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Nina Simone, the archetype of a hero to me

Hero: a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Who is Nina Simone?

Born in 1933 in North Carolina (US) and died in 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet-(France), Eunice Kathleen Waymon is best know as Nina Simone, the diva of Jazz and Soul. Acknowledged as one of the greatest artist that has ever lived, she is one of my biggest inspirations.

Nina Simone was a gifted pianist with a transcendent voice, winner of the Grammy lifetime achievement awards and a fierce activist. She dedicated part of her work to the civil rights movement, giving her voice to movement with song like “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” or “Mississippi Goddamn.”

Why is she a hero to me?

Nina Simone explained how she grew up isolated from white, and also from black, people. As a black girl, growing in a tiny city of France, I related to this so much. Maybe even a little too much. I wasn’t white, and I wasn’t this biased idea of what black people should be. I grew up isolated, trying to figure it out and constructing my own self through knowledge of myself, writing, and art- then I found hers.

This “young, gifted and black” woman, with ideas, ideals, that was it! Nina Simone became one of those people that gave me a glimpse of a dream in my daily life, and let me perceive through her art, her soul, the reality of life - making it a little less exhausting to find!

I saw in her works, in her lifestyle, how brilliant, fierce, lost, broken and inspired she was. In fact, she was all an individual can be throughout her life. She didn't let society define her and definitely did not let it stop her! She was this magnificent and brave person, that sang about courage and peace because indeed: “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life” but also this very humble soul, who “ain’t got no” but “got life“!

Why she is an inspiration to me?

“If I touch one person I know I could die with a little peace.”

I was a kid, probably about 10 or 11 years old, when I first thought about it: the things that could make me really happy. The fact that another soul whom I’ve never met (Nina Simone) felt the same was a relief. There were constantly those people telling me to stop doing too much, that I wasn’t a normal kid, that I was thinking and questioning myself and the world too much. And as much as I hate glorifying the struggle, Nina Simone enlightened me to the resilience a fight can create in us.

A ten year old girl contesting segregation, standing for what she believed in, for her people and for herself, taught me that I was capable to stand up for myself, and for what I thought was right! She didn’t sugarcoat the struggle, she was raw and honest, which makes her precious to me.

“Even dead stars are shining” - that’s what I think when her name is mentioned. I loved how relatable and yet how impressive she was. She seemed so close to all that I’ve ever known and still out of touch. That simplicity and honesty that most people are so afraid to embrace, I learned to love it.

I never looked for extraordinary love or an extraordinary life. I was just tired of only surviving and having to adapt myself - I wanted to live. And if she could, then I knew I could too! But I have to admit it’s people like her, woman like her that made extraordinary, innovation, originality so attractive. I looked for that more in myself, because of her.

She was an artist, not just by her singing, but by living. She moved me! Teaching me, reminding me, how as human and as woman we deconstructed our souls to pieces to reconnect in different ways. Ways that make sense to us, that ease us. She was strong because she lived unapologetically. Growing up, listening to her saying proudly how she lived her way, made me understand I needed to live my way, I could live my way!

On this day, I just want to celebrate every woman, trying, fighting to make it better. May it be out there or in their own home, even in their soul, you’re amazing. And remind each and every one of us, that we are worthy of respect. We are all heroes surviving, living, and thriving in this society!

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