Tuesday, 22 May 2012


To be from the western world and fair skinned is to be beautiful and successful. This is the message that’s being fed to many Asian, Caribbean and developing countries.

Racism is something we are all acutely aware of, from the historic days of slavery through to more recent struggle for equal rights. However politically we are aware of the injustice, its blatant presence in consumerism and marketing have been brushed over. Why are huge multi-national companies able to get away with indoctrinating populations in poorer countries into thinking a lighter skin tone is a way of achieving more in life? That having darker skin is a disadvantage that can be ‘fixed’ by shelling out money on skin lightening lotion and potions.

The harmful message is; to use strong and damaging chemicals to achieve a lighter skin-tone of the west and in return reap success with a happier, more successful life, than your darker-skinned relatives. That's the message being pumped into the homes of millions of households in predominantly darker skinned countries.

Vybz Kartel before and after

 Huge conglomerate Unilever, best known for their soap brand, Dove, is one of the key drivers of skin lightening products in developing countries. In the UK, they placed huge weight on natural beauty, with their EFFIE award winning Real Beauty campaign in 2008. The TV advert depicted every different kind of woman’s figure and shape being beautiful in a non-commercial natural state. Women of every shape, colour and size championed for their new found confidence thanks to Dove.
In stark contrast Unileaver have set a completely different agenda for their Asian market, marketing products for men and women to lighten their skin to achieve a more ‘beautiful completion’.

Unilever’s line of skin products Fair and Lovely provides women with the option to make their skin lighter to attract marriage proposals and supposedly attract love. This inherent racism goes way back; lower-caste Hindus are usually darker and upper-caste Hindus usually lighter. Having lighter skin indicated wealth, and not having to work out in the fields under the sunlight. Many Asian families request to see the bride to be before marriage arrangements are confirmed. Or request for higher dowries are requested from the brides family with darker skin.

One Unilever 2008 TV advertisement even equated fairness with love: "Shottikarer phorsha, ujjol tauk . . . shottikarer bhalobasha" (truly fair, bright skin . . . true love). An extremely harmful statement to women and society as a whole, condoning racial-consumerism supremacy.

Unilever are not alone in marketing the ‘white is best’ stance. In 2008, L'Oréal went a step too far when they digitally lightened RnB star Beyonce Knowles skin tone. Beyonce whose parents are African-American and Creole was shot for fashion magazine Elle sporting strawberry blond hair and fair skin. The Féria/blonde hair colour in the advertisement was explainable. L'Oréal responded; "It is categorically untrue that L'Oréal Paris altered Ms. Knowles' features or skin tone in the campaign for Féria hair color,"
Eric Deggans, chairman of the media-monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Beyoncé's "skin is lighter [in the Elle ad] than the way I'm used to seeing her".

The Time magazine saga of 1994, again used skin tone. This time to darken OJ Simpsons mugs hot, to make him look more sinister and threatening while on trail for murdering his wife. Newsweek and Time both ran the mug shot as the cover story, however the darkened shot caused outrage amongst civil rights groups.

Matt Mahurin who manipulated the police photo of OJ said; "wanted to make it more artful, more compelling."

The risks of using skin-lightening creams are hidden in amongst a long list of ingredients. However there is one significant chemical that is particularly damaging; hydroquinone. The chemical is described as being a severe skin irritant and a possible cancer-causing carcinogen. People using hydroquinone-containing cosmetic products have been found to have unusually high levels of mercury, causing the chemical to be banned in the use of cosmetics in Japan, the European Union and Australia. However, if there is demand for these products, like anything made illegal, there is a black market. There are numerous natural ingredient skin creams that use other ingredients to lighten the skin by reducing the levels of Melanin in the skin. However this can be dangerous as it leaves the skin more venerable to UV rays from the sun, and in turn raising the risk of skin cancer by direct sunlight.

Damage caused by bleaching creams

The production of skin lightening products by any large corporation is irresponsible and short sighted. The long term affects will cause a huge number of poor, disadvantaged people to cause damage to their there skin beyond repair, trying to gain a similar complexion to western countries. It also embeds the feeling of inferiority through lack of media representation and racial hierarchy. The money hungry antics of these companies have shrouded the racial supremacy undertones and colonial mentality. This form of ‘buy in’ self-hate for purely cosmetic reasons puts the buyer both at greater health risk and financial strain while they strive for the same opportunities of lighter complexioned race members. Continuing to promote light skin success on TV and commercials will continue to perpetuate the problem.

On the reverse side is the huge market for tanning booths and machines. The obsession the west has with looking tanned and darker has been going on for decades. Helped along by tanning shops and dirt cheap pricing, bringing a whole host of medical dangers. Numerous studies have clearly stated the effects of prolonged exposure to UV rays and its links with skin cancer. Yet people are willing to take these risks in order to go a few shades darker. Still knowing the harmful effect of UV rays, hundreds of thousands of men and women opt to step into booths for that sun-kissed look. More recently spray tans have been appealing for the summer look without the price tag.

So the debate will trundle on and and no doubt people will continue to lighten and darken in the name of fashion and trend.

Sonita Dowd

D'relle Khan: The Interview

For years I've watched in wonder the legend that is D'relle Khan. I've been entertained many a time in the club trying (and failing) to copy the way he dances. His confident professional dance moves have been lighting up the stage (and the club) for many years! I was so happy when he agreed to answer my 10 questions. He was born and raised in east London (like me) and is now happily engaged. Without further adieu (or preramble) here's D'relle's 10 questions

What is your background?

 I was born and raised in East London. For the years I did live at home I was raised by my mother, step dad and grandparents.

Have you always wanted to be a dancer?

Yes! I had a lot to say but wasn’t always confident. Dance was my way of making people listen. 

How did you go about learning your craft?

I studied different techniques and styles from street to ballet and various choreographers who I was interested in such as Bob Fosse (Chicago,Sweet Charity) and developed me.

Have you faced any discrimination in your career?

I wouldn’t say I faced any for being black but I was bullied severely for being gay. i've been stabbed and beaten. Though that hasn't ruined my sense of freedom in my career. I'm lucky to not only have the opportunity to express myself but to help others develop and express themselves too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I would say the World Music Awards. Working with Chris Brown and Lavelle Smith Jr (world renowned choreographer), meeting the Late and great Michael Jackson, Beyonce and so many more amazing artists.

 If you couldn't dance, what would you do instead?
I would definitely work in the creative field or helping people in some way. As well as dancing, I was working for the NSPCC (Child abuse Charity).

What are your current projects?

I am choreographing for a lot of the major groups around the UK,
Just finished filming with video with Jessie J and Little boots.

Any future events we should look out for?

 Planning an event with a major company combining all aspects of UK Talent all under one roof. Working with some more artists and developing more dancers, models and artists.

Do you teach?

At the moment i'm only working with different companies as well as my own and a few master classes in and around London.

And finally, what do you think is the biggest issue facing gay people of colour?

Acceptance within our own community and from our families. It seems that being gay and of colour the issues we face are magnified and rather than have support because of our choices, we are often mistreated.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Holiday: A Gay Girl in Vietnam

 There’s always a lot of expectation when you board a plane to go on any holiday. The attractive possibility that being in a new place you’ll feel freer, more relaxed and have more fun is definitely alluring. A mental break from whatever is going on in your life and a different perspective (with the distance that being on the other side of the world affords). It often takes a lot of planning and not to mention money to travel. Some people work all year for a two week break away after all and this was definitely a much-needed break for me.
I decided to go to Vietnam because when I met travellers while staying in hostels in China they always mentioned it as one of their favourite places they had visited. I also had a friend teaching in Ho Chi Mnh who came to stay with me in London for a few nights so it seemed like a good opportunity to see what it was about and catch up with her. Learning from past mistakes, or so I thought I booked a GAP tour through STA travel lasting 12 days and taking me from Ho Chi Mnh to Hanoi stopping off at Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Halong Bay and Hanoi. The tour sounded like it would be fun and was advertised as being with a group of people my age. My trip would end in Bali where I would catch up with another friend for a week.
I arrived in Ho Chi Mnh formally Saigon at about 10am in the morning. I came out to a crowd of people waiting for their loved ones and taxi drivers holding signs for this person or that person. A barrier held them back with an opening at the end and I made my way through this. It became clear that jeans weren’t really appropriate clothing for this climate. I was given directions from my friend to find a woman in traditional clothes that would give me a card and put me in a taxi, so I ignored the endless offers from others. I found a woman wearing a yellow dress with a purple sash who did as I was told to expect. She ignored my questions of how much? Does the taxi have a meter? She appeared to be more interested in her phone and I was tired enough to let it pass. After having been in Asia before I knew this was suspicious. I showed the taxi driver the address I had scribbled down and sat back as we drove through the busy streets, motorbikes everywhere and nodded off here and there. The prevalent colour of that journey was a dusty yellow. When I arrived at my friends apartment on a road to the right of a bridge in district 1 I was told I was charged double but was really charged triple. You should only pay 100,000 for a taxi from the airport, the equivalent of about £3. Getting ripped off is something you’ll get used to. Always half any price offered as a rule.
That day we just watched a strange drama starring David Tennant and the brunette from Scott and Bailey with a work colleague of hers from Sydney. While sitting in my friend’s lavish apartment paid for by the teaching company she worked for I mused on the quality of life in London. We later went to a very expensive (by Ho Chi Mnh standards) restaurant in the district. On Sunday my friend went to work and it rained all day. I took the opportunity to do some work for a music events internship I had recently taken on. I finally ventured out after my friend had come home exhausted and was about to head to bed. I was reminded of the long hours at the weekends when teaching abroad and partly remembered why I had given it up and returned to London. I managed to find myself in the backpacker’s street at about midnight walking in my hoodie in the rain. I booked a tour of the Mekong Delta for 7.30am the next morning and left a note for my friend.
The tour was eventful; I held a python and travelled down the river in little flat boats rowed by ladies wearing the traditional thimble hats and barefoot. There was a big community living on the riverbanks in makeshift homes and hammocks their only source of income tips from rowing foreigners down the river. Often during tours in Asia you are shown a process or told about one, honey product making, coconut candies and at the end you are invited in Vietnam or pushed in China to buy buy buy. This tour was no exception and ended with live music with fruit and tea for all with a nice tip basket to go round at the end

It felt like I went out for a lot of expensive meals in the first few days, eating western food, which is usually what the more costly places have on the menu. I went to the restaurant that Brangelina went to on their fairly recent trip to Vietnam to show their adopted son where he was from. Young graduates which go and teach abroad can afford to eat out every night in the same restaurants as movie stars when they wouldn’t be able to get a job in Tesco’s at home let alone have their own place. This is the appeal of Asia and something that made me feel a little uncomfortable when I was living in China at 22 in an apartment that could house a family. A British passport is a valuable thing especially when you have a degree and very little work experience.

I also visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Mnh on my final day with my friend.  She drove me over there on her motorbike, which again highlights the freedom and independence on offer in Asia.
It became apparent very early on in my trip how one sided and uninformative Museums in Communist Countries can be. The museum was meant to educate about the Vietnam War but it had no background information at all. The first floor can be summarised by the sentence, the whole world protested and wanted to help us. The second floor, the Americans tortured us, look at all the horrible things they did. The third floor, the Americans have contaminated our country with Agent Orange, look at all the people that have been born Orange Victims.  Agent Orange was part of the herbicide warfare carried out by the U.S. in the Vietnam War from 62 -71 and got it’s name from the orange barrels it was shipped in. It contained an incredibly toxic dioxin compound. The pictures in the exhibition were very difficult to look at but it did appear to me that they just collected pictures of every person with a disability in the whole country. Are people with cleft lips Orange Victims?
I arrived at the joining hotel late after saying my goodbyes to my friend and later bundled my suitcase into a taxi. I was met by a bunch of grinning people, one British Girl, three Germans (a couple and their brother) and an American Girl. A bit later that evening I had my introductory talk with the tour leader who told me she was hoping I would be loud and crazy. After me responding ‘well maybe, after a couple of drinks’ followed by a brief laugh she told me that no one in the group had been drinking and suggested I introduce alcohol to the group. To say I was apprehensive about 12 days with these people was an understatement.
I immediately got on well with the British girl from Harrow (of all places) and it sounded like she had already got all the gossip on me from the tour leader anyway.  I had joined the tour in the second week it seemed and she was desperate for someone to have fun with. Trust me to go to Vietnam and befriend someone from down the road! I was aware that these people had had some time to bond and I wasn’t sure if I could dramatically change the dynamic.  In a nutshell, the Germans kept to themselves and were otherwise polite. The American girl seemed to have a real issue with me after the introductory dinner and dismissed my attempts to engage with her by making faces that would indicate a fly was buzzing around her head.  I didn’t let it bother me but the girl from Harrow brought it up when the American jumped down my throat when I offered we tan because our skin is recovering and damaged by the sun. I have my theories about this girl.  She would not have looked out of place at the Candy Bar, always dressed very casual and quite tomboyish. She also lamented the fact that she’d left all her ‘nice clothes at home’ when it was time to dress up. I’m sure I’ve used that excuse before! Her rather rude and dismissive behaviour towards me could be explained if she fancied me and didn’t quite know how to deal with it. You never know what’s going on in people’s heads. I’m really not the big-headed type but her behaviour was just so bizarre it really got me thinking. If I was open about my sexuality on this tour I wonder how that would have gone down…
We merged with another tour and went out for dinner with them at one point and this girl from Holland brought up that a woman once chatted her up. ‘Did she grope you?’ the girl from Harrow asked. It really surprises me sometimes when you’re not out, how seemly intelligent, educated people can make such ridiculous assumptions. Why would a woman grope you? Is that acceptable flirtatious behaviour for a man? Well it isn’t for a woman either and is probably unlikely to happen. It really tests your levels of understanding and forgiveness. As a LGBT person you have to isolate this prejudice and separate it from the person you know and like. This is quite a mild case and could be corrected by challenging the person but when your own Uncle says that if he has his own way  ‘he would string them all up (gay people) and kill them’ uncontrollable hysterical laughter was my only response. Anyway aside from my gay musings now and then I saw a lot of stuff in very short space of time.

Nha Trang is a mainly a beach city and it has a few streets of restaurants and nightlife. There is also a water park called Vinpearl. You can also try some watersports on the beach or have a mudbath if you want to treat yourself too. 

Hoi An is a colourful town and is famous for it’s tailoring and fashion. You can get anything you want (even shoes) made to measure in less than 24 hours. It’s a fashion students dream! You can choose the fabric and pick a style from catalogues or bring in your own pictures from magazines. Just strolling around this city you will come along nice temples and quaint bridges. The temple My Son is also 50km away if you want to arrange a taxi to see the Angkor Wat of Vietnam.

Hue is an interesting place. You can book a motorcycle tour and see some scenery, visit one of the Emperors mausoleums, have lunch in a monastery and see how thimble hats are made by a one armed lady. You can also she the Citadel if you have the energy.

Halong Bay is very famous and a must see for any visitor to Vietnam. You can also see the caves and go kayaking if you’re the active type.

Hanoi is a busy city; try not to get run over because the motorbikes are the craziest here. Tip: When crossing the street just walk at a steady pace and keep going. Don’t suddenly stop or change pace.
You can visit the Ho Chi Mnh Museum / Mausoleum before 11am and see the late presidents’ embalmed body if you’re into that sort of thing.  You can go past the Presidential Palace, visit Hao Lo Prison, the Army Museum or take a stroll around the old quarter. Remember that most tourist attractions are closed on Monday and Friday, so don’t trek down there for no reason. You can also see a Water Puppets show if you wish.

When I left for Bali I had had enough of Vietnam, all the haggling with the locals and the continual offers of pineapples in the street, locals offering to give me a ride on their bikes. …It was all giving me a bit of a headache. I stayed one night in a hostel and saw a bit more if the other side of travelling culture. All the girls in my dorm room went out on a pub-crawl organised by the hostel but I unfortunately had to be up at 4am to catch my flight. This pretty much marked the end of the cultured part of my trip.

When I arrived in Bali I managed to make my way to the guesthouse my friend was at. The instructions from my friend were it’s called Inada and it’s down an alley pretty much. Thank goodness I had found the number on the Internet along with the address because the taxi driver couldn’t find it. I got there though and found my friend in the company of his gay friend, them both tip tapping away on gay app Grindr. He seemed very chilled out and beardy. I also met his other friend from Argentina, who he often lovingly referred to as Argentina when we spoke about her. He had sent me a photo of her saying she was bisexual and I had the feeling he was trying to set me up as I awkwardly said hello and gave her a kiss on both cheeks. I wasn’t sure what to think when I was asked if I wanted to share the room with her and opted instead to stay in the same room as my friend.  I had only been there 15 mins and I was already feeling uptight.
It wasn’t long until I got all the dirt from my friend about his sexual adventures, the threesomes and other sexual encounters, this one, that one, all with graphic details. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be hearing about all this but it sounded like Thailand was sex tourism at it finest. The gay capital of Asia and Grindr sounded like quite a helpful tool. We hit the gay bars that night. I had no idea Bali had a gay scene but here it was in Seminyak.  There were bumper stickers in all the souvenir shops reading ‘Jack is Gay’ ‘James is Gay’ and also penis bottle openers and other things. At the bar there were drag queens a plenty and I had a fairly good time after I stopped musing about my friends transformation and new found freedom. He even posed in some tight little red gay lifeguard shorts he had acquired and I felt a bit like I was being left behind in some way. Anyway the night progressed and I had a few cocktails and Argentina seemed nice enough while the boys were trying to get numbers.
We ended up there the second night but this time just the two of us, as the bars in Cuta weren’t that great. I had seen a guy on the beach earlier and pointed him out to my friend as definitely being gay. My friend waved over and looked back a few times but no real response. As we entered the bar we saw the same guy from the beach dirty dancing with a drag queen on the bar.  In the end this guy ended up being too ‘feminine’ for my friend and he found a nice Brazilian, which he called Ricky as he looked like a little Ricky Martin. He ended up wanting to go back with this guy so I made my way home on my own feeling like a completely sad individual reflecting on all my failed attempts to meet new people. Apps didn’t seem to work the same way with women, you could be talking to a woman for three months and they still seemed reluctant to go out for a drink. For men everything seemed so much easier. Are men really wired differently to women and more sexually driven? I’m not so sure. Men seemed to spill out onto the streets from gay bars. Where were the women? At home with their cats, at open mic nights being creative, with their long term partners watching films? What were they doing? I actually did meet one lesbian that night, we were chatting for a bit and then I realised she was trying to get my email address for her mailing list. She puts on a night in Southbank apparently! All these Lesbian entrepreneurs and their businesses eh? Thanks, if you’re out there.

I decided to let this incident pass but when my friend left me with a gay couple I barely knew the next night in the Gili Islands to pursue this Canadian model I told him how I felt. He still went and we argued about it later. I don’t think wanting to seize the moment and have fun or that you’re really horny are ever good excuses for treating your friends badly especially if they have come to see you for only 6 days.
The situation improved from here and we had a really good time on the whole. There is nothing like the company of an old friend and we always have a laugh the majority of the time. I’m not sure people knew what to make of us. They immediately assume we are a couple naturally.  My friend often plays on this and refers to me as his wife and uses the ‘this is our honeymoon’ line to try and get a cheaper room. Little do they know I ‘ve probably seen more penises than any straight girl will have seen in a lifetime when he was showing me the camera roll on his phone.  Nothing happened with Argentina and she apparently is in love with some guy. He bought her a pair of shorts so she knows he feels the same way. 

On a sleeper train from Hue to Hanoi, I was listening to Florence and the Machine in my bottom bunk while everyone was asleep. The train rocking gently and the light going round the small room like a zoetrope. I suddenly realised that I wouldn’t want to be any in the world or be anyone else but where I was at that moment. I’m not sure why but it was a mixture of the music, what had happened previously that day and realising how lucky I am for lots of reason; to be able to travel, to be a British citizen and have so much freedom and to live in a great city like London. Although it’s difficult, it’s such a vibrant city with so many creative people in it, we have the luxury of culture and varied nightlife and so many opportunities. God knows what made me think that on a cockroach infested sleeper train but hope is all we really need.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Deep Poetry Series: Shauna O'briain

We all know not all memories are good and I believe by acknowledging that fact whilst having open and honest discussions not only helps the afflicted but those who are yet to be. I'm going to be posting a series of deep soul searching poetry from the most amazing poets on the scene right now! I feel that just putting these stories out there in the form of lyrical beauty is a good thing. If only 1 person can identify it will have achieved it's purpose. The first poet in the series will be the amazingly talented Shauna O'briain founder of Lyrically Challenged an artistic space where all kinds of expression is accepted and greatly recieved. I will be doing a profile on Shauna and the Lyrically Challenged Collective soon. For now, I'll leave you with her heartfelt poem titled "Memories."


The memory's of the beatings Sting with the same sharp pain
As the wacks of the wooden spoon,
\Pants down looking at my red bottom and thighs in the mirror in my room,
Tears stain my cheeks so young not even 5 and so confused,
I know I was challenging but for that extreme punishment what did I do?
With my mum our relationship was a game I'd always loose,
The patterns she'd learnt from her father she was following suit,
We'd fight I'd get ignored for days,
Feeling like there's never a solution I'd imagine cutting my wrists with razor blades,
I didn't want evidence of home disfunctions so I pushed the feelings away
,Can't see it on the skin but emotional scars don't fade,
When I look back I see I pushed her into many a rage
,And wonder why I behaved that way,
Did I find love in a violent exchange,
Was it a dance I looked to re create,
Receiving abuse becomes a safe space?
A bite from her on my leg purple took three weeks to fade,
From that bruise part of my physcie is stained,
I wage on like a warrior searching for healing,
Coping statagies and different methods of dealing,
With a history so deep created depression and years were stolen,
More than my heart was broken,
Feeling unlovable in every relationship,
Now I gather wisdom looking to transform this situation like an alchemist
,Yet in moments I feel like a piece in a puzzle that never fits,
How do I forgive and let go,
She's dead I can't be angry at a ghost,
Yet so many youths from round the flats were I lived
suffered similar stories so something's gotta give,
Am I mad at the system or a broken woman?
Getting dragged up in cities full of mind pollution,
Breaking free living as an artist doing as I'm choosing,
I cry as I write,
the emotions escape now With Strength to provide
Knolodge that the past doesn't leave but we can choose to leave it behind
,Perspective as the gift,
A smile and a tear are equal it's powerful to share it,
Speak up and be heard,
Talk of our hurt,
No longer bottled up in side the stories are released with freedom like the wings of a bird,
The power of the feelings of injusticeInspire to create a change in social conciseness,
Every man woman and child on this planet,
Deserves freedom to live the life they want full of happiness,
In an unbalanced society
,Instead of being angry at the past or ourselves our stories can create unity,
Educate one another and form loving communities,
Cause we can spiral down and we can spiral up,
We can become pilars of loveOpen our hearts n share hugs,
Creating new history's breaking the cycle so the next generation is free,

 Shauna Obriain

Will update this post with her social media info soon... 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

5 Things You Don't Say to Inked/Pierced People

A Doctor (for real) with tattoo's
 I had to address this issue primarily because people I hardly know keep asking me stupid questions regarding my tattoo's/piercings. I do not mind when people ask what my inspiration is for my artwork or ask me about the process-I am happy to pass that on. What I really, REALLY dislike are questions from a standpoint of judgmental ignorance. The "why did you do that to yourself" or "do you regret that" or the more comical "when you get older it's gonna get wrinkled." Gee, thanks for that, I thought when I got older my skin would simply wrinkle around the tattoo leaving the artwork completely intact (sarcasm alert.) I hate the way tattooed/pierced persons are looked down on and discrimanated against and will be writing an article about employment discrimination. For now, I'll leave you with the top 5 (though there are many more) things you should never say to inked/pierced individuals:

Did That Hurt?

Yes, indeed it did for it is not henna. It is a tattoo.  Humans and animals alike have nerves and a receptor in the brain for those nerves. When the body is exposed to intense or damaging stimuli it triggers a response. This response is called-wait for it, wait for it (wait for it) pain. It is done with a needle that places ink into the dermis (the skins second layer.) It hurts-to varying degrees-but it hurts. Please refrain from asking questions you already know the answer to because it's silly. Ask yourself, "if I got a toothpick and stabbed it along my skin at high speed-would it hurt?" Yes, it would.

Why Did You Do That?

If you are asking from a perspective of intrigue and genuine wonder that's completely fine. If you are asking because you want to know why someone would want to get a tattoo then you are a fool. I don't care if you're objecting to placement, design, quality or reasoning. You are a fool. Why do you have your hair in THAT particular style? WHY have you decided to wear those trousers? Why are you under the impression that Reebok Classics are still fashionable? Asking someone why they got a tattoo is no less insulting then the aforementioned questions. Besides there are very limited answers to that question. It's either A: I wanted to B: It means something to me (that's still "I wanted to") or C: My friend does tattoo's and I'm the guinea pig (this is still "I wanted to.") THE REASON PEOPLE GET TATTOO'S IS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. I don't care who you are you cannot go around asking perfect strangers about what they choose to do with their skin. For those of you who think it's self harm consider this. Would you go up to somebody you do not know with razor scars and ask why they did that? Not if you like your face bruise free. As people we choose to express ourselves in a variety of ways. We did not get tattooes to be scrutinised by ignorant people we hardly know. THINK.

When You Get Old They Will Wrinkle

Really? Really? I was under the impression that my tattooes were not on my skin. My answer to that question is always; "I'm aware of that."  Why should this be of any importance? Is untarnished wrinkled skin a commodity? Does having wrinkled skin sans tattooes make one closer to godliness? Will having uninked wrinkled skin mean when I'm in my 80's I'll still get all the ladies? Will the fact my tattooes wrinkle (because they are on my skin) mean nobody will love me :'( ... Does it? DOES IT? Please refrain from informing us of  this. We are aware of the phenomenom that is aging. We are more than happy with the fact our tatts age with us. Personally I think it has a certain charm about it. I seriously think some people believe if they stay inside society's box they are never going to die.

Do You Regret That?

Do you think I should? Why the hell have you asked me that!!?? Maybe I regret it, maybe not, but what I regret is none of your business. Someone asked me that very question about my favorite tattoo once. It's an experience I would rewind to because I was in such a state of shock all I could manage was "no."  This came from a woman (at the jobcentre-where else) with multiple lip piercings-they didn't suit her, just made her even more ugly, not that I'd say that. I am a lady. I have manners. It actually broke my heart a little and for maybe 2 minutes I felt abit like crap. Then I was angry. Angry that someone would put me down just to enjoy a sense of superiority. A false sense, but all the same. Please don't say this people. It's not nice. In that little exchange I learned something quite deep about someone I hardly knew. I knew she was spiteful or at the very least thoughtless. What did she learn about me? I like tattooes in unusual places. You expose yourself when you subject people to such a judgmental line of questioning.

You Must Find It Hard Getting A Job!

If A fellow inked person asks (or just somebody I know) this I don't mind. We can discuss the issue from a socialogical standpoint and exchange information on openminded employers etc. Do not ask me this if you want to feel superior for not having tatts or to find out my employment status/opportunities. That has nothing to do with you. I don't need your pseudo concern/pity. I don't stop working.  I get by. Iceland or Waitrose do not hold the key to my future (both of these places enforce a no tattoo employment policy) nor do they ever-for 1 second give me cause to regret the choices I have made with my skin. In fact, I'd rather be unemployed to look the way I do. It's a price I'm willing to pay. 


I could not choose ascribed characteristics such as my race or sex. I can choose how I present myself in day to day life with; piercings, tattoo's and my awesome sense of fashion. I'm a very openminded, non judgmental, clever, creative and emotionally intelligent human being. I value not only my diversity but everyone elses. Judging people just because they have tattoo's (or because anything else) is wrong and you do not have a right to judge just because we chose to look this way. Please think before you speak because you might be hurting someone's feelings. We must have a basic respect for people no matter what. Projecting ignorance on others is not attractive.

Me and my tatts, will be getting alot more!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Erotic Poetry: Feisty Angel

I drip
I think of you and I drip
I cant control the pool of wetness
Forming between my thighs
As I imagine the simplest thing
Like just staring into your eyes
A rush of warmth to my cheeks
My black skin can’t disguise
And with you on my mind, I drip

I get to work and
Put my mind straight
I struggle to concentrate
Once again my thought path breaks
I think of you and I drip

You are not here
I wish you were
I can almost feel you,
Hear you, smell you, I want you
My body wants you
Oooh I drip
I want you to see me
I want you to know what you do to me
I want you to feel what I feel
Cos this feeling is real
@KemiTaiwoPoet: Follow her on twitter
 aka Feisty Angel

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Things You Should Know About Afro Hair: The Basics

Afro hair has been a very contentious issue for black women. With its reputation for being coarse, hard to manage and unable to grow it's no wonder that whenever I see a woman in her natural glory I can't help but stare-it's not something I see daily. This article is not against women who are weaved/relaxed. I will be wearing wigs while I grow out my hair. Neither is this going to be an accusation that weaves/relaxed ladies only do so because of the European standard of beauty (though I will touch upon the historical reasons we started burning our scalps and wearing wigs in the first place.) I want to dispell natural hair myths so you can see your textured tresses as a beautiful and unique object of desire. I will also invite you to follow my natural hair journey. Our hair can grow long but so many years of misinformation has meant our hair doesn't flourish. Afro hair has been the least studied so there's still so much to learn about it. Alot of us are damaging our hair for social acceptance. When are we going to reject the idea our hair isn't good enough?

Our hair is an evolutionary adaptation to our indigenous enviroments. Afro hair is said to grow outward as a defence from powerful UV rays. The comparitively lower number of hair follicles (compared to Asian and caucasian hair) allow for air to reach the scalp increasing blood circulation, regulating temperature. Afro hair texture is down to the shape of our hair follicles acting as moulds. Caucasian hair follicles are oval shaped whilst asian hair follicles are rounder producing bone straight hair. Our flatly shaped follicles press our hair into a tight curl pattern.

In Africa, hair styling had ceremonious significance. A craft passed down through generations of women. Black soap was used to wash the hair whilst natural ingredients like palm oil and shea butter were used to moisturise and dress the hair. Hair styles varied depending on your tribe, place in the family unit and position in society. One would never wear their hair in an afro as this signified; povery, loss and/or madness. The transatlantic slave trade held dire consequences for our hair care. Foreign lands lacked the tools and ingredients our hair needed to thrive. For lack of an alternative option, slaves would use sheep carding tools which lead to the spread of scalp irritations such as dandruff and lice. Female slaves with wavy/longer hair would be subject to jealousy from the masters wife and would often have to cut their hair given them a less feminine appearance. On the other hand, those with finer hair textures had better social and economic opportunities, thus, in a more favorable position than those with kinkier hair textures. By the 19th century slaves were granted Sunday to attend church and socialise. At this time hairstyling once again became an integral part of the culture. It was also in the 19th century natural afro textured hair was virtually outlawed in New Orleans. Ladies with kinkier textures had to cover their hair with a scarf whilst in public. The societal rejection of afro textured hair culminated in Garrett Augustus Morgan's (the 11th child of former slaves) accidental discovery of a chemical that straightened the texture of hair. The chemical was discovered in Morgan's attempt to invent a liqiud to lubricate needles in sewing machines. He wiped his hands on a wool cloth, noticed the effect and "Morgan's hair refining cream" was born. This spawned a multi million dollar industry.

We now know that a product (like modern day hair relaxers) that penetrates through to the corticle layer (where the hair contains its strength and elasticity) altering it's structure is liable to lead to damage/breakage. But there are other less obvious ingredients on the market that strip our delicate hair type. I've listed a few below:

Sodium (lauryl, laureth, laurel) Sulphate 

This ingredient is in over 90% of foaming products. It strips afro hair of essential natural oils, leaving it dry, brittle and vulnerable to breakage. Sodium laurel sulphate is used in products such as; car washes and engine degreasers. Not the best ingredient for hair that needs gentle handling to thrive. Try using a sulphate free shampoo. If you want to splash out there's Carols Daughter Black Vanilla Moisturising shampoo. If like me you're on a budget try Elasta QP Creme Conditioning Shampoo. I use it and it works wonders with my hair.

 Mineral oil/Petrolatum

These ingredients act as barriers stopping moisture getting through, causing dryness. Mineral oil/petrolatum do not penetrate the hair shaft so cannot effectively moisturise the hair. Let me explain why afro hair gets so dry. The scalp produces the same amount of natural oils as other races but due to the hair texture the oils cannot effectively travel through the hair, the texture is also the reason our hair breaks and why low manipulation styles (the less combing/brushing/messing around with it-the better) help our hair grow.  These ingredients (mineral oil/petroleum) clog pores causing a build up of toxins and affecting overall hair health. There are only 3 oils that can penetrate the hair shaft; coconut oil (cold pressed is the best variety), avocado oil and olive oil. Ingredients such as aloe vera juice, water or glycerine are great for moisturising too. Genuine mosisture stops hair getting brittle by helping it to retain elasticity, strength and shine. In order to help retain moisture seal it in with other oils (almond, castor, jojoba) or shea butter. In fact I've found a company "Shea Delight" (UK based) who have developed a hair cream using a blend of high grade unrefined organic shea butter with organic cold pressed coconut oil (and nothing else) for the crazy price of £5.00! Google  "cold pressed coconut oil" and you'll see a little tub will set you back £8.00 so it's real value for money. My hair has been so healthy since I started using it.

This one is a blend of manuka honey and unrefined shea butter. For orders call Judith on: 07947384046 or alternatively email: info@sheadelight.com. Do not get confused that the above is a skin cream. It's great for skin AND hair.

Isopropyl Alcohol 

An ingredient used in anti-freeze and hair colour rinses. It dries out afro hair making it prone to breakage. 
 Moisture is key!

Black Girl Long Hair Style Icon

The civil rights era brought with it a new conciousness. The afro hairstyle became mainstream as people decided to reject colonial idea's about afro textured hair. There were some natural hair controversies when correspondent Melba Tolliver sported an afro to cover Tricia Nixon's (daughter of president Richard Nixon) wedding. The station threatened to take Tolliver off the air until the media caught on to the story. There's still debate within the black community whether wearing an unaltered hair texture makes one look unprofessional. Some ladies have been accused of making a political statement just by wearing the hair they were born with. Since the black power movement the trend for natural hair has gone through the motions. Weaves and relaxers remain ever popular. Although, this could all change. I've recently discovered natural hair is enjoying a renaissance. There are many great blogs dedicated to aiding afro haired women in gaining long, healthy hair. The support I've seen for women wanting to learn more about their hair is astonishing. Those interested in going natural or even relaxed and weaved ladies looking to get advice on a world of hair complaints are met with tons of helpful advice. I've never witnessed so much unity in the black community. Encouragement for those who feel insecure with wearing a tiny afro, other ladies exhibiting the wig they wear whilst their natural hair grows long enough to style, sharing their hair mistakes as well as their successes. Connecting black women all over the world. The "secrets" to long afro hair (amongst other things) are: Moisturising, sealing and protective (low manipulation) styling that protects the ends. Since the ends of our hair are the oldest and driest part extra care is needed to maintain them in order to retain length. Hair is a dead fibre that can only be either preserved or damaged. Growing afro hair means retaining length by hiding  those ends away for a special occasion. Whether we are relaxed, wear weaves/wigs or go natural there is advice out there so we can do the best by our hair. At the bottom of this article I've included some useful links for those with natural or chemically treated hair...

Personal Hair Journey

I used to have locs but took them down a couple of years ago and abused my hair with everything-for the last time. I bleached and relaxed my hair 6 weeks ago and have now cut off all my chemically treated hair. I only discovered the hair blogs after my decision and they have been a fantastic resource. To prove my point I'm going to take a picture every 3 months for a hair growth update. I want to prove that even after years of abuse beautiful hair is attainable. So, this is where I'm at:

Smallest afro ever! Will check back in 3 months.

Useful hair care links:







Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Miss Petra V's Problem Page

Miss Petra V Is a trained counsellor with many years of experience in counselling, advice, guidance, mental health and support. In addition she's lead a life you could write a book on! Miss Petra offers empathetic, honest and practical advice. No matter what your problem is Petra has the answers and if she doesn't she will point you in the right direction...

My only gay friend tried to have sex with me?

I'm gay and he is gay. I am really upset a lot at the moment because my family is sort of imploding over me being gay. My dad hates it, my mum is ok (sort of), my little brother’s say I am an embarrassment.  My older brother says he feels he needs to defend me. I have only one gay friend who I tell EVERYTHING to. Yesterday he kissed me and I kissed him back, I suppose I don’t know why but then he pinned me down and I told him that was enough! He then told me to make up my mind! I was confused and asked, ‘About what?’ and he said ‘Everything’. I am  so confused, I feel like I should kill myself and I wish I never came out, then at least my family and friends could have mourned the person they loved.
Please tell me it gets better eventually as I can’t take this anymore


I would like to say that things will get a lot better for you. Regarding your family, I understand this is a terrible time for you. Your family may take a long time to get used to this or as in some cases they may not. At this moment they do not understand and its seems they have not been faced with this within the family before. This bad reaction is how they are choosing to deal with it for now. Your family do not understand so they are hurt, confused with mixed emotions and will worry about societies opinions, they may believe that they are thinking about you. On the plus side it is really positive that your Mum is somewhat ok with the fact you are gay as there is much hope that she will gradually be fine with it, in time she may also be able to soften this issue with your dad. It is great your brother feels he needs to defend you as he loves you.
Your friend who is gay is wrong in his whole approach, I am very concerned with the fact that he has held you down against your will, kissed you and then told you to make up your mind. This was unacceptable and you should never expect that from anyone. He has not acted as a friend and he has placed unnecessary pressure on you to go along with what he would like you to do for his own needs and so I can see why you feel you have no one to turn to. I understand why you are confused especially as you had trusted him and I empathise with you as you already felt alone and more so since this incident has occurred. Being gay is not about sex just as being any other sexuality is not either. You need to get away from this person. I know for now you will feel alone but it is far better than having a so called friend like that. You will not be without friends forever but just for now.
It is very sad you feel to fatally harm yourself as I am sure you have many people including your family who truly love you but, at the moment they are fixated on the fact you are gay. I do not believe you, your family or anyone else would be better off with you gone. You have already stated your brother wants to defend you so you can rest assured that he loves you too. You have a long future ahead and yes at times it may be rough but you will get through it and with the right people around you your future will be good. I would like you to try and think about yourself right now and what you would like for your future. Things will change as there is always hope and who knows you may be able to help someone else with the same problem in the future.
You can search online to find nationwide Help-Lines and Gay Organisations in and around your area. They can provide you with support, advice and guidance and some provide days to meet with gay people in similar circumstances and with those who understand what you are going through.

Take courage and be strong

Miss Petra V

Am I Gay? Please help!

I had just turned teen and as I am a man I had never looked at men in this way before but then in year 7 I had a crush on a guy. I had a girlfriend for 7 years although throughout that time I never loved her. I don't really get boners when I see girls on the street and I have to watch lesbian porn because if I watch straight porn I look only at the men... I do watch gay porn (Dont judge) and get turned on but it could be purberty, I dont get boners by girls that much anymore either. My ex girlfriend who I spoke about before is now my best friend. I was thinking I could go out with her when I'm older and pretend I love her? I'm not a cold person like that though but, I would if I had to. I do find girls fit but can't get an erection with them. I'm still not not sure if Im Gay.


You said you had, 'just turned teen' so I am assuming you were 13-14 years old when you first had a crush on a boy. That is a confusing time for us all as we go through many emotions at that age. Hormonally, physically and mentally we are growing and it is a crucial time in our lives when we are truly beginning to mould ourselves in many ways so that did not mean you were gay.
With your past girlfriend of seven years, although it is unfortunate that you did not love her, there could be many other reasons for this within the relationship as well as your sexuality. You have to take into consideration that you are young and wont always make the best decisions for yourself yet.
I don't believe many men have 'boners' when they see women on the street, this is not abnormal and this also does not mean you are gay. I would not judge any person for watching Porn but bare in mind that it is not a necessity so, if you feel any discomfort in doing so then I would advise you not to persist in watching it. Some heterosexual men are turned on by watching men and women having sex and sometimes become more aroused by watching the man. Some people are turned on by same sex as visually it is appealing. There is a difference, as if you desire to have sex with only men and want to be in a relationship with solely a man then this could mean you are gay. Many Gay people find the opposite sex very attractive and can often see why anyone would want to be with that person but that gay person feels that the opposite sex is not for them at all. You have said, 'You don’t get boners by girls that much anymore' so you are saying you do on some occasions. You actually could be bi-sexual with a stronger preference to men or it may be that you haven’t seen as many women that you find attractive. I think you need to take the pressure off yourself by not pushing the issue of the title of being gay. You need to find out who you are inside and though this may take time it will be worthwhile. When we are young we are impressionable, our circumstances, situations, life experiences, social inclusions and exclusions as well as family, friends and societies views make up some participating factors in sculpting us. Labelling yourself is not the important part, knowing who you are is. I cannot tell you if you are gay as there are many factors, some of which you have already pointed out. I would advise you to be true to yourself and think about it without stressing yourself. Going out with your ex girlfriend who is now your best friend is not advisable as this would be emotionally harmful for you both. Let her have a future of her own love life and for you to pursue your own. You already have said you will, 'pretend to love her' and this shows you never will. You have to make sure you do not punish yourself for being confused or hurt your best friend in the process even though it is unintentional. The great thing about having a best friend is that you can have them as your friend and confidant forever and you can always be yourself with them. You will be able to find out who you are with her as your friend and as someone who understands you. You have a great future ahead of you and much to learn about yourself. Please take your time and most of all love yourself for who you are right now.

Miss Petra V


My friend is avoiding me since we talked about being Lesbians...

This school year I met a girl and we became very good friends. Around a month after we became friends I began to develop feelings for her but I didnt tell her. I liked her a lot but I soon realized she did not care for me as much as I cared for her. During a conversation we had she told me about a girl who used to be her friend, she found out she was a lesbian and so stopped talking to her. I I couldn't risk not being with her so I said nothing. Before Spring break a friend of mine (a guy) told me that she had said she was a lesbian. I spent all Spring break imagining things with her, how I was gonna tell her I liked her and how much I wanted us to go out etc.
Anyway, after Spring break we had a really good talk where she told me she might be a lesbian or bisexual but she didn't want to be that way because of her religion. I told her I was a lesbian and also that I used to like her. She was very shocked and told me very clearly that there was no chance in hell anything could happen between us.
After that conversation, we acted 'normal', pretending nothing had happened, but I felt the tension and awkwardness between us. We talked again because in her opinion I was being very weird and possessive (which is the true since I like her alot and I had high hopes for us when I found out she was a lesbian). The thing is, she's been avoiding me ever since the second talk and I don't know what to do. I'm afraid our friendship is coming to an end because I just don't know how to be around her anymore. I don't feel normal or comfortable, and I can tell she doesnt too. I now know I love her. The thing is that she's a *****, I mean Ive seen that she knows how to manipulate people and how to play with their feelings.
What do I do? Should I stop talking to her? I don't know!! Any suggestions please...!


Unfortunately at this present time this friendship does not seem to be on a good path after the first discussion with your friend disclosing to you whether she was either bi-sexual or a lesbian. From what you have said it seems she may have felt uncomfortable because you had told her you are a lesbian and you 'used' to like her. Your friend is clearly not comfortable with what is happening with her own feelings towards sexuality and possibly does not feel comfortable with you as a lesbian. Your friend had stated prior to discussions that she had fallen out with another friend when she found this friend was a lesbian. Your friend said she does not want to be a lesbian or bi-sexual due to her religious beliefs. I understand that because of your joy in being told by another friend that she was a lesbian you were more eager to tell her about yourself and hoped for something to come of it but, you may have subconsciously played down the fact that she had ended a previous friendship due to this. You have told her of your attraction for her and because of her own issues she doesn't want to be involved in this and not with someone who is her friend. This must be very frustrating for you both as you had to hide your true feelings for such a long time. When you finally felt it was ok she made you realise that it wasn’t ok for her. For your friend this is extremely hard as she thought you were heterosexual and now she knows you are not as well as the fact that you had feelings for her. It is possible that because of this she cannot see how she will be able to continue the friendship without this getting in the way. Outside of your control your emotions for her have progressed and this has manifested in your self confessed possessiveness and in your opinion 'weird' actions. As you say you tried to act 'normal' but possibly in you both trying so hard to do this the relationship was strained even more so and the normal act became abnormal and not true. You have called your friend a negative strong word and have said, 'she knows how to play with people’s feelings and how to manipulate them', I would not advise anyone to attach themselves to a person with these characteristics, this could prove to be damaging for you. However, if you choose to continue the friendship you will have to take control of your feelings and decide if you would prefer a friendship without any desire and attraction for her or to not have a friendship at all. If you have decided that you will put your feelings of attraction for her aside and the friendship will mean so much more than your intimate feelings, you and your friend need to have another talk, you will need to be totally honest with each other about everything to see if you can get past and overcome what has happened and to continue to grow together as friends.

I wish you all the best

Miss Petra V

If you would like advice on a problem (no matter how big or small) contact Miss Petra at : Misspetrav@yahoo.co.uk...