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Amandla Stenberg's 'Blue Girls Burn Fast' Film Reminds Us Of The Importance Of Facing Your Pain

Culture & Entertainment

I was 11 years old when I saw my mother nearly get killed by her partner. I remember him throwing her down a flight of stairs--there were about 27 of them. I also remember a police officer holding me while I was crying. I don't have a clue how the police found out about the incident, especially considering the fact that our neighbors would often close their doors and windows when me or my mom would get beaten by her partner. But what I remember vividly was my mother smoking a crack pipe after it happened. Instead of talking with me, sitting with me, holding me, or loving our pain away, she chose to deal with her own pain first, and self-medicate.

I watched my mother some crack for about 10 minutes straight from a hole in a door that led to her friend's bedroom. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. I wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. But what I did know was what I saw in the expression on her face. She was finally free from the hurt of dealing with an abusive partner. Free from having to comfort a child who was experiencing the same hell. For once, it was all about her. The look on her face told me that she surrendered all of her worries to crack, and I was happy with that. I didn't want my mother to worry.

It wasn't until I became a mom that I realized that my mom was facing her emotions in a very unproductive manner, and that's putting it nicely. Covering her emotions with addictions did absolutely nothing for my mother but make her face them again when she could no longer run from them, and the chickens always come home to roost.

Looking back, I learned that one of the best things about being a young woman is learning early on how to deal with your emotions in a healthy manner.

Blue Girls Burn Fast

It takes absolutely no effort to become a runaway and hide from the people who may have hurt you.

Blue Girls Burn Fast

It takes zero effort to make people think your heart is dark, and your thoughts are deranged with your raccoon eyeliner.

Blue Girls Burn Fast

It takes even less effort to put your ear buds in to drown out the sounds of your pain screaming to be taken from outside of the box that you've put them in.

Blue Girls Burn Fast

But it takes courage to face what's hurting you. No one in the world wants to deal with pain. Not me, or my mom, or anyone reading this. But you'll never live your best life if you spend all of it running away from your pain, instead of learning from it.

I was reminded of this lesson while watching Amandla Stenberg's short film, Blue Girls Burn Fast, which debuted on Vimeo earlier this week. The actress said that she plans to submit the film along with her application to NYU's prestigious film school program. I was amazed that Amandla managed to write, direct, produce, shoot, and edit a film by herself on a subject that takes some people a lifetime to learn.

The 18-minute film follows a teenage girl named Andy, who struggles with being a foster child and a teen girl trying to find her place in the world. While watching the film, I felt excited for the main character, played by actress Leeza Lester, because she learned that not facing your pain is as hurtful as lugging it around with you. By the end of the film, she was almost a different person because she finally allowed herself to be happy.

Seeing Leeza's character finally smile reminded me of the day that I decided to use the abuse that my mother and I endured to become a better person.

Facing my emotions head on made me a better mother, wife, and friend, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Watch Amandla's 18-minute short film, Blue Girls Burn Fastbelow.

Featured image by Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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