On Sunday, many social media users briefly tripped into confusion at the sight of Amber Rose sitting next to Iyanla Vanzant on the set of the Andy Cohen-hosted late night smash Watch What Happens Live. While Rose and Vanzant were more than cordial to each other, there was a polite but visible shift in Vanzant’s face after Cohen encouraged Amber Rose to explain her recent Slut Walk to the OWN personality. Vanzant noted that she was “old school,” and thus, not a particular fan of embracing the word “slut.”
I imagine Vanzant and others like her will share a similar sentiment about the title of Amber Rose’s new book, How To Be A Bad Bitch, which is now on sale. Debate over reclaiming terms like “bitch” and slut” are reminiscent of the ongoing conversation about reclaiming “nigga”—some think you can, others don't, and there will never be a true resolution between those positions.
People will cling to their stances, but if nothing else, you can always judge someone’s intentions. After reading How To Be A Bad Bitch, it's clear that Amber Rose and Iyanla Vanzant have more in common than one may initially suspect. Rose, like Vanzant, wants to make people feel better about themselves, or better yet, “live their best lives,” as Oprah would say. They both employ self-help jargon to accomplish this; only their approaches differ tonally.
Vanzant is more matriarchal in her delivery—insert 100 “beloveds” here—whereas Rose is more like your cool, open-minded big sister. A trill guidance counselor, if you will. To wit, Rose’s book begins with the declaration, “I’m writing this book because I decided to do something for myself, no fucks given.” Many readers may immediately shout out “Yassssss!” in response.
Rose has always known how to make an entrance, though over time, onlookers have seen that she’s a lot softer and sweeter than her first impression suggests. That’s why for all of the provocation of the book’s title and its cover, it more or less reads like a version of The Secret for the hood. Don’t consider that a pejorative. I am from the Hiram Clarke area in Houston, Texas. I know plenty of girls like Amber Rose, and I’m happy that now there’s a woman speaking to them directly, in a way that’s accessible.
For instance: Rose reflects on past instances of adversity, but goes on to note: “But when I was down and out, I knew I’d be on my way back up soon, and I always knew I was a bad bitch.”
The same goes for instilling advice like: “If you love to read and write, even if no one else in your family or community does, embrace your truth and move toward what feels rewarding for you. The same goes with astrophysics, or interior design, or being a mom.”
It’s like taking every rap song you’ve ever heard from Trina about being da baddest bitch, and mixing it with The Oprah Winfrey Network’s programming and the inspirational word memes flooding your Instagram feed. That’s not shade. It is a winning recipe for the intended audience.
Some of the advice seems obvious, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that people like to be told what they should already know—particularly if it's coming from a celebrity.
As far as learning more about Rose in Bad Bitch, minimize your expectations. She's been a very open book since her break from Kanye West, and there's not a lot left to learn about her history. I appreciated an anecdote about her once dying her hair green using Kool-Aid as she journeyed toward what eventually would become her signature look. Likewise, I took some comfort in knowing that we both have washed our faces with Dove soap and moisturized with raw shea butter. I immediately felt like a badder bitch upon that discovery.
There are other fun tidbits: One of her idols, Cyndi Lauper, was not only excited to talk to Rose, but actually saluted her individuality. Rose also includes various examples of how, despite being growing up in a one-bedroom apartment with her waitress mom, she managed to create a style with what little she had. Trust me when I tell you very few people could make Payless Shoes look cool in the 1990s.
It’s not a memoir, but a guide; instructions how to live as she does. You’re either into such an idea, or you’re not. Some might take issue with Rose’s tips on the art of seduction in Chapter 7, aptly titled “Money and Your Career.” The same goes for the following chapter in which Rose encourages women to get a gay best friend (among other friends).
But the rest of the book contains numerous ways of being the following: Kind to others, responsible, considerate, and honest (first and foremost with yourself).
All in all, the advice Rose offers to readers is relatively harmless and further cements what I, and many others, have come to appreciate about her. She is a woman with fortitude who knows who she is and refuses to let others define her by her past job, her previous relationships, or anyone’s reductive views of what a woman should be. Even better: She wants the same for everyone else, and uses her pop culture currency to spread the word, to ease the process of making that a reality.
Call it whatever you want—a bad bitch or not—but it’s not a bad example to follow.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard University educated writer who wants a show that'll allow him to recite UGK lyrics with Beyoncé. He's working on his first book, I Can't Date Jesus, for Atria Books.