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Summer Walker is Anxious and Awkward and I’m Glad She’s Here

Summer Walker

Summer Walker is weird. She is awkward. She seems perpetually uneasy. And her presence and visibility is definitely not parallel with the “confident, Black woman” who we love to see and champion.

And that is why her existence and visibility is even more important right now. I don’t think the vitriol she’s been receiving is okay. She’s literally trying to figure herself out after being thrust into the limelight.

You might be reading this and thinking “who is Summer Walker?” She’s an R&B artist who got popular in this last year for her mixtape “Last Day of Summer” and then just dropped her latest album “Over It.” She’s also the “Best New Artist” of 2019, according to the Soul Train Awards. Her star is on the rise.

Summer Walkr Best New Artist

Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

But there’s already some stumble blocks and she’s already been on the receiving end of public contempt. Summer canceled her tour and took to her Instagram to say it’s because she has social anxiety and it makes it hard for her to do a lot of peopling. Coupling that with some of her posts on social media about not loving showers, there are a lot of people who are sending hate and criticism her way. Folks have been DRAGGING HER, and oddly enough, that is how I learned of who she is.

I’ve seen people go “well if she doesn’t wanna be famous, she should do something else.” I haven’t listened to her music, but I see her as a person who seems to have some gift that put her in the front of people, because clearly folks can’t ignore her. For her to be all up on folks playlists means she does have something that makes her magnetic. She seems really shy and not at ease in front of cameras, judging by her red carpet pics at the Soul Train Awards and even her acceptance speech, and somehow people think she’s putting on an act.

Summer used to strip, and that seems to be enough for people to want to discredit her claims of being an introvert and having social anxiety. And I’m tired of people being obtuse. Do they think strippers wake up everyday cartwheeling and doing coochie tricks for breakfast? These are regular people who happen to spend evenings doing brash things for cash. They aren’t some 24/7 hyped up cartoons. *Newsflash* Strippers can be introverts and can have anxiety but still barrel through. That is why it is called PERFORMING. Just because someone has a very public craft doesn’t mean they aren’t privately introverts. Beyoncé herself, who I think is the best entertainer alive (I’m not arguing) is an introvert, and her alter ego Sasha Fierce is who takes the stages she’s on. Now I wonder if people think Queen Yonce be at home on the couch in glitter onesies as she makes Blue Ivy and them Carter kids pancakes.

We are a culture that talks about authenticity a lot and we want people to be “real” and then we weaponize their vulnerability against them. Summer has been really transparent about having anxiety, and her struggles with mental health, visibility and all that comes with it. People have often responded with “do something else then.” Sheesh. When you are someone who loves to do something, and you barrel forward, fame is often not the motive but you can find yourself with a massive platform that no one prepared you for. So your stumbles are very public and you’re like “shit how did I get here?” See: one of the reasons why I go to therapy.

oprah therapist

It’s a lot. And let me remind people that Summer Walker is 23 years old. 23. So many of us were weird AF at 23 and didn’t have anything figured out. Shit, we’re weird RIGHT NOW but at 23, we were running up our credit cards, making terrible decisions left and right and being the reasons why we currently have testimonies of failures that didn’t keep us down. Being a screwball is a 23-year old rite of passage. The difference is, many of us didn’t have millions of people watching us stumble.

And we’re ALL weird in different ways. It’s just that some of our weirdness is considered more socially acceptable.

Above all, what this Summer conversation has further affirmed to me is how harsh we are on Black women. Summer ain’t weirder than Tyler the Creator. Or Frank Ocean. Or Jaden Smith. Or any of the A$APs or Savages. But people swear she’s the spawn of Satan and should disappear. I’ve seen people say she looks “dirty” because she has tattoos on her face. Do you keep that same energy when talking about Kodak Black and other men with tatted faces? I don’t see us keeping the same “go to hell” energy for some of the men who we misunderstand.

keep that same energy

Summer Walker seems like the “tortured artist” and that’s usually celebrated in anyone who isn’t a Black woman. Artists are supposed to be odd. Isn’t that the trope?

We’re basically telling sisters: “be who you are, as long as that person isn’t shy, introverted, anxious from time to time, awkward… AS LONG AS YOU AIN’T THAT, then be who you are.” Oh. Folks ain’t gentle on real awkward Black girls and it’s exhausting. We’re telling people to perform who they are, instead of just being.

There is no manual to this visibility thing, and one thing I wanna be, that I may not have been in the past (because in the words of Kelechi Nekoff, I’m a recovering dickhead), is especially graceful to Black women. We are often harsher to one another than anyone else. Then the world at large also uses our babyhairs as a rope.

So I’m glad Summer Walker is here, existing in all her strange glory. And I hope she has the fortitude to continue to be who she is, in spite of the messages she gets that tell her that she’s too square for a round world. Black Girl Magic ain’t just for those of us who walk into every room like we belong in it. That Noir Pixie Dust needs to spread to the girl who is hiding in the corner, alone in a crowded room.

Thrive, Summer! In all your rainbow haired, gay, awkward, don’t like to be hugged glory!

be great

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9 Comments

  1. Denise
    November 20, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Awesomely written Luvvie! For real, I know not one song of Summer Walker’s, yet I keep hearing her name. We live in a world of “insta”fame where ppl are seeking their 15 minutes and to get paid, so when an actual artist gets more notoriety than she planned for and doesn’t know how to handle it, all the wannabe celebs don’t want to understand. Now, I’m not going to front and say I didn’t side eye some of the quotes ppl shared about her, but I should know better than to jump to conclusions without context.
    You hit every nail on the head with what you wrote and we should definitely allow her in all of her socially awkward glory!
    I hope someone in her camp shares your essay with her.

  2. Jasmine Jackson
    November 20, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    I love the weirdness of Summer Walker if thats even a word but if so thats wat make her stand out from the rest oddly enough i honestly didnt know nothing about Summer Walker until just recently but before i knew her (swear) i named my daughter Summer Alexandria Jackson Walker i feel that name fits them both perfectly

  3. Alicia
    November 20, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Spot on. I really hope artists like Summer Walker have access to therapists to help guide them through the limelight.

  4. Lisa
    November 20, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Well said Luvvie! Well said!

  5. Amanda
    November 20, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Yes! I’m a teacher….and an introvert! You can be both. I wish her treatment and an excellent therapist.

  6. November 21, 2019 at 6:59 am

    Amen, and Amen! I Stan!! When I say they have literally been wearing this poor gifted child out! We love so hard one day and be ready to throw ppl out with the trash the next day! The social media age has given ppl this uncaring right to spew their hateful/disrespectful opinions, biases and empty thoughts upon others. I absolutely despise how they’re singing her / our / your praises one minute and the next you’re receiving hate mail for saying you prefer baths. Thank you for opining on this.

  7. Anastasia Pantsios
    November 21, 2019 at 10:46 am

    I wonder if this is a BLACK female thing, because I’ve seen white women performers utilize their extreme shyness, social anxiety, bipolar or other mental/emotional disorder as a selling point in their bios and part of their charm, from Cat Power to the multi-hit-making Halsey and Billie Eilish today. If there’s something a little odd about a performer, I almost expect this to be in their bio.

  8. notconvincedgranny
    November 21, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    You can be personally awkward and professionally outgoing – this coming from an introvert with extrovert tendencies. Even Beyonce says her stage presence is Sacha Fierce. Michael Jackson was painfully shy, but you couldn’t tell from his performances. Why can’t the sidewalk psychologists check into their own reasons for wanting to label others?

  9. Slone
    November 24, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    This was very well written. I adore summer walker and knew there was something I related to immediately seen her on social media as a listener to her music and continue to learn more about her thru it as well as the internet I can totally relate to her being herself , she reminds me so much of myself and I hope she can just remain strong and realize thus will pass