Tag Archives: rose miyonga

Brainchild-Bound

by Rose Miyonga

When I was a child, my family and I spent our summers at festivals. Almost always with a face paint, quite often naked, my sister and I, along with a cohort of friends old and new would roam freely through fields filled with music, art and fun.

When I started going to big festivals as a teenager, I was, frankly, disappointed. Gone were the compost toilets and the communal canteens, and gone, too, were the feelings of safety and inclusivity, the feeling that I was a member of a community whose participation was encouraged and appreciated. Instead, I felt like a consumer, a customer who had paid to be entertained.

Photo by Hollie Fernando

Photo by Hollie Fernando

Enter Brainchild. The independent festival is a true antidote to the consumerist ideals that have come to dominate modern festivals; it’s philosophy is based on DIY, inviting festival-goers to create and collaborate rather than expect to be spoon-fed fun in exchange for money. It is run by volunteers, without sponsorship, and the impressively young organisers (they started the Brainchild when they were 19) don’t seek to make financial profit, but instead create an environment to share and celebrate people’s projects across the fields visual arts, live music, DJ sets, film, theatre, spoken word, dance and talks.

Brainchild reminds me of the intimacy of the festivals that gave me such joy in my childhood, and part of this is because of the dynamic it fosters between artists and festival goers. With over 300 artists among the 2000 people who will come together at the East Sussex site from 7 – 9 July, and no VIP areas, everyone is encouraged to collaborate and share art as part of their festival experience.

Andrew Ashong

Andrew Ashong

The full line-up is extremely impressive, and includes South London soul singer-songwriter, DJ and producer Andrew Ashong, astute poet, musician and rapper Kojey Radical, Bristol based six-piece electric jazz outfit Ishmael Ensemble, and neo-soul artist Cosmo Pyke. Broken beat pioneer Dego (2000black) will share an extended set and live interview, giving festival-goers and artists an insight into his work over the past two decades in underground electronica and electro soul, and super-group SE Dub Collective will bring together musicians like Ezra Collective, Nérija, SumoChief, Poppy Ajudha for a set.

Young people’s poet laureate for Caleb Femi and UK SLAMChampion 2016 Rachel Nwokoro will be sharing their gifts, and there will shows by Pecs: the drag king collective and actor/activist Joana Nastari whose ‘fuck you pay me’ deconstructs the London strip club culture.

“I think so much of Brainchild’s magic would be lost if it was just music,” says Bridget Minamore, co-organiser and writer, who will be reading from her collection of poems, Titanic, at the festival.

“A big part of how inclusive Brainchild is comes down to who helped set up the festival in the first place. I’ve been to a lot of festivals—performing as a poet—and I know first hand what white, middle class spaces they are, as well as how they’re usually also run by men. Brainchild isn’t perfect, but we’ve always had a team with more women than men, and Isabel [Adomakoh Young, another of the organisers] and I are both black women who have been involved since the beginning. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are many major festivals with a core team of 30 but none are people of colour. I think that shows in who comes to play at the same festivals—if you don’t notice an almost exclusively white male crew, you don’t notice a totally white, male line-up.

bc2“As the festival has grown, we’ve all tried to make Brainchild more inclusive; making our team more diverse, reaching out to people who might not be traditional festival-goers, and getting acts to the festival who talk about meaty issues from the decriminalisation of the sex industry to transgender rights. I also think the fact we keep ticket costs as cheap as a we can is really important— it means we’re not stopping people from attending because they can’t afford it.

It can be hard to relax and have fun when your entertainment media is provided in a context women of colour are underrepresented and marginalised, but this is not the case at Brainchild, where the organisational team, artists and attendees all recognise the strength in a diverse and inclusive collaboration.

And if you’re still struggling to relax, there are daily yoga classes to help with that!

Photo by Jerome Toole

Photo by Jerome Toole

Sustainability is also at the of Brainchild’s concerns. Although it is clearly hard to align environmental concerns with the practicalities of a festival, the organisers are committed to turning Brainchild festival into a leader for sustainable policies amongst small UK festivals. They have enlisted a task force to tackle waste and water management and sustainable procurement, and have invited PPL PWR, a volunteer-led collective aiming to promote sustainable technologies and innovations to host a space and demonstrate some of the work they are doing in sustainable energy.

Ahead of Brainchild 2017, we spoke to Programme Co-ordinator, Tobi Kyeremateng.

Tobi Kyeremateng

Tobi Kyeremateng

Can you sum up Brainchild in one sentence?

Brainchild is the home of pure, artistic, DIY innovation, making, doing, thinking and dreaming.

How have you made Brainchild an inclusive space? How has this changed as the festival has grown?

We’re really ramping up our Wellbeing Space and talking about the things we want to help shape our workshops, performances and talks and debates. We hope all of this will lead as a way to be more inclusive physically, by simply providing safe spaces and open dialogue for our audience and artists, as well as encouraging people to get involved practically and to have something they can take away to hopefully continue to practise at home.

Why do you think it’s important to have a diverse representation of people in the organisation of the festival as well as in the line-up? Are there specific things that you think women of colour can bring to the table in this capacity?

Brainchild prides itself on its inclusivity and diversity. It’s important we show whose voices and talents are feeding into the production of this festival behind the scenes, as well as onstage. A diverse team creates a truly diverse line-up – we all have different cultures, we know different people, different talents, different thoughts and ideas based on our experiences. Whether that feeds into the curation of the talks, music or theatre, there’s something to be said about the certain nuances genuine diversity encourages, and how we learn from each other as a team.

Outside of the festival, you’re a creative in your own right. How does this inform the process of organising a festival?

I work across theatre, poetry and festivals as a Producer with several organisations, including Apples and Snakes and The Old Vic to name a few. My job with Brainchild is pretty much organisation-focused and admin-heavy, which I’m used to doing, but I’m also constantly surrounded by great talent across all different platforms. I know how to pull things together, work under pressure (which I do… a lot) and I’m not afraid to ask questions!

How do you go about sourcing the acts for Brainchild? Can you give us an insight into how the process works?

There’s a lot of brainstorming around the team, which I love. It isn’t just left with the programmers. Everyone in the team is highly encouraged to pitch ideas. Go out and see stuff. Recommend things to listen to or watch out for. We also do open call-outs for our event Hatch that happens at Platform Southwark. This is also an opportunity for us to meet some really exciting artists we might want to have a further relationship with.

Photo by Hollie Fernando

Photo by Hollie Fernando

Why is it important that Brainchild be multifaceted, rather than solely a music festival?

At Brainchild, we want to change the way artists and audiences interact with each other in different spaces. We want to encourage cross-collaboration and get people talking and making together, pairing people that might never have met if not for the festival. For me, the whole point of a festival is the cross-pollination – you go to see a DJ and you’re vibing with people you’ve never met before, then you might go and see a short film and meet someone else, who’s completely different, but you all have those shared interests. You’re all there for some of the same reasons. To truly build a creative community, we start here.

The line-up this year is incredible. Which acts are you most excited to see at Brainchild this year?

I’m really excited to see Jossy Mitsu, Project Karnack and Pedaler!

Brainchild Festival is just under a month away and runs from 7-9 July. Secure a ticket and have a look at the glorious line-up here.

We hope to see you there!

If you can’t make it, we will be bringing coverage from Brainchild, so stay tuned.

Tobi can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Brainchild is on Twitter and Instagram, too.

Rose Talks To Nia Pettitt AKA FroGirlGinny

Nia Pettitt is a force to be reckoned with. At the tender age of nineteen, the half-English, half-Zimbabwean model has built an online community of young women who share her passion for honouring and embracing the beauty of natural Afro hair. Her fans are spread across the world, united by a shared celebration of natural beauty and a mutual adoration of Nia’s own golden mane. As FroGirlGinny, she shares tales of her adventures and hair care tips to over 330,000 Instagram followers, part of a growing movement inspiring a generation of young brown girls to defy Western beauty standards and nurture their natural Afros. I met her at the Lisbon leg of her ‘Go With the Fro Tour,’ a joint venture with fellow model and social media influencer Lauren Lewis that gives women with natural hair a chance to come together and share stories of their own natural hair trials and triumphs.

First things first, are you Nia? Are you Fro Girl Ginny?

I’m a Gemini, so I’m everything, but I like to be known as Nia.

With Nia and Lauren, feeling slightly out-fro'd

With Nia and Lauren, feeling slightly out-fro’d

Great, so I’m here with you, Nia, at your ‘Go With The Fro’ event in Lisbon, and I’d like to talk to you about your perception of beauty, and especially your perception of your hair growing up.

From 3 to 11 I relaxed my hair, but I didn’t do that out of seeing pictures in magazines, I just did it because my mum couldn’t handle my hair. I grew up in a white area of London, so my idea of beauty was blonde hair, blue eyes, like my best friend in Primary School at the time. Then, when I went to Secondary School, there was a girl with curly hair there and I idolised her, and I just wanted to have hair like her. I didn’t really have the traditional girl in the magazines as who I wanted to be, I was more wanting to be myself, but I couldn’t because of where I lived, and being mixed race was hard because a part of me wanted to be English and have roast dinners and the other part of me wanted to be Zimbabwean and have sadza, so I had a kind of identity crisis because I didn’t know who I wanted to be.

I know the feeling. I’m half-Kenyan and half-English, so I’m definitely familiar with that duality, and I think it’s something a lot of people from mixed heritage struggle with. For me with my hair, my Mum’s White, and I don’t think she’d ever really dealt with Afro hair before, so I mainly had dreadlocks or a shaved head. So, what was the spark that made you want to embrace your natural hair?

It was seeing that girl, her name’s Yasmin, seeing her curly hair, and then seeing a picture of myself when I was three. I had this Afro, and I was like, “Mum, why doesn’t my hair do this anymore?” and she said if I wanted it I had to big chop my hair, so I just did it the next day, cut off all my relaxed hair.

GoWithTheFroTour_minisize1188That must have been quite tough. Did you cry?

No,I didn’t at all.

That’s impressive. I’ve definitely cried about a big chop. How did it feel when you had natural hair after so long with relaxed hair?

At first, everyone in school highlighted that they liked my straight hair more, but I’ve always been a person who doesn’t depend on anyone to love me besides myself so that just sparked the journey for me of being my own woman and growing up a lot quicker than most 11-year-olds. But I was also concerned about what the hell I was going to use. I was buying mousses from Superdrug and conditioners from Tesco and I didn’t know what to use.

GoWithTheFroTour_minisize1204That was a tricky one for me too. What do you think of the state of the Afro hair industry in London?

I think we still have a long way to go, and I feel like I’ve been able to impact change in my small way, but I want to concentrate on deeper issues for women. When I big chopped my hair, it started the journey of self-love, and I want to go into more of that than just giving hair tips. I feel like there’s more to me than just hair.

GoWithTheFroTour_minisize1197Absolutely. It’s impressive that you’re already on that journey. I think a lot of people take maybe another 20 years to start on the self-love journey, and the superficial is a way to deter from dealing with what’s underneath. That being said, did you feel as though the media was representing you and people who looked like you when you were growing up?

I don’t think it did. I mean, we had Scary Spice, but her name alone, Scary, doesn’t connote anything pretty. We had Alicia Keys, but she was braided most of the time, we had Chaka Khan and Diana Ross, but mostly they weren’t in my era. It was mostly Scary Spice for me, that was all I had at the time.

So who did you look up to?

I think Hilary Banks, but she obviously had perm rods and flat irons, but I loved her style.

I still do! So you’ve transformed from being a young girl looking up to people into someone whom young girls look up to. What’s that like?

I always try to be humble because if the Internet broke down, I would still be who I am today. I try not to let it all get to me because it could be taken away at any moment, so I just want to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest and travel more, and also to let young people know that the situation they’re in now is not forever. We have so much ahead of us. I mean, it feels nice, but I try not to let it get to me.

But it must hard because you do have a big social media following. How did you build that brand? Do you enjoy that aspect of your work?

It was honestly really natural. I just started posting pictures and it grew. I do enjoy it, the only thing I don’t enjoy is when my Gemini mind wants me to capture everything and the other half is saying enjoy the moment, so it’s about finding a balance between the two.

GoWithTheFroTour_minisize1203Of course. And how did the idea of the Go With The Fro tour come about?

Me and Lauren met through Instagram and we wanted to do something together, and just came up with Go With The Fro, and it just grew from there. It’s been a year now and we’ve got 40,000 followers, and we’ve travelled around Europe, we’re going to Africa on Saturday, so it’s taken off so quickly.

What’s been a highlight?

Every time I meet these women, it’s so fun for me because some of them have never been to a natural hair event, so they leave with this new energy to connect with other women and love themselves more. I love those aspects.

So it’s the human connection?

Mhmm.

And what’s next?

You’ll have to wait and see…

I just want to travel more, tan more, and my hair to get bigger!

Last question: what’s your favourite hair product?

Skimdo Curl Cream. It’s amazing.

Photographs courtesy of Janeth Tavares and BANTUMEN

Follow FroGirlGinny on instagram

Interview: ‘Typical Girls’ Founder Jamila Prowse

TG Team

The Typical Girls team. From left to right, Chani Wisdom, Jamila Prowse and Celiya Koster.

by Rose Miyonga and Jamila Prowse 

Typical Girls is part of a growing movement of zines by and for a diversity of women who aren’t interested in waiting to be given a voice by the mainstream media.
It is a space for self-expression and sharing of the female experience, which ultimately demonstrates that there is no one way to be a self-identifying woman.
It launched in 2015 with an issue entitled ‘Beginnings’, and ‘The Naked Issue’ was released last year, the Girls are back with volume three, ‘Generations’ this month. This issue invites readers and contributors to explore the many facets of their identities and what defines our generation, looking at the activists and creatives rebelling against the many frustrations of today’s society and political climate.
I wish that zines like Typical Girls had existed when I was a young teenager, thumbing the pages of glossy magazines searching in vain for something that reflected or honoured my experience, and I am sure that the next generation of Girls will be better off for having access to such a plurality of talent and self-expression.
We spoke to Jamila Prowse, co-founder of Typical Girls (and ThandieKay Features Editor) about her vision for the future of the zine, and about where it all began.

What is Typical Girls? Where did it come from?

Typical Girls is an intersectional women’s magazine. When it was established at the end of 2015 it was to create an inclusive space: one where self-identifying women from a variety of backgrounds, ages, cultures and disciplines could come together under one roof. In this way it was established as a response, an alternative to women’s publishing as it stood at the time. We wanted to genuinely represent our contributors, in a way that was honest to them, and avoided tokenising.

When I speak about the catalyst behind establishing the magazine, I often return to my childhood. I grew up in a predominantly white middle class community and was raised in a single parent household by a white mother. Despite having a mixed heritage (my dad was black South African) I did not have access to my black heritage growing up. As such, I didn’t strongly identify with my blackness. Yet, being noticeably ‘other’ in my appearance, compared to those around me, I also experienced a strong sense of alienation in my formative years which lasted well into my 20s, and still follows me today.

Chani and Jamila for i-D Spring 2016, shot by Jack Davidson

I always loved magazines as a teenager. The glossy pages seemed to hold secrets into another world. I would tear those pages out and paste them all over my wall, staring at them longingly, and hoping that their magic would somehow seep off the page and into my own life. I was overly romantic, and aching for something of importance to happen to me. I tried to imagine myself in those pages, in those worlds, but I could never quite make the leap of imagination to align myself with them. None of the girls in those pages had hair or features like my own. I would spend hours in the bath smoothing down my afro hair, willing it to stay straight. As much as I hoped and wished that the pastel colours of my favourite publications would influence my own life, I knew deep down that I did not belong in that world, because nothing had ever shown me otherwise.

It’s infuriating that, up until recently, you had to scour popular culture to find black faces reflected back. The few examples of black representation we had were nothing more than homogenised stereotypes. You would struggle, too, to find any discussions or explorations of mixed heritage. As a young teenager I was convinced that there was no one else who felt remotely the same to me.

TG was established in order to ensure that young women of colour could see themselves mirrored in the pages of a magazine. If young people don’t see themselves reflected in the world around them, how will they view themselves as being a part of it? Thankfully, with increasing discussions around representation things are starting to change. Women’s publishing is no longer the whitewashed space that it once was. Instead of responding to a lack, we are now part of a wider dialogue. I am so pleased to be able to provide a platform which contributes in some way to that conversation. If we can create a movement in women’s publishing which truly reflects all women, than we will have achieved something.

Cover

Gabrielle Richardson on the cover of Vol. 3, shot by Amarachi Nwosu

What’s the process of going from idea to holding the magazine in your hands?

We have an extremely tiny editorial team who put together TG. It is made up of myself, our Art Director Chani Wisdom, and our newest Editor Celiya Koster. Initially, after deciding on a theme, we put a call out for submissions. Then the three of us go and source content based around this. Our contributors are the ones who really form the publication. We get sent such incredible work, and people give so much of their time and energy to our little publication. We wouldn’t exist without them.

For issue 3, visual artist, writer and creative consultant Amarachi Nwosu came to us to pitch the cover story. Amarachi assembled an incredible team in New York, and took to the streets of Brooklyn with our cover star Gabrielle Richardson. Gabrielle is a curator of the Art Hoe Collective, an online platform which showcases the work of PoC. Gabrielle is at the forefront of a movement of creatives who are shaping the future of representation. She is facilitating the voices of young people, Amarachi recognised that instantly, as well as the fact that Gabrielle’s ethos is entirely aligned with our own. The vision and dedication of the team behind that shoot brought a real magic to our third issue. You can feel the life jumping out of the pages when you look through it.

Once all the content is together, it’s just down to Chani and her laptop. Months of graft and painstaking work from Chani gives the publication a real sense of self. She puts great care into all the minute details of the design, hiding little nuances that tie the entire feel of the magazine together. That sense of coherence you get as you turn from page to page is all down to her.

Jamila interviewing Hollie Cook for issue 3

You’re doing something new with the magazine, but that at the same time reflects a long history of feminism in print. Who/what were your influences?

We take our namesake from The Slits song ‘Typical Girls’ (we’re always overjoyed when readers pick up on this detail). For us, their no bullshit attitude, and complete control over the work they were putting out, is a real inspiration. They went out on stage and acted in a way that society wasn’t used to. Here were three women who stood on the cover of an album, stark naked and covered in mud. In terms of subverting the male gaze that was revolutionary. It was so rare for women to stand in the nude, in a way that wasn’t sexualised or produced for a man. The Slits showed that you could be a woman and still be strong, independent, and not take shit from anyone.

In our third issue we got the chance to speak to Hollie Cook, who was part of the second generation of The Slits. Hollie’s first experience of touring was with The Slits. She spent many of her formative years under their wing. It was amazing to hear firsthand how the band shaped the musician, and woman, Hollie is today. You can really feel that their resonance withstands multiple generations. I’m sure it’s something that will continue to be passed on by Hollie, who in her own way refuses to make any compromises on her vision.

Nakeya Brown’s ‘The Edge of a Dream’ featured in issue 3.

In terms of publishing, there are of course DIY zines. In our ethos we’re very much aligned with the idea that if you don’t see yourself being represented, you go and create something that does. Spare Rib, which was a second-wave feminist magazine, immediately comes to mind. But then, in that, I think it is necessary to acknowledge that feminism has not always been an inclusive space. In fact, many people, especially women of colour, trans women and sex workers, still feel alienated from the movement. It’s about trying to create something that is truly inclusive. Inclusivity is not instantly achievable, and as editors we are constantly challenged to work at it. We might not ever get the formula completely right, but with each new issue we can ask ourselves how we can be more open.

i-D, too, has always stood aside from the crowd. Whereas tokenising, and a lack of visibility, have been inherent problems within publishing, i-D has never adhered to this. The first person of colour to feature on the cover was as early as April 1983, when the Nigerian-born singer Sade graced the fourteenth issue. In issue 3 we got to speak to Lynette Nylander, the writer, editor and creative consultant who worked as Deputy Editor of i-D for 3 years, about how the publication shaped her experience of growing up as a young black girl in London. i-D made it possible for women like Lynette, and the editorial team behind TG, to realise that we could be a part of shaping the culture around us.

Today, publications like Riposte, Sister Magazine, OOMK, Orlando and Girls Club push us to be better. I love that so many independent publications are now going out and shaping the landscape of publishing to be a space of resistance.

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 20.37.59

TG’s art director Chani Wisdom, with a copy of issue 3 at Magazine Brighton.

Typical Girls is part of a movement of zines with a fresh take on art and society. Why do you think people are interested in reading more socially conscious content today?

It’s tricky growing up in a world which is so centred on technology. It is something we are all acutely aware of but it’s actually terrifying. Information is so fast paced and easily digestible that we don’t really need to take the time to sit back and think anymore. We’re told what to read, what to like, what to follow. I was part of the generation that spent the first decade of our lives largely offline. I didn’t have a smart phone until I was about 17, and didn’t have Facebook until my mid teens. I find it really concerning that young people are now being raised entirely on social media. There’s no escape from it. It penetrates every aspect of your life.

With that, how we consume our news has altered considerably. The rise of clickbait journalism and fake news has taken away the core of what we’re reading. I think people are increasingly realising this, and making a conscious decision to seek out platforms which provide honest, captivating, thought-out content. We take our time when producing TG. The 6 months between each issue prevents a fast pace of consumption.

In look and feel, TG is closer to a book than a magazine. It’s a really weighty publication (quite literally – it’s a heavy bugger). It asks you to take your time over it. Pour yourself a cup of tea and sit down in your favourite armchair. When people have a copy stored on their bookshelf, I always feel like that’s exactly where it should be. You could easily spend months perusing slowly through the pages. It’s not about being up to date with the latest fashion or news; it’s about slow journalism, which might be somewhat outdated by the time you get to it, but is more about the timeless value of people’s stories and experiences.

What can we expect in Vol. 3?

As we have grown and developed, so too has the breadth of the work on our pages. Issue 3, which is our biggest issue yet, is filled with life and colour. It is an offering, a love note, to all the incredible women who inspire us on a day to day basis. TG allows us to explore the many aspects that can, and do, encompass womanhood. It is our way of proving that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ girl.

2 Amarachi Nwosu

Garbielle Richardson in issue 3, shot by Amarachi Nwosu

How do you think small publications can survive and thrive in the technology-dominated instant-gratification society? How can we make space for zines like Typical Girls to get the respect they deserve?

I think it’s about putting your money where your mouth is (as blunt as that may sound). We have a lot of power as consumers. If we invest our time, energy and interests, as well as our spare pennies, into publications and artists we believe in, they will be able to continue. If we demand, as consumers, that journalism is considered, and conscious, then publications will eventually have to listen.

The reality of publishing is that it’s a pricey industry. Funds that come in are quickly eaten by printing costs, and all the expenses that come along with running a small business. In order for independent publications to survive, they need to have readers who are invested in their livelihood. None of the people I know who run small print magazines make any money. They do it out of the necessity to contribute something worthwhile to the industry. Everyone involved tends to have full-time jobs on the side just to keep it going. We put our own money into TG, and don’t earn a cent. Our contributors, too, give their time for free out of a love of the publication. But it’s not an ideal situation by any standard. For creatives, making work is often the determinant of their livelihoods. It’s how they put food on the table.

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 20.49.27

Jamila with Vol. 1

We need to shift how we view the creative industries entirely, especially people who work outside of a commercial, corporate agenda. In today’s political climate there is little financial support available for independent artists. If we can consciously change how we, as consumers, spend money — buy an artist’s print instead of a wall hanging from a high street store — we can make small changes that have the potential to really impact someone’s life. The same goes for if you have a choice between a publication heavily filled with advertising, where 70% of the publication is marketing, and one that is independently run.

And Typical Girls in the future?

The aim in the future is to continue to grow and develop with the times. Hopefully collaborating more with publications we admire, and continuing to work to create a cohesive and supportive movement of independent publishing. We have lots of exciting new projects in the pipeline for the next year, to really push what defines TG as a publication, so watch this space…

Typical Girls Vol. 3, ‘Generations’ is available to order here.
You can follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Cover Credits:
Photography: Amarachi Nwosu
Producer: Michael Rotimi
Hairstylist: Kessia Randolph
Photo assistant: Nikko Gary

My Body and Me

by Rose Miyonga

Having a female body is exhausting, and today I feel really tired of being a brown woman.

Of being constantly policed, censored, judged, bullied and excluded – and that’s just what I do to myself.
I’m not talking about what other people out there in the world and on the internet say and think and do to my body, I’m talking about what I do.

Photo by Poppy Miyonga

Photo by Poppy Miyonga

Even though I am aware of the way society controls the images that are sent to me, leaving me with the feeling that I will never be good enough or beautiful enough,  I have internalised the messages so deeply that I can’t help but believe that my body is somehow wrong as it is.

Even though I grew up with a mother who is very open about bodies and nudity- teaching me to look in the mirror and say out loud what I love about myself, I find it really hard to look at my naked body with anything like joy or kindness.

Even though I practice and preach yoga and meditation and self-love and body positivity, I find it almost impossible to inhabit my body unconditionally, without editing it or wishing parts of it away.

Even though I’ve always considered myself to be a kind person, I bully my body with my words and actions, punishing it for being only what it is.

Even though I’ve been lucky and never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I can’t help but see my body as a bulging collection of flaws and imperfections, and food as a way to punish or reward myself based on how near or far I feel from an imagined ideal to which I will never live up.

Even though I am aware that I am privileged and genetically lucky, that I am slender and able-bodied, I struggled not take these things for granted, and treat my body with cruelty and ingratitude.

Even though I want to be valued as writer, a creative and an intellectual, I sometimes place more value on my physical attributes than on the brain my body houses.

Even though I am a vegan for ethical and environmental reasons, I wonder if I would be so enthusiastic about observing a vegan diet if it had lead me to gain instead of lose weight.

Even though I know that everybody is uniquely beautiful and different, I can’t help but compare myself (usually unfavourably) to every woman I encounter.

Even though I know am healthy and strong and young and beautiful, my inner monologue treats my body as if it were and inconvenience at best.

Rosephoto_thandiekayEven though years of therapy has given me a range of tools and skills to deal with my emotions, when I felt sad this afternoon, I sliced up a whole loaf of bread, slathered it in jam, and ate and ate until I couldn’t feel anything but full.

Even as I write this, I’m thinking that I had a lot to eat at breakfast and maybe I should just have some fruit for lunch and then go for a run instead of working on the essay I have due next week. If go running, it won’t be because of the tangible mental and physical benefits it may bring me, it will be to punish myself for eating my fill this morning after a ninety-minute yoga practice. My academic work, therefore, is directly suffering as a consequence of this toxic message that my body is not good enough as it is, and I know that I am not alone.

Or is it just me?

I could go on and on in this way, and I wonder if every woman feels this way, and what they do to resist it. I wonder if men feel this way, too; the ones I have spoken to about it don’t seem to understand what I’m on about.

And then, I feel like a hypocrite and a fraud because I truly believe in the practice of self-love and compassion and presence and acceptance and non-judgement, but I spend so much time judging myself and finding myself wanting. And then I start to judge and hate myself for being a hypocrite, and then to judge myself for judging myself, and so on, adding brick upon brick to the wall that stands between me and self-love.

Only occasionally, maybe when I’m practising yoga or meditation or when I am dancing or writing or eating or having sex or sleeping, am I able to drop judgement and just enjoy being me in this body and this moment.

The rest of the time, most of the time, there’s a war going on in my mind.

I have been in conflict with my body, and I am done. I’m waving the white flag and hugging it out, and I promise to try to not suck in when I look in the mirror.

I’m not sure how I am going to unpack all of this toxicity that has been built up in and around my body, but to start with, I am not feeding any cruel, untrue, judgemental thoughts about my body. When one comes, I notice it, and allow it to stay as long as it wants, but I try not fuel the fire. It’s really hard, but sometimes I can go several hours in a row without any thoughts coming because it turns out if I don’t pay them any attention, they don’t really come so much. The toxic thoughts are reducing from a constant flood into a trickle.

I have also found myself wanting to wear less revealing clothing, as though I don’t need the reassurance of external admiration of my body. At the same time, I have found myself wanting to dress up more and wear more makeup and adorn myself with jewellery, and dance and practice more yoga and meditation and celebrate being alive in my body, and I hope this continues.

It feels like my body and I are healing together, and if I keep at it and try to unlearn the lessons I was tricked into learning, maybe we can save out relationship.

Follow Rose on Instagram and Twitter.
Featured image by Poppy Miyonga

Representation Matters.

by Rose Miyonga

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali

Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight has received wide critical acclaim with 6 nominations and 1 win (Best Motion Picture) in the golden globes alone. Starring Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, the film focuses on the struggle of an African-American man to accept one’s own identity.

The 2017 Golden Globes felt quite special to me.

It felt like the first time in a long while, if not ever, that there was some decent representation, that I could look at the list of people that the establishment had deemed “the best” in television and film, and see a more diverse range of people representing the many stories that touched us this year. 

Representation matters! And, I don’t just mean one token person who is not straight, white, male and able-bodied on a show written, produced and directed by a white male. What I mean is a plethora of people telling an array of stories in their diverse voices. What I mean is the use of the arts to expand collective consciousness and aid in dispelling the limited idea of normalcy.

I didn’t grow up thinking that my family was strange; my gorgeous multi-cultural, multi-racial family was my first understanding of the world. I only became aware that the wider world seemed to have more restrictive views of what constituted the most inclusive values in the world: beauty, love, family, struggle… 

At its best, television and film, like all the arts, can be a mirror into your soul, shining light on the deepest truths of human existence with love and compassion, inviting us to

52276387 The 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on 1/8/17. The 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on 1/8/17. Thandie Newton FameFlynet, Inc - Beverly Hills, CA, USA - +1 (310) 505-9876

Thandie received a nomination for her role as Maeve in the television series Westworld in the category of for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television.

contemplate who we are and where we find ourselves in the world. Television has always seemed especially amazing to me because you bring the stories and characters into your home, sometimes over a period of years or even decades.

It can engender intimacy and belonging, but at its worst, it can also encourage feelings of otherness and lacking, a feeling that people who look like you don’t belong in the collective narrative or don’t deserve a space to share their stories. I inhabited this realm for a long time, and only obtained self-love through hard-learning against the popularised lack of representation.

viola-davis-tracie-ellis-ross-c2a66caa-b0be-470a-aaef-5269d8d84261

Viola Davies (left) won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the movie Fences. This was her first win after 4 previous Golden Globe nominations. Tracee Ellis Ross (right) won the Golden Globe for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series for Black-ish.

Self-love is really hard when you feel like an island; when it feels as though every message society sends is so foreign to yourself. I grew up in a society that didn’t encourage my self-love, that subliminally, and sometimes explicitly, taught me that I was not enough and that I certainly would never be “the best”.

My society taught me loathsome self-depreciation.

Television used to encourage the most negative feelings for me. But it is gradually becoming a source of delight, a place to go to feel understood and valued.

Some day Viola or Tracee or Thandie will win an award or nominated and it will just be about them.

I hope that day is near, the day when it won’t be remarkable that someone who is colourful and unique and universal can be hailed as the best at what they do and that the next woman of colour to win a Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actress in a comedy or musical television series will not have to wait until 2052.

I hope that my children, whatever their colour, gender identity, or ability will be able to hold the television up to their faces like a mirror and proudly see themselves reflected and represented in the most beautiful and honest light.

For now, their wins are still also our wins. They are part of the long-awaited slow-dawning collective realisation that we, too, represent the world.

Follow Us

Subscribe to ThandieKay.com!

Email *

What we're tweeting

"RT @ChrisEvans: Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deci…"
"RT @ava: In the future, we will celebrate the opening of a museum dedicated to the new heroes who fought against your dismantling of what t…"
"“... while having an afro might contribute to self-love and empowerment, it really doesn’t guarantee it.” https://t.co/2p4gf2wipH"
"“There should be no moral judgement behind the hair you wear. Everyone has their reasons and..."

Latest Posts