Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Can't Get it Outta My Head: Bubbly - Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

This is so not usually my cup of cocoa, but I'm so loving this made for Channel U instant classic - Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Bubbly). Okay, so the lyrics may be beyond basic (ladies, let me see you go down low, wid the heads shoulders knees and toes), and the video looks as if it's been filmed using a home camcorder picked up at a Currys clearout for £199. But hey, who's watching that? Press play, turn up the volume, and make sure your learn the dance moves before your Xmas family do. Your 15 year old cousins/nieces/nephews will be well impressed...

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Alexandra Effect!

Gosh, I'm still spinning from the excitement of last week's X-Factor finals that I've barely had time to blog...Okay, in truth I've been saddled with yet another horrid flu-ish, bug-ish thing that I've barely had enough energy to run a comb through my unruly afro, yet alone blog. Mmmm, so this conversation may seem just slightly redundant considering the event in question happened over a week ago, but bear with me. 

Yeah, she did it! Congratulations to my girl Alexandra Burke for winning the coveted X-Factor title. For those who don't know, the X-Factor is Britain's equivalent to American Idol which finds 10 eager wannabes battling it out week after week for a £1 million pound record contract. Along with Idol, the X Factor is also the brainchild of Simon Cowell, and a certified ratings winner here in the UK. 

So along with fellow contestant, Rachel Hylton, Alexandra was my favourite from the get go. The North Londoner is a mere 20 years old, but has a vocal maturity that belies her young age (think a little Gladys mixed with sprinklings of Mica and Toni Braxton). Throughout the live shows she gave consistently versatile and polished performances and quickly became the bookies favourite. The final showdown saw Alex compete with runners up JLS and Eoaghn. But after a show-stopping duet between the budding chanteuse and her American "idol", Beyonce, could there really be any other winner? Since claiming victory Alex’s debut single Hallelujah has stormed to the top of the UK charts, marking what I hope will be the start of a successful career.  

I'm not going to go into much further detail but will leave you with these random questions/ observations:

- Now that she's won do you think they'll turn her into another bland, ex-reality pop star that makes soppy, middle of the road music such as Lemar and Leona?

- And speaking of Leona, what's with the comparisons? So they're both young, women of colour, who both happen to sing really well. AND?? They sound nothing alike and have totally different personalities. SO STOP!

- Wasn't it refreshing to see pictures of a young black woman splashed across the front pages of the national newspapers, who wasn't a rape victim, thief, or young single mother who murdered her kids?

- That said, it was equally annoying to witness the whole sexualisation of a black woman in the tabloids, especially considering she’s so young. “Cheryl has banned me from having sex” read the headline in the Sun. On closer inspection Alex merely said that Cheryl advised her to abstain from boyfriends for a while.

- If, like me, your life was on hold for those three hours while you watched the finals, didn't you want to shake/slap/pinch Alex and shout 'pull it together girl' after her mini-breakdown following her Beyonce duet? Honestly, when she was announced as the winner I thought we were gonna witness a live cardiac arrest on national TV. It got a little worrying at one stage.  

Ah well, I guess that's all folks until next year. Here are my fav Alex moments...

Silent Night



Thursday, 11 December 2008

Alesha Dixon's new video - Breathe Slow

Breathe Slow is the second single to be be released from Alesha's new album 'The Alesha Show'. The video was shot in Las Vegas and features the singer roaming the city of that never sleeps in full showgirl attire, juxtaposed against some Flashdance-esq  studio routines. The track is kinda middle of the road bubble-gum pop... would even go so far to say "catchy" even. Have a peek! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Stells Covers Stella

Girl of the moment, Estelle graces the cover of this week's Stella magazine, the fashion supplement found in the Sunday Telegraph. The cover line reads 'Why Estelle is the Saviour of British Soul', and features the singer giving her two cents worth about her arduous rise to fame, and the lack of opportunities available to Black British artists. The interview isn't available on the Telegraph's website as yet, but you can take a peek right here. 

Pieces of a Dream Job: Natasha & Semhal from La Diosa

La Diosa is an exclusive jewellery range created by young entrepreneurs, Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael. The London based duo travelled the world to seek inspiration for their designs, vising far flung locations such as the Mayan ruins of Mexico, Thailand, Tokyo and Malaysia. The result is La Diosa - a striking collection of hand-made original jewellery pieces.

Natasha and Semhal have also won a string of accolades including The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2008, finalists of the Cosmopolitan Awards 2008- and voted in the Top 3 young UK Entrepreneurs, LaunchLab UK. They are also sponsors of the Girls! Make Your Mark Awards. Here's their story.

We earn a living by designing statement jewellery that is unique, fabulous and empowering. La Diosa is stocked in Harvey Nichols and an exclusive boutique in Chelsea. Our company is set to launch in New York next year and our whole team is very excited about that! We work hard and it's starting to show.

The moment we knew we wanted to be jewelry designers was when we visited the ruins of Chichinitza in Mexico. The jewellery that these women and men would adorn themselves with was simply phenomenal. I remember standing in a resound silence as I focused on the bead work and detail of some of the necklaces and earrings and I finally had to ask someone, "How and why did they wear such huge pieces of jewellery?" The response Sem and I both received was the turning point of our future, "These women and men would wear each piece with pride and honour. The more striking the piece, the more powerful the individual." At that moment I knew that jewellery in the modern sense could mean so much more than a fashion item, it could portray power, beauty and mystery. These three characteristics are synonymous to a Goddess like the very women who wore this "power jewellery", hence our name La Diosa, The Goddess in Spanish.

Our story on how we entered the industry is a complicated one! We are not your typical designers who studied in a particularly academic way (Natasha). I strongly believe it is not necessary to go to university to become a successful business person. In fact I think in some cases it can damage your creativity and lead you to become institutionalised. So we decided to travel and gain some inspiration and knowledge at the same time. The experience was rewarding in itself, but what we have achieved as result is amazing (Sem).

I would say that the relationship we have is very much like a sisterly one. We argue and love just like family. Because of this we had to figure out a way that we could debate professionally without the other person taking it personally. It took some time to get there but after living in someones pockets for almost a year abroad you learn to respect them. We both understand that the empire we are building cannot survive without the other.

The highlight of my career thus far has been seeing the look on my mother's face when we won Entrepreneur of the Year at the Precious Awards. Before then it would be safe to say that there has been so many highlights that it is difficult to pin just one (Natasha).

I would be lying if I said running a business was easy. We face challenges constantly, meaning we always have to be on our toes and be ready to face the situation head on. The key to dealing with challenges is learning from them! Making mistakes and learning from them are the best lessons you can learn. No business course can teach you that (Sem).

The advice we would give to others trying to break into the industry is just go for it! The hardest part of business is sometimes actually starting believe it or not. So many people wish for their own careers but procrastination and fear of failure are quick to stop them. The fear of failure is a big one, but you need to make a choice.. Will you finally take the risk, challenge yourself and prosper or will spend the rest of your life wondering "what if...?" Just make sure that whatever it is you decide to do it's because you love it more than the money.

Banks can be difficult so we never approached them! The Prince's Trust saw potential in us. We had a good plan, did the legwork and were without a doubt passionate about our venture so they were happy to support La Diosa. When you have a strong business plan funding can become easier to access, however if you have the right people running the business then capital can become even more available. Banks and organisations invest in people more than plans.

Our future ambitions include launching "La Diosa Possessions". Possessions will include a range of statement handbags, sunglasses and shoes. We'll also be launching "Dios", our new jewellery range for men. We also aim to build on our celebrity client list, launch in New York next year and build our brand to become an international powerhouse - so watch out.

For further info visit www.ladiosa.co.uk

Monday, 8 December 2008

Constance Talks About Libel Court Case Victory

For those who have read Constance Briscoe's best-selling memoir, 'Ugly' you have probably been probably been paying close attention to the recent libel case brought against her by her mother. For those who don't know, Constance Briscoe is one of Britain's first black judges. In 2005 she published a memoir revealing the years of physical and emotional abuse she endured at the hands of her mother.

Routinely called "ugly", Constance describes a catalogue of horrors including being beaten by a stick, having her breasts pinched and twisted so severely that she had to undergo reconstructive surgery, being locked in a cellar, and being made to sleep in urine drenched bed sheets. At her lowest point Constance attempted to commit suicide by drinking bleach. Despite the somewhat humorous and nonchalant way in which these incidents were described, it was simply heartbreaking to read. The book caused a stir naturally, and sparked much needed debate about the culture of beating which is still very much inherent in the the black community.

Constance's mother recently took her daughter to court claiming that all the allegations made in the book were lies, and Constance was just a fantasist. Initially I began to feel quite worried about this turn of events. What if we had all been sold a pack of lies? I thought. What if Constance was just abusing her powers of the law and had simply used her poor vulnerable mother as a means to fame and fortune. I pondered.

However, last week Constance won the trial and her mother now faces £500,000 in legal fees, which she has been ordered to pay to Hodder and Stoughton, the publishers of the book. At 74 years old Carmen Briscoe (Constance's estranged mother) could stand to lose her house. Constance however has gracefully requested that the courts ensure that her mother keeps her home and doesn't end up on the streets. Ironic, eh? Such a tragic ending to what already was a sad story. Constance' Read one of Constance's first post-trial interviews here:

Freema Lands Role in Law & Order London

Also popping off the celebratory bottle of champers is black British actress, Freema Agyeman who is currently filming the much anticipated UK version of Law & Order. Freema first came to our attention as the plucky Assistant to David Tennant's Dr Who and has gone from strength to strength ever since, bagging a lead role in Torchwood, and winning a Screen Nation Award for Best TV Female Star and Glamour Award for Best Newcomer.

Freema will play court prosector Alesha Phillips in the 13 part series of Law & Order London, which is expected to be one of the main television highlights for 2009.

Leona: The Serial Record Breaker

Can this girl's career ascend any higher? Leona Lewis has shattered yet another record, with new single Run becoming the fastest selling download EVER. The cover of the Snow Patrol hit has already sold over 69,000 copies in just two days, and has soared to the top of the UK national charts. I happen to really like this track. Leona's voice sounds superb: it's really gentle and controlled in parts, and then spirals into a high powered crescendo that is the stuff of all ballad queens. Apparently record execs were reluctant to release it as a single but changed their minds after her X-Factor performance, proving once and for all that the suits don't know jack. I guess it's safe to say that this surprise No.1 hit coupled with rumours that Leona will be performing at President Obama's inauguration, tops off quite the spectacular year for Hackney's finest.

Live Version of Run Performed on the X Factor

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cocoa Chat: Eden Rox

Anyone who has followed the British R&B scene over the years, should be familiar with singer/songwriter Celetia Martin. The singer clocked up a couple of underground hits such as ‘Rewind’ and ‘Runaway Skies’ back in the 90's and was a regular performer at live R&B gigs across the country. With her lithe physique and dulcet tones, she reminded me of a British Aaliyah. Things appeared to be on the up and up for her, so I was quite surprised when she disappeared off the radar. A few weeks ago I learned that she was back recording under a new moniker - Eden Rox. As you can see from the publicity shot her 'skater chick' image is a lot edgier compared to the R&B refinery of her ‘Celetia’ days. Her music has also gone through a dramatic transformation. Lead single ‘Crazy’ can best be described as hip-pop/metal, with its frenetic electric guitars, hip hop beats, and in your face lyrics. I managed to catch up with Eden recently to find out what she’s been up to during her hiatus. Read what she had to say.

Hi Eden, many people will remember you as Celetia, the British R&B artist from the 90’s. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to while you were away?

I literally threw myself into song writing, but this time solely for other artists. It was a refreshing change for me as I had only ever written for my own projects... So when my publishers decided to fly me out to Sweden to write with a few pop/rock producers including Anders Bagge and Murlyn (Jjanet Jackson, J-Lo], there was no turning back. It was so cool to hear other artists’ interpretations of my songs. I just knew then I wanted to be a full time songwriter.

Which do you prefer – singing or song writing?

I love both equally... One doesn't come without the other. When I’m writing for someone else I always do guide vocals to show the way I want the song recorded and also when I'm doing my artist thing I always write my own songs.

What it was like to have so much success at such a young age? Was it overwhelming or did you love every minute of the experience?

I absolutely loved it! I had grown up in a very musical family so it was just a natural progression to do it myself. I remember I would break from school half an hour early to go to the recording studios in east London and I would literally do my homework between takes (laugh).

So you’re now back on the scene with a total change of image and musical direction, what brought about the change?

Like I mentioned before, I grew up in a musical family and was exposed to all sorts of music from soul to hip-hop to rock. Artists like Teena Marie, Run DMC and Guns N Roses were all played in my house and I loved them all. So when I decided to write my album I really wanted to fuse all the sounds I liked from an early age into my own personal sound...My image is just me. I like to fuse my style like I do my music.

How do you think your fans from your Celetia days will respond to your new sound?

I have a lot of fans hit me up on my Myspace and have given me some great reactions towards my new material, so all in all it’s been pretty good. I think a lot of people want to hear something fresh instead of the same old music formulas. I most definitely am tired of the same old same old and that’s why I chose the direction I did.

What do you think of the British music scene at the moment compared to when you first came out? Do you think it’s more inclusive of black artists, or has more or less remained the same?

I don't think it’s changed. I think it’s always going to be harder for black artists in this country but, at the end of the day you can’t hold back good music, so as long as we continue to make good music we will always be around. From back in the day with Soul II Soul, to the current day with Estelle, Dizzee Rascal and Lemar, they are all doing their thing right now and in a big way too.

Who are some of the artists you are into at the moment, who gets heavy rotation on your I-Pod?

First of all I don't even have an I-pod (laugh), I know, I’m so late. I listen to everything in my car on CD to be honest. But the artists getting the most plays right now are The Ting Tings, Scouting for Girls, Lil Wayne, MIA and Dizzee Rascal

Are you into music-related reality shows like X-Factor/American Idol? Do you think it’s a good way to enter the industry, or do you more champion the traditional route of gigging and grafting ?

Honestly, I think any way you can get to your goal - get it! It won’t be the same for everyone. I grew up in music and my Mum was in the industry already, so was my uncle, so I had a few hook ups. Whereas someone who doesn't have that in their reach, a show like the X Factor might be great for them.

Finally, what are your plans for 2009?

I plan on releasing my album and touring...I can’t wait! The aim is to build on my fan base and from there the sky's the limit

The video for Crazy

Vintage Celetia - Rewind

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Back to UK Blak - The Pasadenas

These guys remind you of another group in particular? The 50's throwback fashion, the West Side story-esq choreography. The eye-sore Didier Drogba wet-look hairstyles. Can't think? Well how about this year's X-Factor contenders - JLS. When I first saw Louis' boys prancing around on stage in baseball jackets and trainers a few weeks ago, they took me right back to the original 80's black boy band - The Pasadenas. The group were a  five part harmony band who first scored a hit with Tribute (Right On) in 1988, before following up with other chart hits like 'Riding on a Train' and 'I'm Doing Fine Now', which peaked at No. 4 on the UK national charts. See the JLS performance below and see how they compare.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Jourdan is Britain's Best Top Model

This is definitely the year of the Dunn. The Black British teen model sensation was named 'Model of the Year' at last night's prestigious British Fashion Awards which took place at Lawrence Hall, Westminister. The accolade is the icing on the cake for what has been a spectacular year for the young supermodel. First up was that much talked about cover and fashion spread in Vogue Italia's  'All Black' issue. A few months later Jourdan was unveiled as the new face of fashion giant -Top Shop, as well as gaining contracts for other popular fashion chains such as Gap and Benetton. According to the London Paper the model was in tears as she collected her award, but still managed to quip that although her mother will be proud, she would have probably preferred a house. I really like Jourdan. She's obviously great at what she does but also seems down to earth, intelligent and is not afraid to speak out against the ugly prejudices that exist in the fashion industry. Congratulations lady! 

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Alesha: Music To Your Ears?

Brace yourselves for the release of Alesha Dixon's new album - The Alesha Show, released on Monday 24th November. The album is a mixture of new songs and remixed tracks from her shelved project from a couple of years back 'Fired Up'. I sooooo want to love this woman's music. Alesha is one of my favourites on the Brit Pop scene and I'm sure I'm not alone in my thinking. Since Harvey-gate she has provided women across the country with a template on how to act if your man is caught with his pants down, publicly humiliating you in the process. Whilst most of us wouldn't have been able to resist the urge to get our claws out at any given opportunity, Alesha handled the situation with such grace, honesty and maturity that I'll forever be in her corner. But her music, well… now that's another matter. She obviously feels extremely passionate about it, because she could have easily bagged herself a TV job following her Strictly crowning. But no, she chose to give her singing career another shot. And I really wish she hadn't.

Colour me mortified following the first listen of 'The Boy Does Nothing', the first single released from the album. The singing, the lyrics, the melody: every aspect of the track is simply woeful. Not surprisingly though it catapulted straight in the national charts at No.8 (sigh), which explains the exact reason why the likes of Alesha has to sell their musical souls to sustain a musical career in this country. Question: why is it that Black British artists can only be accepted as their authentic selves only after establishing themselves first in the USA a la Floetry and Estelle? I’m now thinking the likes of Alesha, Lemar, Terri Walker, Keisha White and Beverley Knight need to just up sticks and move to the land of milk and honey, and bloody decent record producers, like pronto.

'The Boy Does Nothing'

So Long Rach

In all honesty she lasted a lot longer than I anticipated, but Simon did the right thing by putting her out of her misery. Her spark was gone. The women we met with the cocky one liners and impromptu whinning had been replaced by a timid, nervous wreck who week by week was buckling under the pressure. I guess it doesn't help matters much when the press are out to get you, portraying you as a gun toting gangster on the basis of a one off(Bo! Bo!) celebratory gun signal. Definitely a classic case of cultural misinterpretation methinks, Rach, you obviously wasn't aware of the furor surrounding Barack and Michelle's so-called "terrorist fist jab". So who's gonna win? Well I'm still backing Alexandra who was absolutely amazing tonight. But I wouldn't be mad if if Ruth or Diana won, but sooooooo don't get JLS.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Simon Backs the ACLT in Bid To Become King of The Jungle

Note from the ACLT:

Simon Webbe; former member of the boy band Blue has chosen to support the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukemia Trust) in this year's I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! 15p from each call made will be donated to the charity. 

The ACLT are so grateful for the support but unfortunately Simon has only been given an 11/2 chance of being crowned this years winner. I’m making a bet straight away because I predict that, as soon as the ACLT family get behind him those odds will improve dramatically! We need your help, please support his efforts and in turn support the charity by keeping him in the competition and vote to save him!

I know he often gets a lot of stick, but I quite like Simon. He has done quite well for himself considering he isn't the greatest singing talent (reality check: like that ever mattered in this country). Not to mention, he's definitely easy on my eyes... I haven't had a chance to catch any of the shows yet, but will hopefully get to tune in tomorrow. But that's great news for the ACLT,  get voting peeps! www.celebrity.itv.com 

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Stabbing at the Urban Music Awards

LONDON (AFP) — Three people were injured in ugly scenes at the Urban Music Awards ceremony, with one person seriously hurt, police said on Sunday.

Two others sustained minor injuries during a disturbance at the sixth annual Urban Music Awards at the O2 centre in London late on Saturday. One person has been arrested.

"We were called at 10:11 pm on the 15th to a disturbance at the O2 Arena site," a Metropolitan police spokesman told AFP.

"We found three men suffering injuries. Two are not serious injuries, the other one is. They appeared to be stab or slash victims. There has been one arrest."

A spokesman for the London Ambulance Service said the three casualties had been treated at the scene and taken to hospitals.

Police sources indicated that the most serious casualty may have been stabbed and the other two might have been hit by flying glass.

The show was being held in the indigO2 -- a 2,350-capacity venue inside the former Millennium Dome.

Leona Lewis, Dizzee Rascal, Duffy and Estelle were among the performers nominated for awards.

Soul singer Mica Paris was to be presented with a lifetime achievement award.

Andre Nevling, 24, said a woman sat at the same table as himself was "covered" in blood.

"Obviously the guy who got stabbed must have run straight past her and she's pretty shaken up," he said.

"I saw blood all over the floor and then I was like, 'Jesus you're covered in it'," he said.

Another eyewitness, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "I didn't see what happened but there were champagne bottles flying and I hid under the table."

Natalie Williams, 32, said: "It's a huge shame that a small group of people have ruined everything for everyone."

I was so shocked to hear this. I was supposed to go. Call it divine intervention, but we couldn't find a babysitter so me and the fam decided to go down to the 02 for some grub instead. When we were on our way home we walked past the venue and it looked chaotic to say the least. There were hundreds of people gathered outside watching the red carpet activity. Rude boys were out in all their bejewelled finery, and young girls were screaming their heads off shouting "Oh my gosh, I'll never wash my hands again", after the likes of Sway and Chipmunk, brushed past them. Rich and I were saying that we were kinda glad things didn't work out because it looked so young, and sorry to say... quite ghetto. Although having said that I have every admiration for the Urban Music Awards. It's designed as an antithesis to the MOBO's, who have been criticised throughout the years for ignoring non-mainstream black artists to bag those all-important corporate sponsors (I mean, can you really imagine the MOBO's honouring Mica Paris with a lifetime achievement award?). I could really envision a time when the UMA's eclipsed it's much-maligned rival, but now can't even be too sure whether it will take place again next year.

My thoughts go out to the victims, and also Jordan and the UMA crew.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Leona Gets a New I.D

Leona Lewis is the surprise cover star of the December 08 issue of the style/culture rag, I-D magazine. And guess what? The pics actually look pretty good. I-D is not exactly known for embracing manufactured pop acts, but I'm glad they broke the mould and went for a non obvious choice. Besides, I guess it's a good trade off for both parties involved. Leona will no doubt gain cool points from the trendy left of centre, Hoxton Square set, and I-D will probably sell a few extra copies courtesy of the singer's over zealous fans. It's so refreshing to see Leona looking youthful, edgy and contemporary for once, opposed to the thoroughly uninspiring "prom queen/beauty pageant" look that her stylists are obviously deeply fond of. I haven't read the interview yet, but let's see, I'm almost certain that she'll be talking about saving animals, adopting children in Africa, and her favourite topic of the moment - why she'll never leave Hackney. Mmm, come to think of the beauty pageant dresses are starting to make sense now.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Afrique, So Chic

Last summer I couldn't help but notice that high street retailers such as Top Shop, Primark and H&M were featuring African inspired fashions in their collections. Whether in the form of bold brightly coloured tunic tops, wooden bangles and accessories, or skirts with African style prints - inspiration from the Motherland could be found everywhere. Without a doubt the interest was well overdue. The fabrics, colours, patterns and styles to emerge from the continent are nothing short of breathtaking. Yet for far too long has never received it's fair props.

This unprecedented interest also coincides with a new fashion movement from indigenous designers throughout the diaspora who are blazing a trail with collections that utilise traditional African fabrics while incorporating contemporary styling. Over the last few years we've had events such as Kulture 2 Couture, which was paramount in bringing the talents of African designers to the forefront in the the UK. The event was created under the Mayorship of Ken Livingstone, and consisted of a weekend of fashion shows, workshops and seminars. Of course with Borris now in City Hall the official line is the event has been suspended until next year. But hmmm, we'll wait to see how that pans out. However, fear not, on November 29th an event called Kouture Africa is being held at the Barbican, London. The aim of the event is to bring together African fashion designers in a rare fashion extravaganza that will see fashion and clothing as dictated by African aesthetics. There will also be African inspired beauty products, accessories, arts and crafts, and soft furnishings available to purchase. For further details visit www.kouture-afrika.com. I've also been recently notified that an Africa Rocks event is in the pipeline, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Fashion Rocks, which merges high fashion with music. I'll keep you posted on dates when I receive further details.
Now see below for my round up of the hottest designers:

Angela Baruch


Deola Sagoe
Stoned Cherry
Sika Designs
Ruki Garuba (Top) Gisella Boutique (Bottom)
Colures magazine's homage to the Headwrap
Duro Oluwu

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Dizzee for Prime Minister, what do you reckon?

After watching this last night, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

So where exactly were you when history was made?

My eyelids feel like a tonne of bricks. I stayed up to watch it. I knew I would suffer the next day but it was worth every minute of the dribbly mouth, desk bound haziness I experienced at work today...

So here's how my night went, please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors because like I said, I'm knackered.

I arrived home around 9.45pm from netball training. I got ready for bed because I was exhausted. I asked Rich to wake me up when Obama was declared president. I was 99% confident that he had done enough to seal the deal but kept reminding myself - this is America, you never know... Rich agreed to wake me up, so off I went to bed, deciding to keep the TV on with the intention of drifting in and out of sleep while the live coverage was on. At approximately 1.30am I abruptly woke up, which is strange for me, because anyone who knows me knows that I love my sleep. Word from the polling booths put Obama ahead, I can't quite recall exactly what the vote counts were, but all I remember thinking was wow, he's almost there. Compelled, I was fully awake now (Rich was fast asleep in the sofa by the way, so much for being my eyes and ears for the night), we were on the verge of history and me, little old me, was there to witness everything unfold on the little screen. Just after 2am they announced that Ohio went to Obama. The roar from the crowd when this announcement was made was a sound I will never forget, it was immense. Political pundits who were hired to be "objective" were shouting and whooping "he's done it, he's done it, Barack Obama has won the race", convinced by the theory that no other Republican candidate who had lost out on the Ohio vote had ever gone on to win the Presidency. But I still wasn't convinced. As much as I'm a born optimist, I vowed to put the champers on ice until he reached the golden number of 270. For what seemed like hours later the moment I sacrificed my sleep for occurred at 3.58am. How I felt the moment it was confirmed that Barack Obama was the President of the United States is indescribable, especially in my subdued state. I just wanted to share my experience of this hugely inspring and significant moment in our world history.  


Ms Quichexxx

Monday, 27 October 2008

New to Cocoa Diaries: Pieces of a Dream Job

It recently occurred to me that I've met some amazing women over the years with interesting, glamorous, and much sought after jobs. When I first ventured into magazine journalism many moons ago it immediately became apparent that the career manuals and books that I had devoured at the library were out of touch and had no bearing in the real world. The media isn’t like traditional industries where you gain the qualifications, start applying for work, and sooner or later you’ll get snapped up by an employer. No siree. Contacts, flexibility, and the ability to keep abreast of ever-changing work trends are the real qualities needed to survive in this hyper competitive and often cut-throat industry. I've also realised that the media is an extremely closed community, and those involved aren't particularly forthcoming in imparting their knowledge on how they got to where they are.

With these thoughts in mind I've been long procrastinating the idea of an additional feature on this blog where I regularly interview movers and shakers within not only the media, but other industries that are hard to penetrate. My first interviewee is celebrity stylist, Ruki Garuba. Ruki is currently leading an enviable life as the stylist to US superstar, Kelly Rowland. She is also a designer in her own right and the CEO/Creator of her own clothing label – Ruki Garuba. Read below for Ruki's journey. And if you wish to ask her any further questions you can catch her over on her own blog www.rukigaruba.blogspot.com

I earn a living by styling celebrities and designing clothes. Occasionally I do campaigns for companies (ASOS.com, Rimmel and Ford) and magazines (5 year stint as Fashion and Beauty Editor at Pride magazine).

The moment I knew I wanted to be a stylist was when I did my first shoot by accident. I Originally wanted to work in entertainment but Sherry Dixon (the then Beauty Editor at Pride) took a shine to me and took me under her wing and introduced me to a wonderful new world. I've never looked back since. But the moment I felt like a 'real stylist' wasn't during my time in the world of monthly editorials but when I saw Kelly Rowland's Ms Kelly album cover and sleeve with name on the credits.

My typical day consists of waking up in a hotel room, getting dressed and having breakfast in speedy time before going to prepare and help my client dress. This sometimes can be before 7 am. Then it's a full day of press, interviews, photo shoots and then a show in the evening. I'm on hand to select outfits, make sure the outfits look good on camera and then prep all the costumes for the main concert including doing the quick changes and then have them packed up after the show.

The highlight of my career thus far is ever changing as I do new projects. One has to be working on Kelly's album shoot, another touring with Keyshia Cole and thirdly being a Fashion and Beauty Editor of such a respected black women's magazine by the age of 22.

My toughest challenge was when touring in the States for three months with a whole team of people I never met until 24 hours before we started the tour. I also hadn't before then spent that much time away from loved ones and friends. Having to live, breathe, sleep and work with strangers and your boss (the artist) with only the occasional day off is HARD. Being on a tour bus is difficult as you are thrown into a very small living space with colleagues (12 per bus) for 24 hours at a time with nowhere to escape. We even did a 72 hours stretch from Memphis to Vegas. You then have to get into a stadium to work and pull together a show each night which can be stressful enough on it's own. This was the time when I felt I grew the most, I learned how to be diplomatic, how to fend for myself in a dog eat dog environment and mostly just how to be tough on the outside even when you feel like you're cracking on the inside. For example finding a trustworthy dry cleaner in every city that could clean 12 outfits which consist of 4 parts each in roughly 9 hours was testing to say the least, not to mention I was in a foreign land and the only English person on the team. But I did it and did it well every night.

I commute to work by plane/train/car depending on where the shoot or show is taking place. Sometimes on a rare day I throw on my favourite hoodie (an over sized black Keyshia Cole one I got when I toured with her) and prepare myself for the 30 second walk from my bed to my desk at home. On the way I take in the sights whilst collecting my laptop from my bedside table, pick up the post by the door and grab a coffee from the kitchen

The first thing I do when I get to work is turn my computer, crank up the music and start by responding to emails that I haven't already seen on my Blackberry.

For breakfast I have a cup of coffee and three bowls of Cherrios. Followed by a glass of water and Berocca for energy.

The advice I would give to others trying to break into the industry is firstly do your research and find out which area you want to work in - is it editorial and fashion shoots, is it celebrity, films or theater? Then find out who the main stylists are in this area and contact
them for work experience. I can't stress how important work experience is. It gives you a great insight to what the reality of the job is, and also puts you in a great position to find out about up and coming vacancies. To be a successful stylist I think you need to really be able to put your personal tastes and styles aside, your clients aren't an extension of you, so you have to be able to create an individual look that is true to who they are. Be diplomatic and calm in your approach to clients, fashion houses, colleagues etc. It's a stressful environment and no one wants to work with someone who cracks under pressure. Also very importantly - always work at growing your skill. I critique everything I do and look at how I could have done it better. I read magazines all the time. Get a subscription to the main fashion magazines, I personally like Marie Claire and Grazia and I'm on style.com everyday, keeping abreast of what's happening. I also make sure I visit shops and department stores as often as possible. All this helps you to grow each day. Most importantly - never leave home without a notebook and pen. Jot all your ideas down and stick in pictures the inspire you.

My future ambitions includes growing my celebrity clientele, having my collections stocked in boutiques internationally and being a good wife and mother - one day!

Kelly Rowland as styled by Ruki

Kelly wearing a dress from Ruki's collection

Estelle's new video - Come Over

'Come Over' is the fifth single to be taken from Estelle's Mercury nominated album 'Shine'. Featuring the prolific Sean 'Shagga' Paul, the track has that hazy, sunshiny reggae vibe to it that takes me back to the beachfront live reggae jams that I often stumble upon during my travels to the hotel resorts in Negril. The video was directed by Lil X and features the styled to perfection Ms Swaray getting her ‘whine on’ with Mr Dutty Eh. Enjoy! 

2nd 'Black Girls' trailer

Black Girls is a new documentary by Chris Scott. Refer to my previous post for further info

Sunday, 26 October 2008

16 Candles...

Ahem, well okay, maybe sixteen plus a few extra couple of years or so...

"Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me". Today is my born day ladies and gents, YAY! So over the last few years in particular, I've had absolute disastrous birthdays, ranging from being cussed out and called a bitch by a friend who shares the same birthday as me (okay, so ever so slightly in her defence, she was blindingly drunk). Or as was the case last year, ending up in a dusty, South London shebeen, you know the type: dark and dingy, filled with the pungent scent of weed & cheap wine, ladies dressed in white lyrca and lace, topped off with a Ghetto Superstar DJ with verbal diarrhoea whose every record spin is predicable and unimaginative. Mmm, not good. So last year I vowed that I would spend the following birthday abroad, or at least out of London, and just do something a little different. As you've probably gathered - my plans didn't come into fruition. 

I'm pretty certain it's because I'm a winter-baby why I struggle to have a good time on my birthday. All my summer-baby friends have great birthdays, with the summer season practically ensuring that everyone is in a positive mood, and up for a night on the razz. With my birthday on the other hand, the grey and wet weather, combined with the fact that the clocks turn back signalling the start of winter means that a) I'm always presented with a string of last minute cancellations "Sorry Keysh, I would love to come out tonight, but..." or b) the friends who do turn up out of obligation look as if they'd rather be snuggled up under their duvets watching the News at Ten. This indeed was the case last night. As per usual I was struggling with ideas on what to do, and then during the week I got an invite to ex-Misteeq member, Sabrina Washington's, surprise birthday party, and thought it should be would be fun, you know, nothing too strenuous: I could grab a couple of my friends and go out to shake a leg for a couple of hours. We were told that she would be arriving at 10pm, but we got there around 11ish to find a half empty venue and no Sabrina. After answering to a series of "Are you sure this is her party?" "Yes". "Do you think then that maybe she's not going to turn up?" "Of course she's going to turn up". A few hours later the lovely lady in question arrived looking gorge’ in a stunning fuchsia pink & black mini dress. But I suppose due to the endless waiting around, and not much happening beforehand, it was somewhat of an anti-climax, and before you know it my friends were sitting down complaining of achy feet and all sorts. Deciding to put everyone out of their misery I suggested we grab our coats and just knock the night on the end. Typically just as we were leaving, things began to liven up.  

Today I'm going to be taking it easy. Rich is going to cook a roast dinner and his famous apple and plum pie, and then we’re going to settle down and watch Arsenal hopefully slaughter West Ham this afternoon. I think I’m gonna celebrate my next birthday in July. 

Me & my fella (Rich was the photographer for the night)

Scorpio ladies in full effect -  Yours Truly with Sabrina

Me and the girls nursing sore feet, gosh anyone would think we're in our sixties. 

Friday, 24 October 2008

X-Factor: So how do you think they're doing?

A few weeks back I endorsed X-Factor contestants Alexandra Burke and Rachel Hylton as the forerunners of the competition. We're now two weeks into the live shows and getting somewhat of an indication as to who is likely to go the distance. Last week it was Michael Jackson Week and Alexandra took to the stage and gave a rousing performance of The Jackson's 'I'll Be There' (although as Simon pointed out, it was obviously inspired by Mariah's version as the ad libs were sung verbatim). Looking every inch the superstar, it was almost a certainty that she'd sail through to the next round. And she did. Rachel on the other hand surprised most by opting for what in my opinion is one of Jacko's weakest songs, like ever, - Dirty Diana. Decked in an ill-fitting gold lame jacket and backed by an over the top stage production befittng a West End musical, Rachel's performance appeared clumsy, contrived and uninspiring. Not surprisingly, Simon slaughtered her. In all honesty I was shocked that she wasn't in the bottom two, proving that she's obviously got a few supporters out there. I understand her need to break free from the "generic R&B girl" tag but she needs to find a way to marry her need for experimentation with song choices and a personal style that comes from a place of sincerity. Watching her on stage last Saturday, it was clearly evident that she wasn't at all comfortable, and I found it near impossible to connect with her like I did in the audition stages. I sincerely believe it will be last chance saloon if she doesn't come correct tomorrow. Check out the performances above and tell me what you think. 

New novel: 'Love Me' By Gemma Weekes

You know you've discovered a great book when you mourn the day you finish reading it. I had this very experience recently after completing Gemma Weekes's awesome debut novel, 'Love Me'. Set between London and New York the book introduces us to a spunky young protagonist named Eden who fancies the pants off a childhood friend, but has to contend with him getting it on with her former work mate, who just so happens to be a professional model. After trying in vain to to make said male friend see the error of his ways, she flees to NYC downtrodden and broken hearted. When she arrives she discovers that her crush has also taken a sabbatical to the Big Apple, and is living under the same roof. Together they are forced to  deal with their issues of the past and decide once and for all on the course of their relationship. 

Although it all sounds a little 'chick lit' in description, 'Love Me' delves a whole lot deeper. What starts off as a traditional romance novel slowly changes course as we learn about the source of  Eden's obsessive nature: a by-product of the unrequited love she experienced from her mother during her childhood. Author, Gemma Weekes is from a poetry background so her writing style is very emotive and lyrical. But it's not all doom and gloom. There are more than a few 'laugh out loud' moments, and Eden is a worthy heroine who is bold, brave, feisty and outspoken. The book is out in January 2009 but you can pre-order a copy at www.amazon.co.uk 

Love Me, Gemma Weekes, published by Chatto & Windus (Random House Group) 

Monday, 20 October 2008

Claudia Jones honoured on postage stamp

Civil Rights activist Claudia Jones is being honoured via a series of stamps produced by the Royal Mail. As part of the Women of Distinction series, Claudia along with five other women is being recognised for her lifetime achievements.

Claudia is one of our pre-eminent black sheroes in this country. Born in Trinidad, she was raised in Harlem, NY before moving to the UK in 1955. From her base in Notting Hill she fought tirelessly for the rights of the black community and is also responsible for organising the first ever Notting Hill Carnival. In addition, the industrious activist also created the first-ever black newspaper in Britain, The West Indian Gazette. The stamps are on sale now.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Back to UK Blak - Neneh Cherry (Manchild)

Before there was a Kelis, MIA or any of those alternative types of chicks, there was Neneh Cherry. Bursting onto the scene in the late eighties sporting stretched lycra, thick gold rope chains, and a huge baby bump to boot, she shook up the British music industry up with her unique hybrid of soul, hip-hop and pop. I didn’t quite get Neneh at first. I hated Buffalo Stance, although I can probably recite the song lyric for lyric to this day. However, under my school mate Rachel’s insistence, I finally succumbed and bought the album Raw Like Sushi, and transformed overnight into a bonafide fan. Manchild is one of my favourites. Indeed the video was random and strange, but it was also inventive which was kinda fitting of her offbeat personality. I used to have the very same style leggings that she’s wearing in the clip, which I would rock with some battered Reebok trainers. On occasion I would attempt to do the whole figure hugging mini dress with trainers too but would get dissed severely, and being the sensitive soul I was back then, stopped immediately. 

P.S. Her son must be a big man now. 

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Do you know where you're going to?

Is it me or is Tyra going a bit cuckoo? Each season I watch America’s Next Top Model with quiet bemusement as her crazy ramblings, onscreen antics, and fashion choices all fight to outdo one another. When she posed as Michelle Obama in the Vanity Fair spread a few months ago I thought to myself ‘here we go again’. But it seems as if Miss Ty Ty was merely getting started. The mogul model recently channelled Diana Ross in her iconic seventies cult film ‘Mahogany’, in a series of images for fashion bible, V magazine. Now I’ve yet to see Mahogany, although I desperately wanted to as a youngster when I was a hardcore Diana Ross fan. The film was Diana’s follow up to her Oscar nominated role in Lady Sings the Blues, in which she portrayed a fashion model/designer from humble beginnings who buckles under the pressure of fame. Mmm, maybe Tyra is trying to tell us something. Read the story here.

How do we solve a problem like the Mobos?

Estelle hits the red carpet (sourced at www.popsugar.com) 

The Mobo Awards took place last night at Wembley Arena, and as per usual, made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Leona Lewis was booed severely for not being there to collect her two gongs. As were Lil’ Wayne and Dizzee Rascal. Tim Westwood also felt the wrath of the crowd even though he was there in the flesh to collect his gong (maybe that was the problem, lol). In fact, it seemed as if only Estelle and the nominated radio/club DJ’s could be bothered to turn up. I know it’s all too easy to fall into the familiar habit of dissing the Mobos, but I don’t think the organisers were to blame this year. Despite the no-shows, as a ceremony it certainly has upped it’s game. The stage set was great – all colourful and futuristic looking. Mel B and Rev Run ended up being quite a good hosting team, bouncing off one another, and appearing quite natural as opposed to those horrific, staged gags we witnessed from Shaggy and Jamelia last year *brrr, still shuddering at the memory as I write this*. The presenters were a good mix of singers, actors, and sports personalities. Estelle and the Sugarbabes put in some solid performances. Craig David & Stryder Man were also surprisingly entertaining, and I'm now pleading Craigee boy to return to his garage/emceeing roots. It was great to see Yolanda Brown receive the award for Best Jazz Artist because she’s certainly put in the work – yay, go girl! Okay, so admittedly there were a few boo boos along the way. I could barely watch Mary Wilson’s cringe inducing Supremes medley because I felt so bad for her. Talk about coming across like a drunken auntie at a Christening.

But while I can’t really find fault with the show as a production, it still managed to fall pretty flat simply because of the amount of absentees. I mean, would Leona Lewis not turn up to the Brits? I guess in all honesty we shouldn’t be too surprised by her absence. She is being marketed as a straight up pop artist, so chances are her management couldn’t give two hoots about a black music awards show. But what about Dizzee? He soooo should have been there (Estelle was on tour too, but still made it a point to show up). If the UK artists can’t be bothered to turn up, how can we expect the international acts to feel the need to get on a plane? Speaking of which,  it's such a shame the organisers didn't bring Mavado over, a live performance would've brought the house down, did you hear the reception he received when he won the Best Reggae Award? It's frustrating because the show has such potential, and without a doubt is still very much needed in this country. So come on, artists and audiences alike, let's show our support and help to re-inject some much needed credibility. If the Mobos were to be axed we’d be the first ones up in arms bemoaning the fact that there is lack of support for  black music/artists.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Michael X - as told by Vanessa Walters

If you are in London over the next few weeks you must support Vanessa Walter’s new play ‘Michael X’ based on the tumultuous life of Britain’s most notorious Black activist, Michael Freitas AKA Michael X. I recently wrote a piece about Michael in Pride magazine, and even after completing the article I was none the wiser about this enigmatic character. Hustler, activist, pimp, murder - are just some of the tags that Michael adorned. But with so much of his character left in the hands of unscrupulous tabloid hacks, I’m ever curious about discovering who he really was. Vanessa is a friend of mine so I’ll admit I’m slightly biased, but I’m pretty certain that she will produce a provocative, well-written and emotive piece of work. The play is showing between November 6 – 27 at the Tabernacle, Powis Square, W11. You can book tickets on www.carnivalvillage.org.uk 

Black Girls - a documentary

I can't recall ever seeing a film or documentary dedicated solely to the lives of Black British females, so it was with great excitement that I clicked onto this You Tube snippet which arrived in my Facebook inbox a few days ago. Directed by up and coming filmmaker, Chris Scott, I caught up him to find out the impetus behind such a unique piece. Chris explained, "The BLACK GIRLS documentary is an idea I have had for over 2 years and after a long work trip to Philadelphia earlier this year, I came back with the energy to realise this project. The idea of the documentary is to give Black Women a platform to discuss whatever they wish - to share thoughts and feelings with the world and each other. Whether it's to celebrate, commemorate or discuss. Personal, political or topical Issues of any kind. For the first time ever, a Black woman feels she is being taken seriously and is both the central source of the information and can be confident about the integrity of the information output." 

Sounds good. So far there are no details on screenings and so forth, but I will of course provide updates as and when they arrive. 

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A reflective week

My week started off pretty routine until I received a phonecall on Wednesday evening informing me that Daniel De Gale had passed away. Now I'm sure many are familiar with Daniel's story, but in case you aren't, see below for an overview (sourced from Janice at Mad News.)

Daniel was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 1993 at the age of six and was put on a 2 year course of chemotherapy which he completed in March 1995. But after being in remission for just 9 months, he relapsed in December 1995, when a routine blood test revealed leukaemia cells again. With no assurance that a second course of chemotherapy would be successful his mother, Beverley De Gale, sought a bone marrow transplant for Daniel.

Daniel’s chances of finding a match within the UK were as low as 1 in 250,000 as there were only 550 African, African Caribbean, and people of mixed parentage on the UK register. Beverley and her partner, Orin Lewis, set up the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust to raise awareness, and to support and assist Black and Mixed Parentage people suffering with Leukaemia and all other blood related cancers. The charity also became involved with recruiting potential donors from many influential organisations such as the Fire Brigade, the Black Police Association, colleges and universities.

In 1999, after six years of treatment, a matching donor was found (Doreene Carney from Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A), making Daniel the first black person in the UK to receive a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.

Daniel died from an illness unrelated to cancer.

Now I've never met Daniel but his untimely demise rocked me to the core. The De Gale family through their African Caribbean Leukaemia trust  have worked tirelessly to increase the number of bone marrow donors as well raise the awareness of the disease to the masses. Daniel was our success story. He was a handsome, articulate and well mannered young man who had his whole future ahead of him. I know it's sounds childish of me, but his death just doesn't seem fair. Not when so many of his peers are walking around aimlessly, recklessly throwing away their lives and taking those of others, as if life were a pair of tatty old shoes that can easily be replaced. It can't. Daniel's death reminds us once again that it's a temporary gift that we will all have to return at some point. I never figured I'd ever have the need to quote Rihanna, but in the words of the Bajan beauty "So Live your Life".

R.I.P Daniel 

NOTE: The work of the ACLT still continues, so if you haven't registered to become a bone marrow donor please visit www.aclt.org for further information on how to do so. That would be the greatest gift you could give Daniel and the De Gale family right now. 

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Oxford Companion to Black British History out on paperback

In case you hadn't realised - it's Black History Month this month. In the past I seldom get round to checking the plethora of events taking place but will try and make an effort this year (for an official guide to what's happening across the country visit www.blackhistorymonthuk.co.uk). I came across The Oxford Companion to Black British History last year,  a fantastic reference book which details black British history from Victorian times to present day. It's now been released as a paperback and can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk 

The Oxford Companion to Black British History, Edited by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones.

Adulthood released on DVD

Noel Clarke's Adulthood will be released on DVD on October the 13th. The gritty street drama is the sequel to Kidulthood and picks up with the main protagonist, Sam, being released from prison and  trying to redeem his actions of the past. I never did get round to seeing Kidulthood, but I managed to see Adulthood a couple of weeks ago and found it surprisingly compelling. Yes, it indeed panders to all the negative stereotypes of black, inner city youth, but if you can remove yourself from that for a moment and look at it in isolation, as a film it has all the right elements  - a well written script, drama & suspense, witty dialogue and convincing performances. What we need now is a more diverse offering of the black British experience on screen, following a succession of these so-called 'urban street dramas'.

But anyhoo, to celebrate the release of the DVD Noel Clarke and the Adulthood cast will meet fans and sign copies of the DVD at HMV, 150 Oxford Street, London on Monday 13 October at 6.00pm. The evening will be hosted by KISS FM's DJ Manny Norte and feature performances from Adam Deacon, Femi Oyeniran and MOBO Award nominee Bashy.


About Me

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I am a thirty-something African Caribbean female from South East London. My blog will shine a light on Black British culture offering the best in entertainment, fashion, beauty, community, film & music, with the occasional personal musing thrown in from yours truly. Thank you for taking out the time to peek into the pages of my diary. Now grab a cup of cocoa, relax and enjoy.