When I heard that Princess Superstar, the funny cool-girl rapper known as the “Feminem” of the ‘90s, was making an album for kids, I instinctively recoiled. The feeling — Ugh, there goes another — was one I’d had before, whenever creative women whose work I’ve admired produced children’s books or records or started their own kid-centric businesses or even wrote posts about breast-feeding on the Times Motherlode blog. Only now, as a mom, I realized how messed up it was, how somehow various cultural forces and probably Marissa Mayer had conspired to make me sexist against myself.
And so I went to meet Princess Superstar, a.k.a. Concetta Kirschner, for coffee on the Upper East Side, where she lives with her husband, Miguel, and her 5-year-old daughter, Siren, to discuss creativity, parenting, and how to make being a mom cool.
So how does the woman best known for “Bad Babysitter” and Amy Schumer decide to make a kids’ record?
I started listening to a lot of the kids’ music my daughter was getting exposed to and I was like, “This is really bad. Can’t someone make a cool, amazing kid record?” Then I was like, “Oh, no one is going to do this. I have to do it.”
Did you struggle with the idea of being perceived as — I don’t know what to call it, a momsician?
I did have a little moment like, “Will this be the downfall of my career?” I think there are these cultural things where being a mom isn’t cool: You’re old, there’s “mom jeans.” Dads are allowed to be cool: There was that documentary about punk dads. But women are supposed to be young, nubile, that’s it, which is really sad, because I don’t know what’s cooler than being a mom. Than bringing a life into the world and shepherding that little soul and doing a better job than your parents did with you? To me it’s unbelievably attractive. I’m so much cooler now than I was. When “Bad Babysitter” hit and I was a drunken mess and partying all the time, I was really young and I didn’t even know what cool was. So I was like, “No. I’m going to make it totally cool and have top producers, and parents are going to want to hear it too and it’s going to be dope.” Part of my mission is to make moms feel cooler.
It feels important to note that album, These Are the Magic Days, is about more than creating a tolerable alternative to Kidzbop. Your Indiegogo campaign talked about how the songs will “teach kids to love themselves; to feel their feelings; and to have compassion for others.”
I have been studying a lot about peaceful parenting, attachment parenting, emotional intelligence, and all this sort of hippie stuff, and I wanted to incorporate those themes. Not in like in a sappy, shitty, literal way, but in a fun way.
What’s peaceful parenting?
Peaceful parenting is all about setting limits with empathy. So instead of saying “Get off that couch, you are ruining it,” you say, “I know you are having a good time on that couch but I need you to get off that couch.” It works. The song “Momster” comes from a pivotal moment I had where I got really angry at my kid. It was something she did that was not a big deal, but I found myself starting to scream at her and it really freaked me out. It’s very scary for a kid when a parent gets angry — they are totally dependent, and when a parent freaks out, they internalize it. The person who feels good about themselves does good in the world, a person who feels bad does bad. So “Momster” is saying “I’m sorry,” and treating your kid with empathy and respect.
You homeschool your daughter and are generally a very hands-on mom, which I find interesting because there’s been a lot of noise lately about whether parenting screws up women’s creativity. Marina Abramovic said she had three abortions because children hold female artists back.
It’s interesting, because on the other hand, I feel like being a mom has made my creativity explode. It’s like another dimension has opened up. I have never loved something so much in my life, I never felt that emotion before, and I feel like your creativity is your emotional channel, so the joy in my heart has just enabled me to be better. But I think she’s probably right in some respects, because so much of your energy goes to your child. I have to be really purposeful with my time, and I’ve really had to battle my workaholism. I’ve been working really hard to show up for my kid, when actually working would be easier and more fulfilling. Like: I don’t fucking want to sit and play dolls for an hour — I want to kill myself. But I do it, because it gives her an amazing experience. My daughter is 5 now, and she has an amazing sense of self. She’s so confident and she really loves herself, because there’s someone seeing things from her point of view. And honestly, I believe it’s for the good of the world. Everyone is running around killing each other because they didn’t get their needs met as children. Imagine if everyone met the emotional needs of their kids?
Interview has been condensed and edited.