Just like Blackness, nature is constantly shifting and changing. We are in a moment where the intersection of Blackness and Greenness is rapidly expanding, both in our individual lives and in the public sphere. Whether you’ve developed an affinity for houseplants, decided to try growing basil in a window box, or even just started to take daily walks around your neighborhood, being stuck inside has encouraged us to quite literally stop and smell the flowers.
Just like Blackness, nature is constantly shifting and changing. We are in a moment where the intersection of Blackness and Greenness is rapidly expanding, both in our individual lives and in the public sphere.
But it’s not just us “regular” Black folks who have been embracing the outdoors—in recent years, an increasing number of Black celebrities have given us glimpses at the relationships they’re cultivating with the natural world. Of course, most of us can’t install honeybee hives on our roofs like Beyoncé or buy a farm compound in Brazil like Lenny Kravitz, but hey, let a girl dream! Although the majority of wealthy people outsource the maintenance of their lawns and gardens to their employees, the Black celebrities on this list talk warmly about even the most mundane aspects of maintaining their outdoor spaces, like pulling up weeds in their gardens and cleaning out their chicken coops. Turns out there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having dirt under your nails after a hard day’s work in the yard!
Read on for more about a handful of famous Black people who are open about their love of nature—but try not to compare your window box to Oprah’s rose garden.
When he’s not charming audiences with his silky smooth voice, iconic singer-songwriter, Lionel Richie likes to spend his free time in his garden. But while some prefer to plant lemon trees or tomato plants, Richie’s daughter Nicole says he’s “more of a landscaping type of guy.” Although Richie once said his favorite plant is night-blooming jasmine, his Instagram feed makes it clear that he has a particular affinity for his massive (and beautifully maintained) hedges.
To Richie, a garden is one of the things that makes a home a home. “I see a home as the total piece of the property—there must be a garden and a view of it,” he said to Architectural Digest in 2016, speaking about the rose garden at his Beverly Hills home. It’s an obvious point of pride for Richie that he does a significant amount of the maintenance of his garden and trees himself—with the caveat that whenever he tries to trim a branch that’s particularly high-up, there’s always someone around to say “‘Get away! Get that man off the ladder!’”
To Richie, a garden is one of the things that makes a home a home.
Pop star Kelis and her late husband Mike Mora bought the Temecula, California farm where they have lived (called “Bounty Farm”) during summer 2019, but it didn’t become home until the pandemic hit. “You become farm people quickly,” Kelis said during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar last summer. “None of my friends would’ve pegged me as a farm person, but I’m as farm as it gets at this point.” But, she’s careful to mention, it’s been far from easy—the garden was overwhelming in the early days, and the rabbits and birds were relentless.
By now, her family is growing everything from kale and broccoli to strawberries and eggplant. They also have a citrus grove, and olive trees which Kelis uses to press her own olive oil. In addition to their crops, the family has more than thirty farm animals—along with their Great Pyrenees, who are adorably named Grits, Biscuit, and Gravy. Kelis has even started selling products made from her harvests including homemade hot sauce, olive oil, hair masks, and face creams. “We were proud agriculturists,” Kelis told Harper’s. “The idea of farm-to-table is not a new, trendy thing. That’s an African concept. We were thriving because we were able to work the land in such a way that it was feeding our people and for generations.”
“The idea of farm-to-table is not a new, trendy thing. That’s an African concept. We were thriving because we were able to work the land in such a way that it was feeding our people and for generations.” Kelis
Oprah’s love of all that grows is common knowledge among Black folks by now, and two of her most beloved outdoor spaces are the expansive farm on her Maui property and the rose garden at her home in Montecito.
Cultivating the Maui farm was a labor of love for Oprah, one that she said reminded her of the tiny Mississippi farm where she was raised by her grandmother. “We churned the butter, we milked the cows, we killed the hogs, we cured the meat in the smokehouse. Above all, we tended our little garden,” she wrote in Oprah Magazine. “That’s where most of what we ate came from. And now I’ve returned to that way of living: We eat what’s from the garden.” Over the years, they’ve grown crops from kale and radishes to purple potatoes and carrots, along with a seeming favorite of hers—tomatoes.
Planting the Montecito rose garden in the early 2000s was the television personality’s first go at designing a garden, and she was very hands-on with everything from choosing the gravel to putting the flowers in the ground. She was skeptical at first, but over the years it’s become her sanctuary. Talking to Veranda about the garden, she said: “Sometimes I stand under the arbor, close my eyes, and allow myself to take in as much as I can: I hear birds splashing in the fountain and literally smell the roses. This garden makes me present.”
“Sometimes I stand under the arbor, close my eyes, and allow myself to take in as much as I can: I hear birds splashing in the fountain and literally smell the roses. This garden makes me present.” Oprah
There you go, the perfect inspiration for your next trip to the local plant store or a nearby botanical garden! After all, it certainly doesn’t take a multi-acre farm to try your hand at growing a tomato plant or planting some basil in a window box. And even those of us who are working on our green thumb can still find joy in sitting on a park bench and soaking in the beauty of nature.