by Keisha Bell
Some so many children are dealing with inconceivable situations at home – issues that are not discussed. Some are cheered when he scores a touchdown, but are we cheering for her when she earns an “A”? What are we losing in the long run when a child limits her mind for short term inclusion?
Meet Melissa Arnette “Missy” Elliott, a rapper, songwriter, record producer, and singer. According to Billboard in 2017, Elliott is the best-selling female rapper in Nielsen Music history. She has won five Grammy Awards and made history in 2019 when she became the first female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
That same year, she made history again when she became the first female rapper to receive the MTV VMAs Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for her impact on the music video landscape. Elliott was born July 1, 1971, in Portsmouth, Va.
In addition to the hit songs she made for herself, Elliott has worked on musical projects with numerous chart-toppers like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Da Brat, SWV, Destiny’s Child, Monica, and Mariah Carey to name a few. Her talent is undeniable, yet her childhood circumstances could have easily prevented the world from ever knowing her name.
Upon reflection, Elliott has stated that she was a class clown. For a while, she was not convinced that she would be taken seriously. School board her, but she liked to attend to be with her friends. It would not have been surprising if she would have bought into a conventional narrative that those who look like her would not amount to anything. Instead, Elliott scored above average on IQ tests. As a result, she was promoted two grade levels. Interestingly, Elliott did not perform well in her new classes.
What would cause a child to intentionally not perform well in school after being promoted? In Elliott’s case, she felt isolated. She missed her friends.
To better understand, you must consider that as a child, Elliott lived in fear. She has stated that her father beat her mother almost every day. According to her, one day, he held them at gunpoint. Can you imagine her fear and the effects that could have on her psyche?
For years, Elliott thought that her father would kill her mother. Finally, when Elliott was 14, her mother got enough courage to leave her husband. Elliott has stated that through her mother’s strength to leave, she found our own strength. She would need to rely on that strength to pursue her professional goals.
Elliott was not always welcomed in the music industry. It was thought that she did not have the right “look.” She maintained focus on increasing her networks and developing her craft. When she helped to write a hit for Aaliyah, she began to receive offers from those who once rejected her.
Understanding the value of her creativity and knowing that she needed the freedom of innovation to produce her best work, Elliott eventually signed a deal with Elektra, which included her own label with full creative control.
Elliott’s musical and philanthropic marks are all over the world. She is who she is, and she has been able to be so instrumental in the musical arena because she has had the courage to stand in her truth, and in the truth of her talents. When Elliott claimed her strength, she was confident that through hard work, she would obtain the possibility of a better future. After all, she knew she had conquered the realities of hardship from her past. Elliott is “Supa Dupa Fly.”
Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com