Wanna Thompson, Getty Images, HelloGiggles

How this culture writer's work celebrates Black women and challenges misogynoir in media

April 30, 2019 1:38 pm

In “Doing The Work,” a three-part series from HG contributor Tiffany Lashai Curtis, three Black women who work in different industries tell us their stories. During Black Women’s History Month, we hope this series uplifts and amplifies the work of Black women in spaces where they are underrepresented or rendered invisible.

It’s indisputable that Black women create and set cultural standards. From our skin, to our hair, to our impeccable ability to do a lot with a little, we are frequently a source of inspiration. But we rarely receive credit for it.

That’s why the work of Black women as culture writers, critics, and commentators is so important. Made by us and for us, these stories are not only handled with care, but celebrated. In the media space especially, there are too many instances of Black culture being dissected, appropriated, or stolen by non-Black people, so Black women and femmes need to be centered in conversations about culture.

Writer Wanna Thompson is doing the work to make sure that Black women are not only centered in culture writing, but in the culture itself. Thompson’s frequently viral takes on everything from hip hop to colorism are required reading, whether you’re looking to educate yourself or see yourself celebrated.

For the final entry in this series, I spoke with Thompson about her love for hip hop and the importance of Black women’s voices in pop culture commentary. Get into our conversation below.

HelloGiggles (HG): You’re a self-proclaimed “Hip Hop Nostalgist.” What made you take up that moniker? How has a love of hip hop influenced you as a writer?

Wanna Thompson (WT): There’s nothing I love more than old school rap and hip hop, and I love keeping its memory alive and well by dissecting important moments from that era decades later. While I think it’s important to focus on the here and now, I love to give older artists their flowers by paying homage as much as I can.

HG: The music and culture journalism space seems to be dominated by men, with many instances of white writers delivering takes on Black culture and music. Why is it important that we have more Black women as music and pop culture critics, especially when it comes to hip hop?

WT: What I find fascinating is that these white writers are able to access spaces that Black writers could only dream of. Privilege and nepotism have granted many white writers opportunities at highly coveted music publications despite lacking the expertise when it comes to hip hop. Although this process is unfair, it’s been happening for decades. It is a dream of mine to have more Black women getting staff positions at these publications, but I don’t see a change happening until more people speak out against their practice.

HG: Why do you think hip hop journalism won’t pay Black women writers their just due? How are you working to change that?

WT: So many factors are against us—too many to name—but the main reason [boils] down to anti-Blackness and misogynoir. I’m working to change this harmful practice by speaking up despite the potential of being blackballed in this industry. Especially being that I’m a freelance writer and opportunities are few and far between, but I will always choose being a mouthpiece for the people over money.

Courtesy of Wanna Thompson

HG: On your blog, you wrote a viral piece called “Black Girls From The Hood Are The Real Trendsetters.” What are some ways to celebrate Black women as cultural trendsetters without being appropriative?

WT: Want to celebrate Black culture? Educate yourself and become an ally. There’s no need to masquerade as a Black woman to get your point across.

HG: You wrote a viral Twitter thread that exposed white influencers ‘cosplaying’ as Black women, and you are vocal about uplifting dark-skinned Black women. Why is it important that we center not only Black women, but dark-skinned Black women?

WT: Being a Black dark-skinned woman isn’t easy. Dark-skinned women know what it’s like to feel inadequate and less than, especially when we factor in colorism and anti-Blackness. So why wouldn’t I go hard for us? Black women will always be my main priority, but dark-skinned girls and women? I’ll always place them higher than anyone else in this world.

HG: Who are some of your favorite Black women rappers in the game right now?

WT:  Megan Thee Stallion, Rico Nasty, Doja Cat, Dreezy, and Tierra Whack are everything. I appreciate their pen and their originality. Especially Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack. They are bringing something new and inventive to the game, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. All in all, I’m extremely happy that female rappers are coming up and crafting their own lanes on their own terms.

Courtesy of Wanna Thompson

HG: What is your dream album review to write?

WT: Rihanna’s next album. I love how the singer reinvents herself with every era she takes on, and I just know she’s cooking up something incredible for her next release. If the rumors are true, I feel like her next release will be her best—and that’s saying a lot because Rated R and Anti are her Crown Jewels in her multifaceted body of work.

HG: Your writing frequently goes viral. How do you balance social media and self-care as a creative and as a Black woman?

WT:  Social media and self-care. Ha! I used to think those two couldn’t coexist, but lately I’ve been following people who inspire me, people who are positive and who want to make a difference in the world. By seeing that on my feed daily, it makes me want to do better and I feel better overall. Also, I feel like taking breaks are vital. Unplugging once a month is essential. Without it, I’d be lost.

HG: Where do you hope your work takes you in the next five years?

WT:  I hope my work carries me places that I’ve never imagined. I want to be more successful and knock off a few goals that I have on my to-do lists. While I try my best to manifest and speak things into existence, I need to put in WORK to make these things come true. But in short… I want to be a best-selling author or host my own radio/television series.

HG: Black women are chronically underrepresented, undervalued, and under-recognized across many industries. What’s one thing you want people to know about the work Black women do in media?

WT: We are the standard. We are the “cool kids.” We determine trends and so many social media moments—yet the pay and opportunities don’t reflect that. I want everyone reading this to support Black women in media and read and share our work. We deserve every ounce of [that support] too.

See more entries in this series:

How this sex educator is helping Black women embrace pleasure and heal from trauma

How this café owner is creating space for Black women in the coffee business