I love Pam Grier. I would often tell my ex that I would never cheat on her, unless, Pam Grier was a viable option(hmmm might be why she’s my ex! lol). I firmly believe she was the first major crush for many men. Pam navigated her way through the treacherous waters of Hollywood at a time when empowering black women were not present on screen. Her characters were often over the top and hyper sexualized. As a result, her work has often been maligned by critics as merely representative of the stereotypes present in many blaxploitation films. To these critics, I cry shenanigans!!! You must be out of your mind not to appreciate the body of work of Pam Grier. She was our Wonder Woman. She embodied the strength and beauty many of us needed to see reflected within our culture. Not to mention she was drop dead fine. So I’ve decided to make a short list of the 5 reasons Pam Grier was the baddest woman in Hollywood! Put the kids to bed and let’s get into it!
1) The Afro- If you’ve never had an Afro then you may not fully get this one. Afro’s were the definitive hairstyle for many African-Americans during the seventies. For decades, blacks suffered from cultural low self-esteem causing them to alter the natural texture of their hair. Perms and chemical processes designed to straighten out “nappy” hair was the normal. However, when the seventies hit there was a widespread movement to reclaim African heritage and culture. No longer were blacks ashamed of their naturally curly hair. The Afro stood as a symbol of cultural pride and dignity. Some would even say the Afro was a sign of “militancy”. So when Pam Grier graced the silver screen with her Afro blowin’ in the wind it was a culturally relatable moment for many African-Americans. And remember during Foxy Brown when she pulled that gun from her Afro? Two words… Bad Ass! Check out this old Afro-Sheen commercial from the seventies with the ghost of Frederick Douglass!
2) The whoop ass factor- So it’s no secret that men(and some women too) love a beautiful woman. You know what men really love though? A beautiful woman who can whoop some ass. Need proof? The continued existence of the Lingerie Football League (not a gimmick these ladies really hit…hard) proves this point. Be it Foxy Brown, Coffy, or Original Gangsters, Pam Grier was gonna beat somebody down! I’m just saying any woman who puts razor blades in her afro anticipating the hair pulling that can sometimes accompany women fighting is cool with me. Check out this clip from Sheba, Baby!
3) Sexiness Defined– Go to the dictionary look up the term sexy and you’ll see a picture of Pam Grier. She was not your atypical anorexic actress. She had all the seductive curves that women envied and men desired. It is my humble belief that her sexuality at times was almost overpowering. We look back at her old films and notice she wasn’t afraid to do a nude scene or be topless. Some take this as exploitive or even misogynistic, however, I take this as a woman who was confident in herself and comfortable in her own skin. Hell she couldn’t NOT(forgive the double negative) be sexy if she tried! At the end of the day, she was one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on screen…period. Check out this fan tribute video.
4) She was an “Overcomer”- Many people spend so much time focusing on her beauty and films that they ignore her personal life. We can never forget that actors and actresses are working people just like us everyday folks. They are not their characters. As rough and tumble as Pam may have appeared on screen, she endured and overcame many a personal struggle and trauma. When she was 6 years old she was sexually abused by a group of older children who were babysitting her. Notice I said “group” there folks. As a young woman, she endured being raped yet again. At the age of 39, she was diagnosed with stage IV cervical cancer and is thankfully cancer free today. She also had a series of high profile relationships. One such relationship was with NBA Hall of Famer Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar. Jabbar and Grier started to date and she admitted to being madly in love with him. He started to embrace Islam early in their courtship and was encouraging her to do the same. It is lawful for a Muslim man to marry a Non-Muslim woman though it is highly discouraged. She began to read the Qu’ran and study it as her and Kareem had begun to discuss marriage. While studying, she became increasingly uncomfortable with the perceived role of subservience that women have in Islam. For a self-determined woman who was raised “hunting and fishing” and shooting guns this did not jive well. Eventually, this became to much of a sticking point and the two broke up. The point of this story is that she stood on her principles and convictions even though it meant losing someone she greatly cared for. She also dated Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze, however, the drug issues of both of those men made a stable relationship impossible. So when I think of Pam Grier, I think of an “overcomer”. She’s had many challenges and has risen to meet all of them.
Pam Grier and Freddie Prinze
5) Two words…Cocaine Vagina- Yup. You read it correctly. I guess this was one of the hazards of having unprotected sex with Richard Pryor. Though some doctors are skeptical of the medical feasibility of this occurrence, why in the hell would she lie about it?!!! In her memoir, she recounts an encounter with her doctor who informed her of cocaine residue around her cervix and vagina. Needless to say, Richard Pryor had a notorious drug problem and this certainly didn’t help their relationship. Lotta potential jokes here folks but I’m going to take the high road outta respect. Just know though….a lotta jokes!
So there you have it. The top 5 reasons Pam Grier was the baddest woman in Hollywood. In the words of the goddess herself, “As long as my arms and legs are working, as long as I have my sense of sight and sound, as long as I can just breathe, then that’s beautiful.”