It’s been more than two years since Megan Thee Stallion and I last spoke.
As a journalist from Houston, Texas, I was granted the opportunity to interview the entertainer right after I graduated college in 2017. At the time, Megan was going viral on Twitter for participating in freestyle cyphers with local rappers in the city. When I transitioned to New York to start my career, Megan signed her record deal, and we reconnected on the set of her first commercial single, “Big Ole Freak,” at the invitation of her late mother and manager, Holly Thomas. What I saw then is what the world is appreciating now: Megan Thee Stallion is an undeniable powerhouse.
“Megan says she’s familiar with you,” her PR says as I walk into the cover shoot for this magazine. I was both pleased and surprised that a major publication was shooting their cover here in Houston. Megan was coming off an eventful weekend in our hometown. Just the day before, on Sunday, she received the 18th Congressional District Humanitarian Award from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, an honor bestowed on citizens who selflessly help others. The day before that, she walked across the stage as she graduated from HBCU Texas Southern University with a B.S. in Health Administration, with which she plans to open assisted living facilities in Houston and provide job opportunities by hiring recent college graduates.
Our interview takes place after her second look wraps. She’s wearing a custom Coach bikini and miniskirt, and at that moment, I can’t help but get emotional. Here is a Southern, all-natural, thick-thighed, and slim-waisted darling at the peak of representation in both fashion and music.
When we speak, Megan is relaxing in the greenroom in a white fleece robe. Her glam is the main attraction: a silk-melted, long, black lace wig and camera-ready makeup. “Hey, girl,” she says, giving me a hug and typing to a fan on Twitter. “I always take the little time I can to respond to my supporters,” she explains as I quickly set up my laptop.
Although there is a familiarity between us, my nerves begin to rise, because who was once a viral sensation in 2017 is now a global phenomenon. I wasn’t just talking to Megan Pete from Houston’s Southside who likes to get a Brisk tea from Texaco; I was speaking with Megan Thee Stallion, a groundbreaking entertainer who has appeared on tracks with Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande, has business partnerships with Popeyes, Crunchyroll, Revlon, and Netflix, and a fan base of millions that is growing by the day.
Megan is originally from Houston’s South Park neighborhood, where she lived with her grandmother and attended Albert Thomas Middle School. When her father came home from jail and started “getting money,” as she recalls, Megan started high school in Pearland, a suburb outside of Houston.
We both know what this means. Houston’s better schools are traditionally in the suburbs, and it’s not uncommon to use a family member’s address to acquire a higher quality of education. Megan’s upbringing is everywhere in her raps. “You are listening to me because you want to step into my world,” she says. “So I just want to put my Houston flavor in everybody’s ear.”
On her latest project, Something for Thee Hotties, released at the end of last year, she reminds listeners she’s still the same girl on “Southside Forever Freestyle,” rapping “Out in Calabasas doing ratchet shit.” Much of Megan’s music has distinct samples from popular rappers down south like Pimp C and Bun B, and she uses Houston colloquialisms to top off her rhymes. “I hear certain things, certain samples, I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s so Houston, that’s so Southside.’”
Among all the accomplishments of the three-time Grammy Award–winning rapper, Megan seems the most visibly excited about her education. After all, this is what her late mother and grandmother wanted. “I feel very, very proud. I’m still excited,” she says with a smile on her face. “I accomplish things, and I don’t really get to live in the moment, because I’m like, ‘Okay, I gotta do this next. I got to catch the flight, and we got to go over here now.’ But this is something that I’ve been working at for a long, long time.”
She started her college journey at Prairie View A&M University, a nearby college about 45 minutes from Houston, but withdrew after her career began to blow up. Megan, however, continued to push to finish school, going to Houston Community College and the University of Houston-Downtown before ending up at TSU. “When I got to TSU, I actually started going on campus, and then everything really took off,” she says. “I’m just a naturally confident person. When I put my mind to something, I gotta do it. I said I was going to do it, so I got to follow through.”
It’s hard to believe it but Megan Thee Stallion is still at the beginning of her career. There’s no denying she’s a contemporary pop star, though she will quickly remind you “I’m a rapper.” But to say she’s in her prime is to undermine the talent that’s still brewing. Megan’s music is fun and she’s always full of energy. The “What’s up, hotties, it’s Megan The Stallion, aka the hot girl coach” intro she spouts on her promo videos best articulates her charisma — loveable, pleasant, and with a Southern Belle agreeableness to captivate you even more. Despite what may look like overnight success, proof is everywhere on the Internet that she built her career from the ground up, on her own terms.
Megan came up during a time when organic ways of finding artists online seemed to be a thing of the past. Labels were getting smarter, streaming platforms stalled, and artists like Playboi Carti, Trippie Redd, and 21 Savage were able to grab major deals from homemade music, making their most viral songs in makeshift studios. But Megan chose to dodge initial major label offers and work as an independent artist, putting out the mixtapes Make It Hot and Tina Snow while lighting the world on fire with her Instagram and Twitter freestyles.
“My whole career, nobody handed it to me,” she says. “It was something that I chose to do and I really wanted it, and I really love it. I love to rap. I love to dance. I just love to work. I love the grind. And I feel like my mama was definitely a hard-working woman. She liked to grind.”
In 2019, Megan’s first Billboard Hot 100 placement, “Big Ole Freak,” debuted at No. 99 before peaking at the 65th spot. With rising fame, the time finally came to sign with 300 Entertainment, with whom she released her critically acclaimed tape Fever. That mixtape introduced the world to her relationship with iconic rapper Juicy J and Houston producer and longtime collaborator LilJuMadeDaBeat. She quickly followed the release with an EP titled Suga, which featured “Savage,” a track that would grow to epic proportions with a remix adding a now-infamous Beyoncé feature.
But just a year after Megan signed her record deal, while she was holding back-to-back live performances and celebrating the success of her hit song “Hot Girl Summer” with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign, the world went into lockdown, forcing all artists to shift their game plan. For Megan, this meant heading back to where it all started: the Internet. She once again began to post freestyles, utilizing TikTok, and put out her debut album proper, Good News. As a fan, I originally felt Good News deserved more recognition, but Megan kindly reminds me that she recorded her debut album from home during the pandemic. “I feel like Good News is awesome,” she says. “Of course, everything crazy in the world was happening. I made it in the house, in the living room. I don’t have any regrets about it.”
Just as Megan’s quarantine glow-up was getting underway, she found herself in a heavily publicized incident where she was shot in the foot by someone who, at the time, she considered a trusted friend.
“No matter where you work at, what you do, you just got to learn,” she exclaims. “I really had to learn the same thing your mama has been telling you all your life: ‘Everybody ain’t your friend. Everything that grin ain’t your friend.’”
The incident produced a court case that is still ongoing, but it has already affected Megan’s relationships within the industry: “Coming up, I was so stiff, I tried to be open and I tried to be nice because I’m a nice person,” she says. “I’m an Aquarius. I’m very much a people person. But I’m all over the place. I had to learn to reel it in a little bit because everybody’s motives aren’t the same.”
As Black women, we are often pressured to detail our pain, in part to make it more believable. And it’s become something of an industry standard to expect celebrities to publicly detail their trauma. Yet Megan Thee Stallion has primarily, defiantly, stayed quiet. From the deaths of her mother and grandmother to being a victim of gun violence, she has experienced a great deal so early in her career — so early in her life — a heartbreak synchronous with her success. She’s only just beginning to feel ready to open up.
“I’m just now starting to get more comfortable with letting people know a little something, because these days, if I don’t talk about anything personal, I see a lot of people trying to talk for me and tell my story. And they’re assuming things. You can say anything you want to say on the Internet. And if it’s a lot, it sounds more interesting than the truth.”
“In the future, I will sprinkle in a little bit of my business,” she continues. “But that’s up to me. I came to this conclusion. You cannot write my story for me.”
As Megan Thee Stallion becomes larger than life, Megan Pete is left to come to terms with her success. There’s no blueprint for how to be a college student one minute and a global superstar the next, but throughout scandal and stardom, Megan is making her own rules on her own time. She leads with authority by telling her story, and perhaps that’s why she has been able to bulldoze her way into the industry so effortlessly. Megan Thee Stallion is entirely self-made.
She stops the interview to remind me one last time. “I definitely am not a pop girl,” she says. “I’m a real rap bitch, ain’t no pop shit.”
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