Tag Archives: Fantasia Barrino

Famous Survivors of Rape: Part 1

15 Aug

Knowing that you’re not the only person in the world to live through sexual assault can be the greatest relief if you’re a victim. Being able to meet and talk to survivors who are willing to share their stories with you is an amazing privilege. It can also help to have recognizable faces to look up to, public figures who prove through achievement that there is life after rape.

I’ve written about two Hollywood stars in the past, Fantasia Barrino and Gabrielle Union. Here are 5 other famous rape survivors you may (or may not!) already know about:

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd  The 43-year-old actress (famous for her roles in American films like Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart is, and A Time to Kill, as well as being the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd and younger half-sister of Wynonna Judd) revealed that she was raped many times as a child in her autobiography All That Is Bitter & Sweet. After her parents divorced when she was 7 and her mother moved the family to Kentucky, Ashley remembers that she was cornered by a old man who offered her a quarter to play the pinball machine, and instead pulled her into a dark and empty store. When she tried to tell trusted adults about what happened to her, however, no one believed her story.

Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959)

Billie Holiday One of the best African-American jazz singers in American history began life with a difficult childhood, raised by her half-sister and other caretakers in place of her traveling mother until she was 11, already a school drop-out. On December 24, 1926 while the young Holiday was alone, a neighbor named Wilbur Rich broke into her family home and raped Billie before he was caught by Billie’s mother. He was jailed for his crime, but Billie had to live as a temporary ward of the state in protective custody, and then in a brothel with her mother after the age of 12, before she was able to climb her way out to stardom. 

Connie Francis

Connie Francis The 72-year-old songstress is known for her pop hits “Where The Boys Are”, “Who’s Sorry Now”, “Stupid Cupid” and many more recorded in her youth. After a live performance in New York in the latter half of her career, Connie was raped upon returning to the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson’s Lodge where she had been staying. Her attacker was never found, but Connie sued the hotel for neglecting to provide accurate security for patrons, and won an astonishing $3 million judgment. She took 7 years off from her career, and resumed singing in 1989.

Fiona Apple

Fiona AppleShe’s 33 and won a Grammy Award for her ’90s hit single “Criminal” at the age of 21, as well as an MTV Video Music Award for the single “Sleep to Dream” coming off her critically-acclaimed debut album Tidal. Fiona was raped by a stranger on her way home from school when she was 12, and today says about being a role model:

That’s the only reason I ever brought the whole rape thing up. It’s a terrible thing, but it happens to so many people. I mean, 80 percent of the people I’ve told have said right back to me, “That happened to me too.” It’s so common, and so ridiculous that it’s a hard thing to talk about. It angers me so much because something like that happens to you and you carry it around for the rest of your life. No matter how much therapy you go through, no matter how much healing you go through, it’s part of you. I just feel that it’s such a tragedy that so many people have to bear the extra burden of having to keep it secret from everyone else. As if it’s too icky a subject to burden other people with and everyone’s going to think you’re a victim forever. Then you’ve labeled yourself a victim, and you’ve been taken advantage of, and you’re ruined, and you’re soiled, and you’re not pure, you know.

If I’m in a position where people are looking up to me in any way, then it’s absolutely my responsibility to be open and honest about this, because if I’m not, what does that say to people? It doesn’t change a person — well, it does change a person but it doesn’t take anything away from you. It can only strengthen you. It has made me so angry in the past. Like I wanted to say it to somebody. I really wanted somebody to connect with, somebody to understand me, somebody to comfort me. But I felt like I couldn’t say anything about because it was taboo to talk about.

Fran Drescher

Fran DrescherFran is a 53-year-old actress and comedienne, probably best recognized as the title character in the ’90s American sitcom The Nanny. In 1985 while Fran was still married to her then-husband, writer and producer Peter Marc Jacobson, the couple returned home from an outing to find 2 armed robbers in their Los Angeles apartment. Fran and a girlfriend were raped at gunpoint, and her husband was forced to watch the ordeal. The rapist ended up being sentenced to 2 life sentences in prison.

The series continues tomorrow, with a televangelist and former Miss America to add to the inspiration list. Come back and take a look!

Why Fantasia Barrino Scares Me

4 Aug

She was the winner of the 3rd season of American Idol in 2004, and today she’s famously known as just ‘Fantasia’, the R&B and soul singer, and one of the most successful former contestants from the show. Since her debut album Free Yourself (which made history with Fantasia’s first single, I Believe, being the first new recording artist single ever to debut in the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list) Fantasia has been nominated for 7 Grammy Awards and won 1, had two albums certified platinum and gold, and starred in the Broadway musical version of The Color Purple produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones.

And with all of that success under her belt, her life is arguably a royal mess.

Fairy Tale Beginning

I remember watching the 3rd season of American Idol, being Fantasia’s biggest fan, and how ecstatic I was when she won. Then I watched the made-for-TV movie Life is Not a Fairytale which she starred in, based on her life before her win. She had something of a ‘Partridge Family’ beginning, performing and touring as a young girl with her parents and two brothers in churches across the country. She led the youth choir at her family church. But when Fantasia entered high school in her hometown of High Point, North Carolina, she was cornered in an empty gym by a classmate and raped, and from then on it wasn’t hard to notice the nose-dive in her self-esteem. She endured so much harrassment and humiliation from her peers that she felt her only option was to drop out of school, without even knowing how to read. Her family didn’t offer much in the way of support besides “life comes with the good and the bad, dust your shoulders off and move on”. Fantasia got into a relationship which resulted in her first child at the age of 16, and physical abuse at the hands of the father. A few years later she tried out for American Idol, and that was where the movie ended and her rise to stardom began.

Depressing Reality

Fantasia’s personal story never seemed to find a happy ending, though. After the memoir version of Life is Not a Fairytale was released in 2006, her father Joseph sued her for $10 million claiming that the descriptions she gave of him in the book were untrue. One of her two homes in Charlotte, North Carolina went into foreclosure and was almost auctioned off. Oprah interviewed Fantasia before she was set to appear on Broadway, offering her support, but Fantasia was absent for nearly 50 performances of The Color Purple without any notice or excuse until almost a year after the show had closed – still, Oprah selected her for the starring role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical. In 2010 Fantasia got her own reality TV show on VH1 titled Fantasia For Real – the show basically chronicled her efforts in taking care of her family members financially. Finally, Fantasia began a relationship with Antwaun Cook, a married man whose wife named Fantasia as a cause of distress in her file for divorce in August 2010. The stress of the public accusation brought Fantasia to overdose on aspirin in a suicide attempt that had her hospitalized, and in divorce court Fantasia had to testify that she had been pregnant with Cook’s child and aborted it before trying to commit suicide. Cook’s marriage ended, but his affair with Fantasia continued, and just a few days ago on August 1, 2011, Fantasia announced to the crowd at a charity concert that she was pregnant again – this child was a “gift from God”. Oh, and allegedly there’s a Fantasia-Antwaun sex tape out there further damaging her image.

The Edge

I used to be inspired by Fantasia, but now I’m terrified: terrified for what’s happening to her life, and terrified of ending up like her. Our stories are similar in some ways. I’m definitely not a star and I can’t sing, but I can relate to having big dreams – I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I don’t know exactly what her experiences were like, but I’ve been raped. I’ve had people shun me, put me down, laugh (sometimes right in my face), spread rumors to paint me as a slut after I opened my mouth and told on my rapist. I’ve had family members not care. I’ve been abused in so many ways, and left to fend for myself with nowhere to go or any hope for my future. And I guess I’m scared that someday, potential and opportunity might show up and I won’t be able to see clear enough through the cloud of disappointments to recognize that I can keep it from following me to my success. That somehow I can keep my past from dictating my self-worth and the decisions I make, and from going over the edge.