For this year’s Icons & Influences issue, we asked 10 artists to pay tribute to the women who have shaped their sound, provided an example, and inspired them to break down barriers. Superstar-in-the-making Saweetie met Cher while doing a campaign for MAC Cosmetics. But the two artists’ connection — and Cher’s influence on Saweetie — goes much deeper.
What I love about Cher is that she doesn’t give a fuck! In a world where people are constantly trying to tell women how to look, what to eat, what to wear, and how smart they can be, what you see with Cher is what you get. The women who raised me have that same demeanor, and it’s infectious. My first encounter with Cher was as a toddler, cleaning with my lola [“grandmother” in the Filipino language]. “Believe” had just come out and my grandmother, who used to babysit me, would have Cher blasting through the speakers as she swept the floor with her Filipino broom. I would have my little broom, helping her clean. Growing up, I sang “Believe” at the top of my lungs, and that same Filipino broom was my microphone.
Cher has such an imprint on my brain because she was a major part of my household growing up. In the Filipino culture, karaoke is a big deal, and my family and I would often perform her songs. But aside from her music, I always loved how she managed and embodied her energy. For one, I love a good costume, and Cher’s costumes are ones I try to emulate at my shows. The way she could be naked and yet still classy; the fact that she has always been able to exude that duality is majestic to me.
When I finally met her, it was simply amazing. We shared a day together on set for the MAC Cosmetics campaign, and she gave me a lot of wisdom and became a mentor to me. Her energy is so young, and she still looks so good! Regardless of celebrity, when you meet someone, you give them an experience. You know the quote “I may not remember what you said, what you wore, but I remember how you made me feel”? I meet a lot of people all of the time, but my experience with her was one of the most memorable.
Cher is the queen of costumes and looks, and her overall aura is immaculate, but what stood out the most to me was her honesty. She made me feel welcomed. She and I have a lot of parallels in our careers, especially with people counting us out. People often think I’m confident, which I am, but there are some days that I do doubt myself. I really want to get into that Cher attitude of “I’m me, take it or leave it.” I’m 80 percent there, but I’m still working on it.
So it was so interesting to hear her, someone who’s so iconic, share her battles and personal struggles. To me, she’s everything: She’s an angel, a queen. But she said, “Trust me, I went through it too,” and that gave me inspiration to keep going despite what critics say about me.
I call her “Mama Cher,” but she feels like a big sister, or a close homegirl. We still talk every now and again, and she even had me over for dinner once, which was amazing. Womanhood to me is about strength, knowing ourselves, and love. It’s important for women to fall in love with every aspect of themselves, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual. To me, Cher is the epitome of that. I have pictures of all of the women who inspire me on the walls throughout my house. I see Cher every morning, and it serves as a reminder to myself that “girl, you got it.”