Jay-Z’s mom Gloria Carter, whose coming out was the subject of his 2017 song “Smile” in which she had a spoken word verse, accepted a Special Recognition GLAAD Award over the award and gave a moving speech about being out that was also a loving tribute to the partner (present at the awards) who had helped her do so.
Said Carter: “Thanks to my partner for loving me and helping me free myself from being in the shadows. Thanks to you. To all the people whose lives I touched for your support by just telling my truth….’Smile’ became a reality because I shared with my son who I am. Not that people didn’t know. I was just someone that they didn’t talk about but they loved me anyway. But for me this was the first time that I spoke to anyone about who I really am. My son cried, and said, ‘it must have been horrible to live that way for so long.’ My life wasn’t horrible. I chose to protect my family from ignorance. I was happy but I was not free.”
Added Carter, getting choked up: “Then one day I met someone that made my heart sing, made me no longer want to sneak a peep at them but actually look at them with loving eyes.”
She concluded: “Love gave me the courage to take the power that I allowed other people to have over my life for fear of them revealing my secret that wasn’t really a secret. Here I am. I’m loving, I’m respectful, I’m productive, and I’m a human being who has a right to love who I love. So everybody, just smile, be free.”
“Smile” ended with Carter reciting a poem about “Living two lives, happy but not free.”
Jay-Z sat down with David Letterman for his new interview show, and spoke about his mom last month.
Said Jay-Z to Letterman: “Imagine having lived your life for someone else. And you think you’re protecting your kids. And for my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn’t and hide and like, protect her kids – and didn’t want to embarrass her kids, and you know, for all this time. And for her to sit in front of me and tell me “I think I love someone.” I mean, I really cried. That’s a real story. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
Asked Letterman: “And how old were you when that happened?”
Replied Jay-Z: “This happened eight months ago, when the album was being made. Like, she just told me. I made the song the next day. ”
Asked Letterman: “I’m sorry, this is when you learned your mother was gay?”
Responded Jay-Z: “No, I knew. But this was the first time we had the conversation. And the first time I heard her say she loved her partner. Like, ‘I feel like I love somebody.’ She said ‘I feel like.’ She held that little bit back, still. She didn’t say ‘I’m in love,’ she said ‘I feel like I love someone.’ And I just, I cried. I don’t even believe in crying because you’re happy. I don’t even know what that is. What is that?”
Last year, speaking to the the D’USSE Friday podcast, Carter explained how she came out to him:
“I just finally started telling [Jay] 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. ‘Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, ma’. I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it….I was never ashamed of me. In my family, it was something that was never discussed… I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ‘em. I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not, I’m gonna tell them. So now that I told you, what do you have to talk about? So now maybe you can focus on the phenomenal things I do, so focus on that… Now it’s time for me to be free.”
Carter’s final verse in the song goes like this:
“Living in the shadow. Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live? In the shadows people see you as happy and free, because that’s what you want them to see. Living two lives, happy but notlive in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or someone you love. The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free. But you live with the fear of just being me. Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be. No harm for them, no harm for me. But life is short, and it’s time to be free. Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”