Good Girl Going Bad: Why “Bad” Girls Should Be #Goals Too

Some women aren't the role models we want--they're what we need.

Her Voice

I clapped for Rihanna back when she checked the world and reminded them she's nobody's role model--she's simply living her damn life. It was real then and it's real now, specified at those who unduly ask celebrities to conform for the sole purpose of parenting the children of the world.

In the words of a wise internet person (who, that I'm unsure): f*ck them kids.

All jokes aside, the world tends to want their role models to fit the stiff stature of a homogenous society while some of the best role models have been anything but "socially acceptable". Despite acknowledging that "well-behaved women seldom make history" and having zero regard for the miserable lives we would ask celebrities to subscribe to under the guise of being a so-called-"good" role models.

Because being a good role model in our world means not living a life worth living -- it means ridiculously asking that celebrities be flawless at all times even when they're young and most deserving of that learning curve and the grace we grant to the rest of our youth as we learn to fly.


We ask that people live a facade and feign shock when we find out that a celebrity has overdosed after years of closeted addicition, or government officials are exposed for their closeted kinks and sexual preferences amongst other things. I have to wonder if any of these things would be so salacious and jaw-dropping if we just let people live in their truths to begin with. Well, at least those whose truth do no tangible harm to others.

All any of us can do is our best, and for many of these stars (well before insta-fame), the goal was to simply thrive and be able to take care of their families using their talent. This shouldn't mean that they have to sacrifice an authentic journey. We often hear stars cite "the pressure" as the root cause of drug addiction; and WE HAVE TO KNOW, in part, that pressure comes from a fanbase and media outlets that demand that they uphold an image of innocence that is unrealistic and not at all true of any human being walking this earth.

And I know without a doubt that this standard is always far more impossible for women than men--providing little to no leniency for those moments we deem uncouth and immoral when it comes to women. How do I know? Well, one word: patriarchy! And history has taught us that it is a woman's role to maintain purity while it is a man's role to cause sexual upheaval as he sees fit...and, of course, be providers.

With that in mind, I encourage us to embrace the importance of having role models who are confident, raunchy, sexy, independent, experimental, and most of all: living.

If we were only ever given the Lauryn Hills and the Beyonces of the world, then we would continue to uphold a patriarchal standard of purity and wouldn't have the true versatility necessary to bust down the glass ceiling we so desire to have removed.

Nasty women don't just live in the arenas of the politico. Many of us like to quote and post vintage photos of the sultry pastimes that walked so we could run during this and every other hot girl summer to come.

Yet, somehow, we still manage to ignore the one thing that made them stand out during their time: reckless disregard for the rules of sexuality and gender norms. It's not lady-like for women to hang with the big dogs and many of the most historical women made history by doing so in a multitude of ways and sometimes they weren't the best choices; but it is our poor choices that we learn the most from.

Legends like the "Queen Bee" Lil Kim, Missy Elliott, Trina, Foxy Brown, and those that predate them like Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker, and Lena Horne -- none of them followed the rules regarding what it meant to be a woman in this world.

And had they not broken the rules, can we genuinely say we'd love them the way they do?

I say all of this to say, please please stop pushing the narrative that we solely need more Lauryn Hills in this world when the reality is, we could use any woman who changes the narrow-minded expectations of how we as women should move through this world.

Stop negating the empowerment behind the lyrics of musical artists because you would prefer that your kids only be exposed to music that promotes a lifetime of missionary and under-the-radar-living. As I've said many times before, having a well-rounded personality includes all the moving parts of self, including an autonomous sexuality and sense of independence. And in truth, many of us will never reach a full sense of independence because we're too dependent on the views of society and being socially abiding citizens.


Personally, Rihanna (if you hadn't guessed by now) and Megan Thee Stallion have proven to be some of the women I stan for the most and it's because I can relate to them in a very holistic way. Rih took music to the next level, exploring topics mainstream woman musicians hadn't touched, has never been one to feign perfection, and has created a Fenty fucking empire. While Megan has made efforts to collaborate with fans to clean up the environment, attends college, and is a self-proclaimed "big ole freak." And we're asking that young girls not idolize them why again?

It's nothing more than fear of those things we can't understand, such as how a woman can be a woman without subscribing to the construct of lady-like-ness. We bop to the beat of male artists exploiting us and then scoff when women take back that power and make a bag. It makes zero sense. Celebrities and particularly badass women won't always be the hero or idol we want but nine times out of ten they will be the heroes and idols that we need.

At least, if we have any hope of raising sexually liberated and truly independent thinking women.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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