The name H.E.R. keeps popping up, right? At the Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars, with her long black tousled curls and signature shades. I feel like she is steadily carving out a space for herself in the mainstream consciousness. Sort of like Janelle Monáe did a few years ago — not with a big bang, but a steady burn that sets a performer up for longevity. She was exposed to a wider audience once again earlier this year when she walked away with her first Oscar for Best Original Song, after writing and performing “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah. Covering The Changemakers Issue of Variety she takes us inside her head during that moment:
“I’m thinking of the doubt I’d had, I’m thinking of my mom sitting next to me, I’m thinking of the movie and how important it was — everything was going through my mind at once. And then ... I didn’t prepare a speech. So I was like, ‘Oh crap, I have to go up there and say something.’”
You would never know she was nervous from her acceptance speech. She made a funny quip, delivered a personal childhood anecdote, managed to remember who to thank and ended with an inspirational message about her duty to reflect the times in her music. It’s cliché to say someone’s wise beyond their years but H.E.R. carries herself differently than a lot of 23-year-olds — and plus, she’s way cooler than all of us.
After this year’s Oscar win, which followed four previous Grammy wins, H.E.R. is already half way to EGOT status. And when asked when she plans on winning the Emmy and Tony to secure her spot in the exclusive echelon, she joked that she’s not going to put a deadline on it, but “maybe before I’m 30. I’ve got seven years.” Which would set a new record for youngest to ever reach EGOT. As for the Emmy and Tony, the former child actress has her eyes set on more roles. She wants to start with voiceovers and comedy, but dramatic projects are down the line too: “I’m trying to do it all, I know. Whatever it is, one thing at a time. I’m gonna get there.”
I like that someone like H.E.R. who has critical acclaim and is taken seriously as an artist can still have ambitions to EGOT. This narrative that it’s all about the art and that the awards are frivolous, or it’s uncouth to aspire to win them, is a little tired. If I’m passionate about my work, then I want to be doing it at the highest level. Awards highlight the best in a certain field, so I want that award — period.
Variety’s billing H.E.R. as a “voice for her generation” after her Grammy-winning record “I Can’t Breathe”, written in response to the murder of George Floyd, became a Black Lives Matter anthem. Anything “of a generation” is a heavy title but I think it motivates her, or at least reassures her that she’s pushing in the right direction. She’s been hustling for this for a while. Even back when she was seven, she was chasing her dreams in a singing group with Kehlani that Zendaya was supposed to join at one point, but in H.E.R. case, everything happens, or doesn’t, for a reason.