“Maya Angelou taught all women that self-worth has nothing to do with what the world might say.
That was the power of Maya Angelou’s words, words so powerful they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House. She touched me, she touched all of you, she touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya and raised her son to be the first black president of the United States.” Barack Obama
Long before the term ‘intersectionality’ was coined to describe the interaction of racism and sexism, Maya Angelou navigated the minefield that is black men and rape in the same sentence. While black men were cloaked with the stigma of being assumed to be rapists she wrote and spoke lovingly. Regarding her own rape, Dr Angelou was able to point the finger at just the one man (age 7, by her mother’s boyfriend) , while still expressing her great love for the men in her community who loved, nurtured, and at times negated her.
Hers were healing words for men as well as women, and she would call those younger than her, ‘her children’. In Letter to My Daughter she wrote: “I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native Americans and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.”
“I have a son, who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind”
“The truth is, Martin Luther King was a human being with a brilliant mind, a powerful heart, and insight, and courage and also with a sense of humor. So he was accessible. Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtues consistently. You can’t be consistently kind or fair or humane or generous, not without courage, because if you don’t have it, sooner or later you will stop and say, “ugh, the threat is too much. The difficulty is too high. The challenge is too great. So I would like to say that Dr. King, while we know from all the publicity that he was brilliant, and he was powerful, and he was passionate and right, he was also a funny man, and that’s nice to know.”
Her iconic book ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ may never have happened if writer James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over Dr King’s death, to attend a party at the home of Jules Feiffer, a cartoonist and writer. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book by daring her into it, saying that it was “nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature.”
Sometimes he was called “the mouth”, but he was so wonderful to look at and great to listen to. His poetry always made me laugh. He was a man who made an immediate impact on my life, because he was at once so big and so gentle. He was very strong, but he also was very gentle and had a wonderful sense of humour.
You have to be intelligent to have a sense of humour, so I knew then Muhammad Ali – as powerful as he was – also had a sense of humour. I loved that. I never trust people who don’t laugh, and I trusted him immediately.
When I met him back in Ghana, he was very young – it was 40 years ago! We had a good talk, and it wasn’t competitive, combative conversation. I keep the memory of that meal very precious to me. I’ve not even written about it.”
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” Maya Angelou
From always keeping red lipstick in my handbag and having a signature scent, to making regular manicure and facial appointments.
One of the most important lessons she has taught me, however, is that beauty can be personal therapy, that it’s about taking care of yourself inside and out. I’m not talking about booking yourself a spa treatment or having a shopping trip every time you are upset – although I am guilty of doing both of those things-I mean taking the time to stop and meditate on what you’re going through, and ‘beauty’, although it’s usually considered surface, can be a pretty useful medium for that.
So firstly I start by washing my face with Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser and cold water – cooling down the heat of the day’s frustrations and washing away all negative emotions. The cold wash feels great on my skin and I feel lighter than before.
Then I massage a gentle cleanser into my skin, applying it in methodical circles – I use this time to walk through the day’s events in a logical fashion, to find solutions. I’m a scientist, so gentle cleansing is usually my “Data Analysis” time – in other words, I go through what my aims of the day were, whether I achieved those outcomes or whether I need to revise my steps for achieving my aims…
More often than not, when you’re under pressure you say or do things that you later regret or wish you had more time to do better.
For me, moisturising is two parts – I apply The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil followed by Vitamin E Night Cream also by The Body Shop.
Yes we are keeping our skin healthy with the Vitamin E, but when my brain sees anything with the word “vitamin” on it my mind feels instantly healthier! While adding the night cream I remind myself to feel the peace that as I sleep, my skin benefits from being moisturised, my weariness will melt away and I’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on another day anew.
Make-up is also a great medium for stress relief. The idea is not to cake on as much make-up as possible until you feel better, but the hope is that the routine will calm you down and re-centre you. I start with a clean face – remember, wash away all the negativity first, start with a clean slate.
Follow it by moisturising, and adding a little primer, and then start to apply make-up, taking time to apply each layer. I usually spend the most time on my eyes – they are the windows to your soul and most often than not, they reveal the most emotion.
So apply the whole works – three-toned eye shadow, eyeliner, and mascara (maybe waterproof if it’s a particularly rough day!).
Then a beautiful shade of lipstick so that you have no choice but to smile. And even if you still don’t feel better after you’ve applied my last layer of mascara, you look better; and that gives you the little boost of confidence your feelings need to catch up. It works every time!
Some women re-centre themselves by doing an intense one-on-one session with a punching bag, some a quiet yoga flow, some journal the day’s events and some put on “pump it up” playlist, the choices are endless – but what is important is taking time to be alone with your thoughts and feelings, so that you can recharge and re-set.
“The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship of your life.” – Diane Von Furstenburg
It’s a discipline that I think we can all benefit from learning, and once you start with your heart, your mind will process all that nurturing.
See Rutendo’s other post for ThandieKay, ‘Hope’.
Post by Kay and Thandie
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world
‘Every Cloud has a Silver Lining’ is the inspiration behind the Solange Azagury Partridge pendant. My husband gave it to me for our wedding anniversary a few years ago. The added luxury of Solange’s piece is that it’s a gold lining – with enamel draped over it.
Last year my daughter Ripley’s bezzie gave her this adorable cloud pendant by Lucille Michieli, as an homage to the piece I always wear. Similarly whimsical, it’s no surprise that its designer is also an illustrator, set designer and more. Check out her website link below.
The big difference between the two pieces is the price – though the meaning and sentimental attachment of both is priceless. My pendant reminds me to welcome challenges as opportunities.
One of the benefits of being older, is how I’m able to recognise patterns in my past, one of which is that hardships lead to greater wisdom and appreciation for life. Pain also teaches us to be humble, to accept our connectivity with every other sentient being.
And before you know it, you realise that YOU are the silver lining in the cloud.
YOU are the change in the world that you wish to see.
Top Lucille Michieli
Bottom Solange Azagury-Partridge