In the 2016 MTV VMA video debut for Kanye West’s “Fade,” Teyana Taylor danced with an awe-inspiring fire and for the second time this year, reminded everyone just how talented she really is. Slicked all over in coconut oil, the 25 year-old singer and dancer wore a grey washed sports bra and thong as she commanded every inch of the screen. She nailed the athletic 1980’s style routine and Caribbean influenced choreography that showcased her serious aptitude for movement. Taylor was then joined by her husband Iman Shumpert in an sensual shower scene and the two ended the video with a powerful family image featuring the couple and their baby girl, Iman Tayla “Junie” Shumpert Jr.
Taylor also received lots of praise for her ultra-toned physique eight months after giving birth to Junie. Many women declared plans to get serious about their fitness after seeing Taylor’s figure. “I love that I can inspire women to feel that way,” she told The FADER last week over the phone last Friday. “This video was to do just that. To inspire women and to let them know that we are super women, each and every one of us.”
During our conversation, Taylor also spoke about motherhood’s impact on her performance, her upcoming dance fitness videos, and why this career achievement came right on time.
There are so many images that tell women how our bodies can, or have to, be. This video has had an overwhelmingly positive response from many women, some of whom seem genuinely motivated to get serious about looking after their bodies. What do you think brought out that response?
I feel like it would have gotten a different response if I didn’t have a child. That what’s inspiring. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, she pulled this off and she has a child.” It made mothers feel like, “Anything is possible.” It’ doesn’t make people feel discouraged. You have women that are like, “I don’t want to have kids because I don’t want to mess up my body.” I’m a living example that your body only does what you allow it to do. Your body can do what you make it do. If you stay on top of what you need to stay on top of and get focused — whether that’s working out or dancing, or whatever way you want to make it work — it can work. I’ve been moving and in action since I was about four months pregnant. I was always moving around, always dancing, and always active. This video was to inspire women and to let them know that we are super women, each and every one of us. We hold these kids for nine months but we still have to work to provide for our families.
As a black woman, what was the power of you, Iman, and the baby appearing together in the video’s final scene?
It was love. A lioness protecting her family. That’s exactly what it was and what it represented. People think deeply into it and you should take it to mean whatever you think it means. It’s a powerful message and a power video.
How has being a mother impacted the sense of agency that you have over your body?
I’m not going to front. When I found out that I was pregnant, just like any other mother or new mother, I was scared, excited, and anxious. But the last thing on my mind was trying to keep my body right, or feeling like, Oh my God, what’s going to happen to me? It was never any type of pressure.
Let me make this very clear: Every mother is beautiful. Every woman is beautiful. One thing that I don’t want is for women to put pressure on themselves and feel like, “This is what I have to look like or else I’m not going to look perfect.” Everybody struggles with something. Something a lot of people don’t know is that there are times where I’ll lose weight and I don’t want to lose, and I eat everything under the sun. We all have our different things about us that we feel like can be better. I want us all to know: Please don’t feel like you have to pressure yourself, or starve yourself, or that if you don’t look like the video that you see that you’re not perfect.
I would honestly have to say that I don’t think this moment could’ve happened at a better time.
The most important thing is being in shape and that does not mean that you have to be as small as a pencil. For women who are about to have a child, don’t feel like you have to snap back fast. People’s preferences are their preferences. Even when I posted my picture to say, “My snap back in 6 days, I want to thank Junie” — that was a genuine moment. I’m a first time mom and I’m trying to understand why Junie was born six days ago and I got a whole 12 pack. That’s my experience. But it’s not for anyone to take that and feel, “Oh, I have to snap back in two days or six days.” We are all beautiful and I’m so happy that we’re at a point where women feel beautiful and feel powerful. It’s super dope to me because I never thought that I would’ve been that person. I tend to stay to myself and mind my business. So to check my DM’s and see women like, “You made me feel so beautiful!” That’s dope.
How does it feel to be recognized so widely, after keeping to yourself for awhile?
I feel like everyone has their season and this is my moment. You all already know my journey and as long as I’ve waited my turn, and as long as it took, I would honestly have to say that I don’t think this moment could’ve happened at a better time. Had this happened before my husband and before Junie, I don’t think that it would be the same.
The world kind of watched me grow up. People know my story, my heartbreak, and what I’ve been through. There’s been a lot of work that’s put into this, a lot of passion, and a lot of tears. I got everything off my chest in that gym. That dance came from a passionate place, an emotional place, and a place of love and finding, and becoming a better me. It’s very deep in so many ways and also shows that love is possible and it’s real. You can love and you can still have a friendship and have kids and have a successful career.
When we spoke to you in 2014, you said “I think I'm here for a reason.” And still, every time you pop up, people seem to be surprised. Does that ever make you feel underrated, or undervalued?
Not at all, because everyone has their time. That interview was a deep interview. It was probably the most open that I ever was. Now, years later, for everything to be coming true that I hoped would come true? It’s just crazy to sit and talk about it again. It just goes to show that you have to keep cramming and never give up. You’re going to be frustrated, have your ups and downs, and you’ll have the time where you feel like things aren’t going your way. But when it’s your moment, it’s your moment. Kanye knew what he was doing and it’s no excuses. It’s time to turn up. Get it together or forget it forever. It’s now or never and I’m going to get shit poppin. I’m super laid-back. So not on any cocky shit — this isn’t that — but it’s time for me step my shit up. It’s time for me to no longer have excuses and give people what they’ve been waiting for.
I’m trying to do it all.
You’ll be starring in a VH1 series, The Breaks, at the top of next year. Are you planning to release new music as well?
Right now, I’m working on an album and working on The Breaks. I’m trying to do it all. I don’t want to be seen for just singing and dancing. I want to take roles that have nothing to do with me or music. I have my fitness video coming out. I’m super excited. I’ve already shot the scenes for it.
So the fitness video is actually going to happen!
Yes. It needs to happen. Dance is underrated in the fitness world and it’s time to bring out that happy medium. I don’t work out. I would be lying if I said that I was a workout guru. But dance is the reason I’m in this position. Dance can be that beautiful. It’s almost scary to know that my body comes from dance. People ask me what’s my secret. Dancing is no secret, it’s mine. This the answer to my body and what people see. Why not make that medium fun? And also let other women feel and see like, “Yes, I can do this and get results.” In a couple of weeks, I’ll have all of that. Everything you would need to know, down to my stomach, my legs, my butt, and my arms, all in one DVD. Once you purchase the DVD, it’s going to come with the coconut oil.
Yes. A kit.
Yes! I need my ladies to feel sexy while you’re doing it.
You said an album is coming. Do you know when? After releasing your last album you said you weren’t sure you wanted to make another one, but it seems like you feel differently now.
Oh, without a doubt. I honestly want to re-release my whole album. This video has opened up a whole new can of people who weren’t really too familiar with me. I feel like, it’s never too late. While you’re at it, go ahead and download that VII album because it was such a good album. Outside of getting people to hear that, I’m definitely working on new music. I haven’t chosen a date yet.
The Breaks is about the beginning of the major label hip-hop industry. Is there anything you know about the industry now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
It’s hard to say. I don’t regret anything, nor would I have ever wanted to take anything back. My husband and Junie play a big role in how I handle things now, but I wish back then that I wasn’t so sensitive. I wish back then that I knew that business is business and you can’t take this shit personally. Going forward, now that I have the platform, I would tell any up and coming artists that you just can’t take everything personally. Business is business and you have to do what you have to do to succeed. Believe in yourself first. You’re going to believe in yourself before anybody will. You have to make everyone else believe in you. They’re giving what you’re giving them. That’s the only thing that I would say: Not to take things personally and to stay focused, humble, and hungry.