Artist Rayana Jay teamed with the website The Undefeated and Disney Music Group to produce the black female athlete anthem, “Undefeated.”
Jay is a 23-year-old R&B singer-songwriter who decided to take her songwriting skills to The Undefeated and create an anthem to fight both sexism and racism. The song joins the culture in a year of #MeToo moments, louder female voices and women running for office in record numbers.
Not only do the song’s lyrics shout female empowerment but the message exists behind the scenes of the song. Published by Hollywood Records, the song was created by an all-female writing and production crew. It was recorded at the Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco/Oakland, the only professional recording studio in the world built and run entirely by women.
The song came out of a joint project between The Undefeated and the Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication in Maryland. MSU produced an academic study that examines the historical portrayal and imagery of black female athletes across sports since the beginning of the 20th century.
The project, named “No Ceilings,” contains stories and messages by athletes, such as swimming gold medalist Simone Manuel, speaking directly to the readers.
“Sometimes you have to show people that this is not anything new, and the fact that some of the same terms and the same portrayals have happened over more than a century is telling,” said Kevin Merida, the editor-in-chief of The Undefeated.
The music video features Jay and The Lady Eagles, the track and field team of Paul Robeson Campus High School in Brooklyn. The black female cast features women dancing, laughing and singing along. The party atmosphere is interrupted with photos of accomplished black female athletes. Jay name-drops multiple athletes, including Gabby Douglas, late sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner and Claressa Shields.
Demeanor like Serena, dripping all in gold
Speeding past my haters, got me running like Flo Jo
Just Like Gabby, we flip the script
Candace Parker, we just don’t miss
The song is about overcoming stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding black female athletes. As The Undefeated and Morgan State joint study reported, the paradox is “that as African-American women athletes focus on staving off stereotypical images of being masculine, they run the risk of becoming caricatured images if their emphasis on femininity overshadows their athletic accomplishments.”
The recent example of Serena Williams getting into an argument with the chair umpire and, partially as a result, losing the women’s final of the U.S. Open illustrated the paradox. The next day a controversial editorial cartoon from Australian Mark Knight depicted Williams as a child while exaggerating her nose, lips and hair.
In an interview earlier this month with gold medalist Wyomia Tyus, the Olympian mentioned the incident with Williams saying: “I felt that in that moment there, [the umpire] felt like he had no choice to do what he did. But he did have a choice, all [Williams] was saying is she wanted an equal playing field. We need strong women like that. Black women are not supposed to be that strong when talking about issues, but we are.”
The “Undefeated” music video celebrates exactly that: strong, black athletic women. It doesn’t do this by shoving other women to the side or speaking ill of male athletes. The song reaches its goal by celebrating what black female athletes have accomplished and advocating that they will keep succeeding and breaking new records.
Nikole Tower is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University