Wednesday, September 02, 2015

"Aren't hairy armpits meant to be trendy for you ladies right now?" the hottie Doctor asked me before dissecting what looked like lymph nodes from under my armpits. Not the most attractive start to a post, but welcome to the ugly face of beauty.
Trenchcoat : New Look | Bag : Longchamp | Sandals : TJMaxx (similar here)
I attended the (Shoreditch) House of Cards event organised by Guardian Women in Leadership over the summer,  and was taken by how different my concept of feminism was - as a first generation migrant, working/middle class individual - from the rest of the speakers on the panel - mainly caucasian middle class. The non-feminist friend I brought in tow aptly pointed out also, that it seemed the biggest & only iceberg in the way of the feminist movement was motherhood. Or so it seemed from the advice and social critique being spewed time and again from the panel. That was all until a seemingly comical comment - made by the formidable feminist who championed for female figures to be included on the British bank note - about being a bad feminist because she still shaved her leg hairs for summer. I was stunned. I looked around to garner support in the chuckles that was soon to erupt from my chest to join in a chorus, but it seemed I was gearing for a solo as my fellow audience members seemed to be judging her by the same yard stick.
Guardian Women in Leadership event - (Shoreditch) House of Cards @ Shoreditch House
What I once viewed as a woman's rite of passage now posed as a threat to my view on equality. I, like many other teens, had begun my battle against body hair by experimental shaving (without my mother's knowledge) and later dabbled in creams, wax, and briefly epilating. In my early 20's, my peers had spoken of laser treatments they'd undergone, but I'd always felt the procedure too dangerous having read bad experiences about burns and scars as a result of the machines not recognising the difference between dark skin and the hair follicles, so I ruled it out. Now in my mid-twenties with the sunlight beaming on my strawberry legs, I sought a more permanent means of eradicating bodily hair, and soon found myself filling out medical information at Pulse Light Clinic in London (Facebook Twitter contact details for any interested) ready for my initial consultation. All the while the Guardian event had planted the seed of doubt and the question burned; why did I feel the need to go to such great lengths to remove a part of my body? 
Was I socially conditioned to deem hairlessness as more aesthetically appealing? Was my view on hair removal a subconscious attempt by patriarchic society to oppress women? My answer to all of the above is, I don't know, but I don't think so. Brandishing one's bodily hair and burning one's bra were radical stunts pulled by the suffragettes to get the public's attention in order to raise awareness of gender inequality back in the early 20th century. Dying, cornrowing or curling armpits hairs a la the #PitAngels is on trend now, and there's a wave of female celebrities embracing this trend; Miley Cyrus shaving her already dyed armpit hairs and adorning a hairband with it as an accessory *quivers*. This is the movement the Doctor referred to when I'd developed an allergic reaction to my first full laser treatment a fortnight later, and needed to have fluid extracted and was later prescribed medication to ensure no infection ensued. This is the movement I, as a feminist, find demeaning and comical to its overall impact. 
Watch : Michael Kors
Modern feminism has been redefined thanks to HeForShe or activists such as Chimamanda Adichie. Gone are the days of caricatured activism for the sake of tabloid coverage. Celebrities and highly acclaimed feminists alike belittling the cause by discussing pedantic matters such as hair removal dates what feminism has and can achieve for gender equality. With the rise in metrosexuality, men are just as involved in the hair removal industry as females. Creams, foams, quadripple blades, you name it, they now experiment just as much as we do. If its not oppressive for a man to remove his bodily hair, then why is it viewed as such when his female counterpart does so? Just as the skincare industry capitalise on makeup shaming, I wonder what a feminist profits by pit shaming? Ruling women out as not being 'feminist enough' because of the aesthetic decisions they make is divisive and just as discriminatory as the inequality feminists fight to eradicate. Hair removal is a choice. Now, lets turn our attention to far more pressing matters.
"We are here not because we are law-breakers, we are here in our efforts to become law-makers" Emmeline Pankhurst

The Hairless Feminist

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I was sent an electronic copy of 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara by Pan Macmillan to read and review on BLEURGH, but the review was delayed by the hefty 700+ pager the novel boasts. It was only upon leafing through last week's exclusive digital Stylist Magazine issue, that I found just how big a deal Yanagihara's novel was; listed as a summer must-read! Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, A Little Life tells the story of Jude whose past experiences as a child, mar his ability to function socially as an adult in his plight to leave that turbulent past behind. I will endeavour to dart past possible spoilers, but let me assure you, A Little Life's 700+ pages is no joke; littered with rape, child abuse, addiction, physical and sexual abuse, suicide, dysfunctional families, status frustration, 30-year landmark, self-harming and grief. Although slow with the dramz, A Little Life quickly builds from an apt almost-reality show docu-view of bachelor life, to recounted trauma and chronicled self-harm, which I will thematically discuss in classic BLEURGH fashion. 
"settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble"
Dress : Lavish Alice (ASOS) | Shoes : Office
"the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive"
THE QUIET ONES TRIUMPH - 'A Little Life' starts off documenting the habitual life of 4 male friends who've moved to the Big Apple (aka New York) fresh out of college, Massachusetts. There's the Brooklyn-born artist JB who's obsessed with pulling the race card; middle-class architect graduate Malcolm whose plight to break free from the wealthy umbilical cord leaves him frustrated by both his social ignorance and silver-spooned upbringing; handsome aspiring actor Willem from the country whose dumbness can be forgiven thanks to his selfless love for his friends; and handicapped legal genius Jude who serves as the sun upon which their friendship pivots around. A Little Life chronicles their rise to success as JB's experimental art lands him the fame he dreams of as a renown painter; Malcolm becomes an internationally acclaimed architect; Willem lands the role of his dreams and becomes a respected actor; and lastly Jude's legal career springs from the meager salary in the public defender's office to an attorney in a Forbes-worthy firm. about 1/3 way through, however, only the flatmates Willem and Jude remain prominent characters for the rest of the novel, with Jude triumphing as the uncharacteristic protagonist of the novel having survived a turbulent past to take centre stage as the poster child of the American Dream. 
"surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice"
Putney Bridge & Pier, London
"Their faith in him, in his ultimate triumph, remained unwavering"
FRIENDS AS FAMILY - From experience, I've learned that friendship patterns tend to change as a result of geographical drifting or priorities shifting. The same cannot be said of the 4 characters in A Little Life; whose lives, cares and whims orbit around the psychological, physical and general wellbeing of Jude. It is almost alien to read about the unrelenting virtue of Jude's friends - especially Willem - and how after fast-forwarding several years from college, they never seem to outgrow each other because of their belief that friendship was "like any relationship...it took constant pruning, and dedication, and vigilance, and if neither party wanted to make the effort, why wouldn't it wither?"
"friendship was a series of exchanges; of affections, of time, sometimes of money, always of information"
Studs : Topshop | Bag : Longchamp | Watch (not pictured) : Guess
"identical expressions of exhaustion, that blend of determination and resignation that only the immigrant possesses"
DEPTH - Deeper into the novel, you see the characters' lives blurred by addiction, sexual relationships and the dark side of success. As we grow older, we see our peers soar in their careers and relationships as we await idly for our Prince Charming or opportunity to come knocking, and this initiates feelings of guilt, envy and stress. But the characters in A Little Life aren't the norm, and the reader soon learns that their midlife crises are nothing in comparison to the psychological trauma that plagues their good friend Jude. In a remarkable and precise prose, Yanagihara documents Jude's tragedy through a dark examination of this past and the limits of human endurance.
"what was happiness but an extravagance, an impossible state to maintain" - A Little Life

A Little Life

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I hesitated drafting a post this week because I was worn out. Sometimes, we reach the end of our tether and feel like life's challenges have taken their ultimate toll on us, so we give in & give up. A dear soul urged me to pen my thoughts and it wasn't until I was drawing the curtains to let sunlight in that the backbone of this post resurrected; gardening.
Dress : H&M | Heels : Red Herring (Debenhams)
One of the lent activities centred around faith of a mustard seed & the need to die in the earth to sprout above the earth & bring forth fruit. To practically illustrate this, we were given seeds and a wooden stick to term that plant what we would supplicate to God in that season. Some wrote 'love', others wrote more personal pleas like 'Eric's surgery next week', and we all took our potted seeds rooted in damp soil home to care for. I watered mine religiously; left it by the light as required, and within no time, a stem was peaking out from the soil and coiling towards the whims of the summer sun. I basked in my green-fingered glory and invested in another pot. I'd seen the first bear a beautiful lilac and aubergine coloured flower, and was enthusiastic to continue growing more.
I was gifted lavender seeds from the lovely people at L'Occitane, and started on another project. However, this pot wasn't so speedy. I grew frustrated and cultivated the soil, turning over some seeds to be more visible, and it was with this righteous angered act that one germinated. Its been months since I planted seeds in that second pot, but it wasn't until today I noted two minuscule green leaves attached to an ant-like stem, peaking out from the soil to see the day. 
Stud Earrings : Betsey Johnson | Watch : Michael Kors | Ring : Topshop
Why have I gone through the effort of meticulously detailing this gardening analogy? Well, because like my last post, I understand the feelings this season brings for young academics. I understand the frustration of putting in all your resources and effort into a venture and watching your dreams wilt, or die with the sun of the day. Careful not to look at your past successes as an indication of the speed or avenue to take for future endeavours. I understand the hope that comes with seeing just the smallest bit of evidence of your work shine through, so your peers, parents and whoever else can be rightly proud of you. I urge you to understand that life (studying; bae; beauty; the works) is like a well-gardened plant; it sprouts at its whim and wilts at its neglect. What dies in one soil today, can be uprooted and yield bounteous harvest the next. Don't pit your life on a failure or a dream deferred, because who is to know what may become of that very skill or dream tomorrow?
"A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows even though we do not" Dogen

The Good Gardener

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I’m aware of the increased societal pressures to keep up with the ever-elusive Joneses, so it broke my heart when a reader asked for advice on how to survive this image-conscious world on a budget. This is relevant to those embarking on the University/campus experience soon, or those who’ve newly graduated and are finding their pockets empty month-after-month without any real proof of the spend. I am aware I critique this hyper-social millennial generation to a fault, but hardly ever do I advise my readers on the best means of manoeuvring this. 

Shirt (as seen here, here, here & here : Blanco (Gran Canaria) | Ankara Skirt : DIY 
First and foremost, I urge you to care not for the wants of the world. That’s right, its time to prioritise; wants vs. needs. Create a budget for your spend so you can rule out whimsical splurges and put your foot down to invites that’ll end in frivolity and nothing more. Write down lists (y’all already know I’m a big fan of lists, so this piece of advice should come as no surprise) of what you want, and give yourself time to ponder that spend so you have wisely weighed up its benefits and purpose. This saves you from impulse buying (which I strongly urge you to stay away from) and changes your mind-set to invest in key pieces/ items that’ll last a longer time instead. Differentiating between the two will keep that coin where it needs to be…in the bank! 
Secondly, regardless of what that inane price-comparison advert will have you singing, don’t compare. I’ve preached time and again about the perils of living a dissatisfied life. I was reminded of this point after a friend bleated on about her envy over my socially enriched life, bearing in mind I’d secretly pined after her life of casual indulgences. Covetous living is sinful, but a better deterrent is that its an illusion. Long not for greener grass, or you’ll be woefully disappointed upon venturing there, as it was a matter of perspective. Take what you see with a pinch of salt, and use what you’re pining after as inspiration instead. 
Necklace : Wallis | Watch : Guess | Bag : House of Fraser | Sandals : Market (Enugu, Ngr.) 
Lastly, fall in love with the filter. I love social media and I embrace the good along with the bad. The good? I get to share my best or important moments in my life with the world/ nearest and dearest (it’s a matter of perspective), and vice versa. The bad? Well, the preeing of naysayers & dream-killers; the thirst for likes that some obsess over; not to mention the pressure to keep up a façade at a cost one cannot afford. I bid you instead to fall in love with the filter, the purpose of which was created to glaze over the flaws and highlight the best assets. Show the world your best you, but be careful not to get swept up with living up to that façade as it can inadvertently lead you right back to the initial problem of keeping up with the Joneses i.e. the fake you. 
"Behind that social mask is a personal truth...who we are and what we're capable of" 
 Phil McGraw

Image

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I'm a Nigerian female in my mid-twenties so it's perfectly understandable that if I'm not attending a wedding (traditional or otherwise) on a weekend this summer? I'm dulling. This is prime time, it seems. I love weddings & love in general (blame Disney), although I hadn't always, but I'm somewhat flabbergasted by this generation's obsession with it. The idea of working on oneself until you meet your better half who compliments, not completes you, is widely sold to my generation now. Whether it's the "dating with purpose" (post coming soon) lot, or the "Prince Charming" list dreamers, the idea that you work until your wedding day & the rest of your life is spent living in wedded bliss is just...WRONG!
Earrings : Vivienne Westwood | Dress : ASOS | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
Marriage - The union of two otherwise strangers to be joined in holy matrimony presumably for eternity. Two becoming one family, and growing one of their own. Such a beautiful thought, yet my mind curdles (yes, literally turns to mush) at what this generation has turned marriage into. Thanks to social media, all we care about is the size of the rock, venue of the proposal, flower arrangements of the centre pieces, colour scheme for the reception venue...blah blah blah! We're inundated with new bridal/wedding-centred instagram accounts capitalising off a unique moment in a couple's lives.
Your wedding is meant to reflect who you are as a couple, so it makes sense why you'd pour endless hours into meticulously planning out the minutest of details. What baffles me are those who do so having not bagged their spouse-to-be yet. So what does that reflect? You! Your vision,unmarred by the fusion with a partner's, yet you expect to live happily ever after having made no prior concessions? 
People are far too me-focused to truly grasp the reality of marriage. Endless channels dedicated to self-love enroute to finding real love has blinded so many to the truth about a loving/successful marriage; sacrifice & selflessness. This is coming from an unmarried individual, so what do I know? But I think the earlier this generation comes to terms with the reality of life after "I do", the sooner we can save ourselves from divorce counsel fees & the rise in broken families and jaded 40-something's. 
"The chain of wedlock is so heavy that it takes two to carry it" Heraclitus

Happily Never After

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Nigeria, tea is the all-encompassing term for every hot beverage consumed. For the non-ratchet TV viewers, and those who don't reside in the deep south of USA, 'tea' goes beyond that definition and refers to indulging in a bit of gossip. Not just mild gossip, but that of a slanderous nature. Spilling tea, is to divulge dirty secrets about others. Sipping tea occurs most frequently when you've thrown shade, a pause for effect if you will. Again, there may be need for translation. To throw shade means to be rude, abusive or insulting...in an intelligent way (for the 90's kids, its equivalent to coming at someone sideways). 
Ankara Top : DIY | Trousers : Thrifted (Viyella) | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
Back to the matter: why I've decided to centre my post around tea is because I'm its number one victim/ champion/ subscriber/ advocate. I love a good screen capture iMessage, or @mention in the comments of a controversial post, but to what end? I remember having to peel myself off the sofa from watching back-to-back E!News, Fashion Police or trawling through NecoleBitchie or YBF! I could renounce all responsibility and blame it on society, but who am I kidding? I can sit there for hours going back and forth with my girlfriends just biting into someone...for what? They don't know my name. The hours I've spent cannot be monetised and will not pay my bills.
I have a theory that sin has been masked by contemporary culture as trendy/ revolutionary. Tea, otherwise known to the general public as gossip, is sin. Coining a new term wont redeem your baseless actions, and sure as hell wont save you if an error were made and the message were sent to the wrong recipient. It's bad to go around forming high & mighty, talking mess about everyone else but yourself. 
Necklace : Market (Turkey) | Silk Shirt : River Island | Sandals : Market (Enugu, Nigeria)
Of late, I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and realised why I indulge in soul-carnivorous acts such as shade-throwing and tea-spilling; status frustration. Indulging in a bit of gossip elevates you to be the Judge of another's character, actions, or what have you. There's a thin line between informative conversation revolving around someone else's life, and passing judgment. At the end of the day, judgment isn't ours to dole out. Tea is sin. Like any other sin, giving it up is hard as hell (for want of a better term...rather fitting though). I know indulging in high tea does nothing for my soul, and I've tried several cleanses over the years (most notably around lent). What helps is basing tea on its wider social implication i.e. discussing Caitlyn Jenner's impact on the normalisation of transgenderism. What do you think?
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" 
Eleanor Roosevelt

Tea

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I don't watch the show 'Orange is the New Black', so this is in no way a review. My rationale is, if I wanted to see girls in uniform getting it on, I'd commit a crime & drop the soap once incarcerated. That may not be the mindset of avid viewers, but that's my prerogative. This post title is a multiple entendre; 'orange' symbolising caucasians who taint their identity in the hope of being embraced by the minority-ethnic society; 'aint' because there is no substitute for being black; 'new' symbolising the contemporary understanding of what it means to be a millennial black person; and 'black' being all encompassing of minority-ethnic groups and culture.
Dress : Topshop | Studs : Betsey Johnson | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
I was amused by the comical lashings Bieber received from African-American entertainers on his Roast, but was shocked to learn the motivation behind his tomfoolery; an apparent bid to be black. This post is the result of biting my tongue after the Rachel Dolezal 419, and the backlash of Kylie Jenner's cornrows. It seems one too many caucasian individuals are moulding a media image of 'black' centred around hyper-sexualisation, delinquency, and self-glorification. I'm a black female who's always remained on the right side of the law, is not particularly curvaceous (and I'm content that way), not to mention quiver at the thought of even plugging my blog or personal achievements publicly.
Bishopsgate Institute, Liverpool Street, London
I was invited to a private tour of the Bishopsgate Institute to learn more about their eclectic archive collection & was particularly taken by the Bernie Grant items in the basement (which should be curated for an exhibition next season - October). Grant donated commercial racist paraphernalia such as racist postcards depicting black individuals as monkeys munching on bananas, Robertson's golliwog-emblazoned jam jars, and Darkie toothpaste, to name but a few. I was saddened to see how black people were depicted only a few years ago. I never dealt with racism growing up in Nigeria because there was no distinction between me and the next lass. Moving to the UK and dealing with my first racist attack aged 10, I remember being confused by the mixed race boy calling me a monkey when he must be half a monkey himself! I had never valued my caucasian counterparts as being any better, as I excelled far above them academically, and was equally regarded as aesthetically pleasing (in primary school). So why was the rest of society placing one race above the other on TV, in songs, and in the employment market?
Black people have come a long way in carving a culture and identity that is progressive. Gone are the days where I felt the need to lie about my ethnic origin; everything from 1/12th Australian to a smidgen Portuguese was claimed. Now we live in a society where Azonto is played on CapitalFM, Judges can discuss JayZ's Magna Carter album, and ankara can be bought in mainstream retailers like ZARA. To pull us back to a time where our features were mocked, and our aspirations were proudly curtailed under the mantra 'british jobs for british people' would be regressive. I am proud to mentor individuals who aim to conquer the workforce, change policy to be more socially inclusive, and revolutionise the media to accommodate our increasingly cosmopolitan world. Shows like The Real showcase women from different minority ethnic groups discussing socially prevalent issues affecting ALL women, highlighting there is no distinction in the issues we face based on race!
Headband (Scarf) : Twenty8Twelve | Necklace : Market (Turkey) | Bracelet : Market (Nigeria)
How can a caucasian female be praised for rocking the same cornrows her BME counterparts are mocked for naturally having? Why is a big booty the pinnacle of a fit body only when squatted for? I could go on and on about the double standards with race and popular culture, but its tiring. Wahala no dey for a more universal appreciation of black culture, but whats really being done with it? As erroneous as it may be, there's this glitch in society that allows for better reception if from an alternative source. The Jenners, Biebers, and Rachel Dolezal's of the world need to wake up and use their platforms to effect positive change, rather than just indulging in self-gratification. Some may argue that's exactly what the latter did with hers, but it was deceptively packaged. Tired of seeing figures build empires on the premise of being an anomaly in the industry, when the same cannot be replicated vice-versa.
I am not saying "[black] culture] is just for black people alone to enjoy and cherish. Culture is for everybody." Spike Lee...but as inclusive as its enjoyment is becoming, so also should its positive output be. 

Orange Aint The New Black

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