If you have grown up with a parent that you’ve assumed is heterosexual your whole life, it must be a bit of a shock to learn that they’ve been living with a painful secret for years. That’s what Jay-Z experienced recently with his mother, Gloria Carter.
After his mother revealed that she’s been living in the closet for years, Jay-Z dedicated a song to her on his newest album, 4:44. On the track “Smile,” he raps: “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian.” The song concludes with Carter reading “Living in the Shadows,” a poem she wrote about her personal experience.
In a podcast interview recently, Carter revealed, “I just finally started telling him who I was. Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. So my son started actually tearing [up]. ’Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life.’ I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
She was definitely not on board at first. She explains, “I was like, ehhh … I ain’t really feeling that … I was sharing myself with [my son], not with the world” but she gave in eventually because she was “tired of all the mystery … I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not — I’m gonna tell them.”
People really seemed to respond well to her willingness to be so vulnerable. “I got so many people calling me saying, ‘Thank you because you’re me,'” she said. “I didn’t realize the impact of what I was going to do.”
It must have been so liberating to finally be able to live authentically. It’s a horrible thing to have to hide who we are and to feel afraid or ashamed to come out and be honest. It’s wonderful that Jay-Z had compassion and wanted to share his mother’s story and celebrate her journey. It sounds like the revelation only brought them closer which is amazing.