In author Alysia Harris’ 2014 poem, “This Woman”—an elegy to all the things we become before we’re done becoming women—she states, “I marched through my own heart, armed with nothing and came out the other side.” There’s a certain amount of vigor, weight, vulnerability, and reverence held within this piece that’s especially present in this line. These feelings carry over when we, especially Black women, discuss Jazmine Sullivan.
She sings of things we usually keep private or confined to inner circles because society, self-centered cis-hetero men included, doesn’t want us to have agency over our bodies and hearts. They can’t handle a Black woman who is in charge of herself, who unapologetically asserts sexual dominance, knows her worth all around, and consistently honors her most authentic self. That sort of confidence conflicts with unpopular opinions floating around the internet, and even on this site, suggesting Heaux Tales is a “placation of modern disillusionment,” which I think is an insulting way to regard a collection of songs that weren’t created for you.
Following her 35th birthday on April 9 and two Grammy wins the week before, Sullivan ended her Heaux Tales Tour in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium’s YouTube Theater. As the half-empty arena eventually filled out wall-to-wall, in true LA fashion, the event turned into a star-studded reunion that also felt like a late-night Sunday church service.
I watched Insecure’s Yvonne Orji gleefully greet a woman who may or may not have been Savannah James; spotted Lena Waithe based on her mannerisms; and found myself sandwiched between Beyoncé’s stylist, Ty Hunter, who sat one row in front of me, and Jordyn Woods, who sat right behind me. At one point, I wondered who wasn’t in attendance as I scanned the sea of familiar faces and spirited exchanges. Though, one thing for sure and two things for certain, everyone who showed up loves Jazmine Sullivan.
Rocking long, curly hair and a black catsuit with lavender detailing, Sullivan kicked off the night with “Bodies” from her Grammy-winning EP. Taking it back to her Fearless days, she moved into “Bust Your Windows” for the “crazy heauxs,” she joked. At times the audience and her supporting singers took over when she needed to rest, which felt like proof that this was a night of celebration for a beloved voice for Black women. Whether we were providing the runs on “Insecure” sans Bryson Tiller, acting as the guest features on “Girl Like Me” and “On It,” or jamming out to an acapella breakdown to “Holding You Down (Goin’ In Circles),” we were there for her as she’s been for us on so many occasions.
One of the highlights was when Sullivan addressed the crowd and mentioned her recent well-earned Grammy wins. The entire room gave her a robust standing ovation. We loved on her out loud, boldly, and she stood onstage and graciously welcomed it while on the verge of tears. On the night of the 2022 Grammys, I dropped an acceptance speech of my own on Slack for my VIBE colleagues to see. “I’d like to thank the Academy for getting it right, finally. I’d like to thank Jazmine Sullivan for existing. Heaux Tales is for Black women. It’s the soundtrack for our safe place, to feel understood and seen. This win is for R&B. This win is for US,” I wrote. I meant that.
Though Jazmine Sullivan has been memorializing our strife and love through song since her debut in 2008, Heaux Tales hits different. She’d essentially given up on music, with the project arriving after a six-year hiatus. As the applause simmered down, she said, “I thank you for holding me down ‘cause even if they didn’t give me a Grammy ever in my life, this right here, this love, means more to me than anything.”
Jumping back into the run of show, she took a few moments to flex vocally with two emotionally fueled ballads: “Lost One” and “In Love With Another Man.” This was the part of the evening that felt like worship and revival in one. She sat on a chair with one single spotlight on her as she and the crowd sang the latter song from the depths of their souls.
Though the sting of her not performing “Hurt Me So Good” is still very much a touchy subject for me as I reflect on this otherwise gratifying night, Jazmine Sullivan owes us nothing. She emptied her cup on that stage and throughout the entire tour while filling ours as fans. So, to Jazmine Sullivan—the moment, a vocal powerhouse, first of her name, fearless lover and protector of Black women—whatever comes next (hopefully a live album), us heauxs have your back.