Black is Thee Beauty

Baby Tate Is Very Blonde, Very Queer, & Very Free

There’s something that shifts in the universe when a woman changes her hair color. Going red can often be a smoke signal for distress — we’ve all been there — while black is more a power move of maturity mixed with sensuality. But blonde hits different, especially on a Black woman. It’s a cue that something exciting is in the works, a green light for adventure and boundless experimentation. Blonde hair for Black girls means…freedom.
Baby Tate is in her blonde era. 
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After years of switching up her hairstyles and colors on a whim, the 27-year-old artist (real name Tate Farris) is settling (for now) on blonde hair as her signature look, joining the sacred Great Hall of “Natural” Black Blondes alongside Mary J. Bligé and Beyoncé. And to no one’s surprise and Farris’ delight, it suits her perfectly — so perfectly that she’s even made the commitment of religiously bleaching her eyebrows and her arm hairs a striking Targaryen blonde to match. 
The drastic outward transformation mirrors an internal evolution, Farris reveals during a virtual interview with Unbothered. After hitting the mainstream with viral hits "I Am" featuring Flo Milli and the Euphoria-featured "Beckham,” Farris has cemented herself among the class of rap girls taking over the industry," sporting her famous “rainbow raccoon” mane all the while. Now that she’s on the precipice of a chapter that’s new and exciting (and, admittedly, a little risky), she needs a look just as bold to go with this next phase.
“For a very long time, I was the Rainbow Hair Queen. And then one year, I did, like, every color of the rainbow just to see what I like,” Farris says. “But at the end of the day, blonde is just that girl. I've always loved myself in blonde, and for this new music and for my career in a general sense, I wanted to make a real statement.”
“I’m fully dedicated to this blonde lifestyle,” she continues, crediting the 613 locks and the pep in her step that’s accompanied them, in part, to her recent move to Los Angeles. “I've been having some of the greatest times in my life with blonde hair — and I've been making some of the best music. Blonde is a very freeing color. Red is also very freeing too, but a lot of times when you go red, it's after being scorned. It's like a reaction, whereas going blonde feels more like a decision made independently of anything that you've got going on in your life that signals something new. At least for me, that is. I feel great!”
Farris’ current blonde tresses and the many other hairstyles she’s sported over the years are important forms of self-expression and play for her, but, she admits, they’re also healing her inner child. Growing up under the loving but watchful eye of her mother, thee Dionne Farris (famously of the Grammy-winning hip hop group Arrested Development), a woman whose aesthetic Farris describes as a “super duper natural vibe” marked by a simple low bun, earrings, and maybe some lip gloss, Farris wasn’t allowed to go all out with her hair or makeup until she was much older. But those well-intentioned rules still couldn’t quiet the innate fascination she had with all things beauty. 
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Farris grew up in Atlanta, a city that many (rightly) consider to be the mecca of Black fashion and beauty in the United States, where she was surrounded by women who made looking good a priority whether they were going to a cookout, to work, or to church to hear the Word. Her childhood church home’s congregation was full of beauty professionals, including its First Lady Gwynnis Mosby — who simultaneously worked as a professional makeup artist for Farris’ mother Dionne, as well as Toni Braxton, Jill Scott, Monica, and more. Mosby is also Farris’ godmother. And it was Natalie Spencer who was the person responsible for booking her one of her first major gigs — and her first major foray into beauty — as a model and star for Africa’s Best Kids Organics hair products (think Soft & Beautiful’s iconic Just for Me boxes). Perched preciously with her perfectly coiffed (and, shockingly, not actually relaxed) bone straight hair on the cover of one of the hair care industry’s most popular products, something stirred inside of Farris, setting her on a path towards beauty. 
“I’ve always watched my makeup artists very closely, and that started when I was a kid,” she reveals of her first dip into DIY beauty. “I was watching a lot of makeup and hair tutorials on YouTube when I was like, 16, and that’s how I learned.” Her knowledge via YouTube University has played a big part in her ability to switch things up on whim, as evident in her viral GRWM videos on TikTok, and the aesthetic versatility she exhibits daily. 
No exaggeration: Farris can pull off anything, regardless of where the look lands on the spectrum. “I've always had kind of a duality in the way that I present in the world —  I have masculine signs and feminine signs in my astrological chart,” she says. “I feel like I'm normally really feminine, but there are a lot of days where I'm also super masculine. I'm a bit more comfortable dressing either way depending on my mood, and I don't feel the need to choose.”
This self-exploration through beauty has been pivotal for Farris, and she wants to make sure that she also inspires it in others. “I'm so grateful for the way that I grew up, but I know that whenever I do have children, I want to allow them to express themselves through hair and makeup, too,” she says emphatically. “Wanna dye your hair blue as a kid? That's perfectly fine. Go on and match your hair to your makeup! It’s all about expression at the end of the day. And I'm going to teach them the things that I know as well; I'm not going to allow my child to be out here looking crazy.”
Still, as important as her hair is to her self-expression, Farris is intentional about not tying her identity and, consequently, her self-worth to it. Many of us have a complicated relationship with our hair, and in a world where Black hair is so often criticized and policed, it’s not uncommon for us to inadvertently internalize messages of self-hate about the way our hair grows naturally from our heads. Under white supremacist hegemony, mainstream society tells us that the right way to be a woman is to have long, silky locks, that kinkier textures are unattractive, that certain hair colors are only for certain skin colors. Farris doesn’t abide by any of those made up rules. Hair is whatever we want it to be, Farris asserts, and for her, it’s a canvas to be played with — not a box she puts herself in. 
“I feel like after doing two big chops and just seeing the fact that hair is always going to grow back kinda allowed me to detach myself from the relationship that I used to have with my hair,” Farris muses. “And not see it so much as a definition of who I am. If it gets damaged by bleaching it, so what? Cut it off. It'll come back, you know? And if it doesn’t, there’s always hair replacement technology or wigs.”
“This is all a simulation, and I can change my avatar anytime,” she says sagely. “But you can’t really change the experience, the way you grew up, the things that influence you. It’s just about remembering where you come from.”
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It’s no surprise that Farris’ laissez-faire attitude mindset also applies to her career. Farris, who makes sure to call herself a creative before anything else, is a big believer in having fun with her work and not limiting herself in any way. Take risks, push the envelope, evolve, but enjoy it — it’s a principle that started when she was attending performing arts school as a kid that still follows her to this day, and it's evident in her approach to making music. In a crowded landscape that seems to be producing new artists every minute (we have the TikTok to Spotify pipeline to thank for that), standing out in the music industry isn’t easy, but from the moment Farris started pursuing her dream in 2015, she’s aspired to do so from her own lane. She doesn’t sound like anyone else — she makes sure of that. From the unique beats she chooses to her elaborate lyricism to her punchy, charismatic delivery down to the wig and nails she chooses to wear in a music video, Farris’ work has always had an element of whimsy to it. And with play as a priority in her art, Farris easily swerves through any lane and makes it her own. Yes, she can rap (songs like “S.H.O. (Sl*t Him Out)” and “Pedi” prove that she can rap circles around most), but the Atlanta native is more than comfortable experimenting with other styles of vocal performance, demonstrating her chops as an R&B singer in “What's Love” and “Do Better.” Crying-in-the rain ballads, slap-a-bitch tunes, sneaky link soundtracks — Farris does them all, and she does them very well. Who knows? She might venture out even further and dabble in sounds like grunge rock or country soon. 
“Since I started putting music out, I've been putting out projects full of songs that don't sound the same,” Farris tells me. “I’m inspired by a lot of different genres because I grew up listening to a variety of music and artists, so I never wanted to box myself into a particular sound or a particular genre, or even a particular way of using my voice or like, say, singing versus rapping.”
That range really shines in The Sexploration, a five-song EP released in late October. Her second official release under her new contract with Warner Records, Farris calls The Sexploration an appetizer of sorts, a sneak peek at what’s to come on her next full length album. It was actually somewhat of a detour; while throwing all of her energy into preparing her album, Farris decided to slow down and focus first on releasing something short and sweet for the Tater Tots (her quirky and very dedicated fanbase) while they waited patiently for the full project. Thankfully, she already had a vault of potential hits to pull from, and in an act of fate, each one somehow managed to fall under a perfectly nuanced thematic umbrella: sexuality. 
“We went with five songs that felt really good and really fun, and like a great representation of what I've been working on and what's to come,” Farris explains of the song selection for The Sexploration. “It's not like I started off like, I want to make a musical declaration. We put all of these songs together and thought, What are these songs saying? What am I talking about? How can I present them in a fun, exciting way that's not just another EP?
The end result is a raunchy and genre-bending sonic and visual adventure that is, Farris affirms, “one hundred percent for the gworls.” The Sexploration speaks to Farris’ exploration of the distinct facets of her romantic and sex life as a queer person — she recently came out as pansexual in September 2023 after previously identifying as bisexual — and the chaos that’s come with that journey. Farris’ limitless attraction has led her into a number of relationships and situationships interesting enough to inspire entire melodies, and each song explores a different vantage point of the queer experience. “Lollipop,” a sugary sweet bubblegum pop jaunt laced with innuendo, details an especially steamy lesbian encounter. Farris gets saucy while teasing her beau with her “Grip” (IYKYK), a track that channels the freakiness of its sped-up Ying Yang Twins sample. “Jersey” recounts the universal, gender neutral heartbreak of dealing with a wasteman over the danceable ruckus of a Jersey club beat. “Wig” is a soundtrack for the dolls, an ode to the dramatic manes famously rocked by drag queens. And the funky 90s-era R&B production on “Luv Everybody,” which features some of Farris’ best singing on the EP, lends to the replay value of the catchy pansexual anthem that also happens to be her favorite track on the project. (“Everybody wants me — how could I not want ‘em all back?” Farris croons cheekily on the bridge, backed by silky smooth Brandy Norwood-esque stacked vocals. “Everybody wants me — hope you got no problem with that.”)
The accompanying visuals relay the barrage of complex emotions her love life has brought her as of late, telling the story through the lens of musical theater (very fitting for a self-described theater nerd, she tells me with a laugh.) Presented as a The Office-style mockumentary following a musical theater production, every aspect of The Sexploration film from its script to its wigs is campy and extra and outrageous, just the way that Farris likes it. 
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“We actually recorded all five of the music videos in two days,” says Farris of the ideation behind The Sexploration‘s rich, playful visuals. “And we had all the BTS, but we didn't want to put it out in the regular way that people put the footage out because it's not as exciting as how artists did it back in like the 90s or even the early 2000s, when the behind the scenes shots were something that people couldn't get anywhere else. So my team and I thought it would be more exciting and creative and fun [to weave it] in with the music videos like a mockumentary. It was really just part of my idea to create this world, and make sure that The Sexploration is a great experience for the listener and the viewer.”
“World building” is a great way to describe Farris’ approach to her art, specifically with The Sexploration. Her vision for the EP is for it to build the groundwork for her next album, a genre-less project that will feel more like a variety show — The Baby Tate Show, if you will. 
“I'm not just a recording artist; I'm a creative. In creating this new EP and this new album I’m working on, I just wanted to explore even further things that I maybe haven't done yet. Because there's nothing new under the sun, really — it’s just about how you innovate it,” says Farris. “I’ve always wanted to explore and do new things with my voice, to work with new producers and just…vibe. Experiment. All of the creation that I've been doing this year has been about me trying to have the most fun and tell stories and be exciting and excite myself. I don't ever want to go in the studio and make a song that I never want to play again.”
Thankfully, Farris is in a place in her life where she can have this much agency professionally and personally, but she knows that being this free is a privilege that not everyone has, especially within the LGBTQIA community. Homophobia runs rampant today, with even rich and famous celebrities like Lil Nas X facing the ire of bigots at every turn. The musician has never shied away from talking about her sexuality, and The Sexploration meets her at her happiest — and her most out. Farris is having all sorts of experiences and exploits these days, and she’s more than happy to share them with the world. Talking openly about being queer online and in her music is important to Farris because it allows her to share her truth, and hopefully, will allow people to feel comfortable enough to live in theirs.

With me recently coming out as pansexual, there’s just a lot of ignorance online — like, Oh you’re not really this, you’re not really that… Queer representation is just so important for young people to have.

“With me recently coming out as pansexual, there’s just a lot of ignorance online because people aren’t fully aware of what that means — like, Oh you’re not really this, you’re not really that — but other than that, I haven't really received any type of negative backlash from ignorant people. I have to acknowledge that it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a woman who’s femme-presenting,” Farris admits. “But queer representation is just so important for young people to have.”
“I went to performing arts schools that were very welcoming to all different types of people of every sexuality, so I didn't go through a lot of questioning or self-doubts about that part of my identity,” she goes on. “As I've gotten older, however, I realize that not everyone has that type of upbringing…not everyone is afforded the freedom to just be. I want to show other people, especially young Black people, that you can be who you are, whatever that looks like for you, and not be afraid of the outcome. A lot of times in the Black community, queer people are afraid to be themselves because of the issues that their own family might have with them. But sometimes, you have to say, ‘I'm sorry, Grandma,’ or ‘I'm sorry, Auntie, but I'm not about to stop myself from being happy’. You have to live for yourself.” 

Queer people are afraid to be themselves because of the issues that their own family might have with them. But sometimes, you have to say, ‘I'm sorry, Grandma,’ or ‘I'm sorry, Auntie, but I'm not about to stop myself from being happy’. You have to live for yourself.” 

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At 27, Farris has reached a point in her life where she’s thinking a lot about her purpose and what she was put on this earth to do. Her platform as a queer Black creative was given to her for a reason that’s bigger than her; as it turns out, authenticity is the mission and the end goal because it will inspire others. 
“I feel like I'm going through a lot of very big life changes,” she says. “My Saturn return is coming up, so I’m experiencing a lot of major growth and coming to important realizations. I have a bigger purpose in the world — I think we all do — and I want to make sure I use my voice to let people know that you have the right to be who you are, whatever that means for you.”
“Because at the end of the day, there's no one in this world that I want to be besides me,” Farris smiles proudly. “I sometimes think that I might be narcissistic, but it’s just that I'm just obsessed with myself. Like, I love me. I'm always thinking about ways to be a better me, not better ways to beat this other person or do something better than someone else — No one else can be me, even if they try to. ”

Photography by Ally Green; Styling by Yety Akinola for Atelier Management; Hair by Shelby Swain for OPUS Beauty; Makeup by Shadara Holmes for OPUS Beauty; Nails by Megan “Pink’s Artistry” Smith; Set Design by Samantha Margherita; DP: Joanna Thanh há Nguyen; Video editing by David Rho


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