Before reading this interview, I had no idea who Miranda July was. A cursory internet search reveals that she is a reasonably successful writer, actor and director, and is considered by some people to be funny. The interview was described as “very revealing,” but they must have been talking about Miranda July, because that’s who it was all about. I was thinking I’d get to see a meeting of the minds, and perhaps a snapshot of some of Rihanna’s creative processes, her politics, and perhaps a glimpse inside the mind of one of the most successful artists in her field. Sadly it seems like Miranda July doesn’t seem to be familiar with the concept of talking about anyone other than herself for more than five minutes. The end result was kind of like viewing a selfie of Miranda July, with Rihanna rather inexplicably relegated to the background. So without further ado, here are the things I wish Miranda July would have done:
First, ask the hard questions. I’m not talking about “gotcha” journalism or pressing for personal information, I mean the hard questions for you, Miranda. For instance. If you’re going to “talk race” do it. Don’t waffle around; if you’re scared, the question is probably a good one. So ask it. Don’t be a coward.
“I wanted to ask her about being a young black woman with power in America but it seemed somehow wrong to speak of this; maybe she was postracial now. So I directed my question to a younger Rihanna, and asked if she had suddenly felt aware of race in a different way when she moved to New York.”
These two sentences are like the snake who ate its tail but still “doesn’t see” race. Anyone who’s spent five minutes on Rihanna’s instagram knows that she’s not “post-racial”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Luckily for Miranda, Rihanna fixed that bumbling question for her with a stellar response. She talks about how she gets pre-judged when it comes to business:
“I have to bear in mind that those people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way — they’ve been programmed to think a black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter. For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging.”
And she talks about being aware of those scenarios, those judgments, so she can counter them. This is golden, and very good advice for anyone looking to succeed in business who is going to be breaking stereotypes. And that’s a lot of us.
Second: Do. Your. Research. Check out social media. Review previous interviews. Rihanna touches on confidence when it comes to taking great photos, she says whether naked or clothed, she wants to see “a naked woman who isn’t even aware of her nakedness,” and Miranda seems to get this, stating that “she looks great. Never lewd–just alive.” So let’s make this real explicit for you Miranda: if you do your research, you’ll have the confidence you need to pull off a real interview, as opposed to standing there naked and embarrassed, and then ending up with a terrible picture.
Finally, less Miranda, more Rihanna. To be honest, that’s probably accurate for just about everything. And of course, Rihanna gets the last word, which is, fittingly, about being misjudged because of the way she looks:
‘‘And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations.’’