Lalah Hathaway’s powerful new video, “Mirror,” finds the Grammy-winning singer engaging in the kind of self-reflection that looks deep into her soul. We’ve got the exclusive premiere of the video along with an exclusive essay by the daughter of the late R&B legend Donny Hathaway. In her own words, Hathaway—who will appear at ESSENCE Festival, held June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—shares her personal journey to finding true self-love.
I am a great hider. It is a blessing and a curse. I know how to hide in plain sight, in any number of ways. For the most part, we all know what we have to face up to, but facing our own reality, our own truth, can feel impossible. We are both our own poison and our own antidote. It’s kinda bulls–t when you think about it! The fact that I now realize that I have been cruising through life, thinking I had an understanding of how people “hide themselves” is really funny to me, and a bit disconcerting. In reality I am just starting to learn…
I understand that I do keep a part of myself hidden. This is a response to many things, not the least of which is ignoring my own voice and instincts. When I first decided to loc my hair, I was warned against it. They told me it was a bad marketing idea. “How will people relate to you with dry, nappy hair?” I clearly understand now that I am a beautiful woman and I do not need to fit into anyone else’s paradigm of beauty because really, the only person I need to feel beautiful for is me. It’s sad how few of us genuinely believe that. There is nothing truer to know.
Those of us who think we really put ourselves “out there” probably feel like we understand intrinsically how people hide their true selves, but the reality, in fact, is that we may be the worst culprits. Even in music—the world I understand the most, the place where I feel my best and my bravest—sometimes I was still hiding.
There are pieces of me that I know come straight from my father. I am incredibly proud of who I am and where I come from but, because of this wonderful legacy, there are other pieces of me that I have kept locked away. Anytime people would ask, “Do you feel any pressure being the daughter of Donny Hathaway?” my answer was: “No. There is only one me and there is only one him. I never have to fill those shoes, I only have to stand in my own.” For 25 years, I have been saying “I’m my own person” and “I know my path” and “I don’t mind when people compare me to my Dad” and “I don’t feel any pressure from the outside world.” But in reality, that very pressure can sometimes drive me into hiding myself.
My latest album, Lalah Hathaway LIVE, was the product of a special show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, the same venue where my father recorded Donny Hathaway Live. That night changed me. It was total exposure for me. There were moments during the making of that record—on that day, in that room, on that stage—where I felt like I needed to detach. I had to hide. What I was experiencing was so intense and unchartered I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me when I really engaged. That was the moment I stopped hiding myself. I realized I was stepping into a light. I was literally and figuratively taking a step into a new place, a new space where I could no longer hide. The record is not perfect. I didn’t fix every little thing, and that was liberating. I submitted myself to the truth of the moment.
In a big way, the LIVE record represents a defining moment for me. I describe it as opening a door and pulling another one closed. It became a marker, a milestone. No more hiding from the pressure I sometimes feel, the fear of vulnerability, of showing myself to people, or facing the comparisons with my father and all the questions. It is time to embrace my truth, who I am—wholly.
I ride so hard for my parents. I had no idea that my profound and amazing legacy was part of the reason I hide. I didn’t even know I was carrying it like that! After the LIVE show my good friend Rahsaan [Patterson] said, “You can put it down now.” I knew exactly what he meant. Just like that, it hit me so hard. Taking that moment to honor my father and celebrate my own career, to record a live album in the same room where he recorded his all those years ago, released me from myself, my self-created pressure. I opened up to me in a way that I had never done before. I could see things clearer. A fog had lifted.
All the things I have ever felt about music and life are feeling more and more true to me now. I think that too often that inner voice of doubt is sometimes so loud it drowns out what we know to be true.
“Mirror” is an irreplaceable gift. It is among the best songs and advice I have ever received. I take it really seriously when I sing that song. It is an affirmation for me and I feel honored to be the one to share its message. It came to me at the perfect time. I’ll forever love Flip [Joe “Flip” Wilson] for finding “Mirror” for me. He said, “I’ve got a song for you. I think you can relate, and I think a lot of people will relate too.” No truer words have ever been said. “Mirror” has gifted me with the keys to being okay, to understanding myself, to accept myself, to love myself, to live in my own truth. Within us, we possess all the remedy we will ever need to heal from the scars and traumas we may bear. It’s never too late to take the time to truly love yourself, to shine and be exactly who you are. #stophidingyourself