ESSENCE: What has influenced your style through the years?
Erykah Badu: I'm always evolving. I visited Cuba to get a Santeria reading in 2000 and I didn't know exactly what to expect. I went there, sat on the curb and waited for my reading. I had on this white head wrap and this white long dress and all of my jewelry, because it was part of me. It was who I was. I was overdressed because everybody else had on t-shirts and baggy tights.
I sat next to a guy whose nails were dirty. He had on some Pumas that were tied so tight you could see the tongues hanging out. Then there was a guy on my left with white shorts and no shirt, and the two were passing a cigarette across me and drinking beer. I finally went in for my reading and there was this beautiful older woman who had on a yellow long dress and short haircut. She was very pretty. She started walking around me and speaking to me in Spanish. I assumed she was the priest who was going to give me my reading.
When the guy with the beard and dirty nails came in, I told the interpreter, "I kind of wanted it to be private." She goes, "Oh no, he's the Priest."
I never wore the head wrap again. I realized it wasn't necessary anymore, because after all that man was from a long line of healers and he didn't have to look like one. He was born with it. No matter what he did or what he said, no one could take that away from him. That's when I was freed and began to evolve. I began to focus on being more in here than out there.