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You gonna learn today.
Anyone who knows me knows that I make a genuine effort to be a kind, decent person despite being
assaulted with bullshit at every turn. And when I look back, I might be mad that I gave this attention, but
And what’s a shady West African to do? Nigerians invented the side-eye, the teeth-suck, and the shady laugh. So mutha is going to take a moment and school saplings on how
to properly cast shade.
But first let’s take a look at Kara Brown’s definition of shade:
She has none.
In a “Shade Court” post titled “Grace Jones Shaded No One,” the typist states that the New York Times and Michelle
Duggar were shady the week of Sept. 11. I’ll be the first to admit that shade knows no color, lest we forget the many
times Madonna shaded Lady Gaga. But there is no way that a predominantly white institution promoting the
Kardashian machine is shadier than two black queens, i.e., Grace Jones and
yours truly. Take notes, young sprouts.
Shade is, quite simply, the act of disrespecting another individual. It can be subtle or it can be brazen, but the
most important component is that the recipient feels judged. Some examples for your instant edification:
Whitney Houston shades Mariah Carey
Phaedra Parks shades Kenya Moore
Writing an article on the definition of shade in the best city in the country for a typist, the gluten-and-water-deprived cultural wasteland that is Los Angeles These are different manifestations of shade. Yet, we can say that shade occurs because of the wave
of disrespect headed toward Mariah and Kenya. Since slang words can be used differently
depending on street, city, county, state, region, and country, there is no point in checking me on my definition
of shade—because none of you even know me.
I realize that there is this new trend in “journalism” where individual typists feel that they own the word
“shade.” They get on their Windows 95 computers and police authors into abiding by their rigid
But you can’t do that, typists.
My Nigerian aunties taught me all I need to know about shading. Remember, the word “shade” was in the black community before Urban Dictionary and far longer than you’ve been watching
Basketball Wives LA.
Those of us well-versed in English know that words evolve over time.
The word “awful” used to mean full of awe, and now it just means “trash.” (Like: Your opinions are awful.) The word “quell” used to mean “kill” instead of just “subdue.” (Like: I’m going to quell the shade police before they get out of hand.) The word “Jezebel” used to mean “scheming shameless woman,” but now… well, it still means the same thing.
What our Jezebel typist fails to see is that just because you’re coming with facts doesn’t mean you’re not being
shady. She ruled that Grace Jones wasn’t shading, but if we’re shade-policing here, that’s flat-out wrong.
All of this shade redlining starts with Grace Jones saying that very little in pop music is innovative:
“They dress up as though they are challenging the status quo, but by now, wearing those clothes,
pulling those faces, revealing those tattoos and breasts, singing to those fractured, spastic, melting
beats—that is the status quo.”
Brown goes on to argue, wrongly, that this is not shade. Normally, I
wouldn’t care about this story—but it is my civil duty to prove Jezebel’s typist wrong. This may not seem
like shade to someone whose life’s work would disappear with a server malfunction, but to someone who
has spent their life’s work entertaining the masses, it’s a total dig.
First of all, queen regent Grace
Jones names names, saying,
“Trends come along and people say, ‘Follow that trend.’ There’s a lot of that around at the
moment: ‘Be like Sasha Fierce. Be like Miley Cyrus. Be like Rihanna. Be like Lady Gaga. Be
like Rita Ora and Sia. Be like Madonna.’ I cannot be like them—except to the extent that they are
already being like me.”
Grace Jones is a legend, and no one denies that. But commenting on her diva descendants without
acknowledging the David Bowies and Josephine Bakers who influenced her is shady. She is an
amalgamation of culture, coming together in the perfect storm of Diva Extraordinaire. Jones’ minimizing of the work that icons like Beyoncé (who has been performing since she could walk) have put into their
career is shady. Referring to her as “Sasha Fierce” and not her goddess-Tina-Knowles-given name,
“Beyoncé,” is shady. Grouping Beyoncé in the same category as Miley Cyrus and Rita Ora…. THAT’S
SHADY. Remember, Beyoncé never, not once, has said anything disparaging about Grace Jones. And Grace Jones reducing Beyoncé to a trend is a shady reduction of a nearly three-decade career.
Grace Jones even goes as far to discuss a certain pop star under the pseudonym “Doris,” saying,
“[Doris] looks lost, like she is desperately trying to find the person she was when she
started… I don’t mind her dressing up, but when she started to dance like Madonna, almost
immediately, copying someone else, it was like she had forgotten what it was about her that could
But since Jones isn’t upfront about whether Doris is Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Sweeney Magoo, or Virgin
Mary, we have to take what she says as shade.
Grace Jones is shady the way Prince is shady. Both have every right to be, but let’s stop policing language for the fun of it and call a spade a spade, boo.
Do you understand?
Grace Jones is so masterful at throwing shade that Jezebel didn’t even notice. Novice mistake, just
like bringing me into this discussion.
Remember, I’m not correcting this egregious article out of malice. This is just to point out that the very
typist policing shade DOESN’T HAVE THE BEST GRASP ON IT HERSELF.
So let’s get this straight: The woman policing my shade doesn’t even know Olympic-level shade when she sees it. Girl? Girl? Girl????? It’s never too early to get a hearing aid in, because I don’t think you hear me yet: Shade-policing is basic as fuck.
NO. ONE. OWNS. SHADE.
Let’s stick to one simple rule. If your name is not Prince, you are not the Shade Maestro. Ergo, quit with
the policing. Ergo, mind ya business. Ergo, don’t come for me unless I send for you, hon-tey. Got it, dude?
And for those of you who still don’t understand the definition of “shade,” look no further than this entire
article—sewn with the sweetest fibers of the shadiest palm tree in the Western Hemisphere. And Jezebel, next time you want to start a war, just @ me. I’m all #chargedup.
Otherwise, stay in your lane, Meek, and I’ll keep being young Aubrey.
Photo via Jakub Michankow/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Ziwe Fumudoh is a writer and comedian. Her work has appeared in the Onion and Reductress, and she is a co-host at Crooked Media.