- Pirate Woman
photographs by Lou Freeman
- © Honey
Magazine, Issue 1, 1999.
There is the
power to seduce. To intimidate. And to intrigue.
So while this
is not quite the story of an icon reclaimed, nor of a former
teen star's struggle back into the world of celebrity, it is
a glimpse into the life of one such powerful woman - Miss Lisa
Bonet. Former Cosby kid, ex-wife of Lenny Kravitz, mother of
ago, with her dreamily distracted voice and intensely cool but
mesmerizing gaze, bonet captured our collective conscience. As
Denise Huxtable, the second-born child to one of America's most-loved
television families, she infused much of her real personality
into her character. She was forthright and boldly eccentirc.
When Bonet and
I sat down recently to touch a little on those things she considered
sacred, she began by making it clear that she is a woman who
lives in the here-and-now - not ever denying her past - but refusing
to live in it. Today she resides (along with her darling 10-year-old
daughter) somewhat reclusively in the beautiful mountains of
Topanga, California - worlds away from the Brooklyn studios where
The Cosby Show was taped.
has their story," she begins,"Everyone has issues.
things have happened, but you have to face your fears."
She pauses, "Its from our sufferings that we form our consciousness."
seemed to form before a mass culture which passed high-handed
moral judgements. It was the reagan 80s and Bonet was a black
girl evolving into a black woman, and as such, she was graded
rather harshly for destroying the sanctity of her innocent TV
image. At a time Tracy Chapman, another uncategorizable icon,
was singing about revolution, Bonet was waging her own. It wasn't
so much that she threw her sensuality in the rigid face of the
era's sexual norms, as it was she seemed delightfully unimpressed
with the rules. With a stricken Bill Cosby watching from the
sidelines, young Bonet starred in the originally X-rated Angel
Heart, appeared nude in Rolling Stone, married a musician
named Romeo Blue (aka Lenny Kravitz), became pregnant and dared,
throughout it all, to appear genuinely happy.
And then, in
true Scorpio fashion, she was out. "Having Zoe saved my
life," she explains, "It was my wake up call [about
growing up.] There were so many things I didn't want to pass
on to herso I really made a decision to change [into a better
After a dismissal
from Cosby before the show entered its final season, ("[The
Cosby years] were a major part of my life," she remarks.
"But it is the past; I don't really concentrate on it."),
Bonet retreated from the spotlight. "It wasn't really a
choice," she explains. "That industry expects you to
prove yourself over and over again. Do I stay doing this, or
do I raise my daughter and live surrounded by people who love
me? Wasn't even really a choice."
But that was
about eight years ago, around the same time she began to seriously
practice yoga with instructor Anna Forest, who combines Hatha
and Ashtanga techniques. And it was the strength that arose from
this, she used to pull the outer strings of her life together.
" An instructor once told me that when there's resistence
in your body, it's only because of the resistence in your mind.
And it's not the pose. It's not a competition - Who's the
most flexible? Who can do the pose? [That's] the superficial
part. It's about getting inside the pose Being the breath"
has woven a good deal of theory into her rebellious speak. And
her "flower child" persona has taken on a more sophisticated
shape than we remember. Shoulder-length dreadlocks have been
growing for three years, and her tattoo-adorned, svelte body
(the newest, a snake on her wrist below an older image of notorious
goddess Medusa), is a testament to her discipline. Of course,
she still sports a nose ring.
A modern day
muse, Bonet's being inspired best friend Cree Summer (A Different
World's Freddie Brooks) and ex-husband Kravitz to write the
song "Miss Moon" for her. This, after Kravitz penned
an entire album about their love in 1989 (Let Love Rule),
the year they were married, and another in 1991, the year they
divorced, about his desire to have her back (Mama Said).
one's pre-concieved notions about Bonet's starcrossed love affair
or her seductive style, she is still a chocolate-eating, Disneyland-visiting
mom. Yes, Zoe inherited her mother's sweet tooth, but has her
own penchant for Top 40 (her favorite song of the moment is Mariah
Carey's "Sweetheart"). Their mother-daughter bond is
undeniable - it was Zoe who steadfastly held her mama's hand
to distract from the pain of the aforementioned tattoo. As for
Bonet and Kravitz , they are still friends and occasional lyrical
collaborators eternally connected by their child and their past.
However, on the specifics, Bonet is completely private.
In the latest
Will Smith blockbuster, Enemy of the State, Bonet plays
ex-girlfriend/current confidante Rachel Banks. But if it appears
asif she is poised for a commercial comeback, don't bet on it.
While admitting that the film was "fun", she has her
own plans that aren't likely to be backed by a big studio. "We're
getting ready to take over the world," she matter-of-factly
reveals. We? "My group of girl friends - we call ourselves
'the pirates.' Because we're renegades.
a film," she continues." And there's Cree's album.
With our art and access to these powerful media [of television,
film and music] we're going to take over. because it's really
disgusting what is put out there now to be consumed
years ago, a group of us started a community center in Santa
Monica. We've tried a lot of different programs and three have
worked really well. A poetry group. A once a week we visit Venice
High and talk to girls at risk. you know, [girls] looking at
ninth grade for like, the forth time. We use a Native American
tradition of the talking stick. You sit and pass it around and
whoever has the stick has to talk. Some people just hold it.
Others really share. And once a week we go to juvenile hall and
talk to boys there. Just go and spend a day in the juvenile courts"
to being moved by the power of people, but she defines her relationship
with the Creator uniquely. "My life is art. Its how I express
God," she reveals. An avid reader, she dabbles with musical
instruments and often secludes to write.
Its true what's
been said about Lisa Bonet's commanding presence. After I left
her, I wondered myself about her peculiar pirate jones. With
little surprise, an early morning message from a familiar voice
was left on my machine. It was her. She wanted to give further
explaination about why she and her crew are pirates.
This was her
offering:"Because like pirates, its from the deep waters
that we come. And we are heartfelt and trecherous like those
waters. We come with an unflinching devotion to the mystical
and to God - representing life and embracing death." There
was a pause, the laughter. "And, we are here to take over."
See Lisa through the lens of
photographer Honey's contributing photographer Lou Freeman.
Visit Honey Magazine online!