#VisaBae, Image Gang, and Why I might delete YouTube

Does anyone else remember when every young black girl wanted to be a model? I blame Tyra Banks, because those were the days when America’s Next Top Model was still popping. Can you believe that show is still on air? What are they on now? Cycle 427? I digress…

In those days we all, no matter if we were apple shaped or five foot nothing, thought we could make money by posing for the camera. It seems this desire for easy money is stronger than ever, but now the game has changed. Now the goal is no longer to just be an Insta Model, but to achieve the grand status of a social media “Influencer”, which I guess is a combination of being an Insta Model and a YouTuber, with enough clout to make your followers part with their money.

But perhaps now the pond has become too small. Not everybody can become a millionaire through social media; just ask Visa Bae aka Rutendo Tichiwangani. I hadn’t heard of her until I watched this Channel 5 news clip a couple of weeks ago, and I was somewhat surprised to discover that she has upwards of 70k followers on Instagram. Often pictured adorned with expensive looking weaves and designer hand bags draped across her arms, it came as a surprise to many that Rutendo was seeking donations to cover the cost of her application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

There are already enough opinion pieces out there as to whether or not Rutendo should have planned ahead, borrowed from friends, or sold expensive bags to raise the money for her application, so I won’t be going into all of that. Besides, she reached her Go Fund Me target and then some, so the lesson there may well be; in life, as long as you know how to dress well and apply makeup you’ll do just fine. What really troubled me though, was the fact that Rutendo left school/college with the ambition of being a social media influencer. Since when has being an Insta Baby Girl become an ambition? Since when???

Now, I don’t have an Instagram account, for many reasons, including some that will be discussed below, but I do enjoy watching YouTube and have done so for many years. Amongst the beauty and lifestyle vloggers, there appears to be only a very small number of young Black and British YouTubers who have managed to make YouTube a full time job, and are living comfortably from its profits. What can sometimes be forgotten is that when these YouTubers were just starting out they had day jobs, and did YouTube on the side as a creative outlet, a hobby almost, before their popularity and platform grew to a lucrative size. These days however, people are not interested in working a 9 to 5 to make a living. They want the job title of “Influencer” before they’ve even reached a position of influence. They want YouTube to pay them, before they’ve paid their dues and sponsorship based off of a few hundred “views”.

Rutendo’s case also highlights the circularity that comes with this materialistic pursuit. Herself and others “stunt for the Gram” in expensive clothes they can’t afford, hoping to attract collaborations from luxury brands that will eventually help them move from just posing, to actually owning these labels. Meanwhile, hapless followers witness this portrayal of bougie living, feel insecure about not having designer items, and put themselves into debt in order to “keep up”. It’s one of the reasons why I hate Instagram, and why I’m slowly falling out of love with YouTube too.

Both platforms have been so overtaken by big brands it seems that now the only function they serve is to encourage users to spend, spend, spend. Why else has the term “Influencer” been created? What is it that YouTubers want to influence you to do? Part with your coins, that’s what. It’s gotten so bad, that I’m now seeing many lesser known YouTubers posting videos all about how they make money from YouTube, how much they charge brands, and how to maximise revenue. Call me old fashioned, but it’s just so distasteful. Just come out and tell us, why don’t you, that you’re just doing YouTube for the money!

I wonder whether or not some of these young black Influencers have paused to think what all this consumerism is doing for the black community? We seem to consume all day, but what are we producing? I say it’s time to forget about our “image” on social media and make sure we’re building, saving and investing in our futures.

Facebook Has Taken More Than Just Your Data

Last week I waved goodbye my Facebook account. It wasn’t for the first time; anyone else who has deactivated only to end up coming back, knows how easy it is to return. Facebook keeps everything just as you left it so you can just pick up where you left off.

Deleting Facebook

But this time it feels different. I use Facebook a lot less, and it’s easy to see why.  Firstly, the platform itself has changed; the News Feed seems to show only a small selection of the almost 700 friends I’ve collected over the years; whereas before, a notification meant that someone had actually interacted with you in some way, now I can be notified just because someone has uploaded a photo or updated their status. The feeling that Facebook is trying to manipulate me into interacting with people is off putting.

Secondly, I have changed. I no longer think it’s appropriate to share my innermost feelings, or personal experiences with virtual strangers. And yes, I consider the majority of people on my “friends” list to be strangers, added during the “friend grab” phase of my early twenties when meeting someone for the first time was a good enough reason to “friend” them on Facebook.

That’s why for me, the best thing about the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, is that is finally pushed me from contentedly finding Facebook boring and bizarre, to completely being over it. However, before news of the scandal even broke, I had been conducting my own mental analysis of the social networking site.

If we didn’t already, we now all know the extent to which our Facebook data is shared with third parties. I shudder to think just how much of my data has been gathered over the 12 year period that I used the site. But Facebook has taken so much more than just your data. It has taken your time, your development of social skills, the importance you attach to privacy and so much more. I now consider it completely insane that people are willing to share the most personal details of their lives with virtual strangers. Though only a handful people will actually respond to something we have posted, we forgot about the hundreds of others lurking silently in the shadows, watching our private lives play out in the open, and witnessing our triumphs and tribulations. And the only effort they’ve had to make for this open access to our lives, is to sign in. It is one of sadder consequences of Facebook, that people are less willing to reach out to people by actually picking up the phone to call them, or even more revolutionary, meeting up with them in person (*shock horror*).

Still, there was something else about Facebook that began to sit uncomfortably with me, after a lightbulb moment occurred a few months ago. A “friend suggestion” appeared and it was someone I had known many years ago. What was so remarkable about this moment, was that until I saw the “friend suggestion” I had completely forgotten that this person even existed. And so I should, because that’s what’s supposed to happen as you pass through various stages in life. You do forget people from your past. Or at list you did before Facebook was invented. Now, even that person you met one time at a party is forever with you because you “friended” her, and 10 years on you know every country she’s ever visited, “met” each successive boyfriend, and know what the inside of her fridge looks like.

Facebook has taken away that experience of bumping into an old face, taking a few seconds to piece together where you know them from, and sharing in a brief moment of nostalgia as you realise how much you’ve both changed. Now when I bump into an “old face”, there is no surprise, only a feeling of awkwardness as you know you can’t even pretend not to recognise him because he commented on your post the other day, and you already know the names of his three children and respective baby mothers. The taking away of the ability to forget certain people, should not be overlooked.

Since leaving Facebook this time around, I’ve not looked back at all. A final reminder as to its oddness came as I was taking the final steps to deactivate. “How will you keep in touch with your friends?” Facebook asked me, as a desperate attempt to try to manipulate me into staying. That won’t be a problem Facebook; I’ll call them.

 

 

 

“Dear White People” IS Racist. Here’s why.

We live in time of perpetual outrage. From the perspective of the Conservative Right, the anger is often articulated in Daily Mail headlines with capitalised words to emphasise just how OUTRAGEOUS ‘it’ is (whatever ‘it’ is). For Liberal Lefties, taking to the streets waving placards and chanting, is how their indignation is expressed. It is not surprising then, that the announcement of the new Netflix series “Dear White People” was going to enrage some people.

Based on the film of the same name that came out in 2014, the release of the trailer for the show sparked the type of outrage that causes people to take to twitter and start furiously hash-tagging, and threatening a boycott. On this occasion, it seems it is the Conservative White America that has been especially offended, or “triggered”, to adopt an internet phrase. According to the Daily Mail article reporting that the Youtube video of the trailer attracted one million dislikes in one day, the outrage is justified. Having perused the comments section of this article (my go-to when I want to understand the way in which racist people think), it seems nobody really knows what the show is about, but it must be racist against whites because, “you couldn’t get away with a show called ‘Dear BLACK people’ could you?!?”

I find all of this very amusing. Firstly, because when the film version came out in 2014, I do not recall this amount of anger being expressed. In fact, to me, the film trailer seemed very enticing at the time. It seemed a straightforward plot – a black(ish) looking girl using her radio station slot to directly address the micro-aggressions that many black people encounter when interacting with white people on a daily basis. In fact if I recall correctly, the film was made as a response to a real life incident that occurred at an Ivy League university when white students attended a Halloween party dressed in black face as a costume. As I understand it, this type of thing has been reported numerous times across America. I was intrigued then, that it seemed a mainstream film had been made to address this type of ignorant behaviour, and challenge the stereotypes of black people that are so often propagated by the media. When I eventually watched the film, I discovered I was very wrong. Dear White People was ironically slightly racist… to black people. In what can be best described as an own goal, the casting and writing of the film has many stereotypes that are negative as far as black people are concerned. Here are just a few:

Stereotype 1: Only a light skinned/mixed race woman can play a leading role.

The storyline in Dear White People has a convenient “twist” that allows for casting a mixed race woman as the leading role, as is it later revealed that she is actually not “fully black” as she has a white father, despite being so “militant”.

Stereotype 2: Black people, and especially black people who are concerned about racial injustice, are always angry.

In the film, there is an angry black mob, none of whom have any speaking lines, and only serve the purpose to appear every now and then, looking furious and staring black raging daggers at people.

Stereotype 3: Even in a so-called “black film”, a white character must always be the hero.

The Light-Skinned Leading Lady (I cannot remember any of the characters names, and I cannot be bothered to look them up), has a secret White Boyfriend, who sticks by her even though she treats him like dirt, and is ashamed on him. Both she, and all the other characters in the film seem to have deep flaws. Supporting Dark-Skinned Female character is very unlikeable, as is the Leading Black Male character. The Black Gay character is written as complete wimp. The only character that comes out shining and smelling of roses, is the secret White Boyfriend, who in the end, Light-Skinned Leading Lady chooses over her other love interest,  Brutish Black Man.

dear-white-people-2

If the Netflix mini-series is going to be just like the film, then I agree; it is racist. However, to suggest it is racist towards white people is a bit ridiculous. To address the suggestion that it would not be ok to have a TV show called “Dear Black People”; such a title suggests that the show would be written from a mainly white perspective addressing certain behaviours of black people that make white people feel oppressed. The problem with that is, virtually every show on TV already is written from a white perspective, and given that in the US and UK, black people are a minority, it is difficult to see how white people in these countries could feel so oppressed by their behaviour.

I will not be watching the Netflix series because I thought the film was pretty rubbish, but I have no feelings of fury about it. My suggestion to Spitting Mad Conservative White America, is to stop the internet whinging and threats of boycotts, and do the common sense thing whenever something you do not like is on TV or online: simply, do not watch.

International Women’s Day – What are We Celebrating?

It seems apt that today on International Women’s Day, I break my spell of writer’s block and write my first piece in 2016.

It was Twitter that brought my attention to the occasion that is being commemorated today. It was also Twitter that drew my attention to yet another social media storm surrounding, arguably one of the most famous women on the planet; Kim Kardashian. It seemed to me a twisted irony that Kim K’s name was trending on two separate topics at the same time as #InternationalWomensDay.

In 2016 it feels as though there is not much to celebrate about being woman. The job that I do means that I constantly come into contact with women who are victims of domestic abuse. Some figures show that globally, 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of a male partner but I have a strong suspicion that if all cases were actually reported, the figures would be far higher. Other uplifting statistics show that there continues to be an increase in sexual crime against women.

It is becoming apparent that the women that are celebrated the most are the women who consistently appear in public without clothes. I may have burying my head in the sand, but I am at a loss to explain how this has happened.  Could Western Feminism be to blame? The type of feminism that I describe as “Western” defends the right of women to do whatever they want with their bodies, including exhibiting its naked form whenever and however they choose. It was out of Western Feminism the ridiculously absurd “Free the Nipple” campaign was birthed. I can think of no finer example of what can happen in a society to rich with privilege and comfort that a woman’s chief concern is about cultivating the right to be indecently exposed.

One of the problems with this new wave of “we have the right to wear what we want or wear nothing at all” type feminism is that it ignores the question; “why?” After all, such behaviour goes against our natural instinct to preserve our modesty. To illustrate my point, if you were out in public somewhere and experienced a wardrobe malfunction that meant you behind was exposed, would you just carry on as normal, or try and find something to cover yourself until you got home? To those that do not appear to have this instinct, we should be addressing the question, “why do want your naked body to be seen by everybody?” Do you just want attention? Are you insecure?

But that’s the trouble with Western Feminism; it asks no questions, and it ignores all consequences. Is it a coincidence that in a day an age where images of the naked female body are displayed at every opportunity and saturate  media and advertising to an inescapable degree, there is an increase in sexual violence towards women? I was horrified to read a piece by Lucy Managan in the Stylist, describing how a man on the tube was staring at her creepily and then staring at his phone, only for her to discover that he was watching pornography on his phone, openly on the tube. This is the world we now live in.

There may have been a time when feminism was all about ensuring that women were treated fairly, and afforded the same rights and opportunities as men, but now I can’t help but think Western Feminism is only adding to the problems that women face today. That’s why I believe we must stop the practice of accusing people of “slut shaming” simply for pointing  out that the absence of clothes on prominent females does nothing to raise the esteem of women who are made to feel their own bodies are inadequate. It does nothing to highlight important inner qualities and capabilities of women or recongise their achievements. And it certainly does nothing to bring an end to the objectification and subjugation of women all around the world.

Wedding Etiquette 101

If you are a wedding vendor, September spells the end of the official “wedding season”. However, if you are the average person with a reasonable number of family and friends, you will know that wedding season never ends.

With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to consider wedding etiquette, from the perspective of the both bride and groom, and guests. There are no official rules as far as I’m aware, but having experienced being a bride that one time, and a guest quite a few other times, I have formed my own views about what the rules should be.  And course because they are my views, they are obviously right.

Before I begin I must confess that I, in the past, have been guilty of breaking a few of these rules. I was ignorant then, but after reading this, you dear reader will have no excuse. Especially you Nigerians. (I can say that, because I’m Nigerian).

Let us start with some do and don’t for wedding guests. In no particular order:

DO respond to the invitation. RSVP does not mean “Rice and Stew Very Plenty”, it means “Let me know if you are coming or not because I am not a mind reader, and I need to plan according to numbers”. If your plans change and you can no longer attend, please let the bride and groom know as soon as you can for the same reason.

wedding  or nah

DO NOT turn up if you have not been invited. This is because the bride and groom will not be expecting you, so would not have catered for you, and most likely will not have allocated you a seat. To turn up when not invited means that you are taking the seat, and eating the food of somebody who actually was invited. I can only assume that people that turn up uninvited just have not considered this before. Well now you know. You’re welcome.

DO keep a low profile if somehow, you end up at a wedding you were not invited to. It shouldn’t really ever happen, but maybe for example, were tricked by a guest who led you to believe they were allowed a plus one, but it becomes clear when you get there that you really were not invited at all. In such cases avoid being snapped by the official photographer, so that the bride and groom do not later look through their wedding album and think “who let him in??” It’s also probably best not to approach the bride and groom to congratulate them. They probably do not know you, and do not want to see you. Just try and blend into the background.

Life is not like the film "Wedding Crashers".

Life is not like the film “Wedding Crashers”.

DO NOT make the day all about you. You are there to support and celebrate with the bride and groom. Don’t try and upstage the couple with your outfit. In fact my own personal rule is, the less well I know the bride and groom the less I dress up. If you are going as a plus one, who may not have even be invited, wear jeans.

DO get a gift and/or card. Because even if the only reason you came is to eat and dance, getting at the very least a card, makes that fact less obvious. And because turning up empty handed is just rude. Even if you were not invited. In fact, especially so.

wedding just here for food

DO NOT buy a gift that the bride and groom did not include on a gift list. There is a very good reason why people use gift lists. It means that everything on the list is something they want/need, and it means that they don’t end up getting the same thing twice or more. Can you see the chaos, departing from the gift list brings? If you really don’t want to buy anything from the list, cash is a perfectly good alternative. But to assume that the couple want a glass figurine when it was not on their gift list is a big assumption. And most probably a wrong assumption.

DO ask for permission before splattering pictures you’ve taken from the wedding all over the Internet. Not everybody enjoys violating their own privacy in such a way, so do check first.

DO NOT complain about where you have been seated. You will only have to sit there for as many hours as you choose to be there. It’s not that big a deal. (If you’ve not been invited, don’t complain about this, or anything else for that matter). Weddings without seating plans can lead to a difficult situation where you do not get a seat at all. Even in such awkward situations, do not complain. Just leave.

Bride and grooms, there are some rules for you too:

DO NOT provide conflicting information on your invitations. Here’s an example “We do not want gifts. Our Selfridges gift list number is…. (But we actually prefer cash)”. If you really don’t want any gifts, it best to suggest some charities that guests can donate to instead. Otherwise just give the gift list number and say no more about it.

DO be thoughtful about items you put on gift lists. Give a wide range of options in terms of price, as when people are attending 10+ weddings a year, they may not want to spend £100 on a gift each time.

DO NOT put too much pressure on guests. This will likely apply to guests who are close to the bride and groom. There may be an engagement dinner at which such guests will have to spend money on food, and on an engagement gift. This will be followed by a shower at which another gift will be expected. Then there may be a hen night/stag do which will involve going out and in some cases going abroad, and spending more money. In Nigerian circles, female friends may be asked to by Asoebi material which in some cases are being sold for in excess of £100, and that’s not including the costs to get it sewn. Sometimes guests will also be asked to abide by a colour code which may mean buying an entire new outfit. By the time your wedding is over, a guest may find he or she has spent the cost of a new car. This is not necessary and should be avoided.

DO create a seating plan. Guests should not have to scramble for seats. How would you feel if you had to leave a wedding and go for pizza because there was nowhere for you to sit, because you had not been properly allocated a seat, because there was no seating plan? Exactly.

DO NOT invite the whole world. Or at least don’t feel you have to. The more people at a wedding, the less personal it feels. Crowded weddings can lead to issues such as the one described above, where a guest could end up leaving the wedding, without you having acknowledged they were ever there.

DO think about your guests and ensure they are fed. A wedding can be a long day. Don’t spend all of your wedding budget on making yourselves and the venue look good at the expense of providing enough food. If food runs out before everyone has been fed, for those guests that went without, that will be the only thing they remember about your wedding.

wedding rsvp

DO NOT if possible, turn your guests into staff. I understand that sometimes, couples want to save money by getting friends to help out with things on the day. This should be restricted to close friends, and they should have advance warning. Guests shouldn’t really be roped into setting up, serving food, or helping clear up. Especially when they’ve not even eaten because the food ran out.

DO try and do the rounds and greet all guests. It adds a personal touch that makes guests feel that you appreciate them coming. Which you should do, given that they’ve already spent £1000 on hen nights, outfits, and wedding gifts, and after your wedding, they’ve got two more to get to before the night ends.

Why I’m Considering Going Back to the Creamy Crack

The next post I was supposed to write about natural hair, was the second part to “My Hair Revolution” in which I was to discuss the changes in my routine in terms of what products I now use. My last “hair” post was sometime last year. Since then I have been going through a roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions about my hair.

For the most part, I would rather not have to think about my hair at all. I live a very busy life, and dealing with my natural hair is to me is just one of those necessary evils in life. When I think about “wash day” (I assume it has that name because it literally takes up the whole day) I almost come out in a rash. I anticipate with dread the huge amounts of shedding, and the hours it will take detangling, and styling. And after all of that, I look in the mirror and the results hardly seem worth it. After a few days my hair starts to mat together, and I run out of ideas of how to style my hair in a way that covers up my lack of edges.

Last year I excitedly declared that I had found the solution to most of my natural hair problems. I thought that mini-twists were the most ideal style, but the truth is, there is no ideal. Every style, process, product, procedure associated with (my) natural hair ALWAYS has a catch. For twists, it was the time it takes to install them. My busy schedule means I just do not have the two days it takes. Since then I tried going back to weave. The catch? excessive breakage and shedding once taken out. Then I tried straightening my hair again with heat. The catch? I need to exercise regularly, and therefore I just end up sweating out the straightness, and also the heat weakens my hair. So then I tried a wig. The catch? Uncomfortable, and did not look great (though to be honest I acknowledge that it was a very badly made wig and I may still try this option again in the future, using a different wig maker). Then I tried braids which I’ve just taken out. The catch, as ever, was intense damage to my edges resulting in a depleted hairline.

Perhaps I should just leave my hair to be free, and just do the occasional twist out etc like the natural hair bloggers do. Well I would, except I am not genetically blessed like the natural hair bloggers, and the results I get on my hair look nothing like the images you see when you type into Google “natural hair”. These are the struggles that have led me to start asking; was relaxed hair ever really so bad? Of course there is a catch with relaxed hair too, but is it any worse than what I experience with my natural hair?

I am still undecided. I am going to give myself to the end of the year to see if I can figure something out with this head of hair in its natural state. And if I’m still struggling as much as I am now, you may just see me start a new hair journey altogether. The “Back to the Creamy Crack” journey.

Book Review: A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

I read about this book in a Newspaper and the way in which it was described drew me in. I recall, it was said to be a book about exploring the differences in culture between the Nigerian protagonist and those she comes into contact with within her Western environment. I bought the book with an expectation of something Americanah-ish. I think part of my problem is that I have been spoilt by Chimananda, and now expect all African writers to sound like her.

Well, Atta does not sound anything like Adichie, and that in and of itself is not a criticism of Atta. I’ll start with some positives.  I like that the main character’s name is not introduced until she is addressed by another character and we learn her name is Deola. Up until that point she is only referred to as “she”.

Deola is in her late 30s, single. This information is provided to the reader, but other aspects of her character, who she really is, remained somewhat of a mystery. She works for an international charity in London, but visits “home” which is Lagos for her late father’s memorial. Some of her thoughts and dilemmas seem more typically associated with an adolescent. I can understand this is some way, because in some West African cultures, a woman has not truly become a woman until she is married with children. Yet I found it hard to connect her thoughts and feelings to that of a woman of her age and stage in life. Deola clearly has dissatisfaction with her life in London, but the reason for this is not made entirely clear.

What is clear is Deola’s love hate relationship with religion, and Christianity in particular. Now this touched a nerve with me because of the sweeping generalisations made about the Faith. Again though, I have understanding as to why “African Christianity” is criticised because I know from experience how distorted it is from the Christianity of the bible. Religion is certainly a theme in this novel, but I was not expecting it to be tackled in a way that could be seen scornful and disrespectful.

In terms of some of the other themes explored, I found myself asking at one point, is this a book about HIV and Aids? A bit like the MTV series “Shuga” based in Nigeria, (where almost every character either had HIV, or was about to catch it), was the thinking that, seeing as this is going to have a mostly African audience, I’d better do my best to educate them about the importance of being tested for HIV, seeing as most Africans are dying of Aids?

Perhaps, and this is not the biggest let down, another thing I found disappointing was that I could in no way relate to Deola and her privileged background. I had waited to find a novel that was based between Nigeria and London, and having finally found it, I couldn’t connect with Deola as I shared very few of her experiences. I did not go to an expensive fee paying boarding school and I do not have any friends who were educated at Harrow, for a start.

Fatally, the book included too many scenes that did not move the story forward, and an ending that leaves the reader hanging. Not hanging from a cliff as such, as that would suggest an exciting ending. More like hanging from a set of monkey bars.  I kept returning to the blurb to remind myself of what the story was supposed to be about. A love story? Deola’s love interest, hotel owner Wale, does not feature enough for it to be described as a love story.

With no lucid understanding of where the story is going, what is driving the main character, and what message the writer is trying to give, a Bit of Difference, was a bit of a flop for me.