Fatima’s story is the stuff that dreams are made of. The certainty that there was a bigger world for her outside of her suburban hood was the first sign that there was a warrior goddess in Fatima, not unlike the Ethiopian queen tattooed on her arm and a penchant for exotic headresses. Fatima’s absolute lack of need for a steady man in her life – aside from her eleven year old son – is another. Her mother was a very religious person, a “hardcore evangelist,” she says, and the one thing that Fatima took away from her compulsory trips to church was, “If you want something in life, you speak it into existence.” For Fatima, the “closest to God” she has felt was when she was dancing in clubs as a teenager. She trusted that instinct and by the time she was 21 it found her choreographing (a word she says she had never even heard before) Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” video. The rest is music history. Fatima helped give birth to hip-hop as a true art form of dance, and not by coincidence; here is someone who, for her 40th, dressed herself in a feathered hair piece – with a tribal straw backpack, while otherwise “butt naked” to this year’s Burning Man.
It took an individual like MJ to spot one like Fatima. The two not only share a birthday but are both fueled by sheer emotion, a relentless quest for truth, and the perfect accessories. With the King of Pop, it was never about the “counts” that measure the beat of a song, Fatima recalls, only the sound of the music. Moving to her own rhythm and beat comes naturally, enviably, to Fatima, whether riding her bike through Paris in the most colorful ensembles, like Cavalli leopard platforms, jodhpurs, a vintage Alaia jacket, and her signature armful of bangles. Her comfort with the “scary and the challenging” make her grow as a person. “The great part of what I do is ‘not knowing.’ I have to approach every kind of job in a different way. I may be on a music video this week, I may be doing a scene in a TV show, staging a show for eighty thousand people at a stadium… I like that journey, the figuring it out.”
“The studio is my canvas and the dancers are my paint,” Fatima says. She often avoids hearing a song until the day she begins the dance routine. Just as she freely imagines a pair of over-the-knee rubber army boots with a grader and mixes Fendi high-waisted trousers and stacked pumps with a lace bustier and layers of vintage and Hermes bracelets. Appreciating the “valleys” while soaring to the peaks keeps it real, and keeps Fatima close to her art. She chose to work on a play with George C. Wolfe, where she could learn something new, for a tenth of the money she would have made on a giant concert tour. So, too, does traveling in the summers to recharge, visiting friends in Barcelona, Prague, Cannes, and that place that she dreams of where she can let it all go, start over, and find the love and passion again: Paris. Spoken by one who knows exactly when to add balance to a sartorial moment with giant Monie’s cocktail rings or turn a simple turban in an Audrey Hepburn look with a gilded Calypso top, skirt, and flats: “When you do things in their proper time, everything flourishes.”