You can call her Coffy, Jackie Brown, or Sheba, Baby. But most of know her as the beautiful, sexy, take-no-shorts blaxploitation heroine Foxy Brown. The inspiration for rapper Inga Marchand‘s moniker.
My Dad had a ton of movies with her and others on VHS (I’m dating myself), and he allowed me to watch them when I was a teenager. I’m a 70’s baby and I had no idea who the woman behind Foxy was, but I’ve always admired her. Pam’s memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts filled me in quite a bit. Here are some highlights and lowlights.
A Few Tidbits (Spoiler)
Pam was quiet, shy girl. At age 6, she was gang-raped by her boy cousins at home, and still had to continue living there with them for a while, keeping it a secret. (Unfortunately it was not the last time she was taken advantage of.) She began to stutter and withdrew. Her father was in the Air Force, and eventually he was stationed in Europe so she was able to escape her Denver, CO-area hometown and also escape prejudice in school for a few years.
Her parents divorced when she was 13, and her father did not maintain a relationship with her and her siblings. Her mother remained strong and became a nurse–she was the inspiration for Pam’s role as Coffy (her inspiration for becoming Foxy Brown was her wild and angry aunt). She sang and took private piano lessons because her school was too prejudiced to allow her to join the choir.
Pam opted not to date for a long time. Having been sexually assaulted multiple times, she concluded that “Pretty was dangerous.” At 18 or 19, she was discovered at a local beauty pageant and moved to L.A., working jobs such as being a receptionist and a DJ between acting gigs in B movies. She also got some nice surprises such as being invited to sing backup for the likes of Bobby Womack and Sly Stone. She remained humble and grateful for these opportunities.
Pam liked to be independent, so her first real relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (whom she met before he converted to Islam) suffered. Although he wanted to marry her, she could not fathom the ways of being a Muslim wife and he took a “friend” who had “been prepared for him” as his wife when Pam did not yield to his ultimatum (on her birthday)!
Pam named several people and situations that have taught her valuable lessons. I won’t go into all the other relationships, movies, and heartache with family and close friends who left this earth ‘before their time,’ but it’s clear from her narrative that she touched and was touched by many lives.
Umm, Pam… Can You Fill in the Blanks?
The book was published this year, and perhaps that is why there is no mention of Pam’s role as Queen Latifah’s character’s mother in Just Wright (I think the book came out around the same time as the movie). But she mentioned most of her other flicks (and what a long list it is!) and many of the lengths she went to in researching her characters. Meanwhile, I’ve finished the book and while it’s very detailed, I’ve still got some lingering questions after reading the last page. If I could talk to Pam about her life and the situations she described, these are some of the things I’d ask her:
- As a survivor of multiple rapes, how did you get past the shame and hurt to trust men with your body (especially those who were drug addicts, with their tempers and mood fluctuations)? You mentioned more than once that you enjoyed sex, but you never discussed that transition from the fearful, shy girl you were to the serial relationships you enjoyed.
- You mentioned many people who you were close with that died, but you didn’t talk about the impact of Richard Pryor’s death or your reactions to it. Why not?
- When you discussed Krista’s son’s funeral, there was no mention of her husband. Was he there? Did he ever show any remorse for allowing his son and his wife to die in so much pain?
Regarding never having married or having children even though she wanted to, Pam says, “Either way, my life has been full and exciting.” That about sums it up.
Although she mentions decisions she has regretted along the way, she remains unembittered. Being raped and abandoned as a child, passed over in long-term, committed relationships, watching loved ones die from disease and drugs–these things would cause any of us to become bitter, but Pam has become better for it.
You can call her Foxy. I call her an overcomer. A humble go-getter. A lemonade maker. A compassionate advocate. An animal-lover. A bitterless (yes I made up that word). A strong Black woman in every sense (it may sound trite, but it’s true). She’s paved the way for so many Black female entertainers in Hollywood today.
Keep doing your thing, Pam.
You can read an excerpt of the book here.