On being authentic

I heard on the radio on my way to work that today’s the late Brenda Fassie’s birthday. I immediately remembered the one memory that I have with her – my 30th birthday.

A pic with Brenda and the potjie pot, her birthday gift to me
* a potjie pot is used to cook mostly potjiekos

For the non-South Africans and those who don’t know her, Brenda, also known as MaBrrr, was a South African artist. She was a fabulous singer especially at the height of her musical career. She was the “Queen of African Pop”, the “Madonna of the Townships”, or simply, “The Black Madonna”.

While she was “outrageous” to many South Africans, to me and some of my friends who met her, she was “funny” Brenda. She was “crazy” Brenda.

I didn’t realize that we were neighbors until that Saturday, 18th of May. I went to the complex’s clubhouse to decorate the place for my birthday party that evening. It was to be expected that I would have to take a break from decorating to have a drink at the bar and listen to MaBrrr tell me about her (new?) song. She volunteered to sing to me as I said I didn’t know her song. Even in 2002, Brenda still had a powerful and beautiful voice.

She was also very confident. She invited herself to my party. I said yes. 🙂

Just before midnight, my actual birthday being on the 19th, my closest friend at that time, Catherine (not my close friend Catey, my daughter’s godmother) was going to give a speech to usher in my 30th year of existence and MaBrrr decided she was my new best friend and she would be the one to give a speech. There was an unfriendly exchange, a few swear words included, but I managed to convince the Queen of African Pop to let my friend give the speech as planned and she could sing to me instead.

Birthday pic with MaBrrr and her friend, Cindy

That was Brenda. She may not have been everybody’s cup of tea but I thought she was fine. Yes, she died from a cocaine overdose but it was still sad when she died at the age of 39, 10 days before my 32nd birthday.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, she did not live her life to please others. She did not conform. She was herself, maybe eccentric or a little destructive, but I guess I am a little jealous because she was herself. I’d like to express myself without hesitation, to be myself more, without worrying about what others think about me.

But, is it authenticity to be true to one self even if “being true” involves a little madness and rebellion?

Are we still authentic if we are not “100% legal”? Probably not, right?

I need to work on being true to myself and go for what I want without breaking the law or doing anything immoral, unethical and inhumane. I don’t think though that this means conformity at all costs. We should allow ourselves to be slightly crazy. We should be spontaneous. We should allow ourselves to be less normal if we are not the norm’s normal.

Because sometimes it is insane to be normal if that normal is not in line with my true self and crazy is what’s normal to my authentic self.

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