Wednesday, 30 April 2008

London's Burning

The election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London should have some interesting implications over the next few years. I wouldn't say I'm totally surprised by his induction into City Hall; more disappointed than anything. Here is a man who has not only offended an entire race of people by using racially offensive terms with the flippancy of a modern day Alf Garnett. But the former Spectator Editor has virtually no political experience, yet all the public schoolboy smugness of a man who is fully aware that status and connections can buy you anything in this world . Livingstone noted that when Johnson announced that he was running for Mayor, he instantly saw him as a threat, because the cult of celebrity is so robust in this country. Bearing this in mind, I wonder whether Londoners opted for Boris for these very same reasons? Or am I being patronising? Has Boris received the most votes because middle England is looking for an extreme right-winger to sort out society's ills, or is it simply the case that Ken became a victim of his own arrogance? I'm not going to lie, and I may sound like I'm contradicting myself here, but I can fully understand why voters would choose to rid of Ken. Prior to Boris, I prayed for the day to have my say, angered by Livingstone's cockiness regarding the whole Congestion Charge controversy. And even as a black woman, I'll have to admit that I found Ken's 'race card' defence quite cringe-worthy during the Lee Jasper scandal. Yet despite his obvious flaws, I'm feeling quite nostalgic about the political maverick. Ken represents the underdogs who make up the majority in this city. The working classes, Blacks, Asians, and other minority groups who despite the facade of progress, are still at a social disadvantage in modern day Britain. So now I'll watch with interest as Johnson attempts to 'keep it real', by showing Black and Asian people that he can "out ethnic" them. I can just see the photo op now: BoJo standing outside an inner city comprehensive amongst a bunch of black boys, posing in a B-Boy stance with his hat turned the side. I suddenly feel quite ill.

Pride: The Money Making issue

The May issue of Pride hit the shelves today, and the theme is centred around how to make mo' money. With all this talk about the credit crunch and a pending recession, we thought it would be useful to dedicate an entire issue to matters of finance. Black women have always been a dab hand at finding creative ways to add extra income to their households, so rather than preach to the converted, we've instead come up with some creative and innovative ways to capitalise on our innate talents. But all work and no play would certainly have you dribbling over your monthly glossy by the time you reach to page 105, right? So that's why we've spiced it up a bit by including interviews with Blair Underwood, a surreal cover feature with Mariah, and yours truly got a chance to sit down with Yaya of America's Next Top Model fame to find out what she really thinks about Tyra. Hope you enjoy! And oh yeah, remember who to thank when you bank your first million.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008


I received a message from the lovely Ronke of The Musings of Ondo Lady to say I had been tagged. To be honest I didn't even know what being tagged meant. I just assumed that Ronke had added me to her blog roll or something like that. But I've since discovered that tagging is a fun little blogging activity, where blog authors list 6 fun and quirky facts about themselves. So drum roll please:

1. For the life of me, I can't pronounce the word 'strategically'
2. I have a school-girl crush on Russell Brand
3. I religiously read the back pages of the daily newspapers for footie news
4. Nearly every Thursday evening I develop an acute case of OCD, and can often be found spring cleaning and washing dishes well into the wee hours of the morning.
5. I get a kick out of reading people's emails and text messages on the train on the way to work
6. While walking down the street I often burst into song, often forgetting that other human beings occupy the planet. I then become really embarrassed when someone walks by and quieten down quickly.

To play tag, here are the rules:

  • Link the person who tagged you
  • Mention the rules in your blog
  • Reveal six unspectacular quirks of yours
  • Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blog and let them know they've been tagged
  • Once your post is up notify the person who tagged you

I tag Kwana Writes, Matilda Egere Cooper, Adenike's World, My Fashion Life, Gooders Girl, Disney Rollergirl

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

There's no busines like...

In a former life I'm sure I must've been a performer of some sort, because I just lurrrve going to the theatre. Sitting in an grand old building with the lights turned off, tub of ice cream in hand, while absorbing the sights and sounds coming from the stage is one of my greatest pleasures. Over the last few weeks I've been be granted the opportunity to check out the current crop of theatre productions seducing London's theatre land, and must confess - I'm really impressed. I'm really short of time so I'm going to give a brief run-down of my top three, which by the way is in no particular order because they are all brilliant!

The Harder They Come

Based on the iconic film starring Jimmy Cliff, I must admit I was a bit unsure whether this gritty urban drama would translate effectively on stage. The show had gained residency at the Barbican following a successful stint at Stratford Theatre Royal, and after a series of glowing reviews from my friends and family members I decided to check it out to see what all the fuss is about. In a word - exhilarating. The live band is phenomenal, effortlessly strumming through classic reggae hits from the soundtrack including 'Many Rivers to Cross', 'You Can Get it if You Really Want' and of course, 'The Harder They Come'. Courtesy of the music and energetic performances, a real party atmosphere is created, and it's instantly contagious.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, The Harder They Come is based around the fictional character of Ivan, an ambitious country boy from a rural parish in Jamaica. With dreams of making it big in the city, he relocates to Kingston, but instead of discovering streets paved with gold, he instead faces a daily battle to survive the merciless streets. Conceding to a 'can't beat 'em join 'em' mentality, Ivan forgoes his 'country boy' image to assume a gangster like persona, becoming a local celebrity in the process.

Rolan Bell who plays the lead role of Ivan, is definitely one to watch. I could never fathom anybody stepping into the shoes of the great Jimmy Cliff, but with a mixture of charisma, good looks and talent in abundance, he really nails it. I have a feeling the show is no longer in London but may have gone on to Manchester. Hopefully the successful tenure at Barbican will lead to a West End residency.

P.S. I've just received word that the show will return to the capital for four months at a central London location. Do support the cause, and remember where you heard it first.

Afrika! Afrika!

Yes, I saw the billboard posters, flyers, and magazine ads etc for Afrika Afrika yet I can't say the idea of sitting down for two hours to watch some double-jointed exhibitionists pounce around on the stage sounded particularly appealing to me. But then I thought, well it's Africa, and we're seldom exposed to positive representations from the Continent, so let me try and represent. However, as time lapsed I kinda put the idea to the back of my mind. Despite the enthusiastic reports from my friends and family members who had seen and loved it, I still shrugged it off and tucked it away in my mental 'to do' list, all the while knowing that the chances of me actually booking tickets were slim to none. But as fate would have it, last week I received an email from the publicist of the show inviting me to come along to celebrate the show's end of residency at the 02. Tactfully, he managed to seal the deal by casually throwing in that they'd be laying on food. "Food?" I asked coyly, trying not to sound to ravenous. Trust me, that was all I needed to hear - I was there in a flash. When we arrived at the 02 tents where the show takes place, the area was transformed into a African village of sorts, with low lighting, Moroccan style jewel encrusted cushions and opulent lanterns.

The performance commenced shortly after 3pm with a male contortionist twisting and converting his body into some 'see it to believe it' styles and shapes. At some points during his act I had to turn my head, wincing at what I concluded could only be unbearable pain. I also gasped loudly on several occasions through fear of someone taking an almighty drop (at one point I'm sure there was a human ladder consisting of at least ten men). But over the course of the show you become accustomed to seeing the inconceivable, and become somewhat desensitized to all that you see. The repertoire is sliced into various acts consisting of contortionists, gymnasts, juggling acts, basketball players and tap dancers. A live band accompanies the action on stage, bedazzling audience members with a funky concoction of high-life, jazz, funk and soul. At two and a half hours long I assumed I'd be bored by the closing number. Thankfully I wasn't. So on curtain call when the words projected against the backdrop of the 02 tents read: 'May Your Hearts Be filled with Joy'. On a grey Sunday evening when ordinarily I'd be plagued by Pre-Monday blues. I silently respond: 'It is indeed'.

Into the Hoods

'Into the Hoods' is yet another production that I slept on. I mean, street dance theatre? How unbelievably Graham Norton 'Strictly Dance Fever'. I truly didn't think this show would appeal to anyone over the age of 21, so hesitantly headed for the Novello theatre, Covent Garden on a quiet Monday evening. After exiting the tube station, I lost my bearings and as a consequence didn't arrive at the theatre until a good 15 minutes into the performance. Based on the classic James Lapine book, 'Into the Woods', the noughties adaptation transports the narrative to a urban inner city housing estate environment. When two adventurous kids run away from their family home for a taste of freedom, they are accosted by an opportunistic landlord who uses them to to steal from unsuspecting victims. Soon enough the children become embroiled in ghetto life, adapting to the lifestyles of those around them.

Throughout the show there is no dialogue from the performers on stage, instead a narrator guides the audience through the action. To be honest this is perfectly fine, because the plot is secondary to the dance performances. Set against a soundtrack that runs the gamut of pop and R&B tracks over the last thirty years, the show unleashes an endless musical assault from iconic superstars such as Aaliyah, Janet Jackson, Prince and Jennifer Lopez. How the dancers manage to remember the intricate choreography is beyond me. But the youthful, jiggy, leg-warmer wearing body shakers bounce, flip and body-pop their little hearts out. They are soooooo good. So remarkably good in fact that by the closing number I find myself on my feet clapping enthusiastically like some proud parent. Good job!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Bitter Chocolate

I think it was just after Christmas day that my passion for books was renewed. Having gone through somewhat of drought because of the copious amount of reading I have to do at work. I was back on track following my two week exodus from never ending deadlines, and found myself reading through 4 novels back to back. One of the standouts was 'Bitter Chocolate' by Lesley Lokko.

Set across Haiti, UK, USA and Ghana, the novel tells the story of three young women on the verge of adulthood. Laure is a bright, beautiful Haitian girl, who although abandoned by her mother, lives a life of privilege with her grandmother. Her best friend, Améline, also resides in the family home and is referred to as the 'rest avec, having to combine the role of play friend with housekeeper. The third central character, Melanie, is the daughter of a rock star, who feels ignored by parents who are immature and self indulgent. Through a series of events the lives of all three young women become inextricably linked.

I must admit at 500 pages long I was slightly put off by the length of this book. Admittedly the first couple of chapters aren't particularly fast, and set against the balmy Haitian sun - the pace seems even slower. But as the lives of the women begin to unfold, the story quickly gains momentum peaking into 'can't-put-down' status. Having to navigate through life without motherly guidance, all three young women awkwardly stumble through the messy business of becoming a woman. Dealing with unscrupulous characters, drug abuse, the porn industry, secrecy, and blackmail - and that's just for starters. But after a few hard knocks and some pretty unfortunate life lessons they eventually reach a place of understanding. 'Bitter Chocolate' is cautionary without being preachy, the underlying message being your life is not determined by what you were born into, but the choices you make.
Lokko is a stunning writer. People, emotions and places are painted vividly, allowing you to feel as if you are there, all up in the action. A book-loving friend of mine borrowed my copy and wasn't as impressed, criticising it for being a bit too unrealistic and predictable. And yes, I'll admit some of the situations are a bit soap opera esq, but let's face it - so is life. Overall I'd say it's a thoroughly good read, and please, don't be put off by the size, you'll whizz through the whole thing in a couple of days, and then feel annoyed at yourself for reading it so quickly.

Jay Z Glastonbury debate continues

Amina Taylor has written a fantastic opinion piece about the whole Jay Z Glastonbury fiasco in the Guardian. Read here

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Choccie Bits

Naomi Says 'Power to the People'... or something like that.

Naomi Campbell claims that her recent antics on board a BA plane was an act of martyrdom, performed to give voice to suppressed folk who lost their baggage during Heathrow's T5 fiasco. Whatever next? Naomi for Mayor? Lawd help us. Read here: 

Ain't no Stoppin' her Now!

Leona Lewis has flown to the top of the US charts, making her the first British artist ever to do so. See story.

Mariah responds with 'Oh really?'

Mariah will be appearing on American Idol tonight (I know it's dry this year, but probably worth watching tuning in). The superstar will mentor the remaining contestants as well as do a 'Leona who? Don't write me off yet bitches' performance.

"And I'm telling you... I am not going!"

Western states have joined forces with the United Nations to get Zimbabwe to speed up and make an official statement regarding the election results. Read here.

So The Rumours Were True?

Bill Cosby really has recorded a hip-hop album, and apparently it's pretty good.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Back to (UK) Blak

I can't recall how the conversation started, but a few days ago Rich and I were discussing how back in the 80's and early 90's there was a formidable Black British music scene. During this musical golden era we were producing music that was just as good as anything coming out of the USA. I'm talking about the Lovers Rock movement (distinctively British interpretation of reggae music), with artists like Louisa Marks, Carroll Thompson, Deborah Glasgow. And let's not forget about the good old 80's soul era with groups like Soul II Soul, Imagination, Loose Ends and Five Star (Yeah I said it! 'Let Me Be the One' was a choooon)! Then more recently we had Acid Jazz, popularised by The Brand New Heavies, Incognito and Young Disciples. But then it all went quiet. Don't get me wrong, we've had a few waves of excitement with Garage and Grime, but in my opinion they've hardly had the same impact. The music is by and large consumed by a niche market: young, British urbanites, and fails to connect too far beyond.

With this in mind I intend to take us down musical memory lane every so often to educate those who missed out the first time around (you poor things), as well as remind those of us old enough to remember how we used to get down on it. First up is my girl Janet Kay. In 1979 she sailed to the top of the UK national charts with the brilliantly produced, authentic Lovers Rock jam 'Silly Games'. There are very few songs that I can listen to over and over again and never tire of, and this song is definitely one of them. Janet still tours across the country with other graduates from the Lovers Rock era. And yes, she can still hit that high note. Enjoy!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Black Brit Actors are Underexposed

Angela Wynter @ Underexposed by Franklyn Rodgers

This month marks the arrival of two fantastic photography exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery. The main idea behind these exhibitions is to give much-needed exposure to the Black acting talent which resides in this country. It's no secret that celebrated thespians such as Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Harewood and Sophie Okonedo, have all had to up-sticks and relocate to the USA, or risk being confined to a life-time of caricature roles: cue, Gus from Eastenders. The two exhibitions are unique in their own right. 'Underexposed' by Franklyn Rodgers presents a series of stunning black and white portraits. While 'Want to see more of me' by Donald MacLellan features his subjects photographed in a beautiful looking stately home. For futher details on both exhibitions visit Below are some more pics.

Top: Chiwetel Ejiofor @ Want to see more of me
Middle: David Harewood @ Underexposed
Bottom: Sophie Okonedo @ Want to see more of me

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Sometimes you've gotta sit back and enjoy the roses

I know it's been a few days since I've posted, but this week has just been one of those weeks that I've needed to go into 'couch potato' mode. Work has been a pain. Call it a combination of the few sun rays driving me to distraction, couple that with a huge drop in motivation - and that more or less sums up the state of play. I've had two re-writes to do, and am now so far behind that I've got about seven features to complete in 3 days. Should be fun, right? Now the Ms Quiche of 2007 would have instinctively taken all her work home and slave over the computer during the nights until I caught up. But the '2000- and Great' version has now come to the realisation that doing this as a regular practice is counter-productive. Not only will my work suffer in quality, but sleep deprivation inevitably leads to short temperaments and stink moods. My motto last year was to spend less time chasing money and ambition, and more time enjoying life and chilling with my family. And you know what, - it actually works. I'd probably be no more richer or successful if I was burning the candles on a nightly basis, so why bother? Instead this week I've been coming home, eating good food and drinking good wine, and hanging out with my son and my fiance. I've also had some time to do a bit of reading. I've got the new issue of Psychologies ready and waiting to be devoured and I have finally got round to reading Beauty Blogger, Tia Williams', debut novel 'The Accidental Diva'. Life couldn't be better right now. I urge you all to join me in this state of laziness... C'mon, I promise not to tell.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Cocoa Chat: Interview with Sherry Dixon

As a kid, I used to love rummaging through my mum's make up. Whenever I got the opportunity, I would sneak around in her bag, clumsily applying red lipstick and a little bit of Fashion Fair face powder. But ironically, it took me some time to actually start wearing make up as a young adult. When I eventually garnered the courage to go out and buy my first item of make-up, I can remember the exact purchase: a shimmery gold lipstick by Constance Carroll. The lipstick was so dry. Worse still, it gave my lips that pale malnourished appearance, although at the time I thought I looked hot. Things have progressed for me over time, and I now consider myself to be a fully certified make-up junkie. I'm one of those sad sorts who picks up random items of make up just because I like the shade or packaging. Admitedly, half of the stuff remains at the bottom of my make-up bag, simply because I lack the know-how on how to apply the products correctly. For instance, I'm still unsure if I'm applying my blush in the right place, and occasionally I get my foundation blending tragically wrong. But here to rectify all these make-up faux pas' is Sherry Dixon, who re-introduces her Make up Masterclasses next month. Ms Dixon is the ultimate renaissance woman. She has successfully edited two major publications aimed at black women - Pride magazine and She Caribbean magazine, and has also done tonnes of stuff on personal development throughout the years. So not only will customers learn the tricks of the beauty trade, but who knows, Sherry may also throw in some pearls of wisdom for you too. I caught up with Sherry recently to learn more about her workshops.

So tell us about the Sherry Dixon Make-up Workshops – what can women hope to gain from attending?

Sherry: My workshops are for women who want to learn to put on make-up properly. A lot of women would like to experiment with colour but don't understand the know-how and going into departmental stores can be daunting. My workshops are intimate and attendees will learn how to choose products to suit their skin type, especially foundation, which most people get wrong. Most don't understand the difference between creme to powder, liquid or mousse. Eyeshadows is another problem area. Many don't know how to apply colour to enhance their eyes and most don't know how to apply eyeliner. I will teach them all these techniques in a quick and easy way. If for example you have a fat cheeks, I can show you how to get definition to make them look less round. Large and protruding eyes can be made to look smaller also.

Why do you feel that such a service is needed?

Sherry: There are many reasons but the basic one is that women want to look good for work and play. NO longer should we be contented to just look plain and ordinary. A little lipstick or lipgloss can add zest to a plain face and can also be a good feel-good factor. It always amazes me when I put just a few coats of mascara, a lil blusher and a swatch of lipgloss on someone's face and the next thing you know they are walking tall land switching like a superstar. It's called colour therapy and if it works, why not encourage people to wear it and wear it well.

What sparked your interest in make-up, were you one of those kids who was always offering to do other people's faces over?

Sherry: Yes, I was the one who was the family beautician. Everyone came to me to apply make-up for them and I must have been really good, otherwise they would not have come back. It was my grandmother who started me off. I used to look at her applying her ponds cream and face powder every day before she went to market so I think it rubbed off. At one time I to joined every make-up marketing company, for example Jaffra in the 70's, so that I could go out and teach and sell the products at the same time. I became an area manager in a short space of time and it was then I realised I had a natural gift for application. So I then went on and did a two year Beautician's course which really did not give me the tuition I really wanted. So I decided to take a two year course on Fashion Photographic Make-up and Stage and Film. That was so exciting - learning to make cuts and bruises. But I decided to stay in Fashion Photographic make-up techniques more because that was the world I worked in with the magazines. I have never regretted learning make-up. It got me through many doors to many celebs such as Barry White, Luther Vandross, Terry MacMillan, Marsha Hunt, Diana Ross and of course editorial pages in top magazines and newspapers.

What's the one make-up item a woman should never leave home without?

Sherry: Lipgloss - you can do a lot of things with lipgloss. A little switch on the eyes can had some colour and even some on the cheeks can help so long as it's not silver or purple. And of course on the lips it can really make you look sexy.

Are there any styles or trends in the mainstream that you think Black women should stay away from?

Sherry: All I will say is that I don't like that garish look. Although bright red lipstick is back in style, not everybody can wear red. So check out your shade of red (there are over 20 shades - red red, tangerine red, rusty red, burgundy red). If you must wear it, sometimes a more subtle shade is nice.

In terms of celebrities who do you think is in dire need of a Sherry Dixon beauty make-over?

Sherry: I am not going to name names but there are some people who really need to update their look, but they get offended if the idea is suggested. Even if it's not me they come to, I really feel that just like the Americans, some of our celebs need to take make-up artistry seriously. Americans learn the techniques and you never see them looking rough. Why can't the same be said about some of our British celebs? I think they are too mean to spend money on themselves. The just need to call me or call somebody.

And on the opposite side of the scale, who do you think consistently gets it right in terms of wearing the right make-up to suit their skin tone?

Sherry: Kelly Rowland (who does her own sometimes), Angie Le Mar, Beyonce and Estelle.

Are mainstream make-up companies finally cottoning on to the black pound, or are we still under serviced?

Sherry: Mainstream companies still dont get it and I am beginning to think they dont give a damn - especially about their British black customers. When I go to the USA, I can buy my shade of foundation and powder from Estee Lauder,Chanel and Givenchy. They don't stock it here. Why? Clinique had a line which was great for black skins but they did not advertise it therefore it did not sell. So they took it off the shelves. How can we buy it if we don't know its there? MAC, Iman and the new BlackUp range are very good. The problem is not the companies, it's us. If you don't complain, why should they give a damn?

Can there ever be any justification for Black men wearing make-up?

Sherry: Unless men are wearing make-up for stage or a photographic shoot I would be worried if I was sharing my mascara with my partner. I know that some make-up houses are extending their men's range with bronzing powder and mascara, but I don't really like it on my partner. Moisturiser is a must though.

What's the one make up trend popularised by black women, that should forever remain locked away in the past?

Sherry: Black lip liner as lip pencil and plucking eyebrows so thin and then using eyebrow pencil to draw a new one higher than your original line. I sometimes see women on the tube who look as if they are in expression all the time. Oooh, and blusher in a big blob in the middle of the cheeks. Somehow they dont understand that you have to blend it in.

Is Vaseline an adequate face moisturiser, or is this an old wives tale?

Sherry: Black skins really dont need to be using Vaseline, especially in the sun as there is no hydrating properties in it and will make the skin burn. I know Vaseline is used on extremely dry skin to quickly add oil but as a rule, just stick to using it on the lips, hands and babies' bottoms.

Throughout your career you've worn many hats such as PR Consultant, Editor and Beautician. Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions left?

Sherry: Yes many and I am worried time is running out, so I have to move fast. In a few months I am starting my motivational seminars, which will bring in a lot of professional people alongside me to nurture and bring back positivity into the lives of women around the world. I think it is important to be able to help people along my climb up the ladder and hopefully with these inspirational talks/seminars, we can help women who also want to achieve. I feel so good after my talks and I know that this will eventually be the way I will go - holding a lot of hands, making chains of confident women as I go along. Then the book and the TV show will come after that - in about a year's time.

When is the next workshop, and how can we sign up?

Sherry: The workshops are done in two ways. It can either be a personal one-to-one session where it's just me and the person who wants to learn (1 1/2 hour session) or there are group sessions where I will demonstrate on a model and people will just look on, make notes and then go home and try the techniques that they've learnt from the class. (2-3 hours). So it's really up to the individual to decide what they want. Its a good idea to come along with a friend or two and share the cost.

The cost of Sherry Dixon's Make up Masterclass is as follows:

Cost: £90 for individual sessions
Group sessions: £50 per person
Dates: Saturday 3rd May, Sunday 19th May, Saturday June 14th, Saturday June 28th (future dates can be provided on request)
(Sunday sessions available for bookings of 6 people).

To register: Call Sherry on 07956 472633 or email her at

Monday, 7 April 2008

Choccie Bits

You can bark as loud as you want to; you're still not coming in...

Or so says Britain's Border Agency, who are still fighting to keep Snoop out of the country. Personally, I'm more concerned about the crimes against my ear-drums he has inflicted over the last couple of years. What happened to the Snoop who effortlessly penned rap gems of yesteryear such as Gin & Juice? We miss dawg.

Thandie Takes on Condee

This should be an interesting move. Our Thandie has bagged the role of US Secretary of State, Condelezza Rice, who she'll portray in a forthcoming biopic based on the life of George W Bush. Thandie will apparently be the first non-American to portray someone in the US Administration. Good on ya girl.

Tricia's Breast Cancer shock

The queen of British daytime telly, Tricia Goddard announced yesterday that she has breast cancer. A lump was discovered three weeks ago, which was abruptly removed. Her husband, Peter Gianfrancesco, says she may have to undergo further treatment such as chemotherapy. This is shocking news. But if we've learned anything about the feisty 50 year-old, it's she is a fighter. Let's wish her speedy recovery. 

Handy-man charged with the murder of British Woman

Jamaican police have arrested a man on suspicion of murdering a 61 year old British woman at her holiday home on the island. Omar Reid, 31 will appear in court this week charged with the murder of Barbara Scott-Jones. As someone with a huge family base in JA, when I came across this story it sent a huge shiver down my spine. I can only hope Barbara's family can find some solace through the arrest.

Friday, 4 April 2008

A Tale of Two Models

So while one notorious Supermodel was allegedly hawking and spitting into the face of the Old Bill, a far more dignified, Alek Wek was busy dedicating her time to far worthier matters. The Sudanese born beauty announced that she was teaming up with Speedo to promote World Swim Against Malaria, a fundraising initiative designed to get one one million people around the world swimming tomorrow. Speedo have also designed a range of Swimwear as modelled by Alek. All the proceeds will go towards the Against Malaria Foundation to buy nets for those dangerously exposed to the potentially deadly disease.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Cocoa Chat: The Souls of Black Girls

A few months ago my sister-in-law was distressed to find that her three year old daughter had taken to wearing a jumper over her head, pretending that it was her hair. While recounting this story to a bunch of Black women who happened to be her friends, we all nodded in recognition because at some point in our lives we had all gone through this strange rites of passage that seems exclusively aligned with the Black female experience. I can vividly recall wearing one of my mum's canary yellow jumpers over my short curly Afro in a desire to imitate my blond haired blue eyed classmate, Joanna. But then again, I grew up at a time when Black women were rarely seen in the media. In 2008 it's quite distressing to realise that despite the illusion of cultural progression, there's still a deeply ingrained sense of inferiority (and image and beauty is just one of the areas) that's indoctrinated in us from such a tender age. One amazing young lady decided to address these issues in a thought provoking documentary called The Souls of Black Girls. While completing her thesis Daphne S Valerius realised she had opened a can of worms that took on a life of its own. The end product is a powerful piece featuring candid interviews with young Black women discussing their self-image. The documentary also features social commentary from Actresses Regina King and Jada Pinkett Smith, Rapper/Political Activist Chuck D, and Cultural Critic Michaela Angela Davis, among others. I caught up with Daphne recently.

My first question is probably one you've been asked on countless occasions, but can you explain what compelled you to make 'The Souls of Black Girls'?

Daphne: This piece actually came about as a result of my own insecurities growing up as a young black girl in our culture and society. For me I was always very much “into” media images and entertainment as an aspiring performer but I always felt very much invisible and uncertain of myself as a result of not seeing a reflection of those who look like me in magazines, advertisements, or television and of the women of color that looked like me there were few. And in my youth I can say that I felt very much like Pecola Breedlove of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to a certain degree. So for me in putting together this documentary, it was very much a selfish exploration of my own feelings and understanding how and why I was influenced by media images. But also realizing that this can’t just be me and so as I was in search of trying to answer these questions of myself I was also hoping to foster open and honest dialogue among women because I knew it wasn’t just “me”.

How long did the project take to complete, and how did you raise the funding to produce?

Daphne: The film was produced over the course of eight months and there was a lot of time given to pre-production and post production. About 3-4months of me editing the piece and working with my supervising producers on the piece. This documentary was done as a journalistic broadcast piece for my final Master’s thesis and on a very limited or virtually no budget.

Pic: Daphne Valerius

Did you have a particular audience in mind when you created this project? Was your aim primarily to hold a mirror up to reflect the mindset of black females, or were you equally concerned with informing the mainstream media of the self-esteem issues that black women face due to lack of representation within the media?

Daphne: This piece was originally intended to focus on the effects of media images on all women of color (native American, Latina, Asian etc., ) However when I sat down with my supervising producers in the editing of the piece it was brought to my attention that this had to be a piece that focused on Black women as they are the group that is most affected by media images and degraded in the landscape of media images. So it was not intentional for it to focus on Black women. In fact as you listen to my narration I always reference “women of color” I never actually say “black” women because the original intent was to be inclusive of all women because all women of all hues, shapes and sizes are affected by the media images.

Pic: Jada Pinkett

In making the documentary, can you recall what the most profound statement was made by the young interviewees? Does anything stick out in your mind?

Daphne: I think speaking with all the young women brought me back to that time almost ten years ago when I was in high school and wanted to feel pretty and wanted to belong. But there was definitely one girl that I interviewed and what struck me about her was that she was known to her peers for having extremely, extremely long nails and I’ll never forget her saying that when she went off to college she would finally have a new identity because she would be more than just the girl with long nails. So that was definitely a moment for me and I think what hit home for me was that not only are these young girls being affected by the European standard of beauty and feeling invisible but they also have to consider living up to this ideal of themselves in the media that is not different than the image of a female prostitute. And growing up for me I didn’t have to consider living up to that ideal at all because there were women in the media that I looked up to who weren’t subjecting themselves to being a sexual object.

I grew up in Britain during the 80's when Black women were rarely seen on TV. Obviously things have changed a great deal since then where you have your Beyonce's, Naomi Campbell's and Halle Berry's of this world who are hugely visible. Some would count this as progression, whereas others argue that the Black women who are revered as beautiful often have Eurocentric features. What is your take on this debate?

Daphne: I think that we have certainly made progress as far as more women of color being seen in the media and being more visible, but unfortunately there aren’t enough of the Naomi’s or Halle’s to combat the Lindsay Lohan’s and the Paris Hilton’s and the Brittany Spear’s and the Hannah Montana’s and the Reese Witherspoon’s and Cameron Diaz’s and the Jennifer Anniston’s and the Angelina Jolie’s etc. They’re simple aren’t enough of them and we certainly need more than just Queen Latifah, or Halle Berry to stand for us as Black women. But as far as having to fit the European standard, the reality and unfortunate truth is that that there is a certain look that works and that’s what The Souls of Black Girls attempts to examine and explore.

Most Black female celebrities sport hair weaves and extensions? Do you there is an unspoken rule in Hollywood which states that black women should not wear their hair in it's natural state if they want acceptance from mainstream America?

Daphne: Again, the film explores this very idea and again, there is a certain look that works. However, I think that the landscape is starting to change where you see more women wearing natural hair in commercials to a certain degree but is it a problem yes, and I know that there are many African-American actresses that struggle with that all the time.

What are your views on the comments made by a Glamour magazine editor who said that black women wearing their hair natural is a big no no in corporate America?

Daphne: The comment of the Glamour Magazine Editor is unfortunately the unspoken belief that some people still have in their minds as far as what is beautiful and what is not. And as a woman myself who has natural hair and who has been successful in and outside of corporate America, I will say that it’s a sad and unspoken belief. But at this point and in this day and age we have to come to a place where we are having healthy and positive discussions and dialogue about these very painful and hurtful issues.

There are many high profile entertainers who you interviewed for this project. How did you garner so much interest, and were you surprised by the support?

Daphne: I can honestly say that God is the captain of The Souls of Black Girls ship and I am the co-pilot. I was able to secure the celebrities in my piece by the grace of God and his mercy upon my life and for placing people in my path at the right hour and at the right moment and He decided for me who would be included in this piece. But it also came as a result of relationships that I had built over the years. Chuck D was the very first individual attached to this piece. I had a relationship with both Chuck D and Regina King prior to me putting together this piece and so I simply asked if they would be interested in being a part of this piece and God took care of the rest. And as far as the interest that I’ve been receiving, it has truly been overwhelming and I take it one moment at a time, thanking God for each blessing but also thanking him for breathing this piece into my heart and into my spirit. He chose me and so it is. And so I am humbled more than anything everyday.

What are you planning to do now with the documentary, will you be releasing it on DVD?

Daphne: That is all something that I am diligently working on behind the scenes and so I just encourage everyone to keep checking back with us on the website for information about the television broadcast of the piece and DVD release.

Will we get the opportunity to see it over here in the UK?

I’m working on it right now. There should a screening coming to the UK on June 1st through the Black Filmmaker (BFM) film club and will have info listed on

What's next for you, do you see yourself making more documentaries?

Daphne: I see myself pursuing all things “in front and behind the camera”…and I have no doubt in my mind that I will be able to do it all as long as I am true to my spirit and my passion.
See a clip from The Souls of Black Girls below

Spring Cheer is Finally Here!

Me and my favourite gal, and renaissance woman Sherry Dixon

Hey, Spring looks it's finally upon us. It's funny how suddenly the world looks a whole lot brighter and yummier with the introduction of a few sun rays. A prime example of this was last night when I attended Choice FM's 18th Birthday Party dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in Park Lane. After months of travelling home in the dark and wrapping up in winter woollies, the crowd was ready to celebrate the oncoming season and part-aaay! London gals were out in all their pre-summer finery, as I enviously sized up gorgeous cocktail dresses in an array of citrus colours. The night was hosted by Alesha Dixon and Simon Webbe who entertained the audience with random (and questionable) facts about the station. But then again, after 18 years of providing the UK with a countless supply of R&B, Hip Hop and reggae, I won't hold a few exaggerated truths against them. We were also treated to a few special performances from Jay Sean, Simon Webbe, Ciara and Kelly Rowland. Kelly was the headline act, and despite keeping us waiting for what seemed like hours, when she eventually showed up, Ms K did her thing. My enduring memory will be her wiggling her tiny behind up against Choice MD, Ivor Etienne. Judging by his expression, I'm sure he really felt as if he was re-living his 18th birthday again. Ah bless!

Keysha and Tameka Epsom

Me and Atlantic Record's Publicist extraordinaire Taponeswa Mavunga - you go girl!

Joanna, Sherry and Keysha - Pride girls in full effect.

Sherry with the lovely Kelly Rowland

Two Dixon ladies and a gentleman

Mariah giving a whole 'nother meaning to the term 'fashionably late'

Me and my mate (and fellow journo) Lawrence Lartey

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.