I’ve always had a thing for Phylicia Rashad. On The Cosby Show, Phylicia demonstrated a strength, intelligence, and power of character that really translated and spoke to me. Even as a little boy, I’d be blown away by Phylicia Rashad’s confidence and persona thinking,
“Gee, I hope I can be as smart and sassy and empowered as Phylicia Rashad one day,” because it always seemed like no matter what was going on-Phylicia had something right to say.
At the time, I didn’t have much to say; I was quite the little social outcast. On the regular, I’d always get picked on at school, and I never knew how to really defend myself. After a while-I began internalizing this external hatred by thinking that my otherness and strangeness were awful, paralyzing liabilities (as opposed to gifts).
One day, I was watching Lifetime, and there was a Lifetime-Intimate Portrait (Lifetime’s old, bootleg biography segment) on none other than Miss Phylicia Rashad. As part of the segment, they interviewed Phylicia’s sister, Debbie Allen, who is a remarkable, gifted, iconic person-in her very own right.
Debbie Allen recounted a memory about getting picked on by some older girls at her middle school, and how she was always sensitive and frightened and didn’t really know how to defend herself. Clearly, I related to this.
While she was being bullied one day-her older sister-Phylicia, who had recently taken up the baton-came to her rescue-swinging that very baton (and her neck). And Phylicia basically told the bullies to step off her sister, or they’d be dealing with her and her baton.
And I loved that so much! And I thought that was the best thing I had ever heard. And I secretly wished that I had an older sibling like Phylicia Rashad to rescue me from bullies with her baton. That is-until one day-I realized that since I didn’t have an older Phylicia to save me from bullies and the derision of the world-I had to be my own Phylicia.
And so that’s when I became super empowered and confident in who I am (along with several other life-changing experiences), and that’s when I really embraced my otherness and my uniqueness-and officially started to love myself.
Reading this “letter to her younger self,” I find myself still very inspired by Phylicia’s truth-because it’s totally true-not everyone is going to love you, but you sure as hell can (and need to) love yourself. And that’s something very important to remember.
In that spirit-to this day-I still practice the art of being my very own Phylicia Rashad.
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