Meet Madison Moore. He’s a Ph.D. candidate in Yale’s American Studies program, specializing in popular culture. His dissertation looks at iterations of glamour in fashion, nightlife, and music.

Moore says he came to his area of study because of fierce women in his life.

“Well, it all starts with my grandmother,” Moore told Blackbook Magazine recently. “I grew up as the only boy surrounded by a bunch of fierce divas. My grandmother and her sisters, so my great aunts I guess, would always get dressed up to the hilt to go out to the casinos (“the boat”), to church or to a concert I was in, and especially for big family parties. I’m talking rhinestones, sequins, feathers, heels, wigs—they were always taking it there.”

Below is a snippet from a Yale News Daily’s interview with Moore from December 2011 in which he elaborates more on why being fierce is important, especially with marginalized groups. 

Q. Wait, so let’s go back to that chapter on Tina Turner and fierceness. What is that about?

A. Okay, so what I’m trying to do is think about fierceness as a way that minoritized groups — like gay men, women, people of color — have used to express themselves aesthetically.

Q. Wait, but before you continue — what is fierceness?

A. Okay! Fierceness, I think, is a way of kind of returning the gaze. So in popular culture, we talk about how images and people are looked at — fierceness, I think, looks back at you. I think it’s a way of changing the social dynamic in a room. So if you’re in a room and all of a sudden someone fabulous like — I don’t know, who’s fabulous? — so if you’re in Bass [Library] and Lady Gaga walks in, you know it does something to the room, to the way the room feels, the way people react to the space and that presence does something to activate normalcy. Like okay, you guys are all normal. It puts into motion ideas about how we are beholden to particular kinds of dress or style.

Q. So it instigates self-reflection in a way, or self-consciousness in people who … aren’t fierce?

A. No, no, no, it’s not about that. Well, it’s a really broad question because the dissertation overall is looking at glamour, and glamour has usually been written about from a perspective that talks about Hollywood, and whiteness in particular. And so my interest in fierceness actually comes from the fact that when I was researching glamour and looking at all of the Hollywood stars, there was no conversation about black bodies or Asian bodies or queer bodies in terms of the production of glamour. I was like, “Something is wrong here.” So when I started to look at Tina Turner’s videos, I thought maybe black and queer bodies are doing something different altogether — maybe it’s not glamour, maybe it’s fierceness, which is where the idea comes from.

Dr. Moore, when can I pre-order your book?

(Hat tip to—the one and only fiercest of them all—Aminatou Sow.)


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