP.