I learned that day that being smarter than every child around me ensured a special self-righteousness that made being called names and constantly bullied somehow okay.
For my time, he often took me grocery shopping, showed up to my job as a cocktail waitress to overtip me and indulge in me serving him, and provided me with small gifts as a token of his appreciation.
A close female relative gave me advice on how to get as much money from him as possible, while not getting my feelings hurt, preserving the fantasy and pulling back when necessary.
It’s slippery to put them in the same category, and I know this.
However, Maya Angelou was a sex worker, completely unashamed of it.
I thought it would be a good idea to bring Cardi B to school, too. How dare I squander school resources to indulge in my hobbies, exalting an artist whose art was stripping and social media posting?
However, the only thing I could say she was known for at the time was stripping, running her mouth on Instagram, and peppering her insults to her “haters” with targeted feminist advice that looked to me like an act of care disguised in hood rhetoric. As the only Black woman and often the youngest person in meetings, my emotionality and recklessness had already been insinuated both by people of color and white colleagues.However, I was a horrible sugar baby, which I only discovered when he wanted to leave his wife for me and had broken many distancing tactics such as bringing me to his house and letting him say that he loved me. It felt like she knew what I had been through…I have no idea why other people feel connected to her, but I knew that this meant many hardworking, educated women probably had similar experiences.During this time, I was working at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in a job that I only was given after taking sole responsibility for diversity initiatives while being grossly underpaid.My photograph “Credibility, Viability, Accuracy/Maya Angelou as a Sex Worker/Can't Knock the Hustle,” contains a restaging of an image of Maya Angelou in her homemade exotic dancer outfit.This is essential information about her life that she herself never hid or was ashamed of, preferring to tell painful truths and using them to help other people who as she says “finds not only the door shut to them, but no doorknobs.” As troubling as Cardi B’s lack of formal education and career choices may be to the average upwardly mobile Black woman, she has a knack for this idea. I am annoyed by hyperbole where people worship her and tattoo celebrities’ faces on their bodies, but she reawakened my long standing conviction that we complicate how we understand those who complicate and form us, those who we may never meet.Like being struck dumb after someone calls you a name like “bitch” or “thot.” In the interest of getting this essay out during a Scorpio moon, which I understand to be a fortuitous time to tell the truth, particularly as it relates to money matters, I wish to share this essay in its messy state.Similar in structure to Depression: A Public Feeling by Ann Cvetkovich, this essay will eventually be two parts: the first, memoir, the second, critical essay.I had made a stir with my photograph, You Can’t See Me, Fool (shortened title), as it had been shared on Kimberly Drew’s Tumblr blog, Black Contemporary Art, and I was known primarily for my photography shows. She deftly navigated the line of respectability politics, clarifying that a ho to her anyway, was not a woman who had sex a lot, but one who focused on making money, while brazenly admitting to taking money from men for her services as a stripper or as a temporary girlfriend.The post Stacy showed me, dated September 10, 2014, entitled, “I DO WHAT I DOES,” contains the earliest mention on Cardi’s current profile @iamcardib of the phrase “stripper hoe.” Facing the camera, she states, “So you know, people be asking me, what do you does? About two years before my exposure to Cardi B, I accepted money from a married man who I enjoyed a sexual relationship with on occasion, more often serving as his makeshift therapist.I take this idea roughly from Miriam Petty’s reimagining of Arthur Knight’s notion of problematic stardom: our public figures let us see where communities are actively working out their issues.When we see a star like Cardi B emerge, we see a public reconfiguring of the meaning of sex work, respectability politics, motherhood, and reality.