When Amber Rose first started her own SlutWalk three years ago, she was hailed as an "unlikely feminist hero." Ahead of this year's event, she tells Broadly why her advocacy was never really unlikely at all.
Photos courtesy of Amber Rose SlutWalk
When Amber Rose launched her SlutWalk, a festival and march aiming to "impact and upift, while shifting the paradigm of rape culture," many people dismissed her. A former exotic dancer who rose to fame while dating Kanye West, Rose was defending women's right to express sexuality on their own terms while tabloids questioned if she was "hurting her own cause" and trolls told her to "drop all that feminist rubbish." Though she attracted ire and ridicule from both sides of the aisle, much of America agreed with Rose—and over 2,000 people showed up to her event in Los Angeles. Now on its third iteration, Rose's SlutWalk has transformed into an annual feminist gathering. This year, she's hired a staff of 35 people in downtown LA and teamed up with the University of Southern California to host a conference and panels covering topics like safe sex and self-defense.
Rose estimates that 20,000 people will attend this year's festivities, proving the model and actress to be an extremely effective feminist organizer. She spoke to Broadly about the challenges she's faced planning SlutWalk over the years, the current state of feminism, and why she really wants to march with First Lady Melania Trump.
BROADLY: There's been a lot of marches this year, from the Women's March to the Juggalo March. Do you feel like your SlutWalk was ahead of the curve?
AMBER ROSE: Absolutely! I don't want to take credit. There have been SlutWalks going around the world before I started my SlutWalk, but because my platform is so big, it brought a lot of attention to what is going on. The Women's March in LA was literally the SlutWalk.
Does the SlutWalk feel more vital with President Donald Trump in the White House?
There's a lot of new feminists: male feminists, female feminists, transgender feminists. People from all walks of life are not dealing with that shit any more. Because of social media, a lot of people have a voice now. We're not taking it any more. We have the opportunity to live in a country where there is freedom of speech.
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Have some issues gotten better despite Trump?
It's definitely gotten more awareness. There are a lot more protests against racism and sexism. People just aren't taking that anymore because Trump is in office. [Look at] how he treats his wife! I'm a huge fan of Melania [Trump]. I just feel like I can't wait for her to get away from him and have her at my SlutWalk. She's so trapped in that situation where she doesn't want to be there. I wish she'd take control and leave his ass. That is going to be a great day.
How hard was it to launch the SlutWalk?
The first year, just based on the name alone, nobody wanted to work with me. No companies wanted to work with me. Media outlets wanted to down me. I couldn't get any sponsors. I asked everyone I [knew] who had money to give me money. Nicki Minaj gave me $5,000. Nick Cannon gave me $14,000. Jeffree Star gave me $2,000. Ne-Yo gave me $2,500. A couple basketball players and their wives donated—it was a lot of people that had money. My fans donated me $10 here, $15 there. It was grassroots. We need toilets. We need staging. We need security. We need a safe space for you to come and where what you want. That costs a lot of money. A lot of people did a lot of stuff for free.
Who are your feminist idols?
My mom. Gwen Stefani. Gloria Allred and her daughter Lisa Bloom. I just live for a press conference! I'm all about that shit.
How has your background influenced your role as something of a civil rights leader?
I was a regular girl in Philly. I grew up very poor. I've been through the same things I speak about—that's the reason I have my SlutWalk ... It's not like I'm sitting here trying to get a check. I don't get any money from [SlutWalk]. I work my ass off to put this on. I lived it. I can speak on things that someone who hasn't fully lived everything can't speak on.
I can't take full credit. I have a full team of people. We started SlutWalk with four girls that were just amazing and really understood what we were trying to do, 32 women, a full SlutWalk office in LA, 24 interns. I have a lot of people that jumped on board in the three years. Another thing too: I don't give a shit what people think about me. I'm going to fight the feminist fight, and I don't care who doesn't like it. I'm gonna continue to do it anyway. Maybe some people are more concerned with their image and what their publicist tells them to do.
Revenge porn has been a big discussion topic in the news—will that be addressed at this year's SlutWalk?
Absolutely! That happened to me in 2011. My pictures were leaked all over the internet. I just had to sit there and cry. Someone that is so close to me it just happened to her, so [it will be discussed at the March]. We're touching on everything at the conference.
Are you underestimated?
I'm the underdog for sure. Because I was a dancer, people don't think I'm smart and articulate and capable of doing great things. That's cool. I like to change people's minds. I get off on that.