Solange’s letter to her teenage self

Kathleen Posted by Kathleen at May 19, 2017 14:12:24 May 19, 2017 14:12:24

Teen Vogue is doing the most. We’ve been telling you this. You know. Led by editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth, the youngest editor in Conde Nast history, Teen Vogue has been at the forefront of political commentary in the sh-tstorm that is Trump’s America. Teen Vogue has been consistently showcasing #blackgirlmagic and representing young people from marginalized communities. Teen Vogue is proving that girls can be smart, capable, informed AND dress well. What a concept. Their covers showcase the diversity we’re constantly calling for. Teen Vogue is doing THE MOST. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. This week, it gave us a piece of art by Solange Knowles that is so powerful, relatable and affirming, I want to get every word tattooed on my body.

Solange is on the cover of the magazine’s music issue (Chance the Rapper and Paris Jackson also have their own covers of this issue) and her cover story is not a traditional feature. Instead, Teen Vogue commissioned Solange to write a letter to her teenage self. Celebrity ‘letters to self’ are not uncommon. They pop up periodically on PEOPLE or in O Magazine. Solange’s letter is not full of generic advice or cutesy cautionary tales like “don’t date that boy on a bike!” Solange’s letter is a poetic, poignant display of self-awareness and self-assurance. I like to joke that I’m still a teenage girl at heart but this letter is not just a guide for teenagers, it’s a letter for anyone trying to figure out her sh-t. She had me at the first four words: there will be fear. From there, Solange makes you laugh, cry and nod your head vigorously in appreciation. Remember when Solange told us that we belonged? This is for anyone who needed the reminder. I could unpack every sentence of her letter but let’s start with this one:

the long way will become a theme in your life, but a journey you learn to love”

Solange’s first universally acclaimed, hit album came just last year with A Seat at the Table. She was 30. She put out two studio albums and an EP before that, starting in 2002. You could call that the long way. Sure, she had access to producers because of her sister, the almighty Queen Bey, long may she reign, but Solange’s success did not come through nepotism, it came through hard work and the long way. You don’t have to be a teenager to learn from that lesson.

Solange grew up a lot faster than most. Not only was she was raised fame-adjacent pretty much her whole life, at 17, Solange had her son.

seventeen will be the hardest year of your life. it will grow you up almost immediately. you will lose your best friend whom you love so much to gun violence in a single moment, and give birth to a new one within a year.
you will be terrified, and it’s ok that you don’t know what the future holds. some people will count you out because of the decision you’ve made to bring another life into the world so young, but you made the decision out of love and will live with the decision in love.”

This is the section that most outlets are picking up. “Solange talks being a teen mom!” These words are so beautiful—she says so much with so little—I’m just going to let them speak for themselves.

My favourite part of Solange’s letter is her tribute to the Queen mother, Miss Tina, long may she reign. Solange and Beyoncé always speak about Miss Tina in reverent terms but this is another stunning tribute to the woman who gave us two of the great artists of a generation.

“you realize watching a woman balance being a supportive mother, building a successful business from the ground up that was started in her garage, and giving back to the community will make you feel invincible and like the word “no” is just an echo in the universe that you'll never know. you often take her for granted, but you know with every joint in your bones that she is a phenomenon and you strive to make her proud. you should thank her out loud more, too; tell her you value her. roll your eyes and your neck less. it’s not as cute as you think. tell her you appreciate all that she does, for she makes the impossible look effortless.”

“It’s not as cute as you think.” I need to go back in time and tattoo this on my teenage self’s forehead. One of the things I love about Solange’s letter is the subtle moments like this one where she shows off her humour. I laughed out loud at the entire stages section. Who didn’t go through a Brandon Boyd phase?

I’ll leave you with Solange’s perfect closing words. How is she good at all the things? 

“there will be pain, there will be doubt there will be beauty, there will be the unknown. there will be so many moments of joy and delight that the whole universe will feel painted in hues of amber and wonder. there will be times you are so sad you can’t lift your head. and there will be times you are so happy that the sensation of life knocks you down. but most importantly, there will be you. a whole, whole lot of it. and you will feel good about who she is and who she is still becoming.

Read Solange’s full letter here.


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