Megan Thee Stallion covers ELLE’s May 2023 issue and shares in her own words, why ‘nobody can take your power.’ After coming forward about her shooting by fellow rapper and onetime friend Tory Lanez after a Los Angeles party in July 2020, she faced vitriol from gossip blogs, online strangers, and even peers. For the first and only time since her assailant’s guilty verdict on three felony counts, Megan talks with ELLE about moving past what happened, her advice to survivors of violence and how this will be the final time she speaks publicly about this incident: “We can’t control what others think, especially when the lies are juicier than the truth. But as a society, we must create safer environments for women to come forward about violent behavior without fear of retaliation. We must provide stronger resources for women to recover from these tragedies physically and emotionally, without fear of judgment. We must do more than say her name. We must protect all women who have survived the unimaginable.”
On reflecting on the past three years and seeing herself as a ‘survivor’: “I don’t want to call myself a victim. As I reflect on the past three years, I view myself as a survivor, because I have truly survived the unimaginable. Not only did I survive being shot by someone I trusted and considered a close friend, but I overcame the public humiliation of having my name and reputation dragged through the mud by that individual for the entire world to see.”
On how she was not able to handle the situation privately the way she wanted to: “I wish I could have handled this situation privately. That was my intention, but once my attacker made it public, everything changed. By the time I identified my attacker, I was completely drained. Many thought I was inexplicably healed because I was still smiling through the pain, still posting on social media, still performing, still dancing, and still releasing music. The truth is that I started falling into a depression. I didn’t feel like making music. I was in such a low place that I didn’t even know what I wanted to rap about. I wondered if people even cared anymore. There would be times that I’d literally be backstage or in my hotel, crying my eyes out, and then I’d have to pull Megan Pete together and be Megan Thee Stallion.”
On her surprise that people did not believe her and the vindication she felt when the guilty verdict came in: “It never crossed my mind that people wouldn’t believe me. Still, I knew the truth and the indisputable facts would prevail. I had worked way too hard to reach this point in my career to let taunts deter me. When the guilty verdict came on Dec. 23, 2022, it was more than just vindication for me, it was a victory for every woman who has ever been shamed, dismissed, and blamed for a violent crime committed against them.”
On her experience as a Black woman who came forward about her attack, and how she understands why women don’t speak out: “But my heart hurts for all the women around the world who are suffering in silence, especially if you’re a Black woman who doesn’t appear as if she needs help. So many times, people looked at me and thought, ‘You look strong. You’re outspoken. You’re tall. You don’t look like somebody who needs to be saved.’ They assumed that, per preconceived stigmas, ‘I didn’t fit the profile of a victim,’ and that I didn’t need support or protection. Time after time, women are bullied with backlash for speaking out against their attackers, especially when they’re accusing someone who is famous and wealthy. They’re often accused of lying or attempting to make money from their trauma. From firsthand experience, I know why a lot of women don’t come forward. Any support and empathy that I received was drowned out by overwhelming doubt and criticism from so many others.”
On how she is beginning to heal: “These last few months, I’ve been healing after being in such a dark place. The physical and mental scars from this entire ordeal will always sting, but I’m taking the appropriate steps to resume my life. I’ve spent the last few months off social media and taking time off for myself, spending time with my dogs, hanging out with my manager, Farris, and doing a lot of praying… I’m in a happier place, but I still have anxiety. Talking about being shot still makes me emotional. I’ve started journaling as a way to better process my thoughts, hopes, and fears. Prayer has also played a therapeutic role in my healing, because I can have honest and unfiltered conversations with God without any judgment. But that’s the process of healing: It’s an ongoing process with moments of fear and uncertainty mixed in with blissful realization. I’ve accepted this chapter of my life as part of my journey, but I will not allow it to define my journey. I’ve been dragged through the mud, but I’m so happy that I’m able to finally come out of it with a new perspective.”
On the importance of her support system and how she misses her mom and great-grandma: “Navigating these emotions without my mom or great-grandma has been challenging. Growing up, they always made me feel like I could dust myself off, get back up, and keep going. I still miss their guidance and reassurance. At the same time, I’m thankful that this situation brought me closer to one of my cousins. I talk to her every single day, but it never clicked that she was my best friend until I endured this experience.”
On how this will be the final time she speaks publicly about this incident: “My purpose is for these words to serve as the final time that I’ll address anything regarding this case in the press. I understand the public intrigue, but for the sake of my mental health, I don’t plan to keep reliving the most traumatic experience of my life over and over again. I’m choosing to change the narrative because I’m more than just my trauma. I was once told that you can’t have crucifixion without resurrection, and that statement resonated so deeply with me. This is a rebirth of a happier and healthier me. I’m a survivor and I have—and will continue—to embrace the highs and lows of my journey. I’m excited to get back into music, because I have been so transformed. I’m playing around with new songs and new sounds that I can’t wait for everyone to hear.”
On what she wants to say to her fans and supporters: “To all the Hotties, please know I am so incredibly grateful for you. You don’t even know all the little things that you’ve done to make me feel uplifted and inspired over the years. Some of my Hotties even showed up to court, and it touched my soul. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to all the women who rallied around me, used their voices, and penned an open letter of support on my behalf.”
On her message to survivors of violence: “For anyone who has survived violence, please know your feelings are valid. You matter. You are not at fault. You are important. You are loved. You are not defined by your trauma. You can continue to write beautiful, new chapters to your life story. Just because you are in a bad situation doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Our value doesn’t come from the opinions of other people. As long as you stand your ground and live in your truth, nobody can take your power.
On what she hopes people can learn from this experience: “We can’t control what others think, especially when the lies are juicier than the truth. But as a society, we must create safer environments for women to come forward about violent behavior without fear of retaliation. We must provide stronger resources for women to recover from these tragedies physically and emotionally, without fear of judgment. We must do more than say her name. We must protect all women who have survived the unimaginable.”
[Photo Credit: Adrienne Raquel for ELLE Magazine]
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