Daily Archives: November 4, 2015
Amber Rose: How to Be a Bad Bitch
Amber Rose wrote the book on it. No, seriously: Kanye’s infamous ex, Wiz Khalifa’s baby mama, America’s toughest bald babe since Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3, is about to publish a book of life lessons called How to Be a Bad Bitch. Like Amber herself, it’s all heart. Unlike Amber, it’s not that thick! The teen stripper turned megalomaniac muse spoke to Carrie Battan about her beautiful dark twisted journey to the top
Every week, Amber Rose teaches her two-year-old son a new word. This week’s word is technically not a word at all (TMZ will point this out after she’s uploaded a video of her lesson to Instagram) but it comes in handy as we try to explain to him why I am here on a Sunday afternoon—a complete stranger lounging in the palatial master bedroom of Mommy’s house in the Hollywood Hills. Both Nas and French Montana used to live here, Rose says. She still gets their mail.
“Hey Sebastian, what’s the new word we learned this week?” Rose asks. “Con-ver-sate,” says Sebastian, whose father is the rapper and stoner king Wiz Khalifa. Khalifa and Rose are in the middle of a messy divorce, but Rose, 32, still has a massive tattoo of his shit-eating grin on the back of her left arm. Sebastian—Bash or Bashie for short—peers up at us, looking a bit bored of the vocab quiz. “To engage in conversation,” he says, and we erupt in cheers of approval. We revisit last week’s word—translucent—and Rose holds up one of the bottles of water we’ve been chugging. “You can see through it,” Sebastian says. Two for two. (Also translucent: the tanning bed in the corner of the bedroom, across from the decorative stripper pole.)
Rose pleads with Sebastian to come over to the couch and cuddle with her. After he obliges, she bows her exquisitely shaped head and he licks the top, like a lizard. “It tastes like pumpkin pie,” he announces.
It’s a sweet scene—as innocuous and adorable as parenting gets. But it also conjures, somewhat awkwardly, the very thing Rose has been trying for years to escape: her past with one particularly famous and influential man. (Hint: It’s not Khalifa.) There is no way to watch Amber Rose’s head being licked, even by her toddler son, without recalling the iconic Terry Richardson photo of Kanye West doing the same. Rose is so sick of talking about West—my ex, she calls him, never using his name—but right now she doesn’t have to say a word for his ghost to appear.
That photo, published five years ago, captured Rose and West at the zenith of their crazy infatuation, looking sexier and more in love than anyone has looked, maybe ever, their pheromonal forces eradicating any inhibition. The head-licking photo is this generation’s version of naked John nuzzling Yoko on the cover of Rolling Stone. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend blocking out some time before you Google it, because you will lose the next hour down a rabbit hole of Kanye-Amber image searching. One day, a decade or so from now, Sebastian will happen upon the head-licking photo and be really spooked by it.
Let’s get this out of the way: Amber Rose is the most famous girlfriend in rap history. She went from the streets of South Philly to the stripper pole to the background of music videos to Kanye’s arm, where she stayed for two of the most turbulent years of his career—the period following his mother’s death in 2007, and the ambivalent reception to his post-Graduation follow-up, 808s & Heartbreak—all while becoming an object of fascination and lust among music fans and gossip blogs. Rose was in the audience watching in proud exasperation as West stormed the stage during Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech, and she was along for the disastrous media tour that followed. She was by his side as he went into self-imposed exile from the press. She was with him as he masterminded his own redemption story on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album that rendered the demise of their borderline-pornographic relationship in hi-def. She has seen some shit. She has definitely heard some shit.
That all ended years ago, but somehow Rose has only grown more famous. And these days, she’s on a mission to prove that there are more interesting things about Amber Rose than her entombed romance with the most interesting man in culture. After years of living as hip-hop arm candy and clickbait fetish object, she’s emerged, defiantly single-ish and eager to spread her womanly gospel. She has inserted herself into today’s pop-feminist moment, showing up on Amy Schumer’s sketch show (“She’s sick, she’s dope,” Rose says, “and she’s a really good kisser”) and at the MTV Video Music Awards in a getup with the hand-painted words GOLDDIGGER and WHORE, speaking out against anyone who’s ever engaged in slut shaming. It’s become her crusade—her post-Kanye-and-Wiz raison d’être. She’s cultivated an activist streak, organizing an official Amber Rose–branded version of the SlutWalk, a march in protest of the societal forces that punish women for dressing sexily. At the event earlier this month, she broke down in tears telling the crowd her story, saying she wanted to forgive her famous exes for tearing her down before confessing: “It still hurts. That’s why I’m up here crying. It still fucking hurts.” And now she’s publishing her manifesto: a self-help guide called How to Be a Bad Bitch, 256 pages of memoir and motivational stem-winding for Rose-minded aspirants. It includes the tale of how she came to shave her head at age 18, which she recounts as an act of defiant courage that altered the course of her life.
“I have my own house. I have a Ferrari. I have a Jeep. I have an Escalade. I have two Can-Ams. I have a beautiful son, two assistants, lawyers, business managers, management, and access to pretty much whatever I want,” she says. “It does become intimidating for a man. I do feel more comfortable with someone who’s living up to par with me.”
As social lubricants go, cigarettes are out of fashion. “But I don’t give a fuck,” Rose says as we settle into the plastic chairs by her pool; Sebastian is playing inside with his grandmother. “I love smoking.” This is the first of maybe a hundred times I’ll hear her say she doesn’t give a fuck, or has stopped giving a fuck. She lights up a Marlboro menthol. “I get to talking, I get to smoking. I’ll get through this whole pack.” Rose is good at creating a sense of intimacy, often calling people she’s just met “babe” or “honey”: “Need a light, babe?” “Pass me that ashtray, babe?”
Calling Amber Rose hot is like saying caviar is a good source of protein: It’s technically true, but insufficient to capture her unique, otherworldly perfection. Rose is one of the few women in history who was meant to walk the earth with her head shaved. (The only others I can come up with are Grace Jones and Amber Rose’s mom.) She has an unearthly glow—that tanning bed—and a laser-like gaze that somehow pierces her ever-present sunglasses. Today she’s off-duty, bare-faced, and sporting an ankle-length white summer skirt with a matching crop top and bejeweled flip-flops. Without makeup, she looks even more surreal—like a character from a virtual-reality game who feeds on Swarovski crystals and male blood. She has described herself, accurately, as a “bald-headed alien.”
When Rose gets to talking, she gets to smoking, which leads to preaching. She still has at least one thing in common with West. “I’m a motivational speaker,” she says, and it’s hard to tell exactly how serious she is. A little bit, at least: In recent months, she’s given a college lecture, where she tried to reframe the idea of female sexuality to impressionable young men. Here by the pool, she gives me the monologue: I know before you guys got in here, you had conversations with your friends, like: “Why would I go listen to Amber talk? She’s only famous because she fucked Kanye…who the fuck wants to listen to her?”
“It’s a fair point,” she admits. “I get it. But now that you’re here, we’re gonna really talk about slut shaming. I really want you guys to sit down and think about the act that your mother had to do with your father in order to have you. Really, fully understand that your mother is a sexual being. Is she a ho?”
However absurd it may read on paper—“I go a little beyond,” she concedes—it is convincing to hear. Rose, like many women’s-studies majors before her, wants everyone to understand the maddening double bind that women face: Why does the world value women as sexual objects but then tear them down for enjoying their own sexuality? This question is central to Rose’s 2015 brand. It worked during her pitch meeting with Simon & Schuster, which she walked into worrying that a stodgy publishing house might not get her jilted, twerking feminist-mom thing. But when she arrived and saw that the table was filled with women, she felt a surge of confidence. She thought to herself: I fucking got this. She asked the women: Have you ever been cheated on with a woman who was less attractive? They began telling stories.
“As a woman, it’s like…fuck! You have to act like a nun for a guy to respect you. And even if you do wait to have sex and you’re very comfortable and you do exactly what you want to do in that moment, you have to be very careful because you don’t want to be looked at as a ho,” she says, exasperated. “How do you win? You do exactly what you want to do. And if it doesn’t work out, then he’s just not meant for you.”
I ask if there’s a specific event that emboldened her to speak up rather than shrink away. She thinks for a moment. “I’ve been slut shamed by both of my exes, you know?”
In Khalifa, it seemed as though Rose had found a sweet, dopey antidote to West. She told interviewers that it was true love this time. (“Exes never change,” West wrote on Twitter.) But shortly after Sebastian was born, Rose says she walked in on Khalifa cheating on her in spectacular fashion, with a set of twins. (Khalifa has denied this.) The spats and the gossip machine started up again, and Khalifa joined the chorus of voices publicly dismissing Amber Rose, releasing a song that includes the line: “I fell in love with a stripper/Funny thing is, I fell back out of love quicker.” (“I was a stripper years before I met you,” Rose says, eager to torpedo the lyrics, “and that’s why you cheated?” A few weeks after our time together, Rose posts an intimate selfie with Khalifa on Instagram, captioned “Still Ballin”.)
The Wiz business was only magnified by a new battle against Rose’s other renowned ex and his new, ubiquitous family. After a period of relative peace, West went on the radio this year and quipped that he “had to take thirty showers” before he got with Kim, a barb aimed at Rose. Granted, this was not without provocation. In a radio interview a few days prior, Rose had criticized the relationship between rapper Tyga and Kylie Jenner, then 17, the youngest of the Kardashian/Jenner gaggle. (Tyga has denied dating Kylie while she was underage.) In retrospect, Rose knows how it sounded, but—please bear with me here, because this is first-rate tabloid fun—she says she was only sticking up for her friend Blac Chyna, the mother of Tyga’s kid and an ex-pal of Kim’s.
“I really went in on Tyga. He’d been texting Blac Chyna, saying, ‘I really want my family back’—but he was out with a 17-year-old,” she explains, careful not to say anything that might come off like the exact kind of woman-hating she despises. Rose’s radio interview set off a full-bore social-media feud—the surreal kind, where you feel like your timeline is a binge-worthy TV drama unfolding in real time. Khloé Kardashian pounced, reminding her Twitter followers that, in case they’d forgotten, Rose was stripping at Kylie’s age. This caught Rose off guard, because she’d always assumed Khloé was the chill one. And…if we’re really going to do this—if we’re really going to start digging shit up in public—what about Kim’s sex tape?
“I said, ‘Your sister has a career because your other sister made a sex tape and put the whole family on.’ ” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “I think it’s fucking awesome that she did a sex tape and made millions of dollars for her family,” Rose says now. “But let’s not forget where we came from. Because I didn’t.” Rose likes to say that she’s taken the high road regarding those whose names begin with the letter K, but it can get slippery up there on her soapbox.
Rose wants America to consider the possibility that she and the Kardashians are not so different, that they are all women clawing their way out from the maligned underbelly of culture in search of something greater. Rose, born Amber Rose Levonchuck, grew up poor in South Philly with a waitress mom and a military dad who divorced when she was six. She started stripping at age 15, a profession she remembers as invigorating, not tragic. “Best fucking time of my life,” she says. “I’m not going to say young girls should go be dancers. But that was my journey, and I don’t regret it.”
Rose wonders whether Kim, deep down, might feel the same way about that sex tape. “She probably had a fucking blast. And guess what? At the time she was in love with that guy,” Rose says. “So don’t think you’re better than me, because we’ve all had trials and tribulations.”
The moment that Rose steps off of the elevator, everyone in this raucous hotel lobby on Manhattan’s Lower East Side seems hypnotized by her bald-headed swagger. The guy wheeling the cases of D’Ussé lights up, like all of a sudden this became the best day of his life. The doorman can’t help locking his eyes on her ass—the ass that Amy Schumer described to me, not quite accurately, as “the greatest and most famous ass in history.” (“She so doesn’t take herself seriously in any way,” says Schumer, who featured Rose in her booty-video spoof, “Milk Milk Lemonade.” “I didn’t know her very well, so I thought she might think it was disgusting. But she was like, ‘Fuck, yeah, I’m so down.’ I thought it was so cool that she had the balls to be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll shoot this fucking music video about poop.’ ”)
Out on the street, Rose cuts an hourglass-shaped swath through the muggy summer air, and it feels like we’re living out the opening credits of a show about an Instagram superheroine on a mission to distract us from the tedium of everyday life. A buzz begins to rise, Rose perfuming the neighborhood with her raw magnetism. The waiter at the restaurant next door pops out to yell, “We’re open ’til three, Amber!” A bike messenger almost loses his life on Allen Street, swiveling his head in reckless glee. Rose is one of those social-media-empowered people whose career is being herself—she gets paid ungodly sums just to show her face at a club—and she’s very good at her job. She’s never at work, but she is always working it, like a human air-kiss emoji.
Last night, she was at the birthday party of Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg, a hip-hop purist who in recent years has become an unlikely Amber Rose ally. (In 2011, Rosenberg dissed her on air and “twenty minutes later she shows up, dressed like RoboCop or whatever,” he recalls now. They made up over a cigarette. “I very quickly got the sense that she was one of the most regular people in a unique circumstance.”) Rosenberg’s party gathered some of the biggest names in music, and so it was a potential minefield—exes everywhere, their music bumping from the sound system… “But you can’t just be a hermit and go hide in the house and be like, ‘Ugh, my ex is gonna be there,’ ” Rose says, now seated across from me at her favorite local spot, The Meatball Shop. (The waiters and chefs here are babes and sweeties, too, and she wants more cheese, babe.) If she thought that way, she’d never walk out her front door. So what happens when she’s out at the club and one of Kanye’s hits comes on? She does what everyone does: She dances. Especially when it’s the early stuff. “I don’t give a shit,” she says. “I was a fan. He’s really…he’s a good artist.”
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is believed to be a tortured ode to Rose, a self-lacerating document of their romance’s immolation. It’s one of the great records of all time. But to this day, Rose won’t listen to it. Not even in a moment of vulnerability, or morbid curiosity, or drunken regret? “Never, ever, ever,” she says. “It’s just not for me.” She’s caught bits of the record when she’s out in public, and that’s been plenty. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says, “I’ll hear songs and I’m like, ‘Oh, he said that about me.’ No one knows what he’s talking about but me and him. People can’t decipher. They’ll be like, ‘That’s a cool song,’ and I’m like, ‘That happened to us when we were together.’ ” The two haven’t spoken a word in years, but when she hears his verses, she says, “Obviously, I know he’s talking to me through music.”
The announcement of How to Be a Bad Bitch probably sent a chill up the spine of Rose’s exes, West especially. But with every round of editing the book went through, she slashed more and more angry material. In the final result, she carefully avoids naming names and digging too deeply into her romantic life. This surely means the book won’t sell as well as it could, but for Rose, it’s worth the tradeoff. She’s constantly walking the line between using her past to lift her to new places and pretending it never happened.
“I’ve worked so hard, and I’m still building,” she says. “And I don’t want no one’s name associated with me.”
Later this afternoon, Rose will head uptown to meet the new guy she’s dating. It’s someone famous, but she won’t give me any hints. (It’s not Machine Gun Kelly, the rapper she’s been linked with in recent months.) She’s thinking about taking him to see a Broadway show. Maybe Wicked—her favorite. I’ve never seen it. What’s it about? She gasps at my ignorance. “It’s the Wicked Witch’s entire story that wasn’t told. It turns out the good witch had bullied the bad witch the whole time, and the bad witch just got to the point where she was like, fuck this, and turned crazy,” she explains enthusiastically. “It’s really cool.”
Lil Wayne has just took to Twitter to announce when he will be releasing the second installment of his No Ceilings mixtape series, which will be on Thanksgiving Day aka November 26th.
Let's do it…Thxgiving…lets eat! pic.twitter.com/jEsXwIyczd
— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) November 2, 2015
As well as sharing the release date, Weezy also revealed what the artwork for No Ceilings 2 will look like. You can see the cover above, which was designed by OllyCarterz.
So now that we know the project is coming this month and Tune has already remixed “Where Ya At” and “Back To Back”, what are some other beats you would like to see him freestyle over? Let me know in the comments!