Amber Rose is many things—a former hip-hop wife, a video vixen, a mother.
She is a woman who experienced her first "slut-shaming" at the young age of 14, made a living by becoming a stripper and fell in love with some of the most famous rappers on earth. But sometimes, because it's Amber—a woman who many feel is famous simply for romping with A-listers—it's easy to forget that she's a woman who deserves our respect, too.
I had forgotten that.
I consider myself an unashamed feminist. Are you someone who wants to eat, breathe and sleep her career? I support you. Are you someone who dreams of being a stay-at-home mom at your idyllic cottage in the 'burbs? I support you, too. You do you.
But much to my chagrin, every once in a while, I subconsciously let a little judgment slip in. Exhibit A: Amber Rose.
Up until yesterday, my knowledge of Amber had been strictly curated by malicious stories that seemed to only confirm her "slut status" (remember earlier this year when her ex Kanye West said that he had to take 30 showers before sleeping with Kim Kardashian because "it's very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that's with Amber Rose"?).
I'll admit it: I had been brainwashed by the headlines.
However, after hearing Amber's speech yesterday at her SlutWalk in Los Angeles, in which she encouraged women to take back ownership of their bodies, I was yanked back down to my feminist earth. During her painfully honest speech at the festivities, Amber told the cheering crowds that she never dated a man seeking stardom; she simply dated a man because that's what her heart wanted. At one point, she became overwhelmed as she recalled Wiz Khalifa, the father of her son and the love of her life, referring to her as a stripper in one of his songs.
"To be told that I was nothing but a stripper… it hurt," she said tearfully.
Watching her speech, I was reminded that Amber is not a Hollywood cyborg. She is a person. She sees the same headlines that we are blasted with on a daily basis, but while we can keep on scrolling (and pass judgment), this is her life. And her lifestyle—or anyone's for that matter—isn't an open invitation for scrutiny.
It's easy to judge. It's easy to slut-shame. It's even easier to forget that Amber is a mother—and someone's daughter. But what's not easy is taking a step back and realizing that everyone is human. Everyone should be treated as such. Everyone has feelings and deserves respect.
Even Amber Rose.
Taylor Lewis is an editorial assistant at ESSENCE. Follow her on Twitter.