What do you think has been the biggest influence in becoming happy with who you are?
I honestly believe there have been just two major factors in becoming happy with myself (which I actually still haven’t achieved): one, my experiences with others and how they’ve treated/perceived me and vice versa, and two, my exposure to the many different forms of media; first it was television, then I eventually graduated to magazines (mostly Seventeen, Nylon and Cosmopolitan), and in the most recent years I’d also have to say social media has given me another reason to be overly critical of myself.
How do you see yourself in the world?
I don’t actually often think about that… I don’t like to think about how I look or am assessed from an outer perspective. I’m aware of who and what I am physically, I’m 5’5 and biracial (I’m Jamaican/British) with a ‘thicker’ build but I see myself as something awful most of the time. Deep down honestly I believe I’m unattractive and undeserving of a lot of the things I have in life, like people that love me and care about me. I mostly imagine a fantasy version of myself walking around that possesses traits I haven’t or cannot physically achieve.
What is your fatal flaw?
Self-loathing and low confidence. I often defeat myself before I can even bring myself to try as I’m afraid of rejection and failure.
What is the most important thing women can do for each other?
I definitely believe that ALL women need to recognize our individual struggles and ‘lift each other up’ as it were! This includes trans women as well of course. We have to support each other, stop competing and stop slut shaming or putting each other down for our own life choices. I truly believe that we all have something to offer the world, but western society and the media have pitted us against one another and made us believe that life is about being or having the most everything. With regard to trans women or any other female-identifying/genderfluid people, it’s the same. We need to accept that every one of us has faced at least one or many very different or very similar issues and it’s not about comparing, ‘one-upping’ or believing that your problem is more important than hers/theirs. We have to listen to each other and learn to help one another.
What are the defining traits of a woman?
This is a wonderful question, mostly because I’m not sure that I exactly know. There are so many different kinds of women, and they’re all awesome and they all kick-ass, haha—but in all seriousness, I find it hard to answer this question without feeling as though I’m suggesting they all fall into a gender stereotype. I honestly think women can approach things with a certain nurturing and sympathetic or empathetic nature, but that is definitely not to say that they can’t be serious and forthright. I think over all women have to have that strong and adaptive nature and prove themselves early on to be taken seriously, especially in the workplace. So I suppose that that would be the one thing I believe all women have/should have, is that specially tailored strength to overcome obstacles and stereotypes.
What are your defining traits?
I have never been asked this before! Honestly, I think it’s a mixture of things but it’s hard to say for certain what my defining traits are as there are so many more positive things I wish to possess, like believing more in myself and putting more credit into my abilities or potential. There are a lot of positive things I wish I could say about myself like, “I’m a confident young person” or “I did this special thing that everyone has recognized”. In a physical sense, I define myself as a young black/mixed woman whose essentially got the ‘world at her fingertips’ but doesn’t know how to harness her strength to jump over the hurdles of being so physically different than the thin, white and successful girls I saw growing up (and still see) all around me.Speaking emotionally/mentally I am a sufferer of depression and anxiety, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and assault but I don’t so much see those as defining traits rather than things that have shaped and will shape me as a person. I suppose I would say however that my sexuality plays a role in defining who I am, especially because I see queer black youth as extremely uncelebrated. I’m pansexual, ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’ which is easiest to explain as ‘bisexual’ for most people who don’t really understand or recognize all the different genders or sexes. To wrap things into a neat little package, I’d say I define myself as a young pansexual black woman whose just trying to find herself in this vast world.
What do you wish you were more of?
I definitely wish I was generally more confident in my abilities. I feel as though I’ve missed a lot of opportunities or not taken advantage of talents or hobbies I used to love, like singing/dancing/acting or playing the cello. I know I’m still young, and many people definitely wish they could be 20 years old again, however I’ll often go on Instagram or Facebook and see my old classmates doing things like professional modeling, photography or music, that they’re travelling all over the world or even just going abroad for school. I’m not so much worried about the school part as I’ll be attending U of T this September (2015), however I’m definitely not a model or a singer or a published photographer. I’ve been paid for photography jobs yes, however only for events held bymy mother’s former church which doesn’t sound very exciting compared to fashion and lifestyle blogs or magazines I’m aware.
What’s the worst thing the media has done for you?
Made me believe that my being black was a bad thing. Though I’m mixed I definitely have prominently ‘black features’ (brown skin, curly hair, etc.) and I now identify as black (I definitely don’t reject my white side however, I love my father and the relatives on his side of our family I just don’t physically identify with them or their experiences as people). There was definitely a time before in which I hated my race. I watched a lot of television through my childhood and adolescence and I would seldom see anyone who looked anything like me, especially the women. BET was obviously around but I didn’t understand why we were sort of forced to have a separate channel. I also went to schools that had a lot of white students, I made friends with a lot of them and then I started recognizing that people were really ignorant and/or racist, probably because they were exposed to the many misrepresentations of black people in the media that are so commonplace…
What’s the best thing the media has done for you?
It has challenged me to think more critically about everything. It’s challenged me to consider the source of where the information is coming from and really think about the information I’m receiving.
If you could change something in your past what would it be? Why? How do you think it would change things now?
I would definitely have tried to expose myself to more black-positive media, though when I was a child and through my young teens I’m not sure it was as recognized as it is these days. There weren’t a lot of black fashion or body-mod blogs, black/mixed girls who had killer styles and confidence didn’t have much of an internet or media presence (either that or I was just completely unaware of them as it usually took a good amount of digging to find, and oftentimes I didn’t know what to search for). I used to have much more of an ‘alternative’ appearance, lots of facial piercings and brightly-coloured hair which was, for whatever reason, deemed as a ‘white thing’ (which obviously I’m now aware it’s not). I even had a white piercer and his co-worker laugh at me because I wanted to wear rings in my lip piercings, to which they kept increasing the size of the rings, chuckling, ‘WOW you’ve got some BIG LIPS’. If I were more exposed to black and mixed girls being painted in a positive light, ethnic girls who decided to shape their own style just like white girls were so freely able to, I find that I wouldn’t have thought so lowly of myself for wanting to play with my appearance/features while still accepting my race.
Advice you would have given yourself in the past:
Advice you think you will need for the future:
Advice you would give yourself now:
You need to learn to love yourself.
What are, in your opinion, the most important things to life? How have you achieved or are trying to achieve these things?
I know it sounds pretty cheesy, however I absolutely think that education, being passionate about what I do for a living and love are the most important things to me. I’m a firm believer in ‘knowledge is power’ and I’m excited to attend university so I can really challenge myself and develop my skills as a critical thinker (and hopefully become a seasoned scholar by the end of my years in post-secondary). I would one day like to be a curator of a museum, or even an archaeologist so I’m going for my PhD in Art History. I’ve always had a passion for art, however because I’m so critical of myself and my own artwork I decided I would study its history and appreciate it that way. Other than going to school I definitely love to draw and paint on my own time to stimulate the creative side of my brain and keep myself mentally grounded; I also love to explore mixed media, look up different or new artists and explore all the different styles of art in which they produce. As far as love goes, I’m already fortunate enough to have lots of it around me, mostly in the form of friends and family. I’m lucky enough to achieve love at least a few times a week, hah.
Do you feel like you know what you’re doing/that you have a path?
I honestly don’t know what I’m doing about 80% of the time. The other 20% I’m trying to figure out whether I’m even right or credible in my choices, I second guess myself all the time. I compare myself constantly to others and put myself down a lot. I’d like to say that I’m still on a path of self-discovery and development—I think I know exactly what I want my path to be, I just have the most trouble actually believing that it’s plausible for someone like me.
Have you always known what you wanted to do?
I have always known what my passion is, and that’s art. However, speaking in terms of my future career I’ve made lots of changes in what I’ve thought I wanted to do for a living. First it was singing/acting as a child from about 7 years old to 11, at around 12 years old I wanted to go into art therapy, then at age 14 I thought I wanted to become a tattoo artist and run my own shop. In the past few years I’ve become very confident that I want to become a curator, mostly of art, and eventually if I play my cards right I’ll be collecting, overseeing and displaying thousands of works of my choosing at the AGO or even a bigger, more historical gallery or museum like MoMA or in a perfect fantasy world, the Louvre.
What’s been the most challenging obstacle to overcome?
I would definitely have to say my preconceived notions of people hating or disliking me. Because I hate myself and I often see myself as the scum of the Earth, I project that onto others and I avoid forming new relationships or bonds with people because I’m very afraid of opening up and letting people see the real me. I also put way too much importance into how others even perceive me to begin with. I’ve always been told that someone will always hate you and to just ‘do you’, however I find that very difficult to actually execute. I don’t let others dictate the choices I ultimately make in life but I’m definitely hindered by their seemingly negative perceptions of me as a person.
What inspires you/where do you find inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration on social media honestly, even though I’ve mentioned that it makes me overly critical of myself (which is really true). In my older age (I know 20 is not at all old but it’s the oldest I’ve currently ever been) I’ve discovered a lot of girls like myself through Tumblr or Instagram, and I’ve found so many amazing black-positive fashion and body mod blogs too, like ‘altandblack’. I’ve discovered a lot of young black/mixed female artists (queer and straight) who’ve done many things I’d deem as successful, like being published in Rookie Mag or simply having their own signature style and celebrating themselves. In a more general sense, I’ll also gain inspiration by simply going outside and taking in the beauty of this city (Toronto). We have so much to offer!
What do you see for the future? How would you like to be a part of it?
As much I wish I could foresee the future, I think that’s what scares me so much about it—that it’s so uncertain. I’m now at a turning point in my life where things could either go horribly right or horribly wrong depending on the effort I choose to put into things like school, self-improvement and how badly I even want to achieve the things I want out of life. If I could have all the power in choosing my future, which some people would argue I do, I would like to be financially stable as a senior curator one day with my partner alongside me in our little (or rather, moderately sized) home. I would like to make a difference in the lives of others somehow by doing something worth-while, like introducing more queer or POC (people of colour) artists into my galleries or leaving my mark on the world by maybe even putting out a novel or book of photography or something that showcases what I love to do and my possible talents.
What is your greatest personal achievement?
Not committing suicide, getting over my problem with self-mutilation.
Would you consider yourself successful or inspiring?
Honestly, not in the very least. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll inspire one girl with my own story but I’m not very optimistic about that.
Who would you like to see celebrated?
More mixed children/people and indigenous people belonging to the LGBT/two-spirited, etc. community! As an LGBT black/mixed person, I’m so ready to see us represented in the media and seen as more of the so-called norm. I’d also really love to see indigenous people represented in the media too as I think they are some of the most beautiful, inspiring and undervalued people on this entire Earth.
What does your work mean for you? What does it embody?
Work, for me, embodies everything about being a successful woman. I do believe that you get in what you put out and working is a way of climbing those steps to success, be it financial or family-oriented. Unfortunately, money is one of the most important aspects of our time and needing the assurance that you’ll be able to have a roof over your head and food to eat is amplified as females, especially when children are involved. A lot of the women of our day are also stay-at-home mothers which I wholeheartedly respect and recognize, however the traditional approach is not always seen as successful, as single-handedly raising children (for whatever reason) doesn’t seem to be as important or, my personal favourite, they’re labeled as lazy. For me, whether you work for your family at home or if you work for yourself/your family at a professional establishment, you are a successful woman. Working toward a personal goal of yours, be it in any form of any job or career, embodies success and making yourself heard and respected in this boundless, modern-day sea of people. What you or I do for work doesn’t define us, but it helps us push our limits and achieve goals we otherwise may have not thought possible.