Erykah Badu’s Daughter Puma Curry Takes Style Cues From Mom

Erykah Badu and her daughter Puma
Photograph by Tony Krash

Puma Curry has a somewhat unusual job for an 18-year-old from Dallas: she’s her mother’s personal assistant. But when you’re the daughter of musical legend Erykah Badu, that kind of title makes sense. “It’s a fabulous job, I’ve gotta say,” she says with a giggle during a Zoom call with Badu, who’s beaming in from New York City while her daughter is home in Texas. “I’m learning how it is out on the road. She’s given me tips you would need to learn if you wanted to build your life around performing and being an artist.”

Badu is certainly familiar with life on the road, and still is to this day. She’s about to embark on a tour with fellow Soulquarian Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), which will take her and Bey across the United States before ending in her hometown of Dallas. In addition to the concert series, the Queen of Neo-Soul has a brand-new fashion collaboration with Marni. The colorful capsule marries the “Call Tyrone” musician’s eclectic tastes with Marni creative director Francesco Risso’s zany, patch-worked world of design (Badu teased the collab at the 2023 Met Gala, where she wore a white dress from the Milanese label, the top half of her face shrouded in hanging beads).

“He asked me if I wanted to do a capsule collection with him, so I said, Oh my god, yeah, of course,” Badu explains of working with Risso. For her part, Curry met the designer at her “very first photo shoot” in the Cayman Islands for a past Marni campaign. “Francesco made me feel so at home when I was just starting to learn about the industry,” she says. “And I knew my mom liked the brand.”

As Badu brings her daughter into the fold—making Curry her plus-one at fashion shows, events, and even in the Marni campaign—it’s clear the singer is now focused on passing down her legacy. “The place Puma is right now is much further along than I was at that age,” she says.

Badu and Curry wear looks from the Marni x Erykah Badu collection.

Photograph by Jordan Smith

How did the project with Marni come into your life?

Erykah Badu: I was selected to be Francesco Risso’s date at the 2022 Met Gala. As we talked and got to know each other better, we realized how much we had in common. I’m a fan of Marni, specifically when Francesco came in around 2016—the brand became very psychedelic and I could see the similarities between what I like and what he likes: layers, prints, textures, silhouettes.

Have other brands approached you for fashion collaborations in the past?

Erykah Badu: Yeah, in the past, they have. And I was equally flattered and honored, but the timing wasn’t right.

But I imagine those commonalities with Marni you mentioned might be why you would pursue a project with this particular label.

Erykah Badu: That’s part of the reason. The other half is Francesco himself. The house is only as great as its creative director—and creative, he is: an explosion of color and mentorship and honor and grace, through his work. It feels good working with him, talking to him. He’s honest about the way he feels and it makes for really good art.

A look from the Marni x Erykah Badu collaboration.

Courtesy of Marni x Erykah Badu

Puma, when you were young, did you spend a lot of time going on tours with your mom?

Puma Curry: Growing up, I did—before elementary school, I would go everywhere with her. My grandma or my nanny would be backstage holding me while she’s performing. And then as soon as she would come off, she’d grab me and we’d go back to the tour bus. When it came time for schooling, it just made sense for me to be homeschooled. But during the summer, I would go back on tour with her.

And now you’re working with her. Does that dynamic ever get confusing, like—when is she your mom and when is she your boss?

Puma Curry: Her demeanor doesn’t really change, no matter what. I mean, I’m her child, so I listen to what she says. That’s just how it is: you respect your parents. Now that I’m working under her, though, it is a little different because I’m getting paid. But I really enjoy what I’m doing and I feel that I’m a good fit for the job [laughs] because I know her, what she likes, and where all her stuff is. It’s an easy job all the way around—if I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. It gets difficult when I get lazy. But I try to stay on task, especially, because she’s my mom. It really matters: putting the work in, getting stuff done. That’s taught me integrity—one of the lessons she’s been trying to teach me my whole life.

Curry and Badu in Marni at the 2023 Met Gala.

Photograph by Jordan Smith

Erykah, you have been a style icon and a fashion trailblazer for decades, bringing Black, Caribbean, and African imagery and fashion to a wider audience. But it feels like the mainstream fashion media and industry is just now taking notice. Why do you think that is?

Erykah Badu: I’m a slow burn, always. I lit this same incense in 1997. So, you know, it takes time to travel—because it’s smoke, and it’s sweet, and it’s pure, and it’s honest. No preservatives. No bots. [Laughs] It all takes time. And we’re patient!

Looks from the Marni x Erykah Badu collaboration.

Courtesy of Marni x Erykah Badu
Courtesy of Marni x Erykah Badu

Puma, do you take style cues or inspiration from your mother? Do you borrow from her closet or archive?

Puma Curry: Absolutely, I have the greatest closet. Okay, it’s not my closet [laughs]. But I could put any style together. I could wake up and say: I wanna be Goth, and I’d have a whole array of options. When I was growing up, I would sneak into her closet and borrow things, because I wasn’t as responsible at the time. But now that I’m more aware of how she values her clothes and trinkets and accessories, it makes it easier for me to be like, I’ll bring these back.

What’s your favorite piece from your mom’s closet?

Puma Curry: It’s not a piece, but her shoe collection is absolutely insane. You would think she’s been collecting shoes for a hundred years. There are shoes for every single occasion, every single outfit. But in general, she’s a connoisseur of all things.

Erykah, I know that you are a vintage and secondhand junkie, too. What’s the best thrift shop you’ve ever been to?

Erykah Badu: The best thrift shop I’ve ever been to is probably Lula B’s in Dallas, where we’re from and where we live. Around the world, they think too much of their vintage pieces. In Dallas, it’s cool—they don’t know what they got. You know what I’m saying?

What’s the absolute best garment you’ve ever purchased from Lula B’s?

Erykah Badu: It would probably be my Uniroyal jumpsuit. It’s a mechanic’s suit with red and blue stripes, it has a zipper. I can wear it with anything and it makes sense: it’s comfy and forgiving.

Looks from the Marni x Erykah Badu collaboration.

Courtesy of Marni x Erykah Badu

It’s awesome that you and Yasiin Bey are teaming up on the “Unfollow Me” tour. What are you both looking toward for inspiration as you begin the show planning phase?

Erykah Badu: We talk all the time, at least twice a week in our lives, period. He’s one of my comrades, my brothers. But it’s too far out to start brainstorming; we’ll probably start soon. We’ve just agreed on “unfollow me” as a good term, because we want people to find their own spark inside.

Do you and Puma have any Mother’s Day plans?

Puma Curry: Well, we’re a family that likes to come up with events day before or day of. So, like my mom’s “Unfollow Me” tour, we’ll probably talk about it and come up with something quickly. Normally, me and my siblings come together to discuss gifts. My mom never really knows what’s going on until it happens.

Erykah Badu: I usually forget it’s Mother's Day. Actually, over the past 25 years, since they’ve been in my life, I’ve secretly created a sculpture out of teacups and sandals and tea bags and little tarot books, what they give me as gifts for Mother’s Day. And I cherish it. There’s a sculpture of it all in my closet.

Puma Curry: What?!

Erykah Badu: Y’all don’t know nothing about it.

Puma Curry: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’d like to see it one day.

Erykah Badu: It’s in there, if you pull back that curtain. It’s an altar [laughs]! They kind of give me the same thing every year, but I’m not ungrateful. All I’m saying is, it feels the same as when you ran into the house with a tiny, little flower you found in the yard and gave it to me. Every single thing means that much.

Badu feeding baby Curry.

Courtesy of Badu Archives

Erykah Badu, Puma Curry, and Seven Sirius Benjamin.

Photograph by Tony Krash

Let’s get into the Style Notes questions. What is your favorite fashion moment from pop culture?

Puma Curry: Probably Ashley Tisdale’s 2000s fashion, only because it’s so unhinged. She’d wear jeans, tights, a skirt with three sweaters, and a scarf, and a belt. And a hat. Like, what is going on? But I admire her ability to put anything together. And it’s actually kinda cute—mixing prints and layering in a way that’s not so meticulous, more childlike and playful.

Erykah Badu: Oh, for me, it would have to be the Seventies, when men wore ice skating pants outside every day. And platform shoes with Afros and tight shirts that were unbuttoned to the navel, with gold chains. I love shit like that. That was a beautiful, beautiful time—very free expression. No labels.

What was your style like as a teenager?

Erykah Badu: Bell bottom pants, tights, pajama tops. Batman cape—an actual Batman cape. Leg warmers. Underoos on the outside of my clothes. Chopsticks in my Afro.

What is the most prized possession in your closet?

Puma Curry: Right now, I really enjoy my sparkly belts. I have a rainbow collection of them: they’re bedazzled all the way around, with a big buckle at the front. I especially love the pink one—you can never ever go wrong with pink. Please quote me on that.

What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?

Erykah Badu: The best fashion advice anybody gave me was from my mama. And she said to me what I say to Puma now: “Give it to they ass, Erykah.” [Laughs].

Puma Curry: I knew you were gonna say that.