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It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Amber Rose is on a mission to empower women to embrace their bodily autonomy and sexual freedom after facing years of public scrutiny for doing so herself.
The model, activist and singer first emerged in the public eye when she appeared as a leading lady in music videos and entered into a public relationship with rapper Kanye West. Despite the name that she's made for herself by being an outspoken advocate for women and promoting feminism through sexual liberation, Rose has found herself continually linked to the intimate relationships she's had with public figures including Wiz Khalifa, Machine Gun Kelly and 21 Savage.
"I don't feel bad about anything. So if that makes me a hoe, I'm OK with that," she tells Yahoo Life in response to the criticism she's faced over the decisions that she makes with her body. "It's like, 'Amber's promoting promiscuity to little girls.' All these crazy narratives. It's almost insane. That's not what I promote. I promote grown women owning their bodies, dancing, laughing, dating, dressing with no shame. If people are not smart enough to do their research about me, that's not my problem."
Pushing back against the standards placed on women is something that Rose has felt called to do since she was a young girl. She recalls her sexuality being used against her as bullies slut-shamed her in school. Although it didn't have an impact on the way that she thought about her body, Rose says it fueled her life's mission.
"I just mentally felt like there was an injustice and as I got older, I just started looking around and seeing it happen to so many women and I would just get frustrated," she explains. "When I came into the public eye, I felt like I more so had a voice to kind of talk to women, just be like, 'Girls, you are not alone. It has happened to me, it has happened to all of my friends.' I cannot fathom anyone thinking that this is OK, especially other women."
In 2015, Rose made her stance clear as she organized the Los Angeles-based SlutWalk — a movement that originated in Canada calling for an end to rape culture, victim blaming and slut-shaming by reclaiming the word slut. The protests are meant to directly address patriarchal attempts to control a woman's sexuality.
"It's such a beautiful event because we do talk about the injustices that we deal with as women. But it's also a celebration as well," Rose says, noting that it promotes inclusive feminism. "Grown cisgender men come to my SlutWalk on behalf of their mothers, their daughters, their sisters. They're not there to hate on us, they're there to literally say, 'Thank you, Amber, for giving a voice to my sister.' They kind of live through their family members."
As a mother to two boys — Sebastian, 9, whom she shares with Khalifa, and Slash, 2 — Rose makes it a priority to educate her children on the female experience so that they contribute to making the world a safer and more accepting place for women.
"My two-year-old, he's still very young, but Sebastian's nine now. Being at that age, I just think it's very important specifically to let him know that this is what women go through," she explains. "My kids know about periods, they know about cramps. My son knows that I was a stripper years ago. It's just in me to make sure that they know that no means no, don't slut-shame."
She practices similar transparency when it comes to her platform where she's publicly talked about plastic surgeries she's undergone, including a controversial "mommy makeover" where she had liposuction around her chin and midsection after having her second child.
"I see other feminists and they're just like, 'Well, if she's so body positive then why is she getting lipo?'" Rose says, recounting criticism. "I think being a body-positive person is letting people do what they want with their bodies. You can’t have a standard for someone else's body, you need to mind your business."
Rose remains focused on prioritizing her own relationship with her body, which she says is in a good place.
"I've embraced my body completely," she says. "I'm a mother now, I have two children, I had two C-sections and a breast reduction. And so for me, it's just I'm a woman and this is my body and its changing over the years and I just fully embrace all of my beautiful flaws."
She's also celebrating that in her recently released single "GYHO," which she describes as an anthem for women's empowerment and sexual liberation. Especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Rose encourages people to continue to fight for bodily autonomy.
"As women, unfortunately, a lot of things are out of our hands. We can continue to protest. I think more women jumping on board and not feeding into the patriarchy helps but I don't think we'll ever just be who we want to be without being labeled," she says. "We cannot stop, we can't get discouraged at all. We have to keep fighting."
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider
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