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He offered me a job in New York, being his muse, and he left me work in every part of his company–designing, marketing, advertising, modeling. I was working with the hottest hip-hop acts: TLC, Snoop Dogg, Usher.
RASHIDA: And finally I was leaving for college, for Harvard. Harvard was supposed to be the most enlightened place in America, but that’s where I encountered something I’d never found in L. The way the clubs and the social life were set up, I had to choose one thing to be: black or white. I went to black frat parties and joined the Black Student Association, a political and social group.
So I searched for a private school that had a good proportion of black students, and when she was 12, I found one. I’d go to my black girlfriends’ houses and–I wanted their life!
I lived in a gated house in a gated neighborhood, where playdates were: “My security will call your security.” Going to my black friends’ houses, I saw a world that was warm and real, where families sat down for dinner together.
As a black person at Harvard, the lighter you were, the blacker you had to act. I remember chewing my food in that dead, ominous silence. She accused me of hitting on one of their boyfriends over the weekend. But after that, I felt insidious intimidation from that group.
I tried hard to be accepted by the girls who were the gatekeepers to Harvard’s black community. It was untrue, but I think what was really eating her was that she thought I was trying to take away a smart, good-looking black man–and being light-skinned, I wasn’t “allowed” to do that. The next year there was a black guy I really liked, but I didn’t have the courage to pursue him.
KIDADA: I’m sure that’s true, but I experienced all that heart and soul in black families. PEGGY: So one day when Kidada was 14, we drove to Fairfax High, where I gave a fake address and enrolled her. My skin and hair had been inconveniences at my other schools–I could never get those Madonna spiked bangs that all the white girls were wearing–but my girlfriends at Fairfax thought my skin was beautiful, and they loved to put their hands in my hair and braid it. KIDADA: I wanted to live with Dad not because he was the black parent, but because he traveled. RASHIDA: At this time, anyone looking at Kidada and me would have seen two very different girls. RASHIDA: Still, our love for the same music–Prince, Bobby Brown, Bell Biv De Voe–would bring us together on weekends.
KIDADA: I had another hurdle as a kid: I was dyslexic. IF you’re obviously black, white people watch their tongues, but with me they think they can say anything.
RASHIDA: When I’d go to our dad’s house on weekends, eager to see Kidada, the new “little sisters” would be there. All it took was finding something I loved for me to get A’s!
While I was there, designer Tommy Hilfiger noticed a cover of Vibe magazine I had styled.
I started a long-distance romance with a deejay who was white and Jewish but is knowledgeable about urban music–like me, a floater. It sounds like Rashida has allowed herself to be dominated a lot in life period — by her sister, her boyfriend and the kids at school.
Do you think that her “less black” appearance has actually hindered her in a sense because she’s become less confident about her own identity?