In Sunday school, I was told Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. This, however, was a lie passed down for generations because of a misreading. When Pope Paul VI amended that in 1969, it was too late. Magdalene was forever cemented in people’s minds as a reformed prostitute. She was a woman who ultimately had no authority over her story. This is why English singer/songwriter FKA Twigs named her second studio album after her.

FKA Twigs wrote Magdalene after undergoing laparoscopic surgery to have six fibroid tumors removed from her uterus. She told The Guardian that her “confidence as a woman was knocked.” However, she came back from this stronger than ever, even after her high profile breakup with actor Robert Pattinson in 2017. The album Magdalene transcends genres and creates a sound that feels almost extra-terrestrial. FKA Twigs is an artist that knows how to capture the essence of an emotion. She captures vulnerability in a harrowingly beautiful way in this album.

Magdalene is a statement. It is also an experience for whoever listens to it. Through this album I reclaimed my own narrative, how I saw myself and not how people saw me. Often, I have found myself fighting against the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’. Every time an injustice occurs, I bite the side of my mouth so hard I bleed.

There are so many moments when I’ve been afraid to speak up and defend myself and raise my voice by a decibel or so, all because I didn’t want to appear loud or angry or unintelligent. Listening to this album reminded me that only I can write my own story. At the time I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself by pushing these feelings so far, I thought I would never reach them.

Magdalene articulated words I had for so long wanted to say but would not for fear of being defined as something I was not. FKA Twigs evokes a vulnerability in me I had long run away from, forcing me to face myself.

In a press release FKA Twigs said “the process of making this album has allowed me for the first time, and in the most real way, to find compassion when I have been at my most ungraceful, confused and fractured.”

“the process of making this album has allowed me for the first time, and in the most real way, to find compassion when I have been at my most ungraceful, confused and fractured.”

I was an insecure child, and I never thought anyone could possibly like me for me. Everyone thought I was weird because I told them I could see fairies in high school. That doesn’t exactly get you on the cool kid list. I never allowed myself to truly feel anything pertaining to love. When I got to university and a cute boy wearing a yellow cap told me I was ‘pretty… for a black girl’, I was pleased yet confused. Yellow-cap boy said he liked me, but never called or texted or generally wanted to be seen with me.

I was so glad to be liked that I went along with it.

I felt deeply disgusted with myself.

Listening to FKA Twigs’s song Cellophane, the first haunting line of questioning resonates with me deeply: ‘didn’t I do it for you / why don’t I do it for you? / when all I do is for you.’ This desperate appeal to be seen and loved was something I had long sought for and wanted.

We have all had a yellow-cap boy in our life, who makes us doubt ourselves and wonder, “am I worthy of love?”, Cellophane reminded me to come to terms with these feelings of rejection. Rather than rejoice in the fact that I’d been able to allow myself to feel something so beautiful even for a short while with the wrong person.

The director of the music video Andrew Thomas Huang said, “Cellophane is a three-part Icarus tale about a dance of death striving forward toward unattainable perfection, the fall from grace and the fragility of putting yourself back together.”

Realizing I was nothing more than a pit-stop for yellow-cap boy broke me in a way that opened me up in the best way possible. The song Cellophane made me feel seen in the worst and best way possible. Reminding me that vulnerability is a superpower that many fear.

It taught me the capacity of love I have to give when the right person comes, and FKA Twigs’ Mirrored Heart constantly plays when I think of this. I may not have found the one I’m going to be with forever but I know they’re out there and when the time comes I’ll have my own mirrored heart. At times, when I see people with their true love, my heart clenches at the thought that I’m yet to find mine. The words of the song ring in my ears anytime I doubt I’ll find my soulmate.

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. At times I feel like the world is against me yet all I need to do is look in the mirror and my issue lies there. I have a tendency to think everyone in my life will leave me. A common fear, but a fear nonetheless. This constant recurring fear that for some reason, I am not enough. Unlearning worthlessness is unmeshing yourself from beliefs you have held and perceptions others have projected on you.

Yet when I heard Mary Magdalene, I realized I am the prize. I’m the trophy, the last molecule of oxygen you breathe before you die, I’m a black woman. Even when my veneer collapses. When I feel unsure I sing the words, ‘I can lift you higher / I do it like Mary Magdalene / I’m what you desire.’ The soft confidence of the song took me aback. I never knew such strength and vulnerability could intermingle and change my perception of what ‘strong’ is.

The song Home With You discusses issues I have always struggled with and possibly you may have too, communication. I struggled for a long time to say what I wanted and what I felt. I could be there for others but not for myself. The last words of the song always hit me hard after every listen, ‘I’d have told you I was lonely too.’

In FKA Twigs’s words, Home With You is about “wanting to be there for someone but struggling to be there for yourself.” Many of us have been guilty of this and I’m barely innocent. We need to understand vulnerability isn’t a weakness. In fact far from it. Magdalene is a reclaiming of oneself, setting your own terms for the life we want to live. Writing your own story, and sticking to it.

FKA Twigs confessed in an interview with Zane Lowe that Magdalene is “finding my voice without society’s whispers.”

It’s a challenge I’ve set myself and one I hope to achieve, and possibly you can too.

  • Danai Nesta Kupemba by nature is a storyteller and a by product of this is her pursuing a Journalism and Media Studies degree Rhodes University. She's published a piece about war and family in Al-Jazeera, and hopes to be an advocate for Africa, by telling African stories. When Nesta isn't satisfying her wanderlust by stalking travel blogs, she's probably watching period drama's or reading Americanah for the thousandth time over.