It happened when she first moved to New York City from Rochester, MI, in her early 20s. "New York wasn't everything I thought it would be. It did not welcome me with open arms. The first year, I was held up at gunpoint. Raped on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back," she reveals.
She wanted to leave the city; instead, she dug in her heels. "I was defiant," she says. "Hell-bent on surviving. On making it. But it was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going. Sometimes I would play the victim and cry in my shoe box of a bedroom with a window that faced a wall, watching the pigeons shit on my windowsill. And I wondered if it was all worth it, but then I would pull myself together and look at a postcard of Frida Kahlo taped to my wall, and the sight of her mustache consoled me. Because she was an artist who didn't care what people thought. I admired her. She was daring. People gave her a hard time. Life gave her a hard time. If she could do it, then so could I."
It was these early struggles that helped toughen her up for later challenges — music critics, marriage problems, divorce, and the difficulties of adopting her two children, Mercy James and David, from Malawi. ("I could get my head around people giving me a hard time for simulating masturbation onstage or publishing my Sex book, even kissing Britney Spears at an awards show, but trying to save a child's life was not something I thought I would be punished for.")
And her advice for others? "If you aren't willing to fight for what you believe in, then don't even enter the ring." (Harper's Bazaar)