Issue No.10 March 25, 2002

IGNITE ~ Represent
HOT GIRLZ ~ Heather B
ISM ~ Monsoon Wedding (dir. by Mira Nair)
ESOTERIC ~ The Importance of Breastfeeding
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Sex and The Homogenized City


intro and overview

I believe everything happens for a reason. I have been attempting to send you this issue of theHotness for a week now. But because of continued problems with our very inefficient, very broke Listbuilder list serve, I have been unable to get No. 10 out. (To be sure this will be the last time Listbuilder compromises the work of theHotness staff!) But funny how things work themselves out! On Sunday night when Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win an Oscar in a lead role, immediately I knew that it was fate that delayed the ezine's distribution. I mean how could we discuss representation without mentioning this historical breakthrough? Halle's win should be embraced by every woman of color.

We know how hard it is to find decent, empowering, smart, beautiful representations of Black, Latina, Asian and Indian women on television and in film. It's bad enough that on television one must have cable in order to check out shows like Taina, Soul Food and Resurrection Blvd. where some cool sisters of color are represented. How absurd is it that as long as "Friends" has been on the air, not one of them has "befriended" an African-American, Puerto-Rican or East Indian woman while living in New York City of all places. I guess that's why when I was a teenager I was so obsessed with the television show Fame. There were plenty of young ambitious, complicated, and okay, sometimes hokey, female characters for me to emulate. Coco Hernandez and Nicole Chapman were my homegirls because they genuinely reflected my experiences and my style. There's no denying the power of media and how it shapes and defines identity. This issue stands as a testament to the power of self-definition and positive expression in a media centric culture that encourages neither. In this issue Heather B. reveals how it was to be one of the first African-American women on MTV and we look at "Sex And The City" and its lack of multiculturalism (i.e. why doesn't Carrie and all of her "ghetto gold" hang-out with any sisters).

It's March, which means it's not only Women's History Month, but it also marks our 2nd anniversary. Bringing it better than ever, checkout our new section "Five on Fire" and participate in our contest giveaway on Representing what Hot Girlz think, feel, do and say is not only relevant and needed, but it makes for some of the best content you can find outside of cable. Thanks for keeping us strong.

Nicole Moore, Editor


inspired, creative and groundbreaking


Heather B
by Nicole Moore

Heather B. The name sounds familiar, but you just can't figure out why? That's because for the last 12 years or so, Heather has been dancing on the rim of breakthrough stardom, sometimes dipping in for a momentary lap of fame, but never given, in her opinion, a fair opportunity to
plunge in, get her hair wet and really take flight.

A New Jersey native, Heather B got into the game, rhyming with KRS-One on "Seven DJ's," a song for his Edutainment album. From there things began to take off and Heather B. went from being an underground phenom to a bona fide hiphop sensation with a major record deal with Elektra Records and touring with Boogie Down Productions. Soon after returning home from the tour in 1992, Heather B joined the original cast of MTV's The Real World and quickly folks from all over, would take note of her 'take- no-shorts, I'm just chillin'-persona. She wasn't some bubble-gum poppin', ambiguously Black British babe whose discourse mainly consisted of "wobba, wobba." While Ananda did her thing on BET's Teen Summit, we had Heather B on MTV holding it down for us 'round the way girls.

After her stint on RW, Heather B wavered in and out of obscurity-- opening up a store in New Jersey; recording the hot single All Glocks Down; appearing in the movie Dead Presidents; spending some quality time with her husband and then re-emerging last year on the underground classic Steady Rockin'.

When Heather B and I met up she was giving some neighborhood kids a few tips on rapping. Ironically, once we sat down, Heather had a lot on her mind- most of which had very little to do with music.

theHotness: When we spoke earlier about your time on MTV, you shared with me how weird it was for you being recognized as the first African-American woman on MTV.

Heather B: Yeah, it was very strange afterwards. And that's why I feel sorry for a lot of the kids coming into this now. You know what can potentially come from being on the RW. Back when I did the show it was the first year and no one knew anything. So people had a chance to see me for who I am because I didn't feel any pressure. It's crazy now looking back.

tH: Yeah you were being yourself on primetime before MTV even discovered Ananda!

HB: Even when you think in terms of artists featured like Janet Jackson. I probably logged in more airtime on MTV than she had. And that's crazy! I've been consistently on that network for 10 years. I don't know too many Black female artists who've been able to do that. We're talking around the clock for 13 episodes! You can't buy that type of publicity.

tH: How did you even end up on the show?

HB: They were looking for a rapper in the music business. I guess they figured that would be cool. You know, "let's get some rap in here." They actually called my manager for another artist-- Special Ed. So I went with him just to hang-out, not to audition. But while I was there they gave me some papers to fill-out and asked me some questions about myself. Five auditions and five call-backs later they were telling me to pick-up these keys and live in this house. It was crazy! I just walked into the situation wanting my money. But it ended-up being life changing. Literally, it changed my life. I look back now and I don't know what I would have thought had I known that it was (so major). I didn't even look at it like I was going to be on a television show. It was just something to do for a little period of time. At the time I was frustrated with my record company. So this was my own way of being able to break out from the whole monotony and tell Elektra Records and everyone else that I have my own thing going on.

tH: So how did it change your life?

HB: Well it was something that I always dreamt about doing since I was little. That's actually how I got part of my name. I was in high school and would tell my best friend, 'I'm going to be this and I'ma be that.' And she said "you're always saying you're going to be something. I'm gonna call you Heather B." And the name just stuck. Being on MTV gave me a chance to travel. I went to Africa, Switzerland, Amsterdam. I'm 30 now and by the time I was 25 I had traveled halfway around the world. In a short period of time I was walking down red carpets and kids were screaming my name. And they're screaming 'Heather' because I wasn't playing a character. It was me. It also made me build a close relationship with God because only He knew how badly I wanted to do certain things. If God didn't let be naive in a sense, I probably wouldn't have dealt with it in the same way. Like I might not have been on television with sweatpants on and my hair not done. But I feel like I didn't even scratch the surface yet of what God has in store for me to do. RW was just Door # 1 for me.

tH: What was life like for you growing-up?

HB: I went to all white, Catholic schools from the 1st grade to the 8th grade and would then come home to Ghetto USA. So I had white friends and I had Black friends. And that's how it's been all my life. I had catechism in school and would be in church on Sunday shouting and stomping and watching ladies pass out and talk in tongues. I had the best of both worlds.

tH: What have your experiences been like as an MC?

HB: It's been hard. I think it has to do with the fact that I write my own music. And I realized in this business that a lot of women don't write and that's in R&B, hiphop and jazz. And coming with my own songs, with my own opinion just turned a lot of people off. Then I'm not a size four and there was no man (promoting) me. Even though I started out with KRS-One, that didn't last very long. I didn't have those things (that other female artists) have, so it's been hard.

tH: Now you have a record coming out next month called "Eternal Affairs" (Sai Records). Are you excited about this record?

HB: Usually I'm not because I've been disappointed so much before. But I'm extremely happy with this project. Music is the most honest side of me. Television and film are not my words. I have to pull from other people and other things to act. But music is my most honest side. I just tell my stories. It's what I have to offer. My music is what I have to give. It's fun, it's hardcore, it's hiphop. It will make you listen and say damn.

~ N. Moore




music, books, film, tv and websites


Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, director)

Mira Nair shows no fear. Over the course of her career, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker has taken on interracial relationships, courtesans and more, often assuming a moral stance on issues that pervade modern Indian culture. Regardless of issue, though, her films are invariably sensual, revealing Nair's insatiable appetite for the delicacies of life and love. Her latest feature, Monsoon Wedding, stays true to form, keeping an unwavering eye on the rich intricacies of life in India as it weaves the audience through five separate yet intertwined love stories.

The movie opens with a Punjabi family preparing for the wedding of their daughter, Aditi (Vasundhara Das) to an engineer (Parvin Dabas) from Houston during the monsoon season in New Delhi, a city in North India. The film artfully portrays the various worries and delights of a wedding, ranging from the debt the family goes into in order to pay for the affair, to the joy (and as we find out later, burden) of having the whole family gather in one place for the occasion. In addition to the usual chaos of the event, we find out that the bride-to-be is already involved with someone else, the very married host of a television show who, appropriately, discusses the differences between old and new India. Desperate to escape the angst of her situation, Aditi agrees to a traditional arranged marriage, introducing the first of many paradoxes of modern Indian culture.

Superficially, the movie touts this as its main plot, but it is merely the backdrop to a slew of other plotlines, most remarkably the budding romance between the marigold-eating, cell-phone toting wedding planner and Alice, the maid. The most amazing aspect of this movie is how well developed each character is. The father (aptly played by Naseruddin Shah) initially appears cold but reveals himself as a strong, loving man who bravely displays his loyalty to his children. Shefali Shetty puts on a clever performance as Cousin Ria, who confronts her childhood demons while asserting her strength in being a single woman (a no-no in Indian society). Sabrina Dhawan's script is passionately intimate; by the end of the movie you will feel as entrenched in the family as you do in your own.

Monsoon Wedding is a thorough survey of the transient state of modern Indian culture and its many characters. It chronicles class distinctions, sexual abuse, new and old definitions of love and a growing awareness of sexuality in India. It is also a gorgeous depiction of the sensuality of life in India. From the glorious romanticism of the monsoon season to the streets of New Delhi, the film (shot by Declan Quinn) is breathtaking in its visual scope and splendor. As with any movie that takes on so many themes in two short hours, there are some holes in the plot and it glosses over some issues without really delving into them (i.e. hazy allusions to a possibly gay younger brother). Overall, though, it is a celebration of love and family and if the story doesn't get your heart beating, the music certainly will. It is a visceral tribute to the peculiar joie de vivre of Indian life - but take note, you don't have to be Indian to enjoy it.

~ Uma Amuluru is a contributing writer for theHotness. She wrote last month's feature on Margaret Cho.




media bits and news bytes


African-Americans Less Likely to Breast Feed

Regardless of education or income, African-American women are less likely than other US women to breast-feed their babies, new study findings show. Researchers speculate that this difference accounts for a large part of the racial disparity in the nation's infant mortality rate.

Experts agree that breast milk is preferable to infant formula because it provides babies with a natural balance of essential nutrients, antibodies and enzymes. In addition, breast milk is easier for infants to digest, and research shows it helps protect them from infections, diarrhea and allergies.

But many women choose to bottle-feed, and studies have found that certain women-- those with lower incomes and those without a college education, for instance-- are less likely to try breast-feeding.

To investigate how race influences breast-feeding and how this plays into infant mortality, researchers looked at data on nearly 1,100 women who took part in a federal survey in 1995. All of the women had a child 18 months of age or younger at the time of the interview.

The investigators found that African-American women were only 40% as likely as non-black women to have breast-fed their babies. And 83% of black women who did not breast-feed said they made the decision because they "preferred to bottle-feed."

Investigators also determined that a lack of breast-feeding accounted for much of the racial disparity in infant death rates in the US. In fact, black babies were almost 50% more likely than non-black babies to die before their first birthday. When investigators factored in breast-feeding and low birth weight, the effect of race became insignificant-- suggesting that these two factors are equally important in black infants' higher odds of dying.




expressing ourselves


Sex and The Homogenized City
by Thembisa Mshaka

I don't watch network television. I'm all about cable: reality TV, useful news information, music videos and tons of HBO. I am big on The Sopranos, OZ, Aril$$ and the subject of this month's story, "Sex and The City."

Let me say this up front. I am not complaining, just thinking in a Perfect Brown Girl World, if you will. I enjoy this show and have watched it religiously since it began. It sparkles with wit, candor and the glitz of the Big Apple. The ladies are all too believable as tightly knit friends. What's unbelievable is that among these urbanitas, there is not even one sista. This is Manhattan y'all! Don't even tell me you don't know any six-figure makin', $500 shoe-buyin', livin' off-credit swipin', advance-degree havin' divas with great bodies, fabulous hair and a terrific bedside manner. The closest the show's characters have gotten to a Brown Girl was once when Sonia Braga appeared for an episode and half as Samantha's better half of her experimental lesbian fling and then there was Adina on the July 9th, 2000 episode. But before we could even get to know her, she and Samantha ended-up cat-fighting over Adina's objection to Samantha doing the interracial nasty with her brother. Two questions: Why is it that as soon as one of us enters the picture, we're the one with the race problem? Did it occur to the writers that we'd be more interested in a sista who is preoccupied with a sex life of her own?

But I digress. In real life, the same eligible (mostly white) men portrayed on Sex and The City have also been known to taste a lil' urban flava, or at least be as curious as Samantha about it.Is that a truth that today's audiences are still unable to handle from the living room? What about the sight of a voluptuous, naked dark body arching in ecstasy (or deciding not to) on her own terms? I can see TV executives gulping on that jagged little pill already. I know they feel much more comfortable writing us as unscrupulous dependent hoochies, but I'll flip a Mary Poppins' adage to ease the pain: a spoonful of brown sugar helps the medicine go down. I know many a non-Black and many more white men would prefer brown, not blonde. Moreover, thanks to MTV and BET, Middle America is exposed to more race-mixing than ever. Surely HBO would not be breaking new ground in this area.

Without disrespecting Carrie's supporting cast, imagine the weekend morning cafe table or after-work evening club booth filled with Sarah Jessica Parker, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Lauren Velez, and Lucy Liu. Hell, I got plenty more candidates to add to the casting sheet: Salma Hayek. Sarita Choudhury. Sanaa Lathan. Rosario Dawson. Michele Yeoh. My ears are burning at the sound of their spicy sexual debriefings and debauchery! I've only been in New York City for three years, and I hang-out with a more diverse set of attractive women with careers, men and family to juggle. Our chatter is peppered with cultural nuances, sweetened by the depth of understanding our friendship demands because of each woman's individual uniqueness, something quite absent from the Sex and The City roundtable. And in my Perfect Brown Girl World, Carrie would still be able to hang with us girls without wanting to be anything but the smart, happily imperfect blonde that she is. White women who know themselves have no trouble being around women of color. Such women can occupy space without a need to dominate it.

Would it kill Carrie to befriend and confide in someone different than herself? Hardly. She ends up more deeply hurt by her men and her own idiosyncrasies anyway. Would it be so tough for American audiences to watch women of color with high-powered jobs by day, unleash their self-confident, sexual sirens within by night? Like any healthy relationship, solid, diverse characters have to be developed, nurtured and fine-tuned. This endeavor is a process that I challenge Sex and The City to undertake. Because it's a great show, and great shows are as tough to come by as great sex. And Brown Girlz deserve plenty of both.

~ Thembisa Mshaka is widely known for her provocative column, "The Monthly Flow" where she makes sure to represent women for our diversity and not inspite of it.






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