Fantasia: Breakdown of a 'Strong Black Woman'

Sep 01, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011


Recently we learned that Fantasia, American Idol winner turned R&B star attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on aspirin and sleeping aids. In an explanation Fantasia stated, "I just wanted out. I was tired of people doing me wrong... I was tired. My head was hurting me. I was over it."

Yes, on one hand it is a bit strange that Fantasia has been doing press to promote her new album "Back to Me" so soon after this serious event. But in "strong black woman" fashion, Fantasia marches on. And I for one, am glad she's chosen to be real about her struggle, cause a "strong black woman" has to be allowed to break down.

Anyone who watched Fantasia's VH1 reality show, Fantasia For Real could see that honey child's life was a smoldering heap of nonsense! It appeared that Fantasia was the only breadwinner in her family that included a freeloading brother whose idea of gratitude was to tear down her guest house to make a studio! (Yes, he wants to be a "producer", or was it a rapper?)

Fantasia was also coping with her frustration and hurt over her irresponsible father, in addition to addressing the mounting pressures of her career that had begun to lose a bit of its shine. With all this on her plate it's not surprising that Fantasia took leave of her senses and engaged in a relationship with a married man, who she claims told her he was separated, just to find a bit of delusional comfort.

Now, I'm not excusing this poor judgment, but when people are hurting, they can do some stupid stuff! Can we just be real about that? And I have to admit that initially, when I heard of the suicide attempt I was one of the folks who felt she brought the foolishness of her life on herself by making dumb decisions. I thought, "Didn't you learn nothin' from playing Celie in The Color Purple? Didn't hanging out with Oprah teach you anything?" But then I regained my compassion and after listening to Fantasia talk about her suicide attempt, I understood that this was just another "strong black woman" who was tired of being strong and tired of being tired. Period.

Many black women suffer from SBWS; Strong Black Woman Syndrome. And some of us in that club have chosen to be fiercely independent, but many of us have never had the luxury of being weak. Male or female, being black in this country requires an amount of strength that is crucial to your emotional, fiscal and sometimes physical survival. But typically, the stronger you are, the more you are tested. So being the quintessential "strong black woman" usually means you're gonna catch hell; cause you can take it-most of the time. And the pressure for a "strong black woman" can be even more profound because it can be challenging to find someone to take your emotional needs seriously.

I myself have been told that because I have a "presence" and appear confident and articulate that my vulnerabilities are not visible. I can't count how many times I've needed to be allowed to break down only to be reminded of my strength. One of my favorite quotes is from Prince who said, "No one can be who they are twenty four hours a day." Exactly. A "strong black woman" has to be allowed to be human. And that's what happened to Fantasia; she exposed her vulnerabilities as a human being. Some get it and some don't care, choosing to focus on the mistakes instead of the pain behind them.

Fantasia believes she's criticized more because of her dark skin tone and black girl features. I believe she has a point. Alicia Keys has had her critics about beginning her relationship with Swizz Beats when he was "separated", but for some light skinned, long haired reason hasn't received the same amount of public backlash. Maybe people are treading lightly (pun intended) on Keys because of her A-list clout. Whatever the deal is, there's a noticeable difference in how people have responded to Fantasia versus others who've made bad decisions, which only adds more bricks on the back of a black girl break down.

However we feel about Fantasia, the courage in her honesty is something to be respected because the reality of her struggle is something more black women are experiencing (and not talking about) every day. Let's hope Fantasia's breakdown can serve as a breakthrough for every "strong black woman", who just needs (and will take) a moment to be human.