Eric tries to convince Brittany that Beyoncé is hiding something, but Brittany needs more receipts.
Brittany Luse: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod. I’m Brittany Luse.
Eric Eddings: And I’m Eric Eddings. And today… we’re getting into a uh conspiracy.
EE: So, Brittany, what are some of your, like, go-to things to watch on YouTube?
BL: I watch a lot of the Black women lifestyle YouTube videos. Like women who just go to like H&M and buy socks and they show every single pair of socks they buy. I watch a lot of stuff like that.
EE: I’ve watched a surprising amount of those things [laughs]. But I’m curious: do you watch like YouTube conspiracy theory videos?
BL: I ha—no.
EE: There are tons of them and I find them fascinating. There’s a thin line of what separates conspiracy from truth.
BL: Now you’re s—now you sound like somebody who makes them.
EE: And there’s one person in general who I feel like if YouTube conspiracy theory videos and maybe even like Black YouTube conspiracy theory videos were…uh.
BL: I didn’t know white people made them [laughs]. I had no idea.
EE: You’d be surprised. Um, if they were if it was a sport—let’s say if it was basketball—he would be like LeBron James.
BL: He’s the guy.
EE: Yes. This is the guy.
EE: His name is Shawn Blazington. The way he weaves these stories together. It’s like this like beautiful mix of like what feels a little like crazy. Slightly offensive in some spots.
EE: Umm just wild leaps. And you know one of the key portions of a YouTube conspiracy theory video is like the PowerPoint slide show. Bomb ass PowerPoint slide shows.
BL: Every time?
EE: He picks the best things from Google Images and like lines them up together. He’s not going to just stop at the theory. He thinks about how he tells it to you. He thinks about his delivery. You might get some sound effects in there. So we’re going to watch one of Shawn Blazington’s videos today.
EE: The title of this of this short film umm is “Beyoncé Forced Solange to Give Birth to Blue Ivy: Illuminati Exposed.”
BL: See, before you even told me the title, I already knew the Illuminati was going to be involved.
EE: That is also a key feature of most Black YouTube conspiracy theory videos is the Illuminati.
BL: I mean honestly I’d love to see how this works because then I would love to force one of my sisters to give birth to my child so I could maintain my body.
EE: All right. So let’s kick this off.
Shawn Blazington: Greetings my brothers. Today we’re going to talk—
EE: Can I just say that I want to walk into this every meeting and be like “Greetings my brothers.”
SB: Today we’re going to talk about Beyoncé making Solange be the surrogate mother for Blue Ivy.
BL: Oh my God.
SB: You have to try to understand that Jay-Z and Beyoncé is simply a power couple. There is no romance involved. They’re not intimate with each other—
BL: Wait hold on for a second. So the picture that they have of—when he says like ‘oh Jay-Z and Beyoncé are a power couple.’
BL: It starts with this picture of Jay-Z and Beyoncé and she looks…
BL: She looks—I would never say this about my queen otherwise. But it’s the truth… just the moment she looks slightly cross-eyed?
EE: Yeah she does.
BL: Her head is kind of cocked to the side and he looks like somebody who currently needs to Get Out.
EE: [laughs] Jay-Z is in the sunken place.
BL: He looks like he’s in the sunken place. I’m already getting a sense of how talented Shawn Blazington he is at selecting the right visuals.
EE: Right? I told you—like it like it is a talent.
SB: They are not intimate with each other. They don’t kiss. They don’t make love. It’s strictly business. Jay-Z was the undisputed king of hip-hop. The only way Beyoncé could be the queen of hip hop is if she formed a union with Jay-Z in order to solidify her spot.
BL: Hold on. Beyoncé is not the queen of hip hop. First of all, number one: there is no queen of hip hop right now.
EE: Ooh. Bold claim. You wouldn’t even say Nicki?
BL: Umm I think that Nicki is on top right now but I wouldn’t necessarily call her the queen of hip-hop. The queen of hip-hop soul, obviously, Mary J. Blige.
EE: Yeah forever.
BL: Right. And I think that Beyoncé is the queen of all pop music. I think that she is our single greatest living entertainer at the moment. But I wouldn’t call her the queen of hip-hop. So I’m already kind of like mmm I don’t know about Shawn Blazington.
EE: Well give it time. We’re literally at 30 seconds.
BL: OK. OK.
SB: You never ever in your entire life saw a picture of Jay-Z tongue kissing Beyoncé, gripping her butt, feeling up on her breast or doing anything intimate—
BL: Wait hold on.
EE: Have you seen a picture of Beyoncé tongue-kissing Jay-Z?
BL: Why. Why do I need to see that? Why do I need to see them tongue kissing, why do I need to see Jay-Z, Jay-Z holding like touching on her butt? Just keep playing this.
SB: You’ve never seen them have a realistic married couple moment. If you can find a picture of Jay-Z tongue kissing Beyoncé or gripping her butt, send it to me and I will mail you back five hundred dollars. I know you won’t be able to produce any evidence of Beyoncé and Jay-Z being seriously intimate with each other. Not even in music videos, not on the red carpet, not anywhere. So let me get back to my point. In order for Jay-Z and Beyoncé to continue deceiving the world, they had to stage a pregnancy. Jay-Z met Beyoncé in 1999.
EE: Stop! So the pictures of Beyoncé right now—
BL: She has a bindi in the middle of her forehead. She has frosted lipstick and she has chopsticks in her bun. So it’s definitely 1999 in this photo. Sean Blazington does have the facts right.
SB: And they didn’t have a baby until 2012. People are still oblivious that Beyoncé faked her pregnancy even though she revealed herself on national TV wearing a fake prosthetic stomach.
EE: So a key plot point right here. What we’re looking at right now is like four sequential freeze frames from Beyoncé like sitting down in this interview that she did and she’s wearing this like this like maroon—
BL: Kind of yeah maroon—
EE: Plum dress if you will. And she’s visibly pregnant like you can see her belly very clearly in the first frame. And as she sits down her stomach starts to like move.
BL: Yeah it like deflates. I can’t really explain this. The first two frames she looks pregnant and then the last two, she looks like all of a sudden she’s wearing a fanny pack.
BL: Not what you would think someone someone’s pregnant belly would do. That’s a tough one though. Shawn Blazington has a point.
SB: I have a secret audio tape that I’m going to share with you later on in this presentation.
EE: Breaking news! Secret audio tape coming.
BL: Oh my god.
SB: But before I get to that I want to break down some serious dynamics for you guys. Beyoncé’s body is a major part of her career. And she did not want to ruin her career and that’s why she didn’t want to ruin her body by having a baby. Although Solange make better music than Beyoncé, her career—
EE: Whoa! Whoa! Bold claim!
BL: You know why I like that because I—he really, he decided to add in his own like his own fresh commentary about—
BL: He just said it so matter of factly. ‘Although Solange makes better music than Beyoncé.’
EE: And he just slipped it in there like this. He wanted you to know like this is not the key point of this moment but it’s true.
BL: Yeah. Wow bold critique.
EE: I mean “A Seat At The Table” though.
BL: I was going to say “A Seat At The Table” really spoke to him.
SB: Although Solange make better music than Beyoncé. Her career is nowhere near her sister. She was against having the baby but the Illuminati forced her to have the baby—
EE: This is mean. I’m not gonna lie—
BL: This is mean. Now he—OK. So it goes from this picture of Beyoncé posing in like a crop top sweater and some lingerie and like a body chain just looking bodacious as ever.
EE: She was looking great.
BL: To the photo of Solange broken out all in hives at her wedding. So for those of you who don’t know, Solange had an allergic reaction I think to some shellfish at her own wedding. And so there’s a photo of her that was circulated around the time of her wedding that showed her having a breaking out in hives on her face.
EE: And it looks real tragic.
BL: That is not fair.
EE: I mean—
BL: Who among us hasn’t had an encounter with a histamine and broken out like you know what I mean?
EE: Encounter with a histamine?
BL: Do you have seasonal allergies?
EE: I do. But wh—
BL: OK then you know what Solange has been through.
SB: You don’t have to believe me but no one has ever been able to explain exactly what happened in that elevator when Solange attacked Jay-Z. Everybody was able to see the surveillance tape in the elevator. But no one has been able to hear the audio tapes. But that’s where I come in because I have the secret tape right here. [click]
EE: Are you ready for this? We are about to hear. Never before played audio.
BL: Oh my god!
EE: From inside the Elevator.
BL: Oh my God.
EE: Before Solange like just like let Jay-Z have it.
SB: Ok I’m going to put this in the tape deck. [continues under: And once this is over I will continue with my presentation.]
EE: Right now there’s a picture of a cassette tape. I would like to think that if I was recording what happened in the elevator.
BL: What happened in an elevator in 20–. What is it 2014? 2015?
EE: That I might not use a Sony Walkman.
EE: To do that.
BL: [laughs] A little talk boy.
Solange: Beyoncé I’m telling you right now don’t say shit because this is between me and Jay.
Beyoncé: I know I ain’t gonna say nothing.
Jay: Ay yo ‘Longe what you tripping for. I told you I left Baby Blues at the babysitter.
Solange: I know who let the baby sitters dummy. But you didn’t tell me who is the baby–
EE: First off–
BL: Hold on. Before I even get to before we even get into the fact that Shawn Blazington is apparently a ventriloquist. The elevator noises like it sounds like a dumb waiter. It sounds like something that you put yourself into you get lowered into a mine. It does not sound like a modern elevator that would be in a museum!
EE: There’s nary a beep. There’s nary a ding. Oh man. All right. lets–let’s go back to–I’m literally I’m crying right now.
Solange: But you didn’t tell me who is the babysitter.
Jay: Honestly that’s none of your business. I think you need to stay in your lane. hey yo Bey, why don’t you talk to your sister?
Beyoncé: Mmmm. Mmmm.
EE: Yo that was a real expert level Beyoncé mmm.
BL: Beyoncé! Wow ok Shawn Blazington is good at Beyoncé’s voice.
Beyoncé: Mmmm. Mmmm.
Solange: Oh no you got me fucked up. I held that baby in my stomach for nine months.
Motherfucker you gonna tell me who the baby sitter is.
Jay: Aight, aight i let Bleek babysit the baby.
Jay: Memphis Bleek. I let Bleek–
Solange: Motherfucker you let that dirty motherfucker hold my baby. [slaps]
EE: It sounds like he’s banging like action figures together like he’s actually like acting it out.
BL: I love this.
[slaps and fighting]
Jay: Bey get your sister.
Beyoncé: Mmm, I want nothing to do with that. Mmm.
Jay: Oh really Bey you ain’t gonna say nothing? Yo this was a bad idea, we should have never let Solange be the mother.
EE: I love it’s in this moment–only in this moment after he gets beat up by Solange that he’s rethinking this decision.
Solange: And I should never agreed to do this because I hate having your big tired, bubble-lipped, ashy-lipped, having ass as the baby daddy.
Jay: I would slap the shit out too right now. But you’re my baby mama. So here you go, you dropped your shoe.
Solange: Fuck you.
Man: Thats enough y’all.
EE: But who said that’s enough you know that.
BL: OK so this is where I actually have to give Shawn Blazington some credit because he layered that audio, like he really cares, he cares about what he’s putting out. I mean granted I did just hear like some real deeply self-hating anti-black Jay-Z insults and then to counter that a threat of domestic violence. But the audio was layered which is more than what I was expecting from a production standpoint.
EE: It’s very true, very true, slightly problematic but A for effort.
Shawn Blazington: For all you people out there that think they are really a married couple and Beyoncé really had that baby. And you really think that Solange is not that baby’s mother. Just look at Blue Ivy. She looked more like Solange than she do Beyoncé.
EE: And so in the picture that he show–I’m not gonna lie. I mean it could be just because Solange and Beyoncé are sisters. but.
BL: I think that’s probably what it is.
EE: Like. There was a definite resemblance.
SB: I can go on and on about this for hours but you going to believe what you want to believe. And that’s cool. This your boy Shawn Blaze and i’m out.
EE: And that’s it. That’s the end of the video.
BL: I will say I was impressed with the quality of the video. But ultimately I am not totally convinced.
EE: You heard never before released audio of what happened in that elevator that’s not enough.
BL: The journalistic chops. [laughs] But no, that is unfortunately for me not going to be enough to swing my opinion either way. You know i think he had some holes in his argument if i’m just being frank.
BL: I think I’m going to have to put some of Sean Blazington’s claims and theories to the test.
EE: After the break, Brittany launches a counter investigation.
BL: Welcome back.
EE: Welcome Back.
BL: Ok so Eric presented me with a YouTube video.
BL: Made by a one Shawn Blazington. As truly riveting as some of his arguments were, I think that his claims deserve a strong fact check. I consider myself to be an expert on pretty much all things Beyoncé. But this story it’s bigger than all of us.
EE: It is.
BL: And I knew that i needed to pull out the big guns.
EE: I’m–I don’t know what the big guns are.
BL: Hi Celesse?
Celesse Rivera: Hi!
BL: Hi! Thank you so much for making time to talk to us today.
CR: Thank you so much for having me!
BL: No problem, no problem.
BL: OK so Eric so that is the voice of Beyoncé expert Cellese Rivera.
EE: Oh man I’ve never met a Beyoncé expert before.
BL: I am partially insulted by that but i will move on. So celesse first saw Beyoncé when she was 5 years old at some talent showcase in Las Vegas, and she has been a diehard fan ever since. She actually also runs an Instagram, like a Beyoncé fan Instagram account called @throwbackxyonce.
EE: That’s a good name.
BL: Yeah it features pictures of Beyoncé from when she was younger. Her Beyoncé expertise has actually gotten her further than you or I will ever go, which is The Tyra Banks Show.
CR: I got an email from Tyra Banks production people. They were like ‘we heard from Beyoncé’s people that you are one of her biggest fans and we’d like to invite you to the show. When I first read the email I was like ‘this is a scam, somebody is playing with me.’
BL: But it actually was not a scam at all. So like Celesse showed up to the taping, and she found out that she was actually going to go toe to toe with Beyoncé.
EE: Wait what? Like Beyoncé was on the The Tyra Show?
Tyra Banks: We’re back with record setting grammy winning super star actress, everything else too, Beyoncé!
CR: They’re like you are going to be playing a trivia game about Beyoncés life basically, her likes, dislikes, her biography but it’s against Beyoncé. And I’m like. Are you kidding? That’s not even fair. She knows everything about her!
TB: So our first contestants name is–
TB: Celesse, are you a Beyoncé huge fan?
CR: The biggest!
CR: So Tyra asked me what song did Beyoncé perform at her talent show when she was 7 years old. The answer was John Lennon’s imagine, but when i clicked my buzzer, Beyoncés light went off. So she got to answer the question before me, no hard feelings, I want a rematch.
EE: No hard feelings…[laughs] It’s cool Beyoncé you can answer questions about your life, i’m gonna chill.
BL: OK so obviously when it comes to Beyoncé, Celesse knows what is up. So I sent her Shawn Blazington’s video. And I asked her to do just some simple fact checking it for me:
CR: Some of the allegations are just like outrageous like a simple Google search could have clarified some of the things that he was talking about.
BL: Wait which parts?
CR: So the part about Solange being pregnant with Blue. Solange has been spotted in 2011 plenty of times. I mean she went to the Met Gala. She went to the Roc Nation party. She did a lot of events and if she was indeed pregnant with Blue Ivy. Where was the belly. You know?
BL: What if her–what if she just gets pregnant very small? Like don’t some people just get pregnant very very small?
CR: I mean Solange has worn crop tops in 2011. She has worn tight form fitting clothes. I mean no matter how small she was carrying and Blue Ivy is, a very tall, big child, she is a solid child. There is NO WAY. NO WAY.
BL: What about some of these other points that he brings up? He made a claim that I actually I found to be a little compelling where he was saying that there are no photos of Jay-Z and Beyoncé tongue kissing or of Jay-Z you know grabbing on her butt. What do you say about that, like you’re somebody you run a throwback Instagram account.
BL: I mean you’ve seen probably thousands of images of them together?
CR: And I’ve seen plenty of images of him doing all of that. I mean there’s a video of him surprising her in Philly and he grabs her and he grabs her butt. There’s a video of him kissing her all throughout the Formation Tour all through Mrs. Carter. There’s a picture of them on a yacht and it’s like a closeup of them kissing. On Tidal she released a video for her anniversary with Jay-Z showing them being intimate. Again it’s just a Google search. You know like that I heard that he say like if you send me a video or picture I’ll send you five hundred dollars and I’m like great. I’m about to make a good five hundred dollars because I’ll send you everything.
BL: Extra income is always good. I would actually consider that if I were you.
CR: Yes. So and then the part about her not carrying the child in the ‘Die for You’ video. She literally like has a break down and on her website it shows her full body. One month pregnant, two months pregnant, three month pregnant. She is naked in the same position for all of the pictures showing her growth in the ‘Die For You’ video. She there’s video of her and Jay-Z standing and she’s covering her breast and Jay-Z’s rubbing her stomach. It’s close up. You can tell there is no prosthetic baby bump there.
BL: Ok so that actually. I’m going to cut you off because that makes me think of one part peculiarly damning piece of evidence that Shawn Blazington brought up in his video.
CR: The infamous dress
CR: The pink dress.
CR: Oh well I’ll be honest. I can very well understand why people questioned everything about her pregnancy after watching that video. Cuz honestly when I first saw it I was like ‘uh oh.’ So I tried it with a pillow because I’m just one of those ridiculous fans that like goes so hard to prove that Beyoncé is right. But I will only speak if I know for a fact that I know what I’m talking about. And if you put I mean even if you take your shirt and you squeeze it far or dress or whatever you’re wearing and you squeeze it on the sides and like try pinning it to the back so that it’s form fitting on your stomach and then leans forward with it. Your dress your shirt or dress or whatever you’re wearing will fold. I did it and it folded everybody so focused on well the dress folded the dress folded OK take the dress off in the ‘Die For You’ video. She’s naked. There’s a pregnant belly. Explain that one. And that’s when everybody gets quiet.
BL: So I have another question. Beyoncé is like a favorite subject of a lot of these kinds of videos.
BL: Especially ones that pertain to the Illuminati. Like why do you think that is?
CR: Because she’s a Black woman who is successful. So instead of just giving her her props it has to be some magical reason why she got to where she got to. So what’s the easiest thing? oh she’s in the Illuminati. It’s like equivalent to saying ‘well you got this because you’re lucky.’ No because I worked hard.
Brittany: Well Celeste thank you so much. You’re fantastic. And I really appreciate your expertise in this instance like I mean you’ve, you’ve cleared a lot up for me.
Celesse: Aww, Thank you.
EE: So that was pretty difficult to hear. She recreated the dress situation. It’s hard to argue with that.
BL: That’s what i’m saying. Did you hear, did you hear Celesse’s dedication?
EE: That’s deep.
BL: That is deep. Beyoncé one. Shawn Blazington zero for now.
EE: For now. i’m willing to concede that. I mean–
BL: For now.
EE: it’s hard for me to discount Shawn Blazington because I’ve seen so many of these videos and maybe I feel the the journalistic integrity throughout some of the other pieces.
EE: Maybe maybe this is the maybe this is the one situation where it doesn’t hold up.
BL: I’m just going to let you know that I think that the next time that you want to bring me a conspiracy theory that you’re going to need to show me some more receipts.
BL: The Nod is produced by me, Brittany Luse, with Eric Eddings, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Other original music by Takstar.
EE: Hey y’all, so I’m a be real with you, we’re a new show! And we could, really, really use your help. We’d love it if you could go to Apple Podcasts, and leave us a rating or review, something in the realm of one, two, three, four, five stars. Think about it. We’d really like that.
Next week on The Nod… Next week, we’re off, so we’ll be back with a new show in two weeks.
A YouTube sex empress is making waves.
Brittany Luse: Eric, I want to play you a clip.
Eric Eddings: OK.
BL: Do you remember the movie “Save The Last Dance”?
EE: Yes, yes, the movie where Julia Stiles moves to the hood, falls in love with a Black man, gets braids and learns how Black people dance?
BL: Right! So you know what I’m talking about. OK so I want to show you this one scene in particular. It just like, it really fucked my life up as a teenager. OK, so, Julia Stiles and Kerry Washington are sitting in a free clinic on the South Side of Chicago. And pretty much everybody in the clinic is a teen mom, you know except Julia Stiles, because she’s the only white person there. And Kerry and Julia are talking about Julia’s boyfriend Derek, who is black. Let me just play it.
Kerry Washington: Derek’s about something. He’s smart, he’s motivated, he’s for real. He’s not just going to make some babies and not take care of them or run the streets messing up his life. He’s going to make something of himself. And here you come white, so you gotta be right.
KW: And you take one of the few decent men left after jails, drugs, and drive-bys. That is what Nikki meant about you up in our world.
Julia Stiles: There’s only one world Chenille.
KW: That is what they teach you. We know different.
[baby cries continue]
JS: I don’t understand, I thought we were friends.
KW: You wanna be a friend? Don’t just be here to be here. Open up your pretty brown eyes and look the hell around.
[baby cries continue]
EE: I think the chorus of crying Black babies just really sells it at the end.
BL: [laughs] When Kerry Washington’s character tells Julia Stiles to open her eyes, like this girl really opens her eyes and starts LOOKING AROUND the room. Just like staring at all those poor, fatherless black children.
EE: OK so why are we watching this though?
BL: OK bear with me because we are about to get deep. So it seems like Kerry Washington’s speech in this scene is about race, you know what I mean? Like this white girl and she’s trying to take one of our men, but I think it’s really about her actions, like she’s a teen mom, she’s got no baby daddy, she’s obviously never gonna get a man, and pretty much like all of this is happening to her because she had sex. And probably only just the one time. Just enough to get pregnant because that’s what happened to any black teenager fortunate enough to have sex in any of those movies that came out when we were younger, like “Boyz in the Hood”, “Coach Carter”, “Lean on Me”, I don’t make the rules on this, do you know what I’m saying? It just, it is what it is.
EE: Yeah, that type of stuff was everywhere. It was just kind of how people talked about black folks and sex.
BL: True, absolutely true. And you know it gave me all these really bad, terrible ideas. Like somehow having sex was going to like irrevocably fuck my whole life up. But fortunately, there are people out there as we speak, as we sit in this very studio, who are trying to counteract all of the weird, bad stuff that we were taught about sex, in a very fresh way.
E: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod.
B: And you’re here with Blackness’ biggest fans. I am Brittany Luse.
E: And I’m Eric Eddings. And today we’re talking about sex. And more specifically we’re talking about some of the people that have changed the way Black folks think about sex.
E: So Brittany.
EE: Someone in one of my group texts sent me a video.
BL: Is this one of the group texts that I’m not in? Maybe, maybe possibly your men’s only group text?
EE: Uh possibly. It’s none of your business. Cause you aren’t in it.
EE: But normally in said conversation, it’s just like stuff about like sports and like barbecuing because I’m washed. But a while back somebody sent me this video. It’s by a woman named Glamazon Tyomi. She’s got like 180,000 followers on YouTube so folks are into it.
EE: And what they’re into are videos like this right here.
Beyoncé: I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking…
Tyomi: And this is a sex position tutorial unlike any other. We have the fabulous Beyoncé to thank for this one. This sex position tutorial has been created for you seamen and seawomen to get your feet wet and your bodies too, in learning how to properly perform this damn position Beyoncé keeps screaming about in her new single, “Drunk in Love”.
EE: So in this video you’ve got Tyomi in you know this like, in her bathing suit. And there’s this like very ripped male model.
BL: I see washboard abs.
EE: Yeah. You know. I don’t know what that means.
TM: Besides those basics, you will need to fill the tub up halfway.
EE: They’re actually literally in this beautiful bathtub in this like what is like a Grecian designed bathroom.
BL: It is a really nice bathroom.
TM: You can add some candles around the tub to create a sexy mood.
EE: They’re actually like walking you through, step-by-step how to like have sex in a bathtub.
BL: But like the vibe is not at all like–it’s not at all raunchy or like, like overly sexual. It’s just like–it’s actually pretty chill.
EE: And to me that’s kind of what’s cool about it. It’s just like a very relaxed, fun–like she’s cracking jokes. She almost slips in the tub.
TM: Wooo. And apparently I’m clumsy as hell.
EE: You know like it’s a very chill, relaxed environment when if you’re thinking about like maybe how to do a sex position, you’re probably a little wound up.
TM: Because you can ride a surfboard a few different ways. You can ride a surfboard by lying down and paddling.
BL: I mean this is–she’s–I mean, this is truly original work. There’s–I have nothing to compare this to.
EE: It is! It is! And like since we’re talking about surfboards let me just say Tyomi is making waves.
BL: [laughs] OK.
EE: So I had to find out more about her. So I called her up.
TM: My name is Tyomi Morgan. People know me as Glamazon Tyomi and I am a sex educator, and a sexuality coach slash broadcaster slash model slash journalist slash social media maven. just pretty much a renaissance woman running a sexually-based internet empire one website and blog post at a time.
B: So she’s busy. [laughs]
EE: She is! But she is not kidding though. Tyomi is all over social media. On Snapchat, she has this thing Titty Tuesdays where she sends snaps of different breasts every Tuesday to like, celebrate all types of breasts. And on Twitter she gets people to brainstorm ideas for sex positions. And of course there are the videos like the one I just played you where she is describing how to surfboard. And the thing is, she’s responding to a real demand.
TM: When Beyoncé came out with her album “Beyoncé”, and she had drunk in love, i just kept seeing people say, ‘Surfboard? How do you do that? What is she talking about?’ And I was like ‘come on people, it’s not that deep.’ I know how to do this. its just cowgirl in a bathtub! So i made a video! And it went viral!
BL: Well, I mean it’s easy to see why. Like she broke everything down in like a really accessible, clear way. Like I mean, you know, I’m not confident that my partner and i can both fit in a bathtub together. [laughs] But, but watching the video did make it seem a lot less intimidating.
EE: Yeah she was even wearing a shower cap.
TM: Because black women, we don’t like getting our hair wet! That was one of the critiques. People were like ‘why is she wearing a shower cap?’ And I’m like ‘why wouldn’t you wear a showercap!?’ I mean a bonnet, shower cap, rollers, none of that ever stopped me from getting it in. So when people be like ‘I can’t have sex with a woman that has a bonnet on’–what’s wrong with you bro!?
BL: [Laughs] Her approach to sex, i mean it’s definitely it’s definitely bold, There’s practical information in there, but it’s still really fun.
E: Exactly! And she’s been doing this work for like kind of a long time. Like since middle school.
TM: When I was 13-14, my favorite boy band was B2K. That changed the game. And so I used to write these stories that involved my friends. There were like four of us and four of them. So I was like ‘oh I can pair us up with our favorite member’ and so I used to create these little books that had these erotic stories about us in it and I used to pass them around to my friends. I’m like ‘here’s book one, I’m working on book two next.’ And I remember one of my friends saying, ‘man, every time you write about me, my sex scenes are weak’–I’m like ‘well no shade but you and your favorite member are a little boring’, so you know.
EE: So she didn’t tell me this, but the weak one had to be Raz-B right?
EE: Uh… So Tyomi liked dreaming up sex scenes, but she didn’t have sex until college… and she didn’t have good sex until she met this guy:
TM: The lover that changed the game like when we would talk about sex he would put it in a way that was so poetic and beautiful and I’m like ‘why am i not having this experience.’ And I remember him saying ‘well why don’t you like going down, why don’t you like giving head?’ And I was like ‘well I don’t really enjoy it.’ And he asked
‘well why wouldn’t you enjoy kissing the essence of the person that you love?’ And I said “well when you put it that way’, maybe it’s just that i don’t know what i’m doing.
EE: I think this is why Tyomi is so dedicated to teaching other people, and I think an important part is that Tyomi puts herself at the center of her work.
TM: I noticed that me putting myself out there, and putting myself in the videos, really did a lot of good because I have a Black woman’s body. And so then these women they see me and they’re like ‘dang, she can get her legs back that far? Her legs or her thighs are just as big as mine. I know I can do this! So how do you do that?’ [laughs] We need positive representations of ourselves because we’re often objectified as Black women, and fetishized as Black women, and treated as like objects and playthings versus like women that actually have feelings and emotions and you know want to receive pleasure too.
BL: God I kind of got chills from listening to that just because I could relate to it so much. Like you know the whole thing where like Black women are either seen as like hypersexual or sexually invisible. The fact that Tyomi has created this space where she’s just like having a good time and just like enjoying sex and experimenting with it and teaching other people about it. Like that’s just like so cool to me.
EE: It is. It is, I agree. Just like doing this type of work, being so bold and free with yourself like that itself is pretty unusual. And I was wondering, “Where did you get the idea to do something like this? Who inspired you?” And she mentioned a Black woman.
EE: Well, yeah actually yes she did mention Oprah. But also another woman. An author who wrote really authentically about black sexuality. You might have a good guess for this one too.
BL: Mmm. I know who you’re talking about. Zane.
TM: Zane! the idea that this Black woman was writing these books and they were so erotic and sexy. That always inspired me and to know that, I was like ‘Man she’s a freak!’ you know, and in my mind, like even though I wasn’t having sex in high school, one thing I knew in my mind I’m like I’m freaky.
B: Oh Zane! OK OK so for those of you who don’t know Zane is like this Black erotica author, and all her books feature like these, like, really professional, together ambitious Black women in these really wild sexual situations.
TM: It was just nice to see someone that I know I could relate to, you know she spoke a language that I could understand, even though I was young, I could see myself in these characters’ shoes. Because the women were always so successful and like about their shit and on their business, and um it was just nice to see that this was a possibility for me now.
BL: The people need to know about Zane. Because she didn’t just inspire Tyomi–I mean like Zane inspired a whole generation of people.
EE: I agree.
EE: After the break, we meet the woman behind these words. Ahem.
You pull away from me and then kneel down, push the bottom of my dress up over my hips to my waist, and then rip my hunter green satin thong bikinis off. You grab my ass cheeks firmly–
BL: Mmmm. Cut.
EE: No more?
BL: [laughing] No more. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good.
BL: Welcome back.
EE: Welcome back.
BL: OK, so Eric when last we spoke, you were telling me about Glamazon Tyomi and how she was inspired by the Queen of Erotica—a one Miss Zane. And so I have to tell you, Zane had actually like a lasting impact on my life as well. OK so I don’t have a sexy YouTube channel.
BL: Right? But when I discovered Zane’s writing, it like kinda washed away all the terrible ideas I had about sex like growing up and as a teenager. She kinda made me feel like there was another way forward. And if my informal survey of Black women on the streets of Brooklyn is any indication, Zane has left quite the impression on a lot of people.
BL: So when I say the name Zane to you, like the author, what comes to mind?
Woman 1: Mm, mmmm.
Woman 2: Kinky, freaky, naughty, dirty.
BL: Wait so you guys you read her stuff?
Woman 3: I was reading her stuff when I wasn’t supposed to read her stuff. My mom has like a Zane collection. And I would steal some of her books and I’m like ‘oh my god.’
Woman 4: Just reading about different places you can have sex, like OK it’s some enjoyment in there, it’s not all about reproduction. You can have fun.
Woman 1: Mm, mmmm. All of her books are very interesting. [laughs] Yes.
Woman 5: It was this thing with the big toe.
BL: Say more about that.
Woman 5: So you know, you’re doing it and you’re riding, and like you pull the guy’s big toe right before he’s about to climax and it does something ecstatic. It really does? I had two kids pulling someone’s big toe so, you gotta try it.
BL: I gotta pull the big toe? I’m not ready to have kids yet though.
EE: Mmmmmmm…MMMMMMM. It’s good to know that everybody agrees with us on the importance of Zane’s work!
BL: Oh my god, you are such a creep. But seriously though, I can’t think of anything that really compares to Zane in terms of how black women think about sex. And I really wanted to know–like how did this woman break into the mainstream in such a serious way that like not only inspired entire career paths but also actually created children. So I called her up and asked what her secret was.
Zane: A lot of, a lot of stories uh say uhm ‘his manhood’ or ‘his tool’—I’ve never seen one of my friends say ‘oh his manhood was so big,’ or ‘his man tool is huge,’ you know maybe it’s where I grew up or something but I just never have heard that. So the fact that I was using the words ‘dick’ and ‘pussy’ and uhm you know ‘cum all over my tits’ and ‘lick his balls’ and all that kind of stuff, [laughs], I think people were just like shocked.
EE: Whoo! That is definitely Zane! I had not heard her really talk before, but I have it in good confidence that is Zane speaking right now.
BL: So actually Zane’s real name is Kristina LaFerne Roberts. Turns out her pen name was just her AOL screen name. And that’s where she actually began posting her writing. On AOL. She started pretty small.
Z: I just started out with one short story called “First Night”, I sent it to a couple people I knew from America Online chat rooms. and at the time ironically a lot of people don’t know this, I was actually a research assistant for Duke divinity school. [laughs] So the computer that I started writing erotica on actually was a Duke divinity school computer.
EE: Just imagine somebody like looking up scriptures on the Divinity School computer and coming across a Zane story. Oh my god. Get it, oh my god?
BL: Uh so anyway, I wanted to know, like how do you get from posting in a chatroom to selling millions of copies of your books?
Z: I wrote this story and I sent it to a few people, and they immediately went crazy and they were like ‘oh that’s the hottest thing I’ve ever read, have you written anything else?’ I thought that was funny, so I wrote a couple more stories and they were called ‘The Seduction’ and ‘The Airport’. So I had three short stories, and I put them on my free America Online webspace.
BL: But AOL shut her down because of all of the explicit content. So Zane decided to go underground. She started her own Black erotica website. and she even figured out how to make money off of her writing. The deal was ten stories for ten bucks, plus shipping, and pretty soon she was spending all day at Kinko’s just copying stories and sending them off. It got so big that big-name publishers started calling her up.
Z: all of them were like ‘oh you’re like the best we’ve ever read but we need to tame you down you’re too risqué, we need you to write a typical Black romance type of novel or a Terry McMillan type of book and something like that’—
Z: And I’m like well wait a minute, I didn’t come checking for y’all. I mean I don’t even know if I want to do this. What ultimately happened is I kind of got offended. I got offended not only for myself, but for the fact that people thought there was something wrong with women, in particular Black women, expressing themselves sexually.
BL: So she kind of said no to all these publishers and kept just putting stuff out on her own. Until she met someone who got it.
Carol Taylor: I didn’t need any convincing that there was an audience for a book about Black love.
BL: This is Carol Taylor, right now she’s the editor of Brown Sugar books, which is an independent Black erotica publisher. But back then, she worked for a big publishing house.
CT: You know publishing at the time was not terribly diverse back in the ‘90s, so if I’m in an editorial meeting there’s probably one editor of color, myself, so I wasn’t the one who needed the convincing. I had to convince my editorial board. And when I was able to do that, I was extremely excited because then I knew the floodgates were open.
BL: After Carol published one of Zane’s early stories, Zane ends up getting this book deal with Simon and Schuster–I mean this is a major publisher. And her success keeps building and building and now she’s got this whole like empire. Zane is huge. She’s still writing books, and she has hery very own publishing imprint where she can boost the work of other writers. She’s had not 1, but 2 shows on Cinemax, and she’s even had feature film made out of one of her books. I mean like basically that type of success for a black woman in that field is totally unprecedented? And it’s not even just that Zane’s is wildly successful, like she’s really and deeply beloved by Black women across the board.
Z: I’ve had up to four generations of one family come to my book signings before.
BL: Four generations in one family?
Z: Yeah, four. I know women in their nineties that read my books. And I know younger uh women that their mothers that are like ‘look I’m just glad my daughter’s reading.’
EE: You might say that it’s a family affair.
BL: [laughs] I mean that is a way that you could put it. Something about her writing though–it taps into how women, like especially Black women, feel about themselves. You know i mean she empowered these 4 generations of women in one family to you know satiate their curiosity about sex or to have better sex. I mean look at what she did for Glamazon Tyomi–like Zane inspired her to make a whole career out of embracing her sexuality.
EE: Yeah for sure. And you know when I talked to Tyomi, she told me she wants to be able to do for others what Zane did for her….
TM: And I like to think that I’ve been an inspiration to other women of color to get into this work. And I know I’ve had quite a few women write me and say that I have inspired them to go into you know doing the work.
EE: You know, we grew up with all this problematic movies, weird images, preconceived notions and troubling conversations about sex. And like now there are people out there who are doing this work to just like change all that. And that’s kind of dope.
BL: I mean it really is, and we just literally wouldn’t have any of that if we didn’t have Zane.
[Closing music begins]
BL: This episode of The Nod was produced by me, Brittany Luse, with Eric Eddings, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, James T. Green, Emanuele Berry, Isabella Kulkarni, and Wendy Dorr. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We were edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Other original music in the show by New World Jazz Project.
EE: Because we are a new show, we would love if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps people find the show. And if you feel so inclined we’d really appreciate five stars.
BL: Five stars.
EE: Just throwing it out there.
BL: Five stars.
EE: Subliminal messaging.
[closing music ends]
B: So, Eric.
E: So, Brittany.
B: Have you seen Save the last Dance?
E: Yeah, a while ago. Julia stiles moves to the hood, falls in love with a Black man gets braids and learns how Black people dance. That about right?
B: I’m going to play you a clip. In this scene Julia Stiles and Kerry Washington are sitting in a free clinic on the southside of Chicago. And pretty much everyone in the clinic is a teen mom… except Julia Stiles, because she’s the only white person there. They’re talking about Julia’s boyfriend Derek, who’s black.
KW: You and Derek act like it don’t bother people to see y’all together. Like it don’t hurt people to see.
JS: Well we like each other. What is the big damn deal? It’s me and him, not us and other people.
KW: Black people, Sarah! Black women. Derek’s about something. He’s smart, he’s motivated, he’s for real. He’s not just gonna make some babies and not take care of them, or run the streets, messing up his life. He’s gonna make something of himself. And here you come–white, so you gotta be right–and you take one of the few decent men we have left after jail, drugs, and drive-bys. That is what Nikki meant about you up in our world.
JS: There’s only one world, Chenille.
KW: That is what they teach you. We know different.
JS: I don’t understand, I thought we were friends.
KW: You wanna be a friend? Don’t just be here to be here. Open up your pretty brown eyes and look the hell around.
[chorus of babies crying]
E: I really love the sea of crying Black babies that like rises up at the end.
BL: That’s because when Kerry tells her to open her eyes, Julia Stiles literally starts LOOKING AROUND the room. Just staring at all those fatherless crying black babies.
E:why are you making me watch this?
B: Because it sounds like Kerry Washington’s speech is about race, right? But it’s really about her… she’s a teen mom… she’s got no baby daddy… she’s obviously never gonna get a man… and pretty much all of this is happening to her because she had sex. And probably just one time. Because that’s what happened to any black teenager fortunate who had sex in a movie back then… I don’t make the rules.
E: when we were kids that type of stuff was everywhere… it was just how people talked about black folks and sex.
B: Right. And it gave me all these really bad, terrible ideas… like I was going to get pregnant and die. But! Plot twist! when I was like 14/ 15, everything changed.
E: Please do tell, how
B: I discovered Zane.
E: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod.
B: And you’re here with Blackness’ biggest fans. I’m Brittany Luse. and that’s Eric Eddings. And today, we’re gonna talk about Zane.
EE: Yes, Zane.
B: So Zane, she’s this Black erotica author, and all her books feature these, like, Olivia Pope like Black women in all these really implausible sexual situations.
E: And for the people who don’t know her work… to really understand this you just need to hear it, so I’m gonna read a little bit.
E: You’re excited?
E: Really? You don’t want to hear me read erotic fiction? OK… Let me break out my Plies-on-social-media voice.
B: OK. Go ahead.
E: All right.
[Scoring begins, cheezy sexy music]
EE: [dramatically reads Zane ]
You pull away from me and then kneel down, push the bottom of my dress up over my hips to my waist, and then rip my hunter green satin thong bikinis off. You grab my ass cheeks firmly –
B: Nope. I’ve had enough
E: You sure?
B: I think everybody… I think everybody gets the general idea of what’s going on. So Zane. Zane’s books came out in the late 90s so we actually were lucky enough to discover Zane right when we were hitting puberty…
E: Yeah. I remember her book Sex Chronicles was like a very, very big deal at my lunch table.
BL: Yeah and at first, I just thought maybe it’s just us. Like Zane was just these dirty books that we were reading when we were kids just passing them around. But I went down to Fulton Mall the other day, just to find out how other people felt about Zane. Turns out if you walk up to pretty much any Black woman on the street and you mention Zane, they will definitely have something to say.
[Scoring begins, inquisitive, playful]
[when i say the zane to you, what comes to mind?
Reading about different places you can have sex.. OK it’s not just about reproduction. You can have fun…
Big toe… i had two kids pulling someone’s big toe…
I’m not ready to have kids yet…
EE: Mmmmmmm…MMMMMMM It’s good to know that everybody agrees with us on Zane’s work!
B: Oh my god, you are such a creep. But seriously… I can’t think of anything that really compares to Zane in terms of how black women think about sex. And I really wanted to know… like, how did this suburban mom–who sounds like my own mom!–manage to get such a devoted following for her erotica novels? So… I called her.
E: I’m very jealous. What was she like?
BL: She definitely did not disappoint.
ZANE: You know a lot of, a lot of stories uh say uhm ‘his manhood’ or ‘his tool’— I’ve never seen one of my friends say “oh his manhood was so big,” or “his man tool is huge,” you know maybe it’s where I grew up or something but I just never have heard that.so the fact that I was using the words ‘dick’ and ‘pussy’ and uhm you know ‘cum all over my tits’ and ‘lick his balls’ and all that kind of stuff, *laughter*, I think people were just like shocked.
E: That is definitely Zane! That is Zane. I had not heard her really talk before, but I have it in good confidence that is Zane speaking right now.
B: So actually Zane’s real name is Kristina LaFerne Roberts. Turns out her pen name was just her AOL screen name. That’s where she began posting her writing. She started pretty small.
ZANE: I just started out with one short story called First Night, that I wrote and I sent it to a couple people I knew from America Online chat rooms. I used to go on America Online, and at the time ironically a lot of people don’t know this, I was actually a research assistant for Duke divinity school. *laughter* So the computer that I started writing erotica on actually was a Duke divinity school computer.
E: Just imagine somebody looking up scriptures on the Divinity School computer and coming across a Zane story. Oh my god. Get it, oh my god? But uh, why was she there in the first place?
B: Uh so Zane’s dad was actually a minister who taught at Duke Divinity School, and Zane ended up working there. Uh anyway, I wanted to know… like how do you get from posting in a chatroom to selling MILLIONS of copies of your books?
I wrote this story and I sent it to a few people, and they immediately went crazy and they were like “oh that’s the hottest thing I’ve ever read, have you written anything else?” I thought that was funny, so I wrote a couple more stories and they were called The Seduction and The Airport. So I had three short stories, and I put them on my free America Online webspace.
BL: But Zane’s webspace was really quickly shut down by AOL for all of the explicit content. So Zane decided to go underground. She started her own Black erotica website. And it actually got pretty popular…
So i did a little test on my website.I told people that if they paid $10 I would send 10 stories that had never been published… I literally ended up spending all day in fedex or kinko’s making copies that I could sell to people
B: And pretty soon she started getting calls from some, like, big name publishers. But they were all just a little bit skeptical.
all of them were like “oh you’re like the best we’ve ever read but we need to tame you down you’re too risqué we need you to write a typical Black romance type of novel or a Terry McMillan type of book and something like that—
And I’m like well wait a minute, I didn’t come checking for y’all. I mean I don’t even know if I want to do this.
What ultimately happened is I kind of got offended. I got offended not only for myself, but for the fact that people thought there was something wrong with women, in particular Black women, expressing themselves sexually.
BL: So she kept putting out her own work… and building her own audience. Until she met this woman.
CT: I didn’t need any convincing that there was an audience for a book about Black love.
BL: This is Carol Taylor, she’s the editor of Brown Sugar books…. Which is an independent Black erotica publisher.
EE: Oh! I get it, like, Brown SUGAR. Yes, I get it. I’m with you.
BL: You embarrass me. Anyway, Carol Taylor was one of the first people to publish Zane. And it’s because she really appreciated that Zane was so authentic. Like, Zane was writing about Black people having sex the way that Black people were having sex. But convincing her colleagues of that was trickier.
You know publishing at the time was not terribly diverse back in the ‘90s, so if I’m in an editorial meeting there’s probably one editor of color, myself, so I wasn’t the one who needed the convincing. I had to convince my editorial board. And when I was able to do that, I was extremely excited because then I knew the floodgates were open.
BL: After Carol published one of Zane’s early stories, Zane ended up getting a deal with Simon and Schuster–I mean this is a major publisher. And that basically kept building and building and now she’s got this whole empire. She’s still writing books, she’s got her own publishing imprint, she’s had 2 shows on Cinemax, and she’s even had feature film of one of her books.
Not only is she successful, she’s beloved by Black women across the board.
I’ve had up to four generations of one family come to my book signings before.
BL: Four generations in one family?
Yeah, four. I know women in their nineties that read my books… and I know younger uh women that their mothers is just like look I’m just glad my daughter’s reading.
BL: And I really think the reason she’s so big is because, to her fans, reading Zane is about more than just reading a sexy story. Something about her writing taps into how women, especially Black women, feel about themselves.
ZANE: What’s really amazing to me is how many women are married and lay down with their husbands every night and will email me… But men don’t have any issues telling us what they want sexually, or what needs to be changed. But women, a lot of times, it’s totally the opposite.
I think that sexuality is the area in most women’s lives where they probably are the least comfortable, so I feel like if I can liberate them sexually, it will also make them feel empowered in other aspects of their life.
I’ve had women in their forties and fifties come up to me and say until they read my books they never really felt comfortable sexually. Now they do.
BL: I really felt what she said at this part in the conversation, though. Before I discovered her work, I always hoped that when I was older I’d have, like, a robust sex life, with surprises and fun…
EE:Yeah, same. It really freaked me out too. Zane help me change a lot of how I thought about about sex at that time. Like instead of making sex feel like some scary, taboo thing, she made it fun, you know?
BL: Yeah… and that was so critical to me when I was growing up.
But you know when we were growing up…the internet was much smaller place… like nowadays anyone with a phone can write something
Today, information in such a different way and so much faster than we did when we were younger. And that kind of got me wondering, could a phenomenon like Zane happen now?And I actually asked Carol Taylor about that.
And one thing I was wondering is like… with the different ways that people can publish now, and the different way that young people are like, getting their information, could someone like Zane have influence like that ever again? I actually asked Carol Taylor about it…
CT: I think it can happen again, but not within this genre. It will happen again in another genre. Zane hit really just the perfect storm with the perfect content for at the perfect time.
BL: I have to say I think it’s pretty remarkable that this woman that really introduced us to vibrant sexuality. It wasn’t just something that we were feeling, she really did shift things. Before Zane entered our lives, it was you know Save the Last Dance and then like you know after we recovered Zane… I’m trying to be tactful… respectively in our respective sex lives… like I think respectively we’ve been able to enjoy ourselves… like even you you have a kid.
EE: I have to note that no one pulled my big toe. Just have to put that out that there in the ether. That’s not how my kid got here.
EE: coming up After the break….
Tyomi: I have a black woman’s body, and so they see me and they’re like, dang, she can get her legs back that far? How does she do that?
EE: Welcome back.
BL: Welcome back
EE: So as you were telling me about Zane, like honestly I couldn’t help but think about someone who’s approach to talking about sex feels familiar but different. Her name is Glamazon Tyomi –and she does these YouTube sex tutorial videos and runs like a sex ed SnapChat… I actually called her up and here’s how she describes herself….
Tyomi: My name is Tyomi Morgan people know me as Glamazon Tyomi and I am a sex educator and a sexuality coach slash broadcaster slash model slash journalist slash social media maven. I’m pretty much a renaissance woman running a sexuality based internet empire one social media and blog post at a time
EE: She is not kidding though. Tyomi is all over social media. On Snapchat, she has this thing Titty Tuesdays where she sends snaps of different breasts every Tuesday to like, celebrate all types of breasts. And on Twitter she gets people to brainstorm ideas for sex positions. Plus, she writes like, sex toy reviews. But I actually think the best way to get to know Tyomi is to watch one of her videos.
[Beyoncé: “I’ve been drinking”]
Tyomi: And this is a sex position tutorial. We have the fabulous Beyoncé to thank for this one. And this position tutorial has been created for you seamen and seawomen to get your feet wet and your body too, in learning how to properly perform this damn position Beyoncé keeps screaming about in her new single, Drunk in Love.
EE: So in this video you’ve got Tyomi in this like… in her bathing suit. And there’s this like very ripped male model.
BL: I see washboard abs.
EE: Yeah. I don’t know what that means.
Tyomi: You will need to fill the tub up halfway.
EE: They’re actually literally in this beautiful bathtub in this like what is like a Grecian designed bathroom.
BL: It is a really nice bathroom.
Tyomi: You can add some candles around the tub to create a sexy mood.
EE: They’re actually like walking you through, step-by-step how to have sex in a bathtub.
BL: Well I mean something I find remarkable… I’m looking at her, she’s wearing a bathing suit, you know modesty, she also has a shower cap on obviously practical reasons, she’s trying to she’s trying to protect her style. But she’s literally squatting on top of this male in this bathtub. But she’s staring into the camera and explaining what she’s doing step by step. It’s weird because the setting reminds you of a sex scene and she’s describing how to have sex in this position but like the vibe is not like… it’s not at all raunchy or overly sexual.
BL: It’s just like – It’s actually pretty chill.
EE: Yeah that’s right. And to me that’s what’s cool about it. It’s just like a very relaxed, fun. She’s cracking jokes. She almost slips in the tub.
And apparently I’m clumsy as hell.
EE: You know it’s a very chill, relaxed environment when if you’re thinking about maybe how to do a sex position, you’re probably a little wound up.
EE: Or nervous.
BL: I mean this is –she’s –this is truly original work. There’s – I have nothing to compare this to.
EE: It is. It is.
EE: And I know it’s a little silly but I saw so much Zane in her. What Zane was doing with books, in terms of talking bluntly about sex and putting Black sexuality on the page, Tyomi is doing with like YouTube videos and Snapchat.
BL: I have to say, it’s great to see a Black woman at the center of that.
EE: Yeah and like Zane, she got started writing short stories….
Tyomi: So was 13-14, my favorite band was B2K that changed the game. And so I used to write these stories that involved my friends. There were like four of us and four of them. So I was like Oh I can pair us up with our favorite member and so I used to create these little books that had these erotic stories about us in it and I used to pass them around to my friends. I’m like here’s book one I’m working on book two next. And so my friends would get done with book one and be like where’s the second one? It was just one of those things where like I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, felt natural. My friends enjoyed it. Remember my friend saying, sex scenes are weak – I’m like well no shade but you and your favorite member are boring, so you know.
EE: So she didn’t tell me this, but weak one had to be Raz B right?
EE: But, her stories eventually became blog posts and the blog posts became YouTube videos and tweets and snapchats and everything in between. Right now she’s got more than 40 videos and millions of views. And –I mean this in the least creepy way possible–but I think for a lot of Tyomi’s audience watching HER do this work is really important.
Tyomi: I noticed that me putting myself out there, and putting myself in the videos, really did a lot of good because I’m, I have a Black woman’s body. And so then these women they see me and they’re like ‘dang, she can get her legs back that far? Her legs or her thighs are just as big as mine. I know I can do this! So how do you do that?’
Tyomi: We need positive representations of ourselves because we’re often objectified as Black women, and fetishized as Black women, and treated as like objects and playthings versus like women that actually have feelings and emotions and you know want to receive pleasure too.
BL: God I kind of got chills from listening to that just because I could relate to it so much. You know the whole thing where like Black women are either seen as hypersexual or sexually invisible and there’s just not a lot of room in the middle. The fact that Tyomi has created this space where she’s just like having a good time with sex and experimenting with it and teaching other people about it. That’s just like so cool to me.
EE: It is. It is, I agree. Just like doing this type of work, being so bold and free with yourself that itself is pretty unusual. And I was wondering, “Where did you get the idea to do something like this? Who inspired you?”
Highkey though, Oprah is sex positive. The fact that she had the rabbit on her show and she gave them out to the audience. I’m like come on y’all Like Oprah is the goat.
BL: Because, let’s be real here, Oprah is EVERY. BLACK WOMAN’S. INSPIRATION.
EE: Facts. But her other biggest source of inspiration is
Tyomi: Zane! the idea that this Black woman was writing these books and they were so erotic and sexy, that inspired me and to know that, I was like ‘man she’s a freak!’ you know, and in my mind, like even though I wasn’t having sex in high school, one thing I knew in my mind I’m like I’m freaky. And it was just nice to see someone that I know I could relate to, you know she spoke a language that I could understand, the lifestyle of the people in the books I could relate to because it sounded like my auntie, or it sounded like my mother herself, you know what I mean? Or I could see myself, even though I was young, I could see myself in these characters’ shoes.
The women were always so successful and like about their shit and on their business, and uhm it was just nice to see that this was a possibility for me now.
BL: We read these books just because we were curious about sex. Tyomi read them and they, like, laid the groundwork for her career.
EE: Yeah, I mean I say this in jest but like really it’s wild what one dirty story can do for you, ya know? Twenty years ago, Zane literally just said to herself, I’m going to be my whole dirty authentic self and the effects of that are still being felt. And soon we might be feeling the effects of Tyomi.
Tyomi: And I like to think that over the last, going on six years, that I’ve been an inspiration to other women of color to get into this work. And I know I’ve had quite a few women write me and say that I have inspired them to go into you know doing the work.
EE: You know, we grew up with all this problematic movies and weird images, preconceived notions and troubling conversations about sex. And now there are people out there who are doing this work to like change all that. And that’s kind of dope.
BL: And we just literally just wouldn’t have any of that if we didn’t have Zane.
This episode of The Nod was produced by Brittany Luse, with Eric Eddings, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, James T. Green, Emanuele Berry, Isabella Kulkarni, and Wendy Dorr. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We were edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Other original music in the show by New World Jazz Project.
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A new podcast celebrating Black culture from Gimlet Media.
Brittany is a producer and host at Gimlet. In her spare time, she co-hosted For Colored Nerds, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture. She hails from Farmington Hills, Michigan and is a very proud graduate of Howard University.
Eric is a producer and host at Gimlet. He also co-hosted For Colored Nerds, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture with @bmluse. Prior to working at Gimlet, he helped nonprofits and foundations develop digital strategies at Fenton.