Women and our need for alter egos

This is not something I’ve been paying particular attention to until recently. Beyoncé Knowles calls her Sasha Fierce. Mariah Carey calls her Mimi. Christina Aguilera calls her X-Tina and Serena Williams calls her Taquanda. Nicki Minaj has hundreds, but this blog post isn’t long enough to cover all of those. Lady Gaga’s one is a man – Jo Calderone. Besides astonishing careers and big hair, these women have one other thing in common: they all have alter egos.

These alter egos are fearless, more open and honest (just in terms of putting it all out there) and are not afraid to offend some people. But they remain just that, alter egos that at the end of the day, like a ventriloquist does with his puppet, are packed away in a box to be brought out at the appropriate time.

Some of these alter egos are the extreme opposite of the women they belong to. The quiet and respectful “lady” who doesn’t ruffle any feathers brings out her more outspoken
“inner self” when she feels she needs to, or when the she is confronted with something the “lady” can’t handle alone.

In a recent Rolling Stones interview, the documentary Venus and Serena was mentioned where Serena talks about her three alter egos:

“Summer, the one who writes thank-you notes; Psycho Serena, the  tennis player;

and Taquanda, whom Serena describes simply as “not a Christian.”

I’m interested in Taquanda. Serena’s mom says it was Taquanda who threw the tantrum at the U.S. Open in 2009. You remember that, right? That infamous match against Kim Clijsters where Serena allegedly threatened a lineswoman with a volley of abuse. Microphones are said to have picked up these words from Serena to the lines judge: “I never said I would kill you, are you serious?”

Yep. Taquanda. Unrelenting. Unapologetic. She lives by very few rules, and has little thought for other people’s feelings. She says what she wants to say.

Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce is a more well-behaved version of Taquanda who Beyoncé described as her sensual, aggressive alter ego who can go on stage, and know that she belongs there and will give you one hell of a show.

Is this the space that women now feel they need to move into in order to be palatable in society, or can you look at this as a form of self-empowerment and expression? Some may even call it a brief phase where when you feel the most expressive and uninhibited, attaching a name to it becomes easier to manage and the behaviour easier to accept.

The world can’t handle a woman who is too much, right? She has to break herself down into palatable bits so she can be consumed by the masses and accepted.

There are men who have alter egos too. Sacha Baron Cohen is probably the most popular one, with his various personalities. Those are carefully constructed characters that live outside of Sasha Baron Cohen.

Perhaps the other most popular one is drag queen RuPaul aka RuPaul Andre Charles. RuPaul is exuberant, larger than life, more colourful than a bag of skittles and whose crazy antics become easier to digest because they work in that context.

Are women just becoming drag queens of themselves or maybe just looking for a space where the rules of the regular world don’t apply? These rules that say women must know their place, not speak out of turn, dress a certain way etc.

Perhaps those in entertainment are fortunate enough to be in an environment that would embrace that kind of thing, whereas those of us who aren’t can only dream…

Taquanda in full flight.

Taquanda in full flight.

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