In a perfect world, the last thing any of us would ever discuss is the amount of African heritage that the mostly-Latina Demi Lovato actually possesses, but since today’s kind of a slow news day and I actually kind of, sort of think there’s a way to best explain certain aspects with her claim, here we are.
Now, before I crack my knuckles and join in on the parade of criticism that’s making the “Confident” star probably feel a lot less confident than she usually does — that wasn’t intended to be shade, for the record — a quick breakdown: early Saturday, for some reason not related to any upcoming music project or plans for a world tour — also not shade, more on this later — the 24-year-old former Disney kid took to Twitter to make a sudden but seemingly necessary announcement.
She discovered her black side, literally.
“I did a DNA test,” Lovato began in the first of two Twitter posts, “and found out [that] I’m mainly Spanish, with Native American, Scandinavian (which I had no idea [of])… and [one] percent African!”
And with that posting, faster than you could say “Grammy-award winning artist Solange Knowles,” Demi Lovato found herself at the mercy of the internet in the same way a certain rap superstar probably begged his wife not to add to the pain inflicted from a certain MET Gala beat-down with her album Lemonade.
But believe it or not, I’m actually not here to retread any of that negativity. Besides, another great Inquisitr writer already did that for you, so check that out first if you need more info, then jump back here.
If you’re super lazy like me, however, here’s a preview of the backlash:
Like I said at the beginning of all of this, I’m pretty open to understanding both sides of this issue or at least privy to what my own eyes and somewhat-knowledgeable brain tell me is right.
For starters, despite where she got this particular nugget of information, which, by the way, looks like one of those
“free” ancestry sites that claim to be able to trace your lineage all the way back to before the Jurassic era — please don’t tell me Demi Lovato thinks she’s African from one of those places, people — she’s not completely incorrect.
During the days of slavery, it wasn’t uncommon for African natives to seek refuge and eventually settle in mostly Latin-oriented territories, including Latin America, Spain and, yes, even Mexico. Of course, when that many people are that bunched together in that close of a setting, and someone catches someone else’s eye, before you know it… a writer from the Christian Science Monitor can come along and explain things a lot better than I ever could.
“Black slaves participated in many of the wars of liberation from Spanish colonial rule in Latin America, and racial equality and integration once independence was achieved was ‘part of the deal.
“In the post-slavery period black people in the US were separated from whites; in Latin America, Afro-descendents were absorbed into society. This, in theory at least, did not take racial ancestry into account: Mestizaje, or the mixing of races, was seen as a part of nation-building.”
So if one were to trickle down all of that history into one human body of Mexican descent in 2017, then yes, there is a real possibility that Demi Lovato is truly 1 percent African. However, there is, of course, a lot more to express on the beginnings of what ultimately became Afro-Latino culture — but I don’t have time to dole out all of that today, so let’s move forward for now.
Continuing on, when it comes to the other incident that befell Ms. Lovato following her Twitter association with those who are African, the aforementioned dragging — for those who aren’t hip to black LGBT lingo (which a lot of non-black LGBT culture tends to steal from, but I digress), a “dragging” is what happens when someone imbued with a high concentration of sass and life experience schools you to the point that it leaves you physically reeling from embarrassment — should be a hint that perhaps the time has come for Demi to learn the following “Stone Cold” truth: the only drama that ever seems to come her way is the drama that she solely creates.
Lest we forget last year, and some of you admittedly may have, Lovato freaked the freak out after sticking her nose into the long-dead issue that the media dredged up between Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez in the early 2000s, and the occasionally recurrent drama between Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande in the early 2010s. Once again, I feel like there’s no need to dredge up all of the details, mostly because it’ll take us away from the point I’m trying to get to, but if you need some back story, Us Weekly has got you covered.
After all of that went down, Lovato swore, at one point metaphorically, that she would be taking a major break from a her social media platforms in an effort to keep herself out of stressful interactions that she, once again, instigated on her own free will.
“Damn, I gotta quit saying s**t,” she tweeted on June 20, 2016.
“Bye Twitter and [Instagram]. [I’ll stick to] Snapchat, cause I don’t have to see what some of y’all say.”
Until 24 hours later, that is, when she defiantly returned to Twitter with a brash, “I’m back, b**ches,” like people were more in fear of her than they were highly annoyed by her (but again, I digresss).
Just as with the whole inanity of the minutiae of African blood that floats somewhere deep inside of the body of the “Body Say” vocalist, no would ever have anything negative to say about Demi Lovato if she would just correctly back up whatever it was that she was trying to imply. And it’s not like anyone needs to directly explain things to her, either — she has the internet!
For example, a simple Google search would’ve brought up several hundred links to solidify the findings of the so-called DNA test, just as it would’ve shown her that Carey’s infamous “I don’t know her” line was meant to address the fact that she didn’t know Lopez outside of her place in entertainment (in other words, Mariah knows who Jennifer is, she just doesn’t know her as say, someone like Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs knows Jennifer. Get it?).
Also, the moment that Demi decided to publicly proclaim that she was part-black — and yes, being African is the exactly the same as being black, folks; does the phrase “African-American” sound familiar to anyone? — it was up to her to not simply spout it out like some kind of celebratory cheer, but to truly dig deep into what being African, or black, is really all about in the year 2017, especially since that makes her, in no uncertain terms if it’s valid, a double minority.
Had Demi done that, then perhaps her exclamation might not have seemed so crass, but it clearly did to many and that feeling was extremely valid. She was just so darn happy to be “down” at that moment, nothing else mattered to her about that history or the journeys that those ancestors traversed. It was completely disrespectful to an entire sect of humanity and worst of all, others somehow got blamed for having an understandable reaction to the ignorance that no one but Demi Lovato herself put out into the world. How is that a thing that happens?
One can only hope that this will be a growing moment for Ms. Lovato, one that might lead her to a better sense of self and other, but in the same month where another notable personality, albeit one that’s more a novelty type as opposed to someone who has a 15-year standing in the entertainment industry, recently said something equally dumb regarding African culture and the people who make up that culture (and similarly had trouble understanding why it was wrong to express such a thing), the hope that I have for self-growth and empathy in young celebrities like Lovato continues to be pretty nil.
Be that as it may, however, I do know that as someone who is not just a writer, but as a person who is of an exalted age range, words have power, even the ones that don’t seem like they have much at all. If you’re going to make some kind of grandiose and open-ended statement like “I’m one-percent African!,” you also have to prepare for the fact that you may not necessarily get what that truly means, and learn that others who have actually walked the walk long enough are far more accepting if you come correct the first time around. We’ll allow a redo on a case-by-case basis, but you better get it right the second time or else, you will be appropriately dragged.
Long story short, Demi Lovato, if you can’t stand the African heat, then get out of the proverbial kitchen.
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Stringer/Getty Images]