Slick Woods Unplugged

Slick Woods Unplugged

The unapologetic star opens up on being the face of "youth" in the Mercedes-Benz #WeWonder campaign.

The unapologetic star opens up on being the face of "youth" in the Mercedes-Benz #WeWonder campaign.

Text: Devin Barrett

Text: AJ Longabaugh

This past weekend in Palm Springs, Mercedes-Benz launched the second chapter from their #WeWonder manifesto with superstar Slick Woods presenting her theme of "Youth". Hosted by Carolina Issa, the Creative and Fashion Director of Tank, the event saw a panel of artists like Lion Babe and SOSUERSAM come together with Slick to discuss the role of youth, focusing on how it inspires the future. In tandem with the launch, Mercedes-Benz revealed their out-of-this-world Concept EQ model, which has been dubbed as the "car of the future."

We sat down with Slick Woods at L'Horizon to gain a deeper understanding of her role in the #WeWonder campaign and chatted about boundaries, the age of social media, and how healthy collaboration is indeed the future. Check out our interview with the unapologetic star, below.

During the panel for your #WeWonder launch, a big theme that kept getting brought up was boundaries and mentions of breaking or pushing them. I don’t even know if that exists anymore.

Thank you. I hold a lot pride in the way I feel about this. Putting something on a pedestal that shouldn’t be defeats the purpose of holding people accountable for their actions. And I feel like when people say, “Yo Slick, you are so cool for being real." I’m cool for being human.

Yeah, like what are they actually saying by telling you this?

Right. I’m cool for feeling on the outside? Why do people think that’s cool? Like, if you don’t feel comfortable being yourself, why do you even leave the house in that skin?

That is very true.

Figure it out before you leave. And I don’t support the whole, “You’re super cool because you’re real,” or, “I love you because you say what’s on your mind." Like what do you say and where does it come from, if it doesn’t come from your mind?

And that’s something that quickly kills any meaning behind who you actually are.

Right, and people always comment on me pushing boundaries and I’m like, what boundaries? Where are they? Ya’ll might live by these boundaries but me…no way.

What kinds of boundaries do you think people set up?

I don’t think there are boundaries at all. I think it’s a mind game. It’s like when people call me a “wild card,” only because they are quick to expect me to be that. They say that. So maybe I’m not really the “wild card” they imagined, but them saying this makes it not okay for me to react off my emotions. And that’s a human thing. So me holding myself back, is that not being a puppet as well? I’m not going to do anything for anyone just because they expect me to. Like I’m doing exactly what I want to do and it has nothing to do with someone else’s expectations. So why are people so obsessed with trying to put that in my head? When before all of this it was never there.

How do you think people can eliminate that frame of thinking? Or move beyond that?

I think that once you make people feel like they’re puppets, they stop because they’re embarrassed.

And it’s not a good look.

Like I’m not a puppet either way. Just like when I spend my money and I have a choice. Either be too frugal or be too crazy because either way, it’s controlling me somehow, because you either spend too much or I’ll just be sitting here like sweating, like, “Oh, I shouldn’t buy anything.” If you choose to live on a spectrum, then that’s it.

Right, because then you can’t or won’t move beyond the spectrum you’ve built.

But if you don’t have a spectrum at all then there are zero limits. Where are the boundaries and what or who is considering things right and wrong for people? I think that’s how you find out who you are. Making mistakes and doing crazy things is totally normal. I think that’s how you find out who you are. Even quickly labeling someone as “crazy” when whatever it is might actually be someone’s natural response to things, in reality, makes them not crazy, right? Some people switch moods every five seconds and maybe that’s just their personality, so why do we have to put a label on it? Why do we have to call it bi-polar or PTSD or whatever? Like why do we have to call it anything else but them? Why does it have to be all of these different things? It just makes everything way more complicated.

Definitely. I think things are even more complicated now in the age of social media because there are different personas that exist perhaps on screen and in reality. And now that people are basically addicted to social media, that’s a real thing.

I had a girl come up to me saying, “Slick, you haven’t posted in five days.”

What did you say to that?

I was like, “Girl, I’m not on Instagram.” I’m like, first of all, I’m working twelve hour days so like, why would I pick up my phone and go on Instagram? Like I have an Instagram, but I’m one of those people who actually watches fireworks instead of watching through my phone.

You really notice that at an event like Coachella, and you can immediately see those two different types of people.

I mean absolutely. The people who are actually watching SZA or the people who are making sure other people will get to watch SZA.

Or even another extent where people are there to experience the festival using their phones to take part in all of the photo ops, which totally has a huge draw.

Yeah, people will be like, “Oh my god, you’re a model. Why don’t you like taking pictures?” I hate taking pictures. I love almost everything else, but I don’t like taking pictures. I also hate posing with anybody I don’t know really well. Because why? Our followers are in the same ballpark? Crazy part is that people who have the same followers are most likely not in the same tax bracket. Because people are more worried about their followers than they are their real fucking life. One thing I believe is that you should not be walking around with less money than followers. Your priorities are fucked. “Oh, I got 500k.” Bitch what’s in your bank account? 50 cents? It’s like riding a bus with a Birkin bag. Bitch, who are flexing for? The bus driver? “Bitch, I look cute as fuck. I got my Mercedes Benz fanny pack... but I still can’t afford Uber,” or, “I don’t have a bank account but I got 700k on Instagram.” What?

Which brings up the idea of authenticity. How do you think someone can stay authentic in that space?

I think that once you do one thing you don’t want to do, it starts getting comfortable. And once you really take that big risk to get the things that you want…like I took a big money loss in a day because I just wanted to be me. The first time I turned out a lot of money for being myself you get comfortable in that too.

It’s like a first step.

Exactly. You have to know how you want to move and once you start moving in the opposite direction, there’s no stopping that.

Can you speak on what it’s meant to you being the youthful face of the #WeWonder campaign?

It’s an absolute blessing that Mercedes-Benz let me speak and be the face of youth because I feel like it was a very different direction for them and damn near a gamble. They couldn’t necessarily predict how people would react to them having me as the face. When you Google me the first thing that pops up is “avid weed smoker.” You know what I mean? So them choosing me was actually an action of trust. Trusting that I am an adult. Again, everyone sees me as a “wild card” doing all these wild things, but like, I have a lot of respect and I’m very professional and I do everything and get everything done that I want to. Sometimes I do get an attitude and sometimes I am a diva, but I’m very honest about that. Like sometimes I’m just a bitch and I’m like fuck it and let’s get over it. I’m only going to be a bitch 30 minutes tops. Like I break a sweat being a bitch.

So Mercedes choosing me is a beautiful thing because they choose to see through it and I trust their vision because they could have picked a model with a larger following than me or that is more popular than me but they can see through the bullshit. I’m very transparent. Like you know everything that’s going to go on with me. You might not realize, but a lot of this girls are putting on facades. Like do you want a girl who is putting up a complete facade representing youth? No. Youth is about being sort of crazy and saying fuck the government and not giving a fuck about politics, and we are trying to make our shit different. Like we’re the type of future that hope for a day when politics doesn’t exist. I feel like democracy and politics are contradictory.

Why do you think people assume you are a wild card?

People put me in a category just like they would an individual who does erratic things or acts on their feelings because when I get upset, I’m upset. When I’m sad, I’ll cry like SpongeBob for twenty minutes. Or when I’m happy, I’m jumping up and down. When I’m mad, I’m the Hulk, and that’s ok. It’s a wild card to some people, but it’s me being human and I refuse to let myself stop my human from coming out. And I think that people think I’m not reserved or controlled because I let my human out. And I’m quick to say fuck you and your degree because bitch it took me so long to find strength in my vulnerability and to express my emotions. Especially coming from the hood and what I’ve come to realize is that living the hardest has made me the strongest.

I’m still learning so much about myself and that my vulnerability is my strength. Why would someone try to make me feel any less of a person for being comfortable in that? I think shaving my head helped me out a lot with that by exposing everything to the world and not giving a fuck. And I feel like that’s what makes me feel like a strong black woman because I can cry on the train if I had a hard fucking day, and if someone asks me if everything is ok, I can say, "No!" But that’s fine, that it’s not ok. I think that makes me stronger than say a man that will go and kill thirty men because they robbed him, you know? I think I’m a lot stronger because he can’t cry at his mother’s funeral, but I’ll throw myself on her dead body weeping and I’ll still get up and beat a bitch’s ass. I think that’s what makes me strong.

One thing I found really interesting with the panel was the talking point on comparisons existing in the age of social media. How do you move beyond that versus succumbing to comparing yourself to others and falling into that hole?

I’m lucky enough to be so funny looking that I cannot possibly compare myself to someone else. So that in itself makes it very easy. People will be thinking I’m Adowa sometimes and I’m like, really? It’s ignorant and damn near racist. Like if any two people could look different, it would be like saying you (Devin) and you (AJ) look alike because you both shaved your head and you both have blue eyes. I’m like, she has big eyes and a little mouth and I have big ass lips and little fucking eyeballs. Like what? Some people are just so stupid. And I feel like the people who do that to me and Adowa are people who totally do it to themselves. It’s like comparing yourself to Jay-Z. Saying like, “Oh my god, I wish I could be Jay-Z." How the fuck are you going to be like Jay-Z? “Jay-Z just be shitting on me like man I’m just trying to be like Jay.” How? It’s laughable when I put them in these terms but it’s what people do to themselves.

It’s like the girl who asked that question in the panel was probably comparing herself to me. She probably grew up going to school and having a boyfriend that brought her balloons and she been all cute. Girl, you comparing yourself to me? I was homeless for twelve years and you want to be me? Girl, no you do not. You didn’t want to be me two years ago, don’t stress yourself out now. You don’t want to lose none of that hair, girl. You don’t want to shave your head because you have run-ins with the law before you turn 18 or you don’t want to have to change your name. And the only crazy part is that I tell people all these things and I’m completely transparent about it, and yet, they want to somehow still believe this facade of their own perceptions and who they see me as and compare that to themselves, which only makes their life harder and a relationship with self-love even harder.

Because self-love can’t live or thrive in that space.

Right. And like I take every fashion month off and you want to be me? Girls die for fashion month. I only walk, I don’t know, two shows in a season.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what we think people are like and what they’re accomplishing and comparing that false reality to what we want ourselves to be doing. How do you move beyond that?

Truth is, I don’t think there is a way to overcome that. People love to create problems. Think about it. Like if you watch a movie without a conflict. At the end, you’ll be like, “Wow, that was a great movie about…nothing.” And you leave the movie just like, what the fuck? And that’s how people are. Feeling like they need a problem or to create something to strive for and I just don’t crave that. My goals are very short-term and I’m living my life exactly how I want to be living it, which is in the moment. I feel like living in the moment is so hard, especially me being young and having the pressure on my shoulders to become something. So to avoid that negativity, I’ve quickly learned I don’t need that mentality anywhere in my life. I don’t need to feel stressed or overly pressed for something. I just aim to strive for what I want right now. Like what do I want right now? I kind of want a cigarette. Like, let’s go outside actually.

Do you believe in role models?

No, I do not. I feel like because of how my life has gone I lack empathy and I’m very hard to impress, and it’s even harder for someone to prove to me that they have strength. When I was a kid, I used to draw myself as anime and manga characters because there was nobody I could relate to. So growing up I would ask myself who I wanted to be and I wanted to be like these characters. I also wanted to be like my mom.  

But I don’t have any role models. If there’s anyone that I’ve actually met that have lived up to exactly the way I expected them to be they are: Rih, Erykah Badu, Joey BadA$$, A$AP Ferg, and Dapper Dan.

What about them?

There’s this thing about all of them where nothing in this world can affect them. I think that’s something I see in myself and that I have a lot of pride in. No matter what happens to me, it won’t change me or the way I move or how I act with people. If someone shows me that they aren’t trustworthy that won’t make me not trust the next person. I feel like everything you project onto other people comes from within. Like if you don’t trust other people, why should I trust you?

You also never see drama coming from them or hear anything bad about them. You might hear something that might be true like they did something, but in retrospect it’s nothing harming anyone else and people are just adding a two cents that they don't give any fucks about. People can say shit about me, but they can never say I disrespected them.

Thinking about the messaging behind the #WeWonder campaign, it feels like there is a strong sense of community within youth and celebrating ideas. How do you think people can establish a community like this on their own?

I think once people feel comfortable enough to share their ideas in a similar way to how I have been able to with #WeWonder, I think people will begin to understand to not look up to people as much and finally collaborate with one another. Once you start looking up at people, people start looking down at you. I need eye level contact with all the people I have in my life and I feel like this is exactly what #WeWonder is about. But like, if you put me on a pedestal that’s dangerous because I’m going to work that shit.

Do you think it’s possible for people to have the same respect and eye contact on social media through their screens?

I feel like social media is a networking tool so use it as such. Don’t use negativity as a part of your image unless that’s your genuine self. Like you see girls going on social media who are quick to believe that you have to or should feel a certain way about relationships or having things. Also when people try to make being insecure or petty a cool thing on social media. And when that happens, people get wrapped up in the world they create online which changes the entire way they experience things. Some people saw the eclipse, probably the only eclipse they will ever see in their entire life, through their cellular device. Like no one will know I took a helicopter here, none will know anything because I love to live it. I don’t even care to pull out my phone like… I don’t even know where my phone is.

I also think the energy behind #WeWonder feels contemporary and next-wave. What are you hopeful for in the future?

I hope for more understanding. I’m also hopeful that we’re done repeating the past and that it’s finally a time for the youth to lead. I mean being honest, most of the youth don’t know very much history so I think the collaboration between older generations and the upcoming youthful generation is the bridge to move forward in both thinking and experiencing. Like the older generations have lived it and the youthful generation is living it with all these fresh ideas so there’s a pathway to communication which I believe will lead to actual change. And that’s why I think the #WeWonder project is so important.

That’s a really good point. You can’t write off what’s already been done, but you also can’t just write off an entire older generation.

Right, and it’s the youth that have the power and that scares the older generation. But the youth need the older generation to educate them on what’s already been done. It’s like, think about all of things older people have done for us. They taught us how to talk to someone and look them in the eye and stand up when you greet someone. And when someone doesn’t have that, you wonder why?

Credits: Cover photo by David Putting, Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

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