Hercules has and will always be my favourite Disney Film. I was never a Disney princess kinda girl, I didn't like how all these girls were waiting for a guy to get them out of a sticky situation - I mean I like a good nap but Aurora love, that was a bit much.
But then Hercules came along and it was the first Disney film where I felt I could relate to a character - the feisty, funny, fuller figured Muse (yet I aspired to be the Muse with the amazing hair. I feel I have now achieved that life goal.)
I leant towards Pocahontas for a while but I was aware she was Native American and I was not - and my hair would never be that straight and effortless, the amount of times I get a curl stuck in my eye, even when its not windy...
Then in my twenties Tiana came along but she was a frog 90% of the time. Anika Noni Rose is a goddess but seriously...a frog? Mama Odie was my girl in that, a single, independent woman who ran her own business and owned her own place, albeit a boat in a tree. But Muse number 5 is still my number 1 Disney girl.
As a child I didn't think I was that aware but now looking back I see the realisation - I didn't see myself in the media. Until I grew boobs most people would say I most looked like a young Michael Jackson. I wish that was a joke. I remember refusing to pee on a nine hour flight back from America because in the queue the lady at the front turned to everyone and said, 'oh let the little boy go first'. I was wearing a Minnie mouse jumper, lady! The only girl I kinda felt like was the yellow power ranger but knowing little about afro Caribbean hair at the time I was pretty sure I couldn't grow braids like that. Or ride a motorbike.
I was an afro headed, dumpy, vaguely tanned kid who would sing o herself in the corner of the playground during lunch. I was too boisterous and competitive during playtime - if the game was tag, in my mind I was playing rugby league for New Zealand. I wore glasses and wasn't the fittest, needing an asthma pump during the winter months. I was doomed.
Then that kid grew up. I still am finding it difficult to find myself in the media though. So I'm gonna put myself there. The main reason why is for my niece (and any other daughters and nieces that may enter the picture). I don't want her to scramble for options of who she can relate to, I want her to be inspired by girls and women who look like her and also posses the personal traits that can allow her to lead a successful, happy life. My sis in law sent me a picture once of my nieces hair all in kinks and waves after they had braided it because she wanted hair like mine - last time I went to the hairdressers I asked for hair like hers! She's gonna be tall and lean and stunning and she's supee ethnically diverse. If she were in the industry she could be mixed, Spanish, Italian, Latin American, Greek, the list goes on, because she is the future of the world - a multicultural wonder.
I want to be a role model not only how comfortable I am with my looks though. There aren't a lot of girls who hit my main four features of being, tall, curvy, curly and mixed but if they see me and feel like even only one speaks to them, fantastic. But I want girls to see that AND someone who is reaching their goals. I want them to see a woman who has a university education, who has educated others and still wants to learn and teach daily. Black and mixed woman characters aren't always the strongest or smartest in the media. Often single mums, often rowdy, often living on estates - not always, all hail Viola Davis and Gugu Mbatha Raw - they aren't often aspirational characters. I am going to be those aspirational characters and a hopeful, inspirational person.
The future is becoming more mixed - I was with an Iranian guy when my 75 year old Nan sat me down and said 'Think about your children, their lives will be hard'. I retold this to my mum and she said 30 years prior my Nan said it to her too.
Times are changing. Slowly but surely and I am going to be a part of that. I have to be. I wasn't built like this, with a brain like this, a body like this, a heart like this, to sit on my butt and let the world go by. I was put here to show everyone that they can be anyone they want to be. Disney films are great, full of wonder, love and magic. Make your life a real life Disney movie and be the inspiration for the next generation.
Final note: I also wish this as well for my two intelligent, gorgeous, hilarious nephews. They too should have strong, hardworking role models to look up to as well. They're lucky they have me then 😉
We all fear something, it's natural. my fear is slugs, even typing it makes my skin crawl. Actually that's more of a phobia...
My fear is probably falling from great heights, it just doesn't seem fun. But what if I flipped my fear on its head, strapped on a parachute and chucked myself out of the back of a plane? It could be the most exhilarating experience of my life!
I have come to learn that fear is all relative depending on personal mindset and perspective (woah, that made my brain hurt a little). What I mean by that, is that things may seem scary but what matters most is how you face fear and make it something worthwhile.
These days I embrace the fear or uncertainty - I actually kinda thrive on it. The not knowing what is happening next in my life but just having faith and feeling that it will be great. I am fuelled by the need for more, by the fact that I have to keep my eyes open and my ear to the ground (not literally, that would be a bit weird. But possibly a good idea for some conceptual street art....) to be present in this industry and life in general.
Some of you may be thinking 'But how do you survive?' and/or 'Do you not have a steady job?'. Well no I don't. I make connections with great companies that require my skills as and when, then I save and am smart with my money. Its risky but has worked so far and I will continue to make it work. Some like stability, I like spontaneity.
Now don't get it twisted, I'm not one of these ones that shouts 'BUGGER IT! I'm moving to Chile!' Well I did I pop off to Spain that time.... But I often make impulse purchases. Just not the kind most 20-somethings do. My last impulse buy was a ticket to see wonder.land at the NT on Press Night. I saw a tweet about, I bought a ticket. That came from the life account. I have two accounts, see. One is rent and bills, one is for life. I am only allowed to spend from the life account if the R&B account (aka the Usher account) has enough to pay off what I need to that month. Then I make it rain all over the theatre and workshop circuit from the life account!
I did the stable life for a couple of years and it was pleasant enough. Knowing where you're living for the next few months, when you're being paid and how much, do make for a rested mind. But I had a restless soul. Handing in my notice to my teaching job was one of the scariest things I have ever done but that was probably because it was the most liberating. I was fortunate enough to have my parachute on when I took that leap. A parachute in the form of a loving, caring, (even if they didn't quite understand my madness) support network. They held my hand through the worry but are still with me experiencing the joy I feel now.
That's the fun thing about facing your fear - the feeling after. I would say 9 out 10 times, I've faced my fear its been amazing. The one time it doesnt I just learn from and move on. But those nine times wildly surpass that silly one. Like singing in public for the first time in 6 months when I highjacked Dean John-Wilson and Scott Alan's concert last month. Or when I quit uni at 19 with absolutely no plan for my life. Or when I did my first show at uni and let more than one person touch me at once (another previous fear of mine...I am such an oddball). Each one gave me such a liberating feeling afterwards that can't be replicated, because in that moment I was doing what my heart wanted to do, I was free.
I love the quote:
'What if I fall?'
'Oh but my darling, what if you fly?'
You will never know the answer until you strap on a parachute and jump out of the back of that plane...