Erykah Badu’s in Paris at the moment, in limbo — caught between her home in Dallas, where she was days ago, and Brazil, where she has sold-out concerts this weekend. She sounds under the weather, like she’s needs to cough. “My body’s going through some changes,” she says. “That’s what happens when you have a 40-degree temperature drop like we had last week, then get on a plane where it’s just as cold.”
But she had no choice: Her presence was needed in Paris, where on Wednesdsay she was introduced as the face of Givenchy’s Spring 2014 collection. She was chosen by Riccardo Tisci himself, creative director at the 61-year-old fashion house. He just called her one day and asked if she’d be interested. And she said yes.
“Riccardo’s a fan of my style,” says Badu during an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “He told me he really wanted to work with me because he had a special campaign he designed for me. He sent me some of the photos, and I was super-honored; I didn’t take it for granted. Fashion is my thing, and I am a big fan of Riccardo’s — not just because of his amazing eye, but because of his spirit, what he wanted. He wants to give models of color an opportunity, and he chose me as the face for that campaign because he told me I fit what he wanted to represent.”
As Tisci told Style.com, and as Badu reminds, he’s worked with a number of “models of color,” to use Badu’s phrase — among them Joan Smalls and Maria Borges and Dalianah Arekion among others. He says he always had Badu in mind — because, after all, “she’s an icon,” as he told Style.com.
“What I want to do with my advertising campaign is spread the love,” he said. “Already now it’s been three seasons that I’ve been using people that express something — they are great artists or beautiful women or stylish women or models that I really believe in. It’s kind of a family portfolio.”
Badu says theirs was a “collaboration” born during a series of conversations. First he introduced her to the line, which is heavy in Asian and African influences.
“Then he showed me his influences,” says Badu, who was in 2008 the face of Tom Ford’s White Patchouli campaign. “He said he wanted to break barriers. There were models of colors he actually discovered, and this is one more perfect example of him using his platform to make a political statement. Whenever an artist uses black anything, you’re making a political statement.”
The announcement — which her management didn’t know was coming this week — comes just days after Dallas was briefly the center of the fashion world, thanks to Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour and the fashion show at Fair Park that culminated with a ceremony at the downtown Dallas Neiman Marcus. Badu reminds: Her mother once worked at Neimans as a make-up artist. Which only makes this selection that much more special.
“I remember when Dallas fashion meant everything to her,” says the Arts Magnet graduate. “She was the first person to wear a scarf over her head and big glasses that I can remember. My mother was very into fashion. And it gave me a very good eye for it. This is one of the great events of my life because I get to work with a visual artist who gets me and I get him. Those are the pleasures in life, especially in art. There is nothing like when you meet a kindred spirit. It changes the frequency of how you create. There’s not a lot of communication. It’s a lot of understanding. And he understands me.
“And I think it’s cool. I think it’s very cool. You know I’m a snob. So it has to be something special if I’m going to be involved.”