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India.Arie and SZA talk racism and being a lady boss for Lilith Fair oral history


SZA; Courtesy of RCAThis summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Lilith Fair music festival, created by singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan in the 1990s to combat sexism within the music industry.  

But, India. Arie, who performed at the festival before she was signed to a record label, tells Glamour magazine that she’s had to worry about fighting against sexism and racism as a black female artist.  

She tells the publication, “I did a song with John Mellencamp, and I heard him say [in a 2017 interview] he left his label because someone there said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get him on the radio when he’s doing this music with these n******. I was like ‘Whoa.'” 

“You don’t always see [racism] as blatant as this all the time, but that’s what the music industry is like,” India adds.  

On the other hand, there’s up-and-coming stars, such as SZA, who never performed at Lilith, but remembers its significant impact, and hopes to continue its legacy in her own way — by being a leader and rule breaker in the music business. 

She explains, “We should let women be multifaceted. Women should be a boss without being [labeled] arrogant or being a b****. They should be able to ask for what they want, they should be reinforced and supported without being the damsel.”  

“People write you off as being emotional because you’re a woman. But if you were a man and passionate, you’re either a d***head or like, ‘Wow, you have so much power, I want to be like you.'”  

To read Glamour‘s full oral history of Lilith Fair, visit  

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