Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker: Unstoppable, Fearless Women

Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker
I would love to know what they're saying. 

While I was sick and shut in with the flu, I lived on Hulu when it didn’t hurt to keep my eyes open. I finally saw Frida, the 2002 film about the revolutionary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). I wasn’t crazy about the script but Salma Hayek was awesome as Frida Kahlo.

The first time I saw Frida Kahlo’s work was in college. My boss at the time had her art in his office. Honestly, I was a bit repulsed and uncomfortable with her work. She painted her imperfections and her pain so vividly. Frida was seriously injured in a bus accident while a teenager and had many surgeries on her back. I could feel her intensity and sense her pain looking at her photos. He facial hair and stern unibrowed glare scared me. A woman viewing her facial flaws as art? Then there were the images of blood, scissors, thorns etc. in her body.
"I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality,” she once said.  

Self-Portrait by Frida Kahlo
You know how folks say “Do you”? That was how Frida lived her life. She lived by her own rules. She was bisexual, had a turbulent/passionate marriage with the great artist Diego Rivera (they had some serious drama, a lot of cheating) and was a communist activist. In an interview, Salma Hayek said while everyone was dressing more European/Western in Mexico, Frida dressed in traditional Mexican attire, like the poorer people in the country. In the short time she was here, her life was a wild ride.  But she stayed at the wheel steering it.

Then there’s Josephine Baker (1906-1975), the aunt in my head who I imagine would pour me a glass of expensive champagne in her mansion and tell me all of the crazy stuff she did as a young woman. I love Josephine for moving to France when the racist American entertainment industry wouldn’t let her be the big star she was born to be. She didn’t allow bigotry to kill her dream. She was unstoppable. She performed nude and adopted children from various racial backgrounds. Miss Josephine was an amazing woman.

I was excited about a year ago when I saw this photo of Josephine Baker and Frida Kahlo together. I shared it on Facebook and wrote that I imagined them talking about deep, philosophical artsy stuff, politics and being revolutionary. My former boss popped that bubble on my thread and said they were probably talking about hooking up later that night! LOL. Supposedly the women I idolize for their “Do me” attitude were doing each other. Josephine's son has vouched that his mother had multiple affairs with women. The film Frida included their affair. The actress looked nothing like Josephine Baker but she had a heck of a body.

I was shocked, but then later not surprised about their relationship. It’s juicy news, but now I don’t care. I love these women. They were two women of color, in highly sexist and racist times, who loved and lusted for whomever they chose. They aspired to be great, open and challenge the status quo. And they left behind an amazing legacy.

I love Frida and Josephine because they were daring and there are times in my life, when I wish I were more daring. More outspoken. More “I don’t give a damn.” The older I get, I notice I become more of that woman. Some people who know me may be reading this and thinking, “Damn how much more daring does she want to be?” Yes I’m outspoken, and yes I challenge myself. But I don’t want to get too comfortable.

When it comes to my dreams and goals, I know I need an attitude of fearlessness. I have to be unstoppable.  I have to be honest about my pain and flaws, and find the beauty in it all. I have to stand up for what I believe in. I have to live life like I’m happily dancing topless in a banana skirt. And although the world sees me, and may judge, I keep dancing because I don’t give a damn. I'm not living for them. I'm living for me. 


  1. Are you in my head? I could not of said it better! Exactly how I feel about these Amazing fearless powerful talented Great Women! They inspire me to be nothing but the best of me! Women who over came broke barriers succeed to the
    Height in their fields and broke boundaries and did it all on their terms!! I was surprised but then comforted to know they were once lovers! Which such greatness how can they not admire and lust for each other. I love strong women! Lovely post I will def be back to this blog! Lovely!!

  2. @LondonGirl
    Sorry to get in your head :). I'm glad the post resonated with you. They were some kick ass women who carried a mentality of womanhood, success, art, passion and politics that was way ahead of their time. They left a heck of a legacy and they have inspired women for generations. I agree with all of your comment. Thanks and come back and visit CocoaFly.

  3. I just wanted you to know that I love this.


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