I want to be evil and trump and ace just to see my partner’s face!Eartha Kitt – “I Want to Be Evil”
Eartha Kitt: singer, dancer, actor, activist, entertainer, and overall trailblazing genius.
She was someone who encapsulated the spirit of the Blues every time she opened her mouth to speak or sing. She lived a long, beautiful life equally full of triumphant milestones and tragic setbacks (somehow including a libelous CIA dossier), eventually dying on Christmas in 2008 with family by her side. At every juncture of her life, she presented herself with poise, verve, vivacity, and confidence. Whether singing “Santa Baby” or portraying Catwoman against Adam West’s Batman, or even making Lady Bird Johnson cry at a White House luncheon, she was an inspiration and role model for many audiences.
For anybody trying to live a life like hers, perhaps the best place to start comes from the documentary, All by Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story.
When I first discovered this excerpt six years ago, it changed my perception of self-care and how to properly handle romance (even though I’m far from perfect in that department). Everything I’d already mentioned about Eartha Kitt is in full display. She’s challenging the documentarian to understand her view when he asks about compromise. She’s reflective about all the times she’s applied her knowledge. When she pensively affirms “I fall in love with myself and I want someone to share it with me; I want someone to share me with me,” it’s a reminder to never lose ourselves when loving somebody.
The idea of loving yourself before anybody else has evolved since the documentary was released in 1982, especially as we now have the understanding that the love we give to others, in spite of wavering self-love, will always be valid. Regardless, that notion permeates throughout each evolution and Eartha Kitt was definitely on to something when asked about her perspective. Even more than nearly laughing the documentarian out of her home, my favorite part of the video is probably the most revealing: “When falling in love, what is there to compromise about?”
I first interpreted the phrase as simply finding that right person to fall in love with; now it’s as if she’s referring to falling in love with herself, appreciating what her nuances have to offer. Having to compromise boundaries, comfort, etc. for validation doesn’t bode well for any relationship. Eartha was able to succinctly acknowledge those dangers and voice that simple, yet healthy alternative. Obviously it’s easier in theory than in practice, but the outward affirmation is the first step in applying it to everyday life.
It’s also important to note that her words hold more weight because of how black women have been treated in our country. Even with the display of her plentiful self love, it’s tough not to acknowledge how much work she had to do, how many hurdles she had to clear (seriously, a libelous CIA dossier), just to be able to express this on camera. As universal as the knowledge, the experience surrounding it is undoubtedly relative, especially as I reflect on my personal journey to keeping her words in mind.
In this three-minute excerpt, Eartha Kitt accomplishes more in few words than what others were able to in entire documentaries. As we say goodbye to another Halloween season, let’s hope to keep her words in mind as we approach the giving season. And if following her lead were evil, then who would want to be good anyway?