Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably have already listened to the musical masterpiece that is “***Flawless” by modern-day feminist icon Beyoncé. The song has been praised by critics as a feminist anthem for the 21st century and with good reason; “I woke up like dis” is still the go-to selfie caption amongst Instagrammers. But what made that song for me weren’t Queen Bey’s own lines, but the sample in the middle of the song of a woman delivering spoken lines about gender-related double-standards.
As we 21st century folk do, I immediately Googled what this amazing monologue was from and the insightful mind behind it and found out it was a sample of award-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s speech “We Should All Be Feminists” at the TEDxEuston conference in 2013.
If you love thought-provoking speeches about the inadequacies of contemporary society’s handle of gender roles and expectations and/or have 30 minutes and 15 seconds of free time, hit play below.
Here she is talking about society’s attitude towards physical beauty vs. inner beauty and the struggles women face regarding their appearance.
Here she is talking about her third novel “Americanah” and how the race conversation is still very much relevant in the 21st century.
But who is she?
I admit, I had no idea who she was before listening to “***Flawless.” But as I was researching her I learned that she has been an influential feminist figure long before Beyoncé’s song.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. At 19, she left medical school to study in the United States. She studied communication and political science at Drexel University before transferring to Eastern Connecticut State University where she graduated summa cum laude in 2001.
She earned a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University in 2003. As a student there, she wrote her first novel “Purple Hibiscus”, a story centering on a teenage Nigerian girl named Kambili who lives with a physically and psychologically abusive father. In her TEDx Talk, Adichie considers this her first “feminist novel.”
She followed up with “Half of a Yellow Sun” while earning a degree in African Studies at Yale University in 2008. A story that follows three main characters, “Half of a Yellow Sun” deals with themes of women empowerment and the emergence of Western ideas in a developing nation in the backdrop of the Nigerian Civil War.
In case you weren’t already impressed, Adichie was also rewarded with a Hodder fellowship at Princeton University in 2005 as well as a fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2011. The latter helped her to finish her critically-acclaimed third novel “Americanah”, a modern-day Nigerian love story, in 2013.
To summaraize, Adichie is a feminist writer, has earned several academic degrees and fellowships and has earned many accolades for her work. She wrote her first two novels as a grad student and has her name attached to many of the nation’s most prestigious universities. She delivers thought-provoking, insightful speeches and has been sampled in one of the most influential songs of the 21st century. And she’s not even 40 yet.
But she’s more than what I’ve written here, a 56-second sample in a Beyoncé song and a TEDx Talk video. And she’s definitely more than a woman.