Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Stand and deliver: Black Vogue or your life

I arrived back from Jamaica at the beginning of the month to find copious emails, Facebook messages and text messages urging me to go and buy a copy of Vogue Italia's 'A Black Issue' - the much talked about July issue featuring predominantly black models. Now don't get me wrong; I was just as excited as the next man. But I found all the hoopla and hype concerning the magazine a little confusing. After all, a 300 + page glossy, no matter how breathtaking the images, was never going to put an end to racial discrimination, injustice and all the myriad issues we face in the black community now was it? So why the bizarre, evangelical praise over an overpriced fashion rag?

Who knows, maybe it was the fact that the hallowed issue landed right on the tail of the whole Obama Democratic party leader victory, subsequently duping peeps into believing that it was of much greater significance than it actually is. Or is it me? Am I just being an old cynic? Well that just may be the case because according to this article published in the Guardian recently, branches of WH Smiths around the country are being bum-rushed by hordes of screaming black women trying to locate a copy. Well silly lasses, they should have come to me first. Rich picked up a copy at a Waterloo newsagents and was so spoilt for choice that he called me to ask advice on which of the covers to get (we agreed on the Naomi one in the end, might be worth a bob or two in years to come). But in all honesty, by the time I actually saw the finished product I felt as if I'd seen the majority of images online anyway, so it was a bit of an anti-climax. Not to discredit the editors though, the photography is absolutely divine and it it's indeed rare and refreshing to see so many beautiful and diverse images of black in a thick, bound, glossy overflowing with elaborate, high-budget ad campaigns.

I'm just hoping this wave of hysteria surrounding black images in magazines will continue long after the Italian Vogue hype subsides. There's a group on Facebook called Black Magazine Support Group that does what is says on the can - supports and promotes black magazine titles who struggle to gain exposure. In my opinion magazines like Colures produce beautiful photoshoots on a par with the mainstream fashion titles. And of course at Pride we strive to produce quality images on a minuscule budget, and do a pretty fine job I might hasten to add (okay, so I may be biased slightly). So please support us. We're a lot more gentle on the purse strings, and and at least you'll actually be able to read the articles... 

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Freaky Thursday

I had such a surreal experience on Thursday that I feel compelled to write about it. The day started off normal enough - nursery run, work, and then commute back into town. On this particular evening though I had a netball match to attend after to work. To give you a brief history: I play netball for a local team named 'Siyanda'. The group was created by me, and a bunch of other women who loathed the idea of going to the gym so instead created a fun, alternative way of getting into shape. So anywayz, it was our final match of a summer league, and I was quite looking forward to it because I had missed most of the games due to my hols . The night was perfect for it - warm skies and minimal breeze. We arrived on time and for once, the team had turned out in full support. To cut a long story short, the umpire we hired failed to show up, so we all made the decision to allow our opponent's coach to step in as 'acting umpire'. Big mistake. To say she was biased towards her team is an understatement. She blew her whistle at our so-called mistakes at any given opportunity, while turning a blind eye to her team's indiscretions. Team Siyanda are normally such a lovable and friendly bunch, but by the final whistle we were rolling our eyes and refusing to shake the other team's hands which is so not like us. Said woman even had the nerve to say to our captain 'sorry I was a bit unfair to you guys', I mean, the cheek of it! Anyhoo, we still beat them in the end proving what my mama always taught me: 'teef never prosper'.

So that was that. I didn't drive that night, so one of my team member's offered to drop me home. Having burnt so much energy on the court I was absolutely ravenous by the time we arrived back in Brockley. I asked my friend to kindly drop me off on the high road so I could pick something to eat. Although I fancied Chinese, with only £3 on me and not a cash point in sight, I was forced to go to my local chicken shop. Mistake numero 2. I bought a portion of chips and some chicken wings and rapidly made my way home.  Still fired up by the events of the night, I ranted on to poor Rich when I arrived home while gobbling down my food. A few hours later while lying in bed, I started to feel icky, and within minutes was chucking up into the toilet bowl. I suffered this for a few hours before deciding at 4am that I had had enough so drove down to the hospital. Dozy and uncoordinated, by the grace of God I arrived at my destination without causing injury to myself or others on the road.

I had to sit in the waiting area for what seemed like ages before being admitted to the emergency ward. As per usual, in the waiting area was your usual social misfits just waiting for their prey - me. My suspect was a 30 something man who had Amy Winehouse style bruises down his arm and a warm smile. Bless his cottons, he instantly took pity on me and offered to bring me a cup of water. But after this altruistic act, would he leave me alone? "You alright luv?" "Yeah" "Come here on your own?" "Well yes I had to because I live with my partner and toddler and it would be unfair to bring him out in the night". "Aaah, well what do you think it is wrong with you then, suffering from emotional problems?" "No more than your average Joe". "Pregnant maybe?" "I seriously doubt it." "Well was it something you ate - pizza maybe? "Eeel, please no mention of food "Chinese food?" "Seriously, jokes aside, no mention of food" "Or steak and chips? Voice raises considerably: "Look, I'm not joking, please stop, or I'll puke". "Alright luv, I was only trying to make you laugh".  And with that he was gone. If only I knew it was that easy to get rid of him. 

Ten minutes or so afterwards I was called into the ward. I wasn't given the shot up the bum that I was given the first time I had food poisoning (which was a shame because from what I can recall it really helped with the pain and nausea) but was instead given anti sickness tablets that of course wouldn't stay down. But on the plus side though, I was able to sleep the most restful sleep I've had probably since having Khy. It didn't last for long of course. A couple of hours later I was woken up by a nurse who told me it was time to go home -  spoil sport. To be honest I felt just as crap on the way out as I did when I came in. But feel loads better now though, although slightly concerned by the number of times I keep getting stomach bugs.

I can safely say that was one of the most random nights of my life. And oh by the way, Richard ate three of the chicken wings and still feels as fit as a fiddle. Charming eh! 

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Cocoa Chat: Angie Le Mar

One night - five women - how will it end? That's the intriguing tag-line of Angie Lemar's new play, Forty, showing at the Hackney Empire between 2nd August - 17th August. The play tells the story of Carol, who on the eve of her 40th birthday decides to mark the occasion by planning  a reunion with four of her closest school friends. But what starts out as a night of celebration, quickly spirals into an atmosphere of fraught contention.

I caught up with Angie a few weeks ago and she seemed genuinely excited by this project. Considering the radio-personality/playwright is in her forth decade herself, means that she was able to lend her own personal experiences to the script. I for one, can't believe the big four-0 is breathing down my neck like an unwanted passenger on a packed rush hour train. So for this very reason I'll definitely be checking it out with my girls to see what's in store. Please ensure that you go out and support too - sounds like a good one. www.hackneyempire.co.uk

You’ve been quiet for a while, what have you been up to?

Angie: Well I left Choice FM around Christmas last year and went to Jamaica for four months to do some writing and just to re-group. And then I came back to put plan into action. This play Forty is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I really wanted to get back into writing, producing, film and television. So I took time off radio, because radio takes up such a lot of time. Brothers is something we’re doing for TV now. So there’s a lot of stuff I had to project manage. I’m also back on stage now. I’ve gone down the gym, started eating healthily, and I feeling good about myself, and actually looking forward to stepping back on stage because I’m going back into stand up too.

There’s much speculation as to why you left Choice, some people say you were pushed, while others say you wanted to leave. Can you clear up the rumours?

Angie: Well my contract doesn’t actually end until the end of the year. But I just wanted to get out of the contract. I think I just woke up one day and said ‘you know what, I’m tired’. The work that it takes to run the show was a lot. I don’t like when (my) standards dip. I wanted to keep it up and I needed more support in order to do the things that I wanted to do. So I just thought I can’t do this anymore. It was a hard decision, and I miss it. But there was no bad feeling. It was just me saying that I have to get off this treadmill.

Your new play is about a group of women who turn 40, what inspired you to write it?

Angie: This play has taken me seven years to write, I was avoiding it. I wrote 'Brothers' which blew up and then 'Do you know where you daughter is?' And it kind of prepared me to come back to 'Forty'. This is a hard play to write because it’s set in one location. So that’s a lot of writing and a lot of angles to come from. 

Was the story based on you arriving at the big 4.0?

Angie: Well you know they say life begins at 40? When I was younger I just thought I’m never gonna get that old. But then when I was getting closer to it I thought to myself ‘how am going to feel?’ When I got there I felt fantastic. I’ve got all my kids out the way. I’m settled in my life. I’m still raving and doing things I never thought I’d be doing. That made me realise that this age thing is rubbish. Some of my friends came to my 40th birthday party who I hadn’t seen since school. 25 years just flew by just like that. Then I thought, you know what, there are certain things that happen at school that decide who you are going to be. Especially the character I play ‘Sandra’ who is a very straightforward girl. The other character, Mandy who is mixed race, was called ‘half breed’ by and it has stayed with her to this day. And that’s the kind of things we are talking about. This is our Waiting to Exhale, our Sex and the City, but it’s UK. It’s our story this time.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Estelle Continues to Shine

Album 'Shine' up for a Mercury Prize... So well deserved, let's hope she wins.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Alesha on the cover of 'You' magazine

Alesha Dixon was featured on the cover of Sunday supplement, 'You' magazine, yesterday.  In the accompanying feature written by celebrity hack, Chrissy Iley, the singer spoke candidly about her failed marriage, learning to be proud of her dysfunctional family, and how her confidence was buoyed by her Strictly Come Dancing victory. It's quite an interesting read. I've always admired Alesha for her unbridled ambition, tenacity, and the dignity she maintained throughout the whole Harvey/Javine affair. Things have been on the up and up for her ever since proving the old adage 'who laughs last, laughs best'.  On the strength of her 'Strictly' appearance she was offered a lucrative record deal, and is due to release an album of new material this autumn. Not to mention her TV presenting gigs, and numerous advertising deals. I soooo love a good triumph over adversity story -  good on ya girl. See the full feature attached. The pics are nice too.  

Sunday, 20 July 2008

By the Time You Read This

‘By the Time You Read This’ is the sweet-as-honey debut novel by Lola Jaye. I took this along with me on my travels to Jamaica, and devoured it in a couple of days. The plot centres on the life of Lois Bates, a bright and feisty young woman who lives in south London with her mother and step-father. We join Lois at age 12, on the cusp of the awkward teen years, where not only does she find it difficult to relate to her mother and new step- dad, but she also has to find ever inventive ways to avoid the school bully. However, life is set to change for the young heroine when her aunt presents her with a life manual, featuring the tender words of her dead father who passed away when she was a little girl. From this moment onwards the manual provides Lois with the confidence to deal with whatever life throws at her. 

For me, a good book has to tap into a range of emotions and ‘By the Time You Read This’ achieves this effortlessly. I was laughing out loud in places, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, choking back the tears. Ms Lola Jaye has to be commended for dreaming up such believable characters that really come to life. Lois’s journey through everyday situations such as unrequited love, office politics, friendships, grief, are written with such sincerity that at times it reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction (who knows, maybe it is). 

As a first time writer, Lola Jaye's journey to be published is a book within itself. Formerly a Counsellor for the NHS, Lola often dreamt of becoming a novelist and finally decided to put plans into action in 2002. Her painstaking journey towards being published can be found on her blog 'Diary of an Unpublished Author'. But all her hard efforts paid off eventually, and the talented writer now has a book deal with publishing giants Harper Collins, no less. For all budding authors out there, Lola’s story of tenacity, determination and hard work is truly inspiring. I’ll hopefully be catching up her in the next couple of weeks to find out how things are going. But in the meantime, do pick up a copy of this fantastic book. 

By the Time You Read This, Lola Jaye, Harper Collins  

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Jamelia goes in search of the owner of her weave

Jamelia sans trademark hair extensions

After the hair-revelation

Jamelia in her blissfully ignorant weave-wearing days.

Tune into BBC3 at 9pm tomorrow (Sunday) and watch chart-sensation, Jamelia, as she travels to India to report on the human hair extension industry. In Britain alone we spend up to  £65 million a year on human hair. So as part of BBC3’s Beauty Season, the programme aims to unveil the shroud of mystery surrounding how hair is sourced and sold. That means posing questions such as, is your 1B, 14 inch wet and wavy bought from the local hair shop in Peckham, taken from the dead bodies of Asian women? Or furthermore, forcefully taken from female prisoners in Eastern Europe? Lawd, I shudder to think.

Throughout her travels Jamelia allegedly makes some startling discoveries, which unsettles her conscience. And by the time the programme wraps the singer vows never to wear hair extensions again (I wouldn’t mind taking a bet on how long that lasts). Jamelia says: 

“Although for a black woman I would be described as having 'good' hair - because it is long and straight - naturally, it is not luxurious, thick or sleek enough to meet the demands of the endless photo shoots and concerts I am involved in for my career.

That's why, in many of the photographs you see of me, I am wearing hair extensions.

For me, putting in my hair extensions feels like a confidence booster, like a man putting on a smart suit.

I wear them to bring out the best in me and to transform myself from busy mum of two into my alter ego, Jamelia the pop star.”

I’m not too sure about the ‘good hair’ comments, but hey, that’s just my opinion. This "black woman" was taught that there is no such thing as good or bad hair, that hair types are simply 'different.' And it's an opinion I'll always abide by. That said, I’ll definitely be tuning in though. For the first time in years, I’m wearing a hair weave, and I’m ashamed to admit - I feel as if I’m becoming a bit of a weave-o-holic. I may sound contradictory in view of my comments above, but it’s simply a matter of convenience to be honest. Although I adore my natural tresses, the constant plaiting, twisting, getting up early in the morning to style, having to resort to hats and scarves in the event of a bad hair day, can become a real bummer, especially when you have a hyper three year old to tend to. So let’s hope that I won’t be too put off by the hair horrifics tomorrow. I’ve got my eyes set on a 20 inch Diana Ross-esq hook up. 

Jamelia: Whose Hair is it Anyway? BBC3, Sunday 20th July

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I've got so much things to say right now...

...But at 2am in the morning; so very little time. I'm on deadline at work at the moment, so as per usual - mega busy. Will hopefully get the chance to come back on Friday.

I've been quoted on the BBC website today for a piece hilariously titled Entering the Babyfather Debate (you just don't expect those kind of colloquialisms from the BBC, do you?). Try and check it out when you get a free moment.

Ciao for now

Ms Quiche

Friday, 11 July 2008

Cocoa Chat: Richard Blackwood

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so it gives me pleasure to post my interview with comedian/TV/radio personality - Richard Blackwood.  During the 90's Richard enjoyed a glittering career as a TV presenter, fronting shows on the BBC, MTV, as well as his own self-titled comedy/chat show on Channel 5. It was a remarkable feat for the charming and ambitious youngster from south west London. But being young with the world at his feet, Richard took it as a given that the money and dream roles would keep rolling in. But they didn't. And when the work started to dry up, his bank account followed suit.  Soon enough he found himself bankrupt, and at his lowest ebb attempted suicide. Thankfully, he's still with us to give his testimony to those in a similar position. In this, the second act of his life, his star has emerged stronger and brighter.

Richard is now fronting his own radio show on London's Choice FM. The show merges entertainment with matters of the heart such as relationships, parenthood, and youth crime. Here's what he had to say: 

We know you from your stand-up work and TV, so what urged you to get into radio?

It’s a weird one. When I went through everything, the bad stuff, I wasn’t really working that much. I was doing a column in the Voice, which helped me a lot because it kept me out there creatively, and kept me working. And then not long afterwards Choice approached me and asked how I’d feel about doing a show with Kat. At the time I hadn’t really much going on so I said yes. We did our first show together four years ago and then I was offered a show permanently. Things went well and it was a natural progression from there on. So it wasn’t necessarily my plan, but it had come at a time when I most needed it, and helped reach out to my core audience.

Your talk show is quite serious, have you abandoned your comedy roots?

As comedians, initially all you want to do is make people laugh. But most comedians when they’re actually off stage you’ll find they are not really funny. To write comedy or develop it, it’s quite a serious thing to do; it requires quite a level of depth. That’s why you find a lot of comedians are quite inward. You have to find humour in pain and anguish and that’s quite a hard thing to do.

Do you have any plans to return to television?

TV is something that will definitely always be my drive, but more recently it’s been film. I’ve always been behind the scenes learning my craft in acting. But I was doing so well in TV that my attention got diverted. But now I know what I want and I’m focused and sticking to it. 

You’ve also started your RB Seminars to address the issues in our community.  What kind of other topics will you be covering?

The subject matters that we’ll be covering will be things you see in agony aunt column or something. Like the next one we’ll be covering is relationships. You have a lot of mothers and fathers that are not together and the kids are feeling the effects. A lot of these kids don’t feel the love they need to feel due to that family breakdown. So everything we cover will be issues that are in our community and wider communities. The last one we did was on the youth crisis, titled: The next generation – can we save them? On that one we touched on the fact that some of the fathers were not there, because with regards to the woman that they slept with - they had no intention of building anything with that person. And as coarse as it sounded, I said to the women in the audience, you have to be responsible for your actions. If you sleep with a man and you knew you classed it as a ‘ting’, and then you decided to have his baby. You can’t condemn him for the fact he doesn’t want anything other than sex because you were both adults. Now I’m not saying it makes it right for a man not to not take responsibility. But at the same time it takes two to tango. So if you’re purely in it for sex, then protect yourself, in all ways. Because men can run away from their burden, women can’t. There are a lot of wo’tless men out there as we know. But if you knew he was wo’tless before you got involved, you can’t complain afterwards. And that’s the kind of things we deal with - we don’t ‘pretty things up’. We must stop blaming the government for a father not being around. 

Why have you chosen to be so vocal about all your personal struggles?

Because my situation was so public - it went straight to the papers when I lost everything. And then what was sad, especially at that time, was I was doing so many ground-breaking things, and you know it’s always the same old argument from people in the industry that they are not being respected for what they’ve achieved. And you know unfortunately it’s true. At that time I had my own show on Channel 4, and I came from doing the circuit of Hackney Empire and The Comedy Store – I came up the hard way. I went from being a stand up comedian to fronting my own TV programme. So straight away that inspires young gifted comedians to show them that there is a route. But yet, I never got a front cover of a magazine. A lot of the people that were writing these columns used to come and see me perform at these clubs. They saw my progression. And never once did they turn round and say we should celebrate that someone from our community who came up the hard way has broken though. What we’re doing to the younger ones is showing them that you too can get this. So the only time I got a cover was when I lost it all. It was as if the powers that be were just waiting for my demise. It angered me so much. I thought ‘my gosh, can’t you see what you are fuelling right now?’ We’re promoting the demise or the bad news. It was that anger that made me become so vocal. So in terms of me saying ‘don’t make the same mistakes as me’. My thing is I had no choice because my mistakes were put out there and I had no control. But rather than look and laugh, look and learn. Because I’m a fighter, I’m still coming back. You can’t stop my growth because I have too much self-belief. I believe 150% in God and that believing in God you have the same amount of faith in yourself. Some people used to mistake it for arrogance, but it’s because I have so much faith in God. And God has chosen me. You’ll never deter me from believing. 

How did you manage to lose so much money?

My demon was my money. When people become successful, the demon comes in whatever vice they have. So it might be women for someone else, it might be drugs. When we look at Amy Winehouse, we know she had a drug problem before she was successful this time round. But now she’s successful, the press is focused on her addiction. And that’s not helping her. So watch out for your demons because they will come. One thing about this industry is I’ve tried to help people to understand how unbelievable it is. Let’s say for instance they say men think about sex every three minutes. Men are like women with shoes. In the sense that even if they don’t do anything about it, they know it’s something they want. Now when you are in an industry where all of a sudden through your power and your success women who wouldn’t even blink at you before, are now coming up to you saying ‘I love your show’ and are flirting with you, touching you and asking for your number. As much as people might say ‘come on man, you must be able to see through that’. There’s a part of you that can’t believe that they are talking to you. And the only way I can give an analogy is if a woman walks into a shoe shop like Jimmy Choo and the owner says, every shoe in this place you can have. But if you speak to a man, a man will say, I look at women the same way you look ladies at shoes – I’d take all of you if I could. 

So with entertainment, it brings you that. It says that you can go out partying all night and we’ll pay you to turn up at this club, clubs you’d go to for free. Every club I used to go to would give me a bottle of Cristal. I don’t even drink. I’d have bottles of champagne stacked in my fridge. You’ll go to a clothes shop and they give you clothes for free because you are helping their label. They give you free cars because you are helping the sale of their cars. So all of a sudden when you are no longer successful, and when things turn bad for you. It’s very hard to go back into that shoe shop as a woman and say ‘yeah, I want that whole rack’ and they say to you ‘oh no, we can’t give them to you, you have to buy them now. And there’s no pre-warning. So my point is the entertainment industry is not real. I found it very hard to accept the fact that I wasn’t successful anymore. I was doing MTV, Richard Blackwood Show, TOTP. I went through a period of constantly working. The bankruptcy tarnished my name, it was like a CCJ. And everybody was trying to find reasons, there were rumours at one stage that I was taking drugs, whereas I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. So that was the hardest part of my entire life. But people would always say to me ‘you are on the ground now, so the only way you can move is up’. And they were right.

To find out more about Richard’s seminars visit www.choicefm.com 

Baduizm brightens up Brixon

'TCD' guest blogger, Sam Bleazard, was one of the lucky ones who had a golden ticket to see the inimitable Erykah Badu perform live at the Brixton Academy recently. Read below for what he had to say:

How relevant is someone like Erykah Badu to U.K. audiences these days? The high-priestess of nu or neo-soul, and still a giant of U.S. R’n’B with massive ego and own line in eccentricity to match, rolled briefly into town recently. How would her latest album, New AmErykah Part One (4th World War) and accompanying live show be received when there’s a credit crunch and potential global food shortage on the way? I asked myself these questions while standing outside Brixton Academy on a mild Monday night while comtemplating selling my ticket, as although it had sold out this reviewer was feeling increasingly jaded by the live experience.

Erykah Badu arrived in the 1990s, and capitalising on the convergence of soul and hip-hop, she was the earth mother and sage to a generation of listeners looking for some modern blues and a comtemporary female narrative. Among her peers who burst onto the scene in that decade, Mary J. Blige retains iconic status in the mainstream while others such as Lauryn Hill battle to come back from relative obscurity. Other Nu-soul stars such as Jill Scott continue to try to live up to exceptional debut albums – her Words and Sounds Vol. 1 was matched in its influence only by D’Angelo’s output a few years back.

Sitting at the back of the circle of this famous old theatre I expected to feel disconnected from the whole experience but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What you could never accuse Ms Badu of is lacking vision – if anything there are too many ideas at times. She came with a choreographed show, multi-coloured lights washing the stage as per the intensity of the music. Black power slogans mixed with messages of peace as the show opened with tracks from the conceptual New AmErykah sounding like a blaxploitation soundtrack fed through a mixer. Three backing singers were decked out in identical Japanese influenced garb and push-up bras, while our host sported a black cocktail dress, David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane make-up and a stack of hair balanced in a tall black cone shaped head wrap.

Some laptop bleeps and drum pad noodling aside the effect was generally hypnotic, from a several minutes long jazz-funk intro built around languid guitar and flute riffs, through funk and re-imagined classics such as On & On – sped up considerably on this occasion. Unfortunately the crowd were disappointingly flat and a few left early, maybe the talk of creating musical ‘vortices’ (the plural of vortex as she helpfully pointed out) in major cities around the world was a bit much for some. But the self-professed ‘analogue girl in a digital world’ had a serious point to make. Can an increasingly distracted and information heavy society switch off at any time and ever be genuinely spiritually connected to anything ever again, be it nature, God or the universe? The music seemed to make this point by swamping the senses at times, multi-layered backing vocals repeating phrases like mantras and spoken samples emanting from more than one keyboard. In fact there was so much going at at certain points that the guitar was lost in the mix.

But back to epicentre of this swirling kaleidoscope – what to make of Badu herself? There seemed little doubt that she still has star quality to burn as all eyes followed her when she moved, with every step across the stage seeming considered. She also displayed a witty line in self deprecating humour on the track 'Me', informing the crowd that ‘this year I turned 36, damn it seems it came so quick, my ass and legs have gotten thick.’

She lost the audience briefly with a bizarre anecdote about Mexican communities reclaiming their land – heartfelt but possibly mis-judged – but got them all back on side by teasing with Tyrone, a song dreamed up onstage in London a few years back about a sponging boyfriend. She then defied the venue curfew to play 'Bag Lady' to howls of delight from certain sections of the crowd.
Walking home in the summer air it was clear that Badu really does have the potential to sound like Billie Holiday (while a long list of others are inappropriately judged to have this ability) and is still producing albums with powerful messages and bite. The audience were eventually left eating out of her hand in what was, despite outward appearances, a very well thought out performance. But it’s her imagination that impressed most here. It didn’t all work but you have to admire the sense of old fashioned entertainment that was at the heart of everything.

By Sam Bleazard

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Future: Jourdan Dunn

Have you seen these images from the new Top Shop campaign, featuring young black British model, Jourdan Dunn? I've been a Jourdan fan ever since discovering she was scouted in one of my favourite retail outlets - Primark (Don't laugh, the girl obviously has impeccable taste). She's also undoubtedly stunning. The fashion industry seems to agree with me on this one, affording her over 75 catwalk shows and cover spots on both American Vogue and Vogue Italia (the much hyped issue dedicated entirely to black models). Jourdan has that cool confidence that screams from the camera lens 'look... I know I'm hot'. I would have loved to have had that kind of confidence at that age. Heck, I'd love to have that kind of confidence now. I'm also really loving the positive example she's providing for young, black girls in the UK. At last they can pick up a glossy magazine such as Vogue or Elle and see the image of someone who looks just like them peering back at them. It kind of reminds me of what Naomi meant to me when I was growing up. Let's just hope that she refers to Ms Campbell's professional life, and not her personal one for a template.

A bad, bad Diva

So there I was on a Monday evening, battling through the torrential rain in an effort to see one of my all time favourite vocalists, Chaka Khan, perform at her album launch party. We were told to get to the venue for 7.30pm, with Chaka expected to grace the stage at approximately 8.30pm. So enthusiastically me and Cynthia left from work and arrived in central London around 7.15. We quickly grabbed a bite to eat (well if you can refer to McDonalds as such) and headed to the Paper nightclub in Picadilly. Now I know any self-respecting diva wouldn't dare turn up on stage at the allocated time. So when 8.30 came and went in a flash, I didn't bat an eyelid, enjoying the gentle camaraderie and catch ups with industry faces I hadn't seen in a while. But then an hour and a half later, I started to get a little tetchy - this was Monday night after all. Plus there was no other acts to enjoy, or seats, or even a compere to explain to the crowd how much longer we had to wait. The only thing we had to hold on to was the tiny stage area with 4 microphones set up on it. So with conversations and banter running dry, the crowd started to get restless. Me and the girls tried in vain to get a little vocal protest going, chanting out "Chaka, Chaka, Chaka", but to no avail (the media crowd are far too cool and composed for that). It wasn't until around 10.45pm that a compere came on stage to say that she would be around another 15 mins. Those fifteen minutes dragged on for half and hour, until finally the moment we all patiently waited for  arrived. Although sounding shaky to begin with, Chaka tore through a song taken off her new album "Funk This". She sang another track from the album before launching into her classic "I'm Every Woman"(sidenote: which was hilarious by the way. Does anyone remember Leee John from 80's soul outfit, Imagination? Well he was in the audience. And as soon as he heard this track he rushed to the front of the stage where we were standing and tried to push in front of me. But after waiting for such a long time, I refused to give up my spot. So instead he stood behind me, placed one hand on my shoulder and was waving the other in the air while screeching in a strained falsetto "I'm everrry wooo-man". Too funny). And then it was over in a flash. What? A three hour wait for a mere three songs - oh hell no.  Although I was extremely pissed by the whole chain of events, there is no denying that Chaka has a phenomenal set of vocal pipes. Her voice doesn't even sound human. It reminds me of a musical instrument, such as a saxophone, it's absolutely out of this world. But being blessed with such a gift doesn't warrant one the permission to take advantage of the very same people who turned out to support you. She didn't apologise for her tardiness, not once. C'mon now, that's just basic courtesy. I've since discovered that she appeared on London Tonight the very same evening, and also did an in-store signing. So possibly the cock up could be due to mis-management.  But whatever the case, I think I'll now scrap plans to go and see her at the Indig02 later on this month. This musical love affair is officially over. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Return of June

June Sarpong has been off the scene for a while, but today could be found in the Independent and the Metro. The TV presenter is doing the rounds to promote her new website Politicsinthecity , a slick, interactive site aimed at merging politics and entertainment. I've checked it out briefly and it's pretty cool. Our Junie also revealed to the press that she is busy working on a film and sitcom - see below. Way to go girlie!

June Sarpong has said that she will be working on a movie with Anna Friel in 2009.The former T4 presenter ALO revealed that a TV sitcom she devised is currently being turned into a film."Daisy Donovan is doing re-writes for us and we're talking to Anna Friel so fingers crossed it should all come together for next year," Sarpong told Metro. "The idea was my own. I used to be a plugger for a record company before I did TV”. She added: "It's like a Devil Wears Prada but in the music industry."

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Sway's F Ur X

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a musical granny, and can often be heard saying that they should've stopped making music in 1989, cos it's been on a downward slope ever since. But of late I've been finding myself getting into...you know... young people's music (there I said it). Sway's F Ur X definitely tops the list. From the first spin I was enamoured by it's cheeky charm and hypnotic B-line. And isn't $tush's verse just wicked? "Does my girl t'ink me a dunce?" Loves it. The song is featured in the gritty urban drama, Adulthood which I still haven't got round to seeing yet. The video is admittedly a little unimaginative, but we'll forgive you Sway just this once, because the track is tres hot!

Pride is hotter than July!

The July issue of Pride hit the newsstands this week, and for this issue we decided to probe into the minds of our men to find out how hey really feel about our personality quirks. It was a whole lot of fun putting this issue together, and I have to give special thanks to Justin, Mr Gorgeous, Eric AKA Me One and Bernard for being so open and insightful in my Barbershop Talk piece, where they bravely volunteered to tell the truth and nothing but on issues deemed sensitive by women. And to my single girls out there, you know what? There really are some great men out there. No really, trust me, there are. If I took one thing away from my countless interviews with the 'weaker sex', it's that the Men are from Mars ethos isn't a gimmick. As long as you accept this fundamental truth you'll no longer waste your precious hours trying to change him.

Mayor's deputy resigns

Now we all know that politics is a dirty old game, and it's often difficult to decipher whether sleaze allegations are genuine, or some carefully constructed plot designed by the opposition to crush their rivals. In the case of Mayor Boris Johnson's recently appointed deputy, Ray Lewis, I sincerely hope it's the latter. News just in informs that Lewis has just resigned from his post, following allegations of financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour. Now this may sound naive of me, but I have spoken to Ray on a few occasions in relation to a feature I was researching for Pride, and he came across as an honest, straight down the line kind of guy. If the accusations are indeed true, this is worryingly yet another gravely embarrassing episode for black politicians following the exit of ex-Mayor, Ken Livingstone's side-kick, Lee Jasper, who was also forced to resign in the light of the scandal surrounding, yep you guessed it - financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour. *Sigh*. See below for full article.

The deputy mayor of London, Ray Lewis, today resigned, 24 hours after Boris Johnson launched an independent inquiry into allegations of financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour against him.

He becomes the second member of the mayor's team to resign since Johnson was elected mayor on May 1.

At a press conference, Lewis said: "I have today submitted my resignation to the mayor who has, with great reluctance, accepted.

At a press conference yesterday, Johnson had backed Lewis saying he had "every confidence" in his "tremendous deputy."

He was responding to a Guardian investigation and a series of questions tabled by the newspaper on Wednesday.

Lewis said today that he "flatly" denied the allegations. But he added: "It's important we get on with the business of the mayoralty without this business hanging over Boris Johnson's head."

The Anglican diocese of Chelmsford, which covers Essex and east London, yesterday confirmed that allegations were first made against Lewis when he worked as a priest in east London in the late 1990s. Johnson's spokesman emphasised yesterday that no criminal action was taken.

In one case, the claim centred on a sum of nearly £30,000 entrusted to Lewis to invest on her behalf by a female parishioner. Yesterday the woman, Mary Massey, said that although there had been problems with the investment during 1997 all the money had been returned to her, with interest, by Lewis by 2004. Massey currently works at Lewis's Eastside Young Leaders' Academy in the east London borough of Newham.

Yesterday the church confirmed Lewis had been placed on a register banning him from working as a priest in England because "things had been alleged against him".

The resignation is a blow to Johnson's fledgling administration. Lewis's appointment was seen as a shrewd response by Johnson to criticism, during the election campaign, of comments he had made in the past about black people. But the circumstances of the Lewis's departure are likely to see the mayor's judgement called into question.

Last week, one of Johnson's senior advisers, James McGrath, quit for telling an interviewer that African-Caribbean migrants should go home if they did not like London.

My Jamaica Jam: Etana's, Wrong Address

I do believe this song has been around for a while, but in all honesty I never really gave it my full attention. However, due to the heavy rotation it received in JA, I've since had a chance to listen to the lyrics and have fallen in love with it...hard. It's written and performed by a newcomer, Etana, whose song bird vocals, and poetic lyricism proves she's one to watch. Run the track! 

Friday, 4 July 2008

Guess who's back?

One of Richard's snaps. Pretty cool, right?

I'm home and dry following a glorious 12 days of sunshine, food and relaxation in Kingston, Jamaica. After a stressful lead up to my break, I packed up all of my troubles and headed to the islands to be loved and pampered by my mummy, who returned back to her country of birth
almost 10 years ago.

Considering it's my second home now, there were no surprises as such. Jamaica still remains the paradoxical island it has always been, plagued by a never ending onslaught of senseless violence, yet retaining a strong mystical and spiritual compass that keeps the population together. Based on my familiarity, there was no reason for me to be constantly on the go. We did the lunch and dinner thing, the Devon House thing (a stately home open to tourists which produces the best ice cream), went to a plush upscale party, and shopped at Half Way Tree, the local shopping area. But essentially it was all about the relaxation. And granting myself the time and breathing space to plan my next move, and to spend time with the family. Rich and Khy much to my pleasant surprise rarely got on my nerves. In fact, my only low point was succumbing to a dreadful stomach bug for two days down at Ochi, of which I spent the entire time locked up in the hotel room permanently placed over the toilet bowl. Not nice. The high point was helping my mum to organise a function for 50 people in her spacious and immaculately kept garden. Picture me and Rich dressing tables and tying decorative bows on the back of chairs, while dripping with sweat trying to work in the 30 plus degrees heat. The things we do eh? The party was for a lovely couple who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The finished article was resplendent. At night watching the party guests sit on tables lit by candles, listening to the sounds of Celine Dion (who else?) was one of the most romantic settings I've ever been fortunate enough to witness.

I'm fully immersed back into the rat race already. Initially I felt ready to jump back on the horse, but having the time away to reflect on my TOO HECTIC lifestyle has lead to some pretty insightful revelations that will probably result in some drastic life changes in the upcoming months. Will keep you posted as ever...

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.