I don’t know much about Tinashe. She’s a singer/actress and the only time I’ve really paid attention to her is when she was reportedly going on a few dates with Calvin Harris last year, in the wake of his split from Taylor Swift. Well, Tinashe has a new album coming out called Joyride. It’s her first since 2014’s Aquarius, which is a pretty long interval between albums for most artists. To promote her new music, Tinashe chatted with the Guardian about how difficult it has been to carve out a fanbase when the music industry seems to only be interested in Rihanna and Beyonce. She also talks about colorism within the black community and what it’s like to be mixed race, and more. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
Why she quit school after her acting career took off: “There was a lot of misplaced jealousy, so I didn’t want to be there any more.”
Her entrance into the music industry & sexism: “There’s a lot of sexism in the music business. A lot of sexism. As far as female producers or female engineers … when you’re in these studios, it’s all men. It is so rare that they’d not even expect me to have an opinion. It’s so much easier for male artists, I know it is,” she says. In early 2016, months after Joyride’s announcement, a Twitter message, apparently from Tinashe, emerged claiming that part of the hold-up was down to her label focusing on “Zany”, AKA the newly solo Zayn Malik. “I sent that message, yeah, that RCA was focused on Zayn? They were! But I have nothing against him; more power to him.”
She’s gotten a lot of support from women in the industry but not men: “Male artists don’t really co-sign female artists like that, and if they do it’s always like, ‘Are they f–king?’ It’s never, ‘Oh, I really like her music.’”
Fan-tribes: “Recently, my cousin was with a friend of a friend, who was in high school, and she was like: ‘I’m a fan of Kehlani,’ but in a way that was like, ‘So I can’t be a fan of Tinashe, too.’ Then my friend posed the question, ‘Why not be a fan of both?’ It’s kind of like sport; people feel like they have to pick a side.. There are hundreds of [male] rappers that all look the same, that sound the same, but if you’re a black woman, you’re either Beyoncé or Rihanna. It’s very, very strange…. It felt like they almost had to sacrifice someone because there wasn’t enough room, which isn’t true. Ciara’s an amazing artist, Beyoncé’s an amazing artist, Rihanna’s an amazing artist, and they’re all very different!”
Being mixed-race, colorism: Tinashe’s mixed-race heritage, which was used “as another example of why I was different” during those difficult school years, also remains an issue. “There’s colourism involved in the black community, which is very apparent,” she says carefully. “It’s about trying to find a balance where I’m a mixed woman, and sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me, even though I see myself as a black woman. That disconnect is confusing sometimes.” A shrug. “I am what I am.”
It’s the colorism thing that has become the talking point/controversy from this interview. I’m not a black woman, so I don’t feel like it’s my place to speak on Tinashe’s views of colorism within the black community. But as a mixed race (half-white, half-Indian) woman, I’ll tell you my views of colorism in general, because it’s a discussion with Indian women as well: women with lighter skin are seen as “better,” by society, by the media, by other women. Insinuating that she’s the victim of colorism is like Jessica Biel saying that she’s a victim of being too pretty. That’s not really a thing. The real victims of colorism are the darker-skinned women whose skin color is associated with lower education, lower class, lower intelligence and fewer opportunities. What do Rihanna, Ciara and Beyonce have in common? They’re all very fair black women. That’s not a coincidence.