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Things I Learned About Nina Simone

March 5, 2016


I noticed that many celebrities have a bipolar existence after many years in the spotlight, many celebrities have stated that they wish they could keep the money and forgo the fame. This wasn't any different for Nina Simone. On Thursday, I was invited to a screening of the documentary The Amazing Nina Simone by Jeff Lieberman. The film captured everything there was to know about the amazing Eunice Waymon aka Nina Simone. Nina Simone came a super religious family in Trayon, North Carolina. Nina's artistic abilities were showcased in church and people took heed to it. From there, her family searched for teachers to hone her skills, specifically with the piano. Nina mastered classical piano and played pieces from the greats like Bach and Beethoven. Nina was accepted to Juilliard School of Music and took the opportunity to move to New York. She settled in Harlem where she practiced routinely practiced the piano for hours on end. At Juilliard she applied for the Curtis Institute. She was rejected and that really shot her ego to the point that the news devastated her. Nina believed it was due to her race and shortly she dropped out of Julliard and took a job as a piano teacher assistant as well as a gig at a bar but under one condition, she must play the piano AND sing. She didn't sing but because she loved playing the piano so she gave singing a chance yet she didn't want her mother to find out so she came up with the alias Nina, a Spanish word for small child. Simone from the White actress Simone Signoret. Later on in her career, she was dubbed The High Priestess Of Soul after her eleventh studio album released in 1967 that ironically had the same name. 


Now I'll just briefly go over the points that lead me to type this blog post. I felt Nina Simone's spirit while watching her talk, watching clips of her sing, and ogling at her pictures. Her loved ones spoke highly of her and everyone who had the opportunity to meet her was left blessed. She was truly respected, admired, and loved. The obstacles Nina faced was atypical to her time. Yes, many artists got screwed out of money BUT Nina dealt with more. Being a Black woman, who had dark skin with African features, kind of gave people a false belief that she was to be treated as if she was stupid, incompetent and a thing. She was constantly used, abused (literally her second husband and father of her daughter used to beat her frequently), and dismissed. Contracts screwed her out of money. Men just screwed her. Other artists made a name off of her songs that they covered. Lighter skinned women like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross were seen as beauty symbols while Nina was shunned. She commented about colorism in an interview and how Ebony preferred a certain type of "colored girl" on their magazine covers. Nina didn't let ignorance and self-hate bring her down, instead she turned around and made the song, Four Women, where she depicts each woman. They all had different skin tones and backgrounds, all of them related to the Black woman experience. Nina was also a revolutionary that took part in the liberation of her people. She hung out with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evans, Betty Shabazz, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry. 


But when Nina was alone, away from the stage and her piano she was very depressed and lonely. She reached stardom around the age of 26. At a very young age she was going places, (literally she traveled around the country) but her life was moving at a constant speed, sometimes too fast for her to digest and I think it's important, especially when someone is in the public eye to know themselves. To know their worth. And to know themselves outside the fame, who was Eunice Waymon? Nina Simone didn't get a chance to get to know her and later in life with the pitfalls of fame she experienced many mental breakdowns and undiagnosed bipolar that most assumed was "diva behavior." One incident, in particular, caused her to overdose on sleeping pills and she almost died. The biggest one was when her brother brought her to a mental institution against her will because of her erratic behaviors. Her brother, Sam Waymon described her as having multiple personalities. I'm guessing you're reading this and saying to yourself, yeah but what's your point? This is my point, the reason why I say find yourself is because most people live in Society Confines. I made a blog post about that topic because as soon as we reach adolescents adults attempt to shape and mold us into what society says is right. This means feeding us lies to get us to walk down the boulevard of Broken Dreams adjacent to Could Of Ave. 


Most people will adapt to the titles given to them and this includes celebs, young celebs specifically because young children aim to please adults and often times they don't know themselves enough to know what they want for themselves so when there's a person of power who's able to control them and offer them all types of benefits to play a role, they're more willing to go along to get along. Soon they'll get accustomed to the fame and will realize everything that glitters isn't gold, the dark side of fame. This includes being mobbed by fans and foes. Getting asked to work tirelessly for the hungry fans. Sensoring your true thoughts to be politically correct and adored, hopefully to lead him or her to being a brand ambassador with even more strict regulations. No free time to be "regular." Missing spending time with family/friends and not seeing them periodically. Having enemies waiting for you to slip up to sell your deeds to the tabloids. People using you for money and/or fame, going as far as accusing you of a crime to exort money and publicity out of you. Lastly, no time to rest. You're bound to have a breakdown or face mental illness because putting on a mask to appease others while neglecting yourself becomes harder by the day and the stardom ultimately feels like a burden.


This is why you see a lot of current celebs hooked on drugs, in some behavioral facility, fighting with paparazzi or in and out of court. This is their way of acting out of the norm set for them by others to break the mold. It's a rebellion without direction. Think about it. How many celebs you know who've had a meltdown? How many celebs do you know who've been charged with a crime due to their bad actions? How many celebs you know went the "bad boy" or "bad girl" route? How many celebs you know who've had a mental breakdown? I'm not making excuses for their actions, but what I will say is they and everyone should find who they are outside of their titles. Outside being of a mom, who are you? Outside of president of xyz who are you? Outside of Harvard Grad, who are you? Outside of being a Christian, who are you? Outside of being an actress, who are you? Outside of being captain of the Creep Squad who are you? Who are you, find him or her and make yourself proud. 

Be Entertained. Be Enlightened. Be Loved. 

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