Welcome!

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my shiny new blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Some of you may remember my previous blog where I’d post about a whole range of subjects from decluttering to relationships (which can sometimes be the same thing), toxic friends and make up tips. It struck me, as we began to experience this strange new normal brought about by the COVID19 pandemic, that it might be time to restart them. 

Welcome, guys

At the time of writing, mass protests all around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers have gripped our attention. People have taken to the streets to say enough is enough when it comes to racial inequality and injustice. 

Of course, these issues are not new but the narrative around it is beginning to shift as we speak more about collective responsibility on a topic people of colour have felt they’ve had to deal with alone. 

It’s been tough, watching this play out. Heart-breaking truths about the black experience in the UK, US and around the world are being laid bare. BUT, as hopeless as it can feel at times, the level of activism and engagement is an indication we’re moving in the right direction. People are asking themselves, how am I culpable? And how can I make a difference? 

This alone, is a monumental shift and one I fully encourage. It points towards the good in people, the good in all of us that want to come together and work towards making the world a better place. 

It’s all hands on deck. As a writer, for me the frontline is at my computer, so here I am, hoping to lighten the load, share some ideas, thoughts and commentary to help move us towards that better place. The blog will be a mixture of new and old posts which I’m  resharing here for you to enjoy. 

Whatever brings you to this page, I hope it provides a little light relief, food for thought or ideas and inspiration to carry you through your week. 

With love, 

Andi 

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Comedian was then, this is now…

Generally speaking, labels are good. They stop us sprinkling salt on our cereal or brushing our teeth with hair removal cream. However, when it comes to people, labels can be tricky. 

Even though my on-screen career began with acting, for many years, I’ve been, comedian Andi Osho and for many years, that was fine. 

I loved stand up long before my first gig in 2007. A dodgy boat in Surrey Quays where the locals would heckle from the back while a tipsy compere, glass of white wine filled to the brim, ushered us newbie lambs to the comedic slaughter. Fun times. 

Scroll forward three years and I landed my first Mock The Week. Promoters, producers and bookers became interested and before long I notched up appearances on Buzzcocks, Live at The Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, played the O2 in London, Just For Laughs in Montreal and wrote, performed and toured two Edinburgh shows. In other words, if stand up were Call Of Duty, I completed it, mate. 

My career was travelling at breakneck speed but there was a cost. By 2012 I was exhausted, depressed and uninspired. Acting had fallen by the wayside and there was this widening chasm between me and my on-screen persona. I decided to take a break and headed for the sun – Los Angeles. My intention was to stay only a few months but in the end, I was there six years.

Being an unknown gave me the space to reflect, reinvent and decide, what, if any labels I really wanted. 

It quickly became apparent, ‘comedian’ wasn’t one of them. In the UK, when I’d seen peer after peer offered their own tv and radio vehicles, I’d resented it. I felt that, even though I delivered time and time again, producers saw me as a risk. But with room to think, I realised, what looked like missed opportunities were blessings because, what I wanted to achieve wasn’t possible through stand up. 

All this may sound like I didn’t enjoy my time on the circuit but I loved it. There can be no greater joy than making a roomful of people laugh, feel a little lighter even if it’s just for a couple of hours. 

But as much as there was boundless joy, there was, as I say, a cost. Gradually the gap between gigs got longer and longer, the space soon filling with acting and writing. I could feel how much more content this made me. No more anxiety caused by the suffocating expectation that came with every TV appearance.

Instead, I started enjoying evenings in, hanging out with mates, watching movies, basically normal people stuff! 

But letting go of the label ‘comedian’ was tough. I genuinely thought, what am I without it, will journalists still value an interview with me if I’m not being funny? 

At that time, I hadn’t filmed shows like Line of Duty, Kiri and I May Destroy You or written my novel. Without comedian, wasn’t I just jobbing actor and unpublished novelist? Not quite as fun, eh? So I continued using the label, assuming, at some point, either I’d return to it or like a shed skin it would fall away. But sometimes we have to actively peel off labels that no longer fit, like comedian, TV presenter, vlogger and filmmaker – which are all part of my past not my future.

So now, a good seven or eight years since my last gig, what does letting go leave me with? Well, Actor – a job I’ve always loved, Writer be it scripts or novels, and my new label, podcaster. These are the ones that give me the most joy (and the most nights in).

So as I hang up my microphone, smooth down the big hair and slip off the high heels for good, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fans and folks who’ve contacted me over the years to say they’ve enjoyed my work and LOLed at my silly jokes and impressions of my mum. To everyone who bought Edinburgh and tour show tickets, thank you. It meant the world and always will. Thank you too, to every producer who did take a chance on me. And of course, just because I’m not doing stand-up, doesn’t mean me and funny can’t be friends as many of you who’ve read Asking For A Friend will know. I’ll just be doing it from the comfort of my desk, with a packet of kettle chips on the go. 

Big, big love to you and don’t let anyone tell you what your labels should be or even that you should have them. Onwards, good friends, onwards!

My new podcast for the creative in you, Creative Sauce with Andi Osho has a new episode every Tuesday – come join the convo! Creative Sauce is on all the main podcast outlets: Apple, Spotify and Deezer. There’s more info over on Insta @CreativeSaucePod.

Creative Sauce Podcast
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Thoughts Of Home

Back when I lived in LA I often thought about what ‘Home’ meant.

When I was a kid, it was the house we lived in but also a word mum used interchangeably when talking about Nigeria. I didn’t realise how loaded that one word was until I’d been living in LA for a year or so.

As much as I enjoyed my time there, it didn’t always feel like home and it was often the most basic things that made me realise that. For example, I missed getting on the tube and even more so, getting home the same way after a few drinks. The tube is a real social leveller, everyone, armpit-to-face every rush hour.  

I missed living in a city that has a centre like London. Car-based LA is made up of small pockets of concentrated activity, nothing that generates a throng in the way a British high street does. There’s no Oxford Street. No Hyde Park Corner and therefore no bustle.

But home isn’t just about a familiar energy, it’s about practical things, like knowing where to buy stuff, seeing familiar brands, knowing the social etiquette and of course the language.

Yet even in an English speaking country like the US, I still had misunderstandings, the odd misused word causing confused frowns. 

One thing I realised early on in LA was that it was important to find my tribe because home is also about feeling like you belong and what better way than to have a group of people who have your back, a surrogate community when you’re away from your own. 

I was talking to my mum one day about all of this and she said, in her soft Nigerian accent, “Yes, it’s hard living in another country”.

Her comment floored me as I’d never thought about what she’d given up as an economic migrant to 1960s Britain who’d then given 40 years of her life to the NHS, leaving behind the place she called home, the food, the aromas, the people, the familiarity, the sense of belonging, being surrounded by people who looked like her and coming to a place where people were still adjusting to the discomfort of having the “other” live among them, plus the added challenge of being newly married, raising children and saving in the hope of returning home whilst barely making ends meet.

Just from her saying that one sentence, I learned so much about my mum and the quiet dignity with which she carries all of this. She knows that Nigeria isn’t perfect, that she has plenty to be grateful for in the UK and that after some 45 years this place is home too but she also knows the mammoth adjustment required to live somewhere new.

I pondered with my mum if perhaps “feeling at home” was something you had to generate internally for yourself too. Perhaps this is what people who relocate have to do, create an experience of feeling at home to make being away easier to navigate. 

During this pandemic and the resulting lockdown, many of us have turned our attention to our homes, spruced them up and rejuvenated to make them as comfortable as possible during this challenging time.  

However we achieve it, ultimately all we ever want is to feel at home, feel like there’s a space where we belong that’s warm, nurturing and welcoming. That comes not just from the physical building but the people and the vibe around us. 

Being in LA taught me the importance of that feeling and that it’s something you can create wherever you are. 

My new podcast for creatives, Creative Sauce with Andi Osho has a new episode every Tuesday – come join the convo! Creative Sauce is on all the main podcast outlets: Apple, Spotify and Deezer. There’s more info over on Insta @CreativeSaucePod too.

Creative Sauce Podcast
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A survival Guide For The Creative Mind

Being a professional artist comes with its fair share of challenges so – through trial and a lot of error – I came up with a basic survival guide on navigating the creative life without going bonkers.

Value yourself

Get a sense of your own value and the value of what you do and can create. When you express yourself authentically, you are unique and that is  priceless.

Rejection

We’ve all seen those infamous rejection letters received by artists before they became household names. People joke that those execs and decision makers must regret turning them away. But it’s possible that rejection caused those artists to go back, review their work and improve it. So, rather than being the enemy, rejection may be the fuel that makes us better, so embrace it. It can be our friend.

Review your early work

This is a great way to chart your progress. If you look back at your earlier efforts, hopefully, you’ll now see how much you have improved.

Comparisons

Comparing yourself to anyone else is pointless. They are on their own path and have their own luck, rejections and successes to work through. Comparison to others will only welcome resentment and jealousy. Instead, simply aim to be the best version of yourself. 

Chart your progress

One of the biggest pitfalls is listening to that voice of doubt in your head which spews negative feedback. One method that helped me combat this negativity was charting my progress on a spreadsheet. Seriously! Down one side, I had things like exercise, opportunities, income, across the top, the date. Everyday, I graded each area, using a colour code. One glance at the chart reassured me that I was progressing even if the doubts in my mind told me otherwise.

Treat it like business

You are the CEO of a very important company. Your artistry is the product and you are the boss and what boss spends all day on an Instagram, Facebook loop. Furthermore, flair, individuality and fun needn’t be compromised by bringing order, professionalism and process to what you do – in fact it should help create space for you to flourish. 

Discipline

A successful career won’t fall into your lap without a strong work ethic. Realising your goals requires discipline (I sound like the dance teacher at the start of Fame). We get out what we put in so to craft the career we desire we need to put our heart and soul into it.

Rest

Make sure you rest. Even if you love what you do, rest is important. In fact, it’s part of the process. Go for a walk; have a day out or binge watch your fave show. Allow your brain to have space away from your career. This has all kinds of restorative benefits – and the best bit? It allows inspiration in.

Trust your gut

Trust your gut on your choices, on what your next move is, if you need to stop, change lanes, seek help, look for answers, knuckle down or even take a break.

And if you need help learning to distinguish when you’re being steered by your gut or the fearful noises in your brain, seek coaching, therapy, incorporate a daily spiritual practice or perhaps a good podcast on creativity can help (Yes, a shameless plug). All this can provide the space for you to listen to your inner compass. 

Let it go

We chose an artist’s life because we believe it will bring us pleasure so let go and simply do what makes you happy, every day. Do this and as the saying goes, you’ll never work a day in your life.  “But what about my goals?” I hear you say. 

Of course you have dreams, goals and tasks but when our happiness becomes tied to achieving those things it can mean we’re only happy when we’re achieving and that can be a trap. 

Creative Sauce Podcast

Instead, by getting happy, we magnetise the things we desire to us. Remember, the moment we visualise our desires, they’re out there simply waiting for us to call them forth into the material world. How? By using your artist’s survival kit.

Grow, love, flow. And come join the creatives’ convo over @creativesaucepod!

First published May 2014

My debut novel, Asking For A Friend is out now – order from WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Creative Saucery

A few years ago I discovered online philosopher, Jason Silva. He was making these great bite-sized videos called Shots Of Awe which offered a fresh perspective on life. In them he talks about everything from heartbreak to inspiration, wonder to trauma and more. I loved them but my favourites were always the ones about creativity. 

I was hungry for inspiring words. Being a creative can be stressful, uncertain, an emotional rollercoaster and, at times, very lonely. When I sought out these videos I was struggling with my book and acting work had slowed. I felt adrift but though Jason’s videos were a life raft I desperately wanted long-form material that spoke specifically about creativity. However, I couldn’t find any so in typical Osho-style, I decided to create the conversation myself. They say, if you can’t find the product you’re looking for, create it, so that’s what I did. 

At the beginning, I was incredibly nervous, thinking who am I to do this? But despite my fears, I felt compelled to carry on. 

I advertised the sessions on my socials and one Sunday morning in late December, I started a live stream on what has become one of my favourite subjects – Creativity. 

Thankfully, viewers showed up, some I knew, many I didn’t. My first topic was Rejection. Given all creatives face this, it felt like the realest place to start. The conversation flowed and before I knew it, I was getting the sixty minute countdown and was signing off, promising to return the following week with another topic. 

I was relieved and delighted with how it had gone and what an uplifting conversation it had been (a far cry from my days on Periscope! If you know, you know!). I could also see how much I had learned from the session. 

I continued this weekly commitment for over a year, with the odd break and ended up running 51 sessions, the last being on Inspiration In Isolation at the start of the first UK lockdown. 

After, I felt a real sense of achievement and loved the community of creatives that sprung out of it. After a few months, I realised, the conversation didn’t have to be over if I didn’t want it to be and decided to turn it into a podcast.  

Initially I planned to just use recordings of the original streams but then I realised it was better to just start again. 

And so, over the last six months I’ve been putting together Creative Sauce with Andi Osho, a podcast series about life as a creative. It’ll also feature listener comments and bitesize advice from some amazingly talented folks like Roisin Conaty, Paapa Essiedu, Thaddea Graham and Richard Osman. 

Creative Sauce Podcast

I can’t wait to share it with you and hopefully recreate the community from those live stream days!

If you want to check out Creative Sauce, it’s available on all major podcast players such as Apple Podcast, Spotify and Google Podcasts (if I’ve missed one, let me know!). 

And if you love it and want to support, head to Patreon to become a friend of the show. Remember to subscribe and review – it makes such a difference and is very, very much appreciated. 

My debut novel, Asking For A Friend is out now – order from WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Literary Lessons…

Three years ago I landed a book deal. Well, it felt like it kinda fell into my lap. I remember thinking, is this really happening? Turns out, it was. Now all I had to do was write the thing. No worries! One romcom debut novel coming up, I thought, as I rolled up my sleeves and dived in with what I’ve come to refer as, naïve arrogance – the how-hard-can-it-be attitude that’s got me into many interesting situations both professionally and personally…

I got started around March 2017 and was sure I’d be done by June. Never having written a book before I didn’t really have a process or routine. I just started writing, a few hours every day. From the beginning, I spent ages painstakingly perfecting every paragraph before moving on to the next. It was a long, slow process. By the time I finally shared the first three chapters with my editor, it was already late summer. And then came the notes, quickly followed by the despair, and not long after, the feeling of being way out of my depth. I even started talking about returning my advance. 

Luckily, calmer voices prevailed, one of which being, my agent Richard. 

I looked at my process and could see it really wasn’t working. I wondered if this forensic approach was helping or hindering me. A quote I’d recently seen came to mine. 

The purpose of the first draft is to exist, so get it done as soon as possible. 

A lightbulb pinged on. My meticulous tinkering was happening way too early in my process. I was like a sculptor who, after throwing a lump of clay onto their plinth, had started on the nose before even knowing what the face looked like. 

I changed my tack instantly and the rest of the draft poured from me, in probably the same amount of time it had taken to write those first three, painful chapters.  

From here, I learned to break down the creative process into stages and it changed everything. I was able to  enjoy spewing forth a first draft without worrying how good it was. I learned to trust my ability to improve that bloated, place holder. After, I felt free to put away my project, allowing it to steep so I could return to it with fresh eyes. I was able to distinguish the different types of editing (broad strokes, cuts, finessing – being just a few) and to understand that these processes require different parts of the brain and that, if we smoosh them together, it makes our poor brain ache. And what do you know, after two and a half years, a fair amount of handwringing, joy, tears and laughter, I finished my debut novel. 

If you’re struggling with a project, it may help to review your process. Sometimes a simple shift in approach can make all the difference. Good luck!

Pre-order my debut novel, Asking For A Friend (out Feb 4th) at WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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I Feel The Need to Read

I’m in the middle of reading a great book, Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto, and it struck me, why don’t I read more? I often tell myself I’m too busy – despite the fact I could have read several books in the time I spend scrolling the ‘Gram. 

I’m loving physically having a book in my hand again. I bought a Kindle Christmas 2019 but it took me two years to put anything on it. I hankered for the tactile experience of reading, moving my eyes across the page, sentence after sentence. Although, once, while reading on an iPad I did lick my finger to turn the page. Sign of the times. 

I used to read all the time, devouring book after book. I’ve mentioned my love of the Discworld novels and the Red Dwarf series many times. But I read a bit of everything, even the odd John Grishham thriller (until I realised it was essentially the same story over and over again).

On holiday I’d finish a book in a day. Way back when, I even tried writing one but ended up getting distracted by a messy sock drawer.

When I started drama school, however, I stopped reading novels because they insisted we read every play ever written. Well, they didn’t but that’s how it felt. And so I set down my beloved novels to dive into theatre literature instead. Not gonna lie, as great as plays are, I found them kinda boring to read. It’s like staring at an architect’s blueprint instead of going to the actual house. 

Around the same time I also began reading personal development and self-help books. Despite what cynics may say, they can be really useful. You just have to find the one that speaks to you. I remember reading, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway and realising it is possible to go for the things I thought were impossible. The Power of Now gave me countless insights into what it really means to be a human being. My most recent read from this genre though, is The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. I’m sure that one will speak to a lot of folks. 

I’ve enjoyed some great comedy autobiographies too, among them Richard Pryor’s Pryor Convictions And Other Life Sentences, which plots this great performer’s remarkable history and Frank Skinner’s first (simply titled Frank Skinner) which is one of the funniest and most-touching books I think I’ve ever read. Non-fiction is a wonderful way of experiencing life through eyes wiser or more worldly than our own.

A new favourite of mine in that field is Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Outliers – he writes fascinating socio-anthropological studies that basically look at why things are the way they are. 

BBC’s Between The Covers reviewing This Lovely City by Louise Hare

There’s so much hidden between the covers of a book – fantasy worlds, history, personal transformation or simply great, big, belly laughs. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it. Sometimes people think books are an elitist thing and it puts them off but trust me, whatever your pleasure, there’ll be someone who not only shares it but has written a book about it too!

And if you do decide to dive into a new book this week, don’t forget to support our fabulous indie bookstores too. They need our support now more than ever. 

Drop a comment and let me know what you’re reading at the moment?

First published August 2014

Pre-order (out Feb 4th) my debut novel, Asking For A Friend at WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Getting the body strong

Which one of these is you – cricking knees whenever you bend down, a mighty hnnng every time you get up from the sofa, feeling ready for bed by 9.30pm when you used to party until 2am, or if you’re anything like me – all three? 

A few years ago, I noticed my knees hurt whenever I went up or down stairs. I remember once, struggling to keep up with someone as they bounded up an escalator ahead of me.  As my knees deteriorated, I thought, perhaps this is just part of getting older – like searching for glasses perched on your head. Joints would start to creak and crack and that was just the way things were. But then it got so painful, I wondered if it was time for surgery. 

I went to see the doctor. As soon as I described my symptoms, she knew exactly what was wrong – Patello-femoral pain syndrome (PFPS). While it may sound dramatic, it simply describes the pain caused when the muscles around the knee weaken causing the patella (kneecap) and femur (thigh bone) to meet. She sent me off with some exercises and over time, the pain lessened. And had I kept them up, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog but you know how life goes… I stopped doing the exercises and slowly the pain returned. Not only that, my back and shoulders were now constantly sore from sitting at my computer and I’d twisted my ankle. I was a walking bag of minor ailments but because they were small, I ignored them. Then I had a lightbulb moment one afternoon while watching a Facebook vid about an octogenarian gymnast. I realised, I had more say over how my body aged than I’d thought. This old gal was flinging herself around on the parallel bars and tumbling on the mats like she was 8 not 80. 

Watching her, I could see, with the right lifestyle changes, I could turn my situation around. My aim wasn’t swinging on asymmetric bars any time soon but I decided it was time to strengthen my body – not to look good – but so I could continue to live the life I wanted without my body failing me – or more accurately, without me failing my body with bad choices. Years ago, when I was a real gym bunny, a friend asked why I went so often, scoffing that all it meant was I would die fit. When he put it like that, it did seem ridiculous but now, two decades on, I can feel the accumulative effect of some of my less beneficial choices. This is why exercise and healthy eating is vital for me now. In years to come, I want my body to still be supple and strong and organs healthy so I can do and enjoy the things I love. 

Killer abs. Standard.

If you’re starting to notice those creaks and groans creep in, don’t take them lying down (unless you’re doing sit ups), join me in 2021 to get a stronger body, not for show but so we can all live our lives to the fullest. Who’s in?!

Feel free to comment below, guys!

Pre-order my debut novel, Asking For A Friend at WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Finding Grace

A few weeks ago, I was away filming in this beautiful old building. While waiting for the crew to reset I got chatting to Ruth, one of our supporting artists who quietly told me there was a family in the room watching us. 

We were in bonnie Scotland

“You mean….?” I said, stunned and she nodded sagely.

Given my total inability to watch scary movies, I took the news that a family of ghosts was keeping an eye on us, pretty well. In fact, I was intrigued. 

But before I could ask more, we were back filming. Later, before she left, Ruth asked me, “Who’s Grace?” The name didn’t ring any bells. 

‘Well, she’s watching over you.’

Even though I hadn’t a clue who Grace was, the thought of her spectral arms around me put a lump in my throat. 

That evening I eagerly whatsapped my mum, expecting to discover that Grace was one of my long-since deceased grandmothers or some other relative watching me from above. My mum’s reply quickly dispelled that. 

“No. Don’t know any Grace. Can you help me with my computer. Xx”

But thoughts of Grace kept tugging at my sleeve as the job came to an end. 

It had been a great gig and I was going to really miss my lovely cast mates. I was moved by how kind my colleagues were to each other. We’d met as strangers but over our seven weeks together, birthdays were lovingly marked, support given, advice shared and many laughs had. It was heart-warming to witness but also created a sense of unease as I noticed things about myself. The sweet-naturedness around me put, in stark contrast, the parts of myself that are impatience, judgmental and full of complaint and righteousness. 

And I realised, there’s another word for this kindheartedness I was observing – grace. I wasn’t entirely sure of its definition. I just knew it was what I was seeing and what I was not practicing when in those less savoury headspaces. 

I’m sure we all have our own understanding but for me, Grace is things like, the ability to be kind even in the face of unkindness. It’s knowing when to speak up or let things be, the patience to explain things or lovingly modify your speaking so others can understand. 

It’s the compassion to withhold judgement, the wisdom to not participate in gossip, to be responsible for your words even in disagreement. It’s the big-heartedness to be compassionate in your correction of others and the space to meet success and good fortune with humility. Grace is really about being present and coming from love, about honesty, integrity and generosity. 

I began to wonder, when Ruth, that lovely supporting artist had asked me about Grace was she talking about a person or a state of being? Was the Grace watching over me something more ephemeral, an energy, perhaps even an invitation for me to inhabit the spirit of Grace?

Over the subsequent weeks, as I’ve consider this, the more I’ve become aware of where I fall short. Where I could be kinder, wiser and more generous of spirit and where I’d like to do better for no other reason than what else am I going to do while I’m on this Earth?    

There is an ungracious one in all of us. One that was hurt, can be petty, small minded, unfair and unkind. So perhaps the most gracious place to start, is taking care of that one any which way we can.

Pre-order my debut novel, Asking For A Friend at WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Timing Matters

It’s been a few months since our collective attention was focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. However, just because the immediacy of it has receded, momentum on this critical issue is no less important. 

One thing that became apparent to me over the summer is the importance of thought and consideration on how and when race is discussed. 

Too many times over the years I’ve found myself almost ambushed into a conversation about race, with a white person, who with good intentions tells me a story about racial injustice largely it seems, to make me aware of their anti-racism standpoint – even if they didn’t speak up at the time the actual incident occurred. 

While I commend the sentiment, it is by and large lip service and also a sure fire way to ruin my day. Ultimately, they’re just telling me a story about racism. News just in. I’m aware of it. 

This dynamic became all too apparent at a party a while back. 

One of the guests, a little worse for wear, decided that very moment was when he wanted to discuss his pro-BLM stance. Despite my resistance, reminding him, we’re at a party and it was perhaps not the time, he was insistent, even at one point blocking my exit with an arm thrust across the doorway, forcing me to listen. Meanwhile, other guests awkwardly squeezed past him. Finally after a few strong but polite words, he allowed me to pass and let the matter drop. After, what disturbed me was not his attitude or even aggression. No, what disturbed me was that none of the other guests came to my assistance. They had all buried themselves in their conversations and left me to deal with him myself. One even jokingly said later that they didn’t feel the need to step in as I could clearly handle myself. Ah the strong, black woman trope – a stereotype that allows people to believe we can deal with anything when the truth is, as in this instance, we’re just used to being left to it.

If white friends and colleagues really want to be allies then this means tackling difficult conversations about race but not necessarily with black people. It’s time to speak up to white friends, family and colleagues, in the moment, after the fact, in person, on the phone, however it has to happen but it’s time to go beyond performative support because true allyship doesn’t come from talking about what a great ally you are but by actually being one. 

Pre-order my debut novel, Asking For A Friend at WHSmith, Amazon, Waterstones or support your local bookshop at Bookshop UK

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Hair Today – Part 2

I wonder if, when the pony evolved a tail, it had any sense how important it would be in women’s hair styling. For many years, I was terrified of cutting my hair shorter than pony-tail length. I’d practically flinch when the hairdresser attempted anything more than a trim. 

However, following a break up, I decided to get my hair cut – short. It was a big moment. From now on I’d have to ‘do’ my hair every day. But though it was scary, I loved having an actual hair style even if it was a bit ‘Newsreader.’

I loved that crop and how its shape changed as my hair grew. Then after a few weeks I’d head back to the salon to get it lopped off again. 

However, despite this new style, I was still on the chemical-straightener carousel. And so, after about three years of rocking the crop, I did what I’d been quietly thinking about for a while – The Big Chop – cutting off processed hair and literally going back to my roots. 

What a revelation. For the first time in my life, doing my hair took minutes and I could wash and go every day. I frickin’ loved it. No more hairdressers. 30 minutes at the barbers and I was done.   

I loved not enduring those harsh chemicals and meeting my hair in its true natural state for the first time in aaaages. And as my hair grew out, I even discovered I had ringlets. 

I went au naturale for a while but then the greatest/ worst invention hit the market – straighteners. And I used them – a lot. Because, despite rediscovering my natural hair, I still revered straight hair more. On top of the constant GHDing, I started dyeing my hair, cutting it myself and even did blond highlights. I was on fire! (literally…)

Over time though, my hair, as thick and hardy as it was, suffered. When I washed it, clumps started falling out.

I had to make an emergency visit to my hairdresser, Barbara. Between the spritz sprays and peroxide, the texturizing (yes I was back on the chemicals) and singeing straighteners, my experimenting had wreaked havoc. It took several monthly visits to Barbara to return my strong, Afro hair to its former state.

From then on I seriously dialled down the processing but still hadn’t fully embracing my natural locks. But all that changed, while catching up on a bit of TV. For a while, I co-hosted a Channel 4 show and before filming I’d heat-straighten my hair, thinking that looked professional. 

Eventually, I left the show to work on other projects but one night I was watching my awesome replacement and noticed she had a really gorgeous natural hair style and I had an epiphany – or hair-pyphany if you will. Since first relaxing my hair, I’d been in this constant state of warfare with my barnet and it was all down to refusing to accept its true nature. I’d relaxed it, heat straightened it and got annoyed when it didn’t style as I wanted: i.e. sleek and straight. 

But when I saw this woman on TV, looking great, it helped me embrace my own hair fully. And after all these years, at last I learned how to care for my natural locks (thank you, YouTubers!) and fall in love with what I’d been given. I saw that my hair type was not only as beautiful as any other but was not difficult or ‘unmanageable’ but glorious, versatile and oh did I mention, gravity-defying! 

First published December 2012

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