By Collin Kelley
There’s an old adage about not meeting your idols because they will only disappoint you. That’s not the case with award-winning Atlanta poet Kiera Nelson, who goes by the monikers Ashlee Haze and Miss Haze. She received a surprise visit from her muse and inspiration, rap and hip-hop superstar Missy Elliott, this past weekend.
Last year, Miss Haze wrote the poem “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliott Poem)” after hearing Elliott’s 1997 breakout hit, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” on a local radio station. “I’d heard the song a million times, but my mind had been on representation, feminism and intersectionality,” she said. “When people talk about feminism, they don’t mean hip-hop girls. It’s through the white woman’s gaze.”
Miss Haze said listening to the song again with fresh ears lead to a revelation. “I realized that Missy had been doing feminism through hip-hop longer than we’ve been having this conversation. And she’s been doing it in a way the black community understands. Missy has never been afraid to share the spotlight with other women, and that’s just not done now. The hip-hop girls don’t like each other. That made the poem come to life.”
Miss Haze said she drew on her memories of first hearing “The Rain” back in 1997 when she a child and learning the dance moves from the video. “I was drawn to Missy because she was a big girl, she was black, everything the media says is not pretty,” Miss Haze said. “She was a badass, producer, wrote her own music. That affected me greatly and I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps in some way.”
She wrote the poem (you can watch her perform the poem and listen to the song that inspired it in the videos below) and performed it at Brave New Voices in Boston earlier this year. Activist DeRay Mckesson recorded her reading and posted a link on Twitter, where it immediately went viral. “I wasn’t really on Twitter back then,” Miss Haze recalled, “but then I got a message that Missy Elliott was looking for me.”
McKesson put Elliott and Miss Haze in touch on social media. “Missy sent me a message and said, ‘I saw your poem and it’s amazing work.'”
Later in the year, Miss Haze would perform the poem again at the Individual World Poetry Slam in Washington D.C. The poem was recorded by online journal Button Poetry and posted on YouTube on Dec. 29. The poem went viral again, was picked up by Huffington Post and Miss Haze received yet another message that Missy Elliott wanted to talk to her.
“I got a message from Missy that she wanted my phone number and address because she wanted to send me something. On New Year’s Day, the phone rang and it was Missy. I thought… oh, my god, Missy Elliott is on my phone.”
On Saturday, Elliott texted her and wanted to know if she would be home later in the evening that a surprise was being delivered. “I cleaned the house just in case,” Miss Haze laughed. “I didn’t think she would show up, but at 9 p.m. there was a knock on my door. There were two women outside who said they had a surprise for me and five seconds later Missy was standing there. The tweets would have been enough, the phone call would have been enough, but to personally show up at my doorstep is amazing.”
Miss Haze said Elliott told her that she was touched to know that all her years of work in music had affected someone’s life so much. “She was humbled by the poem and said I could be the same kind of inspiration for someone else.”
Be sure to check out Miss Haze’s website to see where she’ll be performing both in Atlanta and elsewhere at MissHaze.com.