On page 19 of How to Be a Bad Bitch, there’s a photo of the author grinning in a sixth grade photo, eyes squinted, with chin-length dark brown hair that looks not quite dry. The laser stars in the background, familiar to anyone who went to middle school, makes the picture look extra cheesy. It’s part of an entire chapter dedicated to the evolution of Amber Rose’s famous blonde buzzcut, which she’s had now for 13 years.
Besides causing spit takes, the school photo also serves as a physical reminder of how far Rose has come. The chapter itself—a lesson in owning your version of beauty—features subheadings like, “Take Really Big Risks,” “A Bad Bitch Stops Traffic” and (the rather xoJane-worthy) “Finding My Look Helped Me Find Myself.” That’s one step in the Amber Rose “Fuck it” approach to life that’s outlined in her book, the announcement of which spurred as many head scratches as it did positive affirmations.
“The crazy thing is people think they know my life and they have no idea about a lot of personal things in my life,” she says. “But I choose to keep those things private because it’s just sacred to me. There’s a lot of things that I’m just extremely comfortable with that I talk about all the time because I’m confident in it and also to bring confidence to other women, that they don’t have to be ashamed of their past.”
Like any self-help book, How to Be a Bad Bitch is heavy on platitudes about love and self-esteem: “Try your hardest not to live for others,” for example, the sort of advice that induces eye rolls. (In this way, it’s overwhelmingly positive and purposefully innocuous). But it’s far from know-it-all. For Rose, these tips boil down to basically doing whatever you want—that’s the thesis of every chapter—and embracing screw-ups.
Early Monday morning, Amber spoke to Jezebel over the phone about the book and life while doing promo in New York.
The title of this book kinda requires people to accept that women have reclaimed this word “bitch.” In the beginning you write, “I was born a bad bitch.” Did you wrestle with yourself about using that in the title or was it immediate?
It was more so immediate. I do see a lot of comments like, “Well, why would you call it How to Be a Bad Bitch.” In all actuality, guys are gonna call us that anyway, so why not embrace it and make it a positive thing where a bad bitch can be a well-rounded woman that has everything together instead of always letting those words hurt us? Just like my Slut Walk, it comes to a point where you have to embrace it.
Right, with the Slut Walk, some of the feedback from men was basically confusion about women labeling themselves as sluts.
Yeah, but they label us as sluts. And that was the whole point. That’s why I went up there and told my story. I was called a slut before I ever even had sex. I was still a virgin. I was just a slut because I was a pretty girl and boys liked me. So that’s just a derogatory term that men and women use to mostly put women down for their sexuality.
You also did a parody video where you took pride in the Walk of Shame.
I think people feel like I’m promoting promiscuity or I’m telling these young girls to go out and have sex with multiple people, which is definitely something that I’m not saying at all. I wouldn’t be an advocate for that. But I do feel like men can go out and they don’t have a walk of shame. They do whatever they want or whatever they feel like doing, or a guy can be vocal about getting head, but a girl can’t be vocal about it—giving head or vice versa—because it makes her look slutty. Meeting a hot guy and having a moment just because you want to, people frown upon that when it comes to women. So I wanted to make a video. I’m not saying that you should go out and have a one-night stand, but if that’s something that you decide to you, just live your life to the fullest. It shouldn’t be any double standards.
What’s something you’ve realized about that more recently that’s opened your eyes?
When I talk to people, when I do interviews, people ask me things that they wouldn’t ask a man.
Just ignorant shit that they would never ever ask a man because they know that most likely a man’s aggression or anger would be a lot worse than mine, or they would try to flip it on me or make me look crazy. The double standards are really, really real. I guess now I’m just more aware of that. I see it more often than I did before. I didn’t fully understand it before and now it’s blatantly in my face.
I thought your critique of how the GQ article described you was interesting [Amber took issue with GQ’s description of her as “Kanye’s infamous ex, Wiz Khalifa’s baby mama”]. People automatically make that association, but you want to kind of get away from that.
Well, I don’t want to get away from anything. I haven’t been with that man in almost six years. It’s like, leave me alone about it. I’ve done three movies. I’ve been on sitcoms. I have my own book. I’m an author. I’m an advocate. I have my own sunglass line. I’m a mother. I’ve been married since then. I’ve been on a world tour and I’m not even a singer. I’ve done things. So it’s just like, leave me alone about it. Not you personally [laughs]. I’m saying, in general. It’s fucking done. It’s been done. Such a long time ago and I’m just sick of it. I really don’t understand that. If this is 2009 for sure, I could see that. Absolutely, 100 percent. But now I don’t see that anymore. I’ve been married. They don’t talk about Wiz. I’d been with Wiz for four years. We have a son together. No one brings up Wiz. It does not make sense to me.
“The devil made Twitter and Instagram. These people are the worst people on Earth that are leaving comments.”
I read that you went through a few edits with the book, where you took out some of the details out about your love life. Why that choice?
I mean, that was no edit. It just wasn’t part of the book.
The beginning of the book starts with identity and knowing who you are. Did you read any self-help books in preparation or were there any that helped you along the way?
It wasn’t any books. It was all the mistakes that I’ve made in life. I definitely didn’t write that book to be like, hey I’m perfect and follow my lead and do everything that I’ve done. I wrote it because I’ve made a shitload of mistakes and this is a book so women don’t have to make those same mistakes.
Was the relationship advice particularly hard to give? You have solid advice, like not having the “number” conversation with a man. But I always wonder if people who give relationship advice feel like hypocrites because a lot of times it’s “do as I say, not as I do.” People don’t give the advice that they actually followed.
That’s the whole thing. I’ve done it. I’ve asked the body counts. I’ve asked my ex boyfriends, “Hey, how many girls have you slept with?” And then I didn’t want to hear the number and the whole relationship was fucked up after that because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And this is when I was younger. So yeah, I’ve made those mistakes so now I don’t do things like that and it’s much more seamless.
There’s one part that I disagreed with about not sending nude photos over text because I think it can be liberating. And everybody does it. But your thing is don’t ever send nude photos.
Don’t ever, absolutely not. You can disagree with me until all your nude photos are all over the internet for the entire world to see. And then you’ll be like, Damn I should’ve listened to Amber, I should’ve never did that. [Laughs] I’m telling you, girl. I lived it and I’m very proud of my body, and I was very young when I took those pictures, but at the end of the day it was a very devastating time for me. I had just met my husband at the time. I was very much in love, I’d just met his family, and I was getting ridiculed to the point where it really made me depressed.
You write about depression, anxiety and panic attacks that you had when you were younger, I guess to show that obviously even super confident people have these moments.
For sure, a lot of people would look at my life and see the rags to riches and think that everything is so perfect, but it’s not. I’m human, I make mistakes, I have feelings, and my life definitely was not this great amazing life. That’s why I touched on all those things in the book.
You seem to have a cynical view on cheating. You write that “men cheat, period.” How has your position on that changed over the years? Did you always believe that?
It has not. [Laughs] I did not always believe that and that was a mistake of mine. And listen, this is my perspective on life. This is everything that I’ve been through and my friends have been through and my mother and my aunties and my cousins. This is a collaboration of every single woman that I know that has been cheated on by men. And this is coming from a girl that also has a whole team full of men. I am a feminist, but I have like one girl that works for me. It just so happens to be that way. But I talk to my team all the time and these are the closest people to me. Every single man on my team, they tell me all men cheat, that’s just how it is. And I believe it ’cause I feel like I lived it.
There’s a lot on beauty and makeup tips. Did you feel that people would criticize you for that? People forget that many feminists enjoy makeup.
It’s very hard to write a book and touch on every single detail. I tried my hardest to let everyone know that it’s the vision of yourself. It’s what you wanna look like. If you don’t wanna wear makeup and you wanna wear your hair how you wanna wear it, whatever makes you feel comfortable and beautiful, then that’s exactly what you should do. That’s the whole point. For the girls that do want to wear makeup, I got my celebrity makeup artist, slash one of my best friends, Priscilla Ono, to give some tips if that’s the way that you wanna go.
I use Shea butter every day, but I never even thought about warming it up, which is what you do.
Did you try it yet?
I haven’t yet but I use it on my hair. Maybe Shea butter will have a “moment” now. Like, white girls will start using it.
[Laughs] I mean, it’s the most amazing natural product ever. I melt it down and I use that on Sebastian’s hair also.
What made you decide on the book’s cover image of the guy on the floor with the arrows?
It was a collaboration with me and David LaChappelle, the photographer. We wanted it to look like a romance novel as far as the beautiful images, but I feel like the cover is self-explanatory. It’s me being superior over a man and basically not letting a man control me. How to be a bad bitch. Not being submissive to anybody and controlling your life.
Your rule is to “stay off social media when I’m feeling bad,” which is hard. How does social media affect your self-esteem still?
I personally don’t give a fuck anymore. I used to give a fuck because when I first started out on social media I was like, Whoa, what the hell is this? This is the devil. The devil made Twitter and Instagram. Like, these people are the worst people on Earth that are leaving comments. I really couldn’t believe that people were actually so mean. I grew to be extremely strong, so I don’t care about that anymore but for the average person, I feel like—and also I’ve done this personally—when I feel like shit or I feel like I need to explain myself or I’m just having a moment, I have been on Twitter saying something stupid and not really thinking about it before I put it out to the entire world. That’s shit that you really can’t take back. You can delete it, but people see that shit.
Is there one in particular that you regret?
I mean, I can’t really say. Quite a few, actually.
Right. Going back to beauty, did you read women’s magazines growing up?
It was more so my mom was obsessed with celebrity tabloids. Like, I grew up with Star magazine and that’s when it was a paper magazine. All those celebrity gossip magazines, my mom had them all over the house all the time. So she would always be like, This person broke up with this person. Or, this person’s gay. And I’m just like, Wow, it’s crazy what goes on in Hollywood. And then, it’s so funny I was just talking to my assistant Joseph about how we used to look at websites and shit before my newfound life and we used to really believe everything that we read. So when I started seeing stories about myself I’m like, Wait that’s not true, that never happened. Are they allowed to do this? I kind of realized that a lot of this shit on the internet is extremely fake. It’s not real. They can say whatever they want about you and it’s up to you to deal with it or put out a statement or throw something up on Twitter. It’s just really unfortunate.
Instagram is kind of a place where there’s a lot of putting up a front and some of it is image based, like with waist trainers. Are things like that unrealistic?
I think you should do whatever you wanna do in life. I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke. I drink occasionally, not really. I’m not an advocate for drug use or waist trainers or diet pills, certain shit like that. But people want to use a waist trainer, by all means. I use waist trainers all the time and I feel fine. It just feels like a corset.
What help did you get with the book? People will wonder how much of it you actually wrote.
Oh I wrote my whole book. It took like me a year.
There was a point when you were posting about being a hot MILF and you were getting criticism for that. Was that around when you started thinking about it more or before then?
I think people think that once you become a mom you’re a fucking nun and you’re not allowed to be sexy anymore or have sex or date people or live your life. Once you have a baby, you have to put on a cardigan and become a teacher. It doesn’t work like that. You live your life for your baby and you raise your child to be the best person they can possibly be, but you also don’t lose yourself in the process. I can’t live my life for the internet. I live my life for me.
What do you think is it about you that makes other women feel empowered?
I guess the fact that I’m extremely humbled by my life. I specifically talk about all the mistakes that I’ve made. I’m not sitting here saying that my life is perfect and you should follow everything that I do. I’m telling you to follow your own path in life. And I’m just trying to give women the confidence to do that. ’Cause that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m not some rich girl from Beverly Hills. I grew up extremely poor in South Philly. I didn’t put a gun to anybody’s head and make them like me. I just developed a fanbase, off my look alone initially, but that’s not my fault. I never went out there and said, “Hey, follow me, look at me, I want to be famous.” It was a vision of myself and what I wanted. I didn’t want to be in Philly for the rest of my life. And I envisioned that, and I really believed that, and that’s why I’m here. I just want to share that knowledge with other women.
There’s this show on E! called WAGS that’s about the wives and girlfriends.
Yeah, I think I saw that.
I think it’s interesting because some of them are trying to avoid being pigeonholed as somebody’s else’s accessory. What would be your advice to those women who want to not just be known as so and so’s girlfriend?
That’s exactly what I’m fighting for and that’s not just women on TV. There are girls that I know personally that are not famous, that are not on TV, and they get introduced as “so and so’s girlfriend,” and their boyfriends are not famous. They’re just an agent or a journalist or somebody that works at the store. “Oh, that’s so and so’s girlfriend.” Not counting anything that she’s ever done in her life. Or even if she’s more successful. There’s all different levels to it. I don’t do reality TV for that reason because I just don’t want to. I don’t frown upon it at all. I think everyone has their own calling, but I actually know about three of those girls that are on that show [WAGS] and they’re all amazingly cool. I’ve been out with them on several different occasions and they’re really sweet people, but I guess it comes with time. That’s just how society is built. They’re gonna associate them with their boyfriends for a long fucking time, trust me.
Random, but what’s the last drunk text that you sent?
Um, last night at my birthday dinner. [Laughs] I mean, listen, I’m not perfect, trust me. I am not perfect. That’s what you should write in there: Amber says she is not perfect and sometimes she breaks the rules, even in her own book because I am human and that’s what we do. But this is a how-to book to really think about that shit before you actually do it. After you read the book, be like, Fuck, let me really think about this shit before I do it. We all makes mistakes.
Was it an ex or a friend?
Just a friend. It was a friend.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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