Lift Lauryn Hill Up with Love

by Evette Dionne

Lauryn Hill

Fame has ruined Lauryn Hill’s life. The spotlight’s glare has intensified her woes, including her pending tax evasion sentencing and eviction from her South Orange, New Jersey mansion. Hill’s demons are constantly broadcast through blogging sites, television screens and social media timelines, a direct consequence of the 24-hour news cycle.

Many of Hill’s former disciples have discarded the soul singer. We’ve replaced our infinite love for the brown-complexioned beauty with insults about her misfortune. We wonder how she squandered a small fortune and a wealth of talent. We walk out of her shows when her remixes of classic records don’t align with our musical remembrance. We contribute to her demise.

We did it Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson as well. We celebrate the accomplishments of entertainers and also highlight their downfalls, taking pleasure in measuring their flaws against our own.

Mark A. Jefferson, an Urban Cusp columnist, sums up the detriments of discarding geniuses in his piece “Where Do Broken Hearts Go: The Struggle of Genius.” Jefferson writes:

“I believe most people do not recognize true genius until it is far too late – if ever. The problem is that our fast-food, easy bake culture cannot recognize true genius – or appreciate it after it is gone. Too many people treat true genius like the circus, they miss it this year and make the erroneous assumption that it will come around again next year. Sorry. Some stars only streak once – brilliantly and quickly across the sky of human experience. The average person may have had a brush with genius. Sometimes, the best way to appreciate greatness is to be silent and enjoy. You can tell those whose vision is tinted by small-mindedness, because they mercilessly critique what they do not know and stand on moral platforms that were constructed weakly – only to have them break under the weight of their own ego.

Our society is a hostile context for these people and gifts to exist. God gives gifts to the flawed; that is why they are called gifts. Gifts are often housed in cracked and broken vessels, and our society does its best to crush what is left. The 24-hour media hounds, fishbowl existence, and the public’s constant pressure for moral and artistic perfection form a formidable external atmosphere that make true geniuses retreat within. Often, the spiritual and internal sensitivity that allows true genius to connect with others in intimate and abiding ways is shaped through the torment, struggle, and confusion of seeing the world in ways that are painful.”

Though Jefferson penned that analysis after Houston’s death, it is also relevant in the paradoxical fascination and disgust with Hill’s decline.

We have to stop dumping our cultural geniuses when their talents no longer serve our interests. Criticizing is inherent in all humans, but it’s an impulse that can be quieted. We should practice the art of uplifting instead of ridiculing. Lauryn Hill will be our first patient.

Though Iyanla Vanzant has received flack for featuring DMX on “Iyanla, Fix My Life,” I appreciated her insistence on loving DMX instead of belittling him. We should mirror the example she’s set. Instead of bashing Hill this week, uplift her with kindness and love instead. You can listen to “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and remember how impactful her music is. You can send up a prayer for her six children. You can share a positive memory of Lauryn Hill on social media. Simple gestures of kindness and love stretch much further than unnecessary criticism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cheraemabry Cherae Mabry

    The beginning of this article says that fame ruined Lauryn Hill’s life. I disagree it is her inability to deal with fame that ruined her life. It is her mental illness. She will always be in my prayers her and her babies. It’s unfortunate.

  • Reality

    The one thing you fail to mention is that so much of the criticism is based on false information. The information true or not is just posted and re-posted without any fact checking. Lauryn is still one of the greatest artist to ever exist to this day. Why do you think so many of your top artist hold her in such high esteem. Why are they still to this day trying to emulate her work. You have Jay-Z, Beyonce, Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Kanye the list goes on. As John Legend said, “no one has done it better.” Lauryn will always have an audience, but the sad thing is that audience will probably reflect the audiences of all our unrecognized genius until the pass and we have that sudden revelation to reclaim them.

  • Anon

    Blessed! That’s how many I wanted growing up. I’m in my 30s and have nan one, yet.

  • Reality

    Who says her life is ruined? Lauryn made a mistake and is in the process of resolution. Don’t believe everything you read.

  • http://twitter.com/TamarM3 tamar Cotton (@TamarM3)

    …See Evette I am glad u wrote this article because this is what is confusing and can act as both a blessing and cursing to “African Americans”. Lauryn Hill is one artist I would support rather than belittle because she has done no harm to anyone else , however, y would you uplift individuals who do nothing but harm to the African American community. The blessing is their willingness to love and forgive however its that same characteristic that causes curses when African American continue to uplift and support “artists” like DMX and other rappers who continue to degrade black women in their songs for the whole world to see. Again, individuals like Lauryn Hill are definitely individuals who I will uplift and support rather than ridicule but other people who do not have respect for themselves or their communities I will not uplift. One last thing, I think Lauryn Hill wants to open up and tell us something but she is afraid because of how the media will bash her and call her crazy. I believer her when she said “someone was threatening her life”. I would love to get her story!!

  • http://twitter.com/TamarM3 tamar Cotton (@TamarM3)

    cherae who told u she had a mental illness….u dont even know her full story…u jus listening 2 hearsay……oh boy assumptions make ppl look cray cray

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    I wish her the best and hope she lands on her feet God uses what is meant for our harm, evictions and such, and turns it around for our good, for those who believe.

  • http://gravatar.com/sapphiresandsisters sapphiresandsisters

    I really love and appreciate your perspective. Never even thought about it like that, thank you! It’s as if Lauryn has beat around the bush for YEARS about what she has been going through, things she’s seen and how she was treated in the industry. Like with the death threats, she said she has been put in harms way…. But by who, and what for? There’s definitely some info that she has been witholding and I think its time for her to RELEASE, because bottling things inside have seemed to be detrimental for her life and has hurt her emotionally.

  • http://twitter.com/Author_JGail Teflon Jawn (@Author_JGail)

    (( LAURYN HILL LOVE ))

    I pray my sis gets back into the light (in more ways than one) where she *belongs* and puts out some new music to help inspire the younger generations to bigger and better things, amen!

  • Dee

    I understand that fame comes with a price…but folks also have to deal with consequences of poor decisions. I wish Lauryn well, but I hope she has better people around her so that she can make better choices. Tax evasion has nothing to do with fame.

  • dirtychai

    I don’t think Lauryn Hill’s life is ruined. As long as she’s breathing and capable, she can get through her trials. I don’t what she’s going through, but I also def. think it’s more than what the headlines report.
    My best Lauryn Hill memories are the first time I heard “Ready or Not” by the Fugees at 10-years-old, falling in love with hip-hop at that point, and her winking at me when I was front row at one of her shows 2 years ago.

  • talaktochoba

    did the same thing to Isaac Hayes–and Berry Gordy had his mob friends (who do you think really ran Motown, and got most of the stars hooked on those massive quantities of drugs without a single drug bust all those years…a former Ford assembly line worker, all by himself?) do the same thing to Mary Wells and then Florence Ballard when both refused to sleep with that toad like Diana Ross was all too willing to (which, by the way, was how the Supremes kept getting featured over the far superior Motown groups like Martha and the Vandellas and the Marvellettes);

    one could go back to Count Basie and even Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith and King Oliver to see how the black (like all the rest of the) entertainment industry has always been mobbed up, duplicitous and especially vicious;

    fans almost always do what the media and publicists tell them, which is why they continue to worship hog-callers like Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones yet have no Earthly idea who the Seekers, Dave Clark Five or Peter and Gordon were, why Elvis is not and never was the king and that Chuck Berry is, why Jerry Lee Lewis was at least honest and married his 14-year-old but Elvis saw his 14-year-old surreptitiously under the eye of Col. Parker til she was of age yet never was held to the same account for it;

    so long as there are fans willing to “make a statement” and walk out on her, i’m afraid there will be many more Lauren Hills–a fact the entertainment industry is counting on…

  • CurlyBunnie

    Death threats? I never heard anything about death threats! Who is going to protect your babies while you’re in jail? Who is going to protect YOU while you’re in jail? I agree w/a previous poster who stated she needs to make better choices. To surround herself w/people who have her and her families best interest in mind. I still have her cd on my iPod and I will pray for a better resolution to her situation than jail.

  • Georgia

    These kinds of arguments are a slippery slope. So-called “geniuses” have free will like everyone else, and when we blame exterior factors like the fickleness of fans for their choices, we run the risk of saying they do not have any responsibility for their own actions, and thus they lose their free will. People just make poor decisions, and it is no one’s fault but their own who they chose to trust, or believe, or rely upon, or what choices they made in a given circumstance. If we want to be free to make our own choices, we have to take responsibility when there are consequences we don’t like.

  • Joy

    Sorry! I can’t uplift, or support a woman that chose to have six kids by a man that wasn’t willing to marry her. We all make mistakes but (obviously) she has issues. Parents are supposed to be role models. And in my book a parent role model she’s not.

  • Joy

    Yeah I guess her fans, and other surroundings are responsible for her having 6 kids by a man that wasn’t interested in marrying her. Excuses Excuses!! And to the author of the article: What does being a so called genius, and making music have to do with making bad life choices?? Absolutely nothing

  • Joy

    In my opinion we give to much credence to artists (singers). How about uplifting educators, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, professors, mentors at the Boys, and Girls Club etc. Sometimes we are so quick to defend artsts, and ignore people in the community that are REALLY doing meaningful work.

  • shannon

    Sorry but I don’t give a damn about lauren hill she made her bed lie in it.

  • Nic

    Oh, you know black people do not like to hear about mental illness ,but her public appearances do seem to indicate that is her real problem.
    Whether or not she’d have 6 kids by people without being married is hard to say, since that’s a problem in the black community among women who are not mentally ill, but we are VERY ignornant about and unwilling to admit that mental illness is a real thing that requires real medical treatment.
    You know, people just pretend nothing is wrong or that they just need to pray. I’ve seen it, and the longer a mental illness goes untreated, the worse it gets and the harder it becomes to get a person to a point where they can be stable and lucid again.
    Think about it, if there has ever been someone in your life or family or who isn’t quite there, black people just say “crazy” or act like the person doesn’t know how to behave instead of acknowledging the illness.

  • Nic

    She is a beautiful and talented women and I don’t think her problems are b/c of fame…they are only in the limelight because of her fame.
    I think she has some undiagnosed mental illness and I wish the black community was more supportive of, cognizant of, and sensitive to mental health issues. There is no way to have your act together if your mental health is poor and going untreated.
    I think more discussions need to be held about that issue. White people do many things that baffle me but when white, at least middle class people, have mental and emotional problems, they do not hesitate to go through counseling, therapy, and if necessary, neuropharmacological treatments.

  • Kay

    You know, I have to point out the hypocrisy of this statement. This is a site dedicated to women who, on a daily basis, make their own decisions regarding the direction of their lives. I don’t know Lauryn Hill, or why she had the children she did with the man she did, but it isn’t my business and nor should I judge her for it. I think it’s sad that she’s gone downhill the way she has, but it’s also funny that people want to uplift a-holes like Rick Ross with love (I’m looking at you Talib!), but refuse to do so for a woman who has done nothing but contribute positively to the image of Black people on the whole. Regardless of what she’s going through, I still look back on her past musical efforts fondly.

  • Kay

    @Nic: So true! The Black community has never really dealt with issues of mental illness and we are in a state of denial instead of giving people the help they need. We refuse to help and instead we ridicule and judge people with some of these issues instead of using different platforms to make people aware of treatments.

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