The Legend of Erykah Badu

Artist, mother, musician, vegan, alchemist and our main inspiration on her rituals, meditation, gentle home births and the impact of becoming a doula. | Conversation with Maranda Pleasant

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@erykahbadu on Instagram

Maranda Pleasant: Hey Erykah, how are you?

Erykah Badu: I’m good.

MP: What inspires you the most?

EB: That’s real general.

MP: [laughing] What are some of the things that inspire you, how about that?

EB: Okay. I really can’t say what inspires me the most, because I’m inspired by just about everything. My feelings and relationships, my family, Scooby-Doo. A teacher’s opinion of my work. Everything. Not just one thing.

MP: What is it that makes you come most alive, makes you feel most alive?

EB: Water. Drinking it or submerging in it.

MP: What is it that makes you vulnerable?

EB: My art. Or the empty platform that my art will go on.

MP: How do you handle pain, emotional pain?

EB: Not one particular way. It depends on the severity of it. For the most part, I go with it. I let it happen.

MP: How do you keep your center? How do you stay grounded in the middle of chaos?

EB: I guess it’s the daily routine. I don’t have any particular thing I do ritualistically. I do the same thing every day. I get up. Drink a lot of water. Have a wheatgrass shot. Drink some green juice. Eat as healthy as I can. I’m not trying to win an award for being the best vegetarian, just want to be healthy. Take a salt bath. Do things that my parents were never able to do. I’m blessed to do anything I want so I decide to take the best care of my body and my family in the same way. Holistically. Vitally.

"I can be nice to any stranger but it’s a real challenge to be a higher self around people that you know and accept you no matter what."

MP: How long have you been a vegan?

EB: Let’s see. Since I was 19. How many years is that?

MP: [laughing] That’s a long time.

EB: Yeah. I’ve been vegan-vegetarian for about the time my first album came out, so it was 1997. I eat like a vegan, more than anything.

MP: Do you have any wisdom or advice for women who may be in negative, unhealthy or abusive relationships?

EB: Mm. I have advice for people—period— who are in unhealthy relationships: Follow your heart. It will get you to where you need to be. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy, the places that your heart takes you. But continue to follow it. Where the train leads you—you’ll get there.

MP: What inspired you to become a vegan?

EB: The diet, really. Honestly. I was already a vegetarian, I was studying to be a holistic health practitioner. I just learned a lot more. I went to a different degree, or level, of health. And I started to study and understand how the body actually works, and what was best for it. That’s really how I started eating that way. I never call myself a “vegan” or anything like that. I call myself that for the sake of the foods that I eat. But I really don’t like to be associated with an organization or a team of anything. I’m just eating as healthy as I can, and I think I define it as “vegan” because I don’t eat any sugar or eggs, meat or dairy, or products that are made with chemicals. That’s why I eat the way I eat. That’s the reason why I choose to nurture myself, because I learned it was the best way.

MP: It’s probably why your skin looks so good!

EB: Thank you.

MP: I had my daughter naturally at home, in our bathroom, with a doula. The doula was probably the most important person in that room with me. What led you to become a doula?

EB: Let me see. It was 9/11, actually. Around that time. One of my girlfriends was in labor, she happened to be the wife of stic.man from Dead Prez.

MP: He writes for us!

EB: They’re my best friends, both of them, stic.man and Afya. I was actually flying from somewhere, doing something. On my layover, stic.man called me and told me Afya was in labor. I just redirected to New York, because we’re friends, and I just had Seven a couple years before. I just wanted to be there and we just all wanted to be together. I happened to be the person, one of the people, that stayed up with Afya. Didn’t sleep. Never got tired. I could feel every emotion that she had. It was just a very natural, intuitive experience. I just knew how to open myself up to the baby and be the welcoming committee. And now when Afya was in labor for fifty-two hours. Day and night. She’s my hero. And she finally had the baby and put my finger in his palm, and I kind of felt like, I like being the welcoming committee. I just continued to be present at different people’s births, and I started studying on my own, different techniques, and the variables of what being a doula is about. I learned to originally be like water, in the place that I was, so that I could be a container for whatever they need. I love being of service in that way. I’m an official doula, and I am working to get my midwifery license right now.

MP: My midwife and my doula shaped my entire experience. It was beautiful. Have you had a homebirth?