How a global pandemic affected my mental health

Calm in Chaos: a general rambling post from me amongst the uncertain times which are COVID-19 and how I generally stay sane when it feels like the world is ending.

As I’m writing this, I can hear at least three different species of birds chirping, couples laughing and friends gathered together basking the glory of the sudden sunshine. Despite this, the context shows an entirely different tone. It’s March of 2020 and the world is in an incredibly strange state right now, just two nights ago Boris Johnson had announced that the United Kingdom was officially going into lockdown for the next couple of months, which basically means that everyone needs to self-isolate and remain in quarantine apart from “essential” workers. Understandably, everyone is freaking the fuck out. With thousands of events getting cancelled like weddings, holidays, festivals and even educational institutions having to shut which means exams have been cancelled for the time being and teaching has been transferred online. Right now, we really are living in the midst of a historic moment which will affect millions of people across the world. A real dystopian Black Mirror episode, if you will.

Despite this, this is the happiest I have felt in months. I know, I’m not making the best impression so far. I’m sat in a large nature park right now where other people are when I’m meant to be isolating (Sorry, dad) and I just said that a massive pandemic is making me happy. Well, allow me to justify. I use the term “happy” very loosely here. I know 2020 has been a complete shit show from the get go; from shock deaths (RIP Kobe and Brianna Bryant), floods, wildfires, potential world wars, nation-wide drought, Brexit (which commenced on my birthday for fuck sake), climate change acceleration and now an international pandemic. And it’s ONLY March. I can only understand why you’d read my naïve indifference as ignorance.

It feels like everywhere you turn, there’s bad news after bad news. Like, not to be dramatic, but life is feeling a lot like that time Edward broke up with Bella in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer made all the chapters during the break up empty pages with just “September.” “October.” “November.” written at the top. All of the days are blurring into one and are filled with uncertainty. Every social media platform that you log into, including Instagram which is usually a form of escapism, are only constant reminders of the virus as well as productive things we’re meant to be doing throughout this period of isolation, even though I’m fully aware that I’m meant to be chasing a degree (I know, what the fuck) while constant stats remind us about how deadly and scary this virus is. It truly is overwhelming and I do not blame anybody for feeling especially scared and anxious in this time.

I rarely get personal on this blog, despite the fact that it IS my personal blog. I’m usually quite general, but I’m going to share how I’ve personally felt the calm in all of this. I mean, I speak from a place of general privilege. I’m not exactly calm about the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. Furthermore, circumstances for a lot of people are desperate and financially there’s bound to be some kind of crash, I understand that this is a scary time for us all. Yet, for some reason, I find the collective feeling of worry, the resentment of this current year, holding billionaires and the 1% to account for their greedy money hoarding as well as everybody’s combined efforts in improving our circumstances to be extremely reassuring of humanity. Even the NHS has had over 400,000 people offer to volunteer to help those directly infected by the virus when the government were merely expecting half of that. That’s something to celebrate within itself.

Overall, my person issues pale in comparison to refugees and more vulnerable groups who are far a lot affected by this this virus than me personally. This isn’t ideal for anybody. However, if I’m too think in a way that makes the glass appear half full- I’d talk about the environmental impacts, for example; did you know that air quality has improved significantly in major cities since tourists have stopped occupying them? And think of all the free concerts all of your favourite artists have intimately live-streaming!! From Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend, James Blake. Miley Cyrus has started a cute livestream platform where she interviews celebrities and medical professionals on remaining positive while being aware of your surroundings. The sheer quality of MEMES that have come out of this are…incredible. And lastly, the newfound respect the general public now have for service workers and our community.

Apologies if this blog post seems lazy compared to my usual work, I’m still adjusting. I know this is hard, I’m scared too. I’ll probably add more positive outcomes and more informed updates of this in due time. But for now, I know it’s easier said than done- but do try to make the most of this time of peace and quiet. Get creative, contact people you’ve grown distant from due to busy schedules. Whatever you want. There’s bound to be some form of humanity to come out of this and it’ll be beautiful. We can’t see it now but we will. There’s no telling what’s ahead but I do truly believe that in spite of everything, we’ve got this. Look after yourself reader.

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Andrew Thomas Huang: nature, aliens and the resurrection of FKA Twigs

An interview with American-Chinese director Andrew Thomas Huang on collaborating with artists such as Björk and FKA Twigs, connecting to his heritage and finding inspiration within nature.

Andrew Thomas Huang is someone that has never been just regular, proving himself time and time again that he is a creative force within the art world and beyond. Expressing his passion and interests through a deep immersion of digitally-rendered figures, puppetry, fine prints and surreal live action performance; Andrew has cemented his mark as a truly unique and pioneering individual who is definitely worth keeping on your radar. Just ask J.J. Abrams. Seriously.

I actually reached out to Andrew a few days after a very recent and special project of his became popular, in which to my surprise he responded almost instantly with great enthusiasm!! But due to exams, planning my 3-month trip to America and other errands, I’ve had to unfortunately delay the publishing of this interview. However, we are finally here and this feature is something that I have been looking forward to getting out for such long time as I couldn’t get enough of his saturated and phantasmagoric visions; and so with that in mind, I spoke with the artist about the creative process behind Cellophane, reconnecting to his roots and finding inspiration within nature.

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Since graduating from the University of Southern California in Fine Art and Animation, he has become a master at intertwining futuristic elements of future folklore, ultramodern queer cyborg and mystical surrealism; ultimately creating a universe of his own. Andrew’s imagination began to run wild through elementary and middle school when he was first introduced to puppeteer Jim Henson and his iconic 80’s films such as The Muppets (duh!), The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; which originally inspired him to begin playing with his video camcorder where he would start creating stop motion. As he got older he got more into the fantasy adventure franchise of Star Wars which then further inspired his work “I would watch the behind-the-scenes making of those movies and try and replicate the process on my own. I started learning Maya and After Effects in high school and got hooked on building my own worlds!” Being such a diverse creative who works across an array of mediums, his catalogue of pieces and instalments stretches far and wide, however, when it comes to his favourite type to work with, he tells me “I think puppetry is the best combination of everything – performance, dance, bringing inanimate things to life, while also being sculptural and craft-driven”.

After his successful debut Doll Face in 2007, he has brought forth many other moving pieces; from his nine-part video series titled Flesh Nest, which explores and constructs a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by digital immortals “It is essentially my sci-fi Fraggle-Rock inspired trash opera, and so I built this project around the concept of afterlife. I wanted instead to construct imagery that had the same efficiency, weirdness and mythic vastness as a Hieronymus Bosch painting in which a multiplicity of characters and edifices are building up and crumbling down in the same hellish scrolling tapestry-like space. It was important for me that there is an honesty about the artifice of this universe”. To his newly short feature Kiss of the Rabbit God which premiered just a few weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Huang explores his own personal identity, cultural heritage and queerness to which he proclaims to be a form of personal revelation.

The film follows a young Chinese restaurant worker’s journey of self-discovery through a sexual awakening, after falling in love with an 18th century Qing dynasty God named the Tu’er Shen (兔兒神) “This is my first narrative short in 10 years and also my most personal film to date! I started out directing narrative films, but left to pursue more art and experimental video-making. Rabbit God is my attempt now to return to narrative but more on my terms. The film is really a love story and I’ve never been brave enough until now to create a romantic film between two queer Asian men. So, this film in a way is a confession as much as it is a love letter to my LGBTQ+ Asian community”.

Everything about Andrew’s work opens up a portal to illustration of a digital multiverse- which hasn’t gone by unnoticed. He has championed a collection of awards and honours for his creative work, becoming more popular through music videos that he’s directed for the likes of Björk, Thom Yorke’s supergroup Atoms For PeaceKelela, Perfume GeniusSigur Ròs and many more; emerging through the mist. He tells me, Music videos are a wonderful medium to experiment and build worlds and draw people into the emotional message of a piece of music. I’ve learned nearly everything I know about directing from creating music videos: how to collaborate, delegate, communicate with a team of people. But, I would also say it’s my own personal work that has informed my videos. Doing the work on music videos has helped build my vocabulary of techniques to bring to my own work as well as my own practice that has fed the ideas that I bring to the music videos. It’s a two-way conversation! I need to know what each artist is trying to say and where they’re coming from in order for me to formulate a clear concept. I prefer to have personal conversations with each artist and really get to know them as people. I don’t like to go into a collaboration guessing what they’re going to like or what they’re going to respond to. Making videos with artists, in the best scenario, is building a relationship with them and dreaming the same dream together.”

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Back to the recent and special project that I mentioned earlier, just last month he collaborated with FKA Twigs on her emotionally charged single; Cellophane. A video that is filled with vivid mechanical creatures and bionic figures, accompanied by a blend of renaissance imagery and dystopian scenes, showcasing a contrast of life and death, birth and destruction. An idea that embodies a new chapter, to start anew and welcome a path-breaking world that hums with possibility; Andrew also added that it is an “miraculous Icarus tale: a dance-of-death striving towards unattainable perfection, the fall from grace and the fragility of putting yourself back together”. Alongside him and Twigs graced production designer Fiona Crombie, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for her work on The Favourite. “We really did have the perfect team come together on this. Cinematographer Dani Abello came on board who shot beautiful videos for Rosalía, and pole choreographer Kelly Yvonne, too! I actually started to develop the story with Twigs in June 2018, and then Twigs, Kelly and I would rehearse together in a dance studio in Los Angeles where we brainstormed to create some of the emotional and physical beats of the performance”

Since it’s release, Andrew has been extremely candid about the inspiration behind Cellophane, admitting to outlets that the concepts of the video stemmed from Twigs’ own personal struggles; from laparoscopic surgery that she underwent to have six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus, to public scrutiny and blatant attacks regarding her ex-fiancé Robert Pattinson. Yet, the formation of the video did not arise as naturally as the ideas behind it seemed to, the process to creating such a visually compelling film was complex as it was enjoyable. “I drafted my own visualisation and storyboard for a couple months before we shot the film in Kiev, Ukraine for two days. Fiona also worked with the Ukrainian team to build some beautiful sets, namely the 360° curtain world and the large clay pit. I edited the video myself and then worked closely for four months afterwards along with Analog Studio in London to create the visual effects”.

Taken from ‘Cellophane’.

FKA Twigs in ‘Cellophane’.

Despite the constant use of extraterrestrial figures in his art, it isn’t always deliberate, confessing “I actually always thought that Martians were kind of boring! (with the exception of the Martians from Mars Attacks). Extraterrestrials aren’t though, alien life is always fascinating…like the aliens in The Abyss or The X-files”.  yet, with everything that’s been going on in Andrew’s life, I concluded the interview by asking him what he does to unwind and how he finds new creative energy “Hmm. Detaching from society, for sure! And going into nature are the most nourishing things for me. My most vivid and connected moments in life have occurred when I’m hiking or by the ocean, or just spending time with my grandmother! I’m eternally working on the challenge of being present in the moment”.

Keep up with Andrew and his work;

Website- http://www.andrewthomashuang.com/Art.htm

Facebook Page- www.facebook.com/AndrewThomasHuangAndrewThomasHuang

Instagram: www.instagram.com/andrewthomashuang/

Twitter: @Andrew_T_Huang

Youtube Channel- http://www.youtube.com/andrewhu

Vimeo Channel- https://vimeo.com/user1293099

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What sobriety taught me about being a better friend

Most of the blog posts I write are heavily influenced by events that have taken place in my personal life, I would love to say that everything I write about is thoroughly and thoughtfully planned out, but the majority of the time, it isn’t.

Why do I say that? Well, the other night (I would give specifics but I’m not sure which date I will publish this on) I met up with a longtime friend of mine from secondary school, and like all Brits so typically tend to do in the evening (any time after five, most of the time) we met up at the local student bar and had a few drinks whilst catching up with one another’s lives within the last six months.

Then while sitting at this bar with said friend, I suddenly realised that it had been six months since I even had a ‘proper’ drink, and even more surprising- I hadn’t actually gotten drunk in an entire year. My last honest feeling of a pounding headache, aching stomach, sickness, embarrassment, regret, overbearing self consciousness, and overall sense of self-loathing hadn’t surfaced (least, via intoxication) in a very, very long time.

I’ve always had a decent relationship with alcohol, especially recently. In secondary school I often exaggerated how drunk I really was and never suffered from severe hangovers. I’m not sure whether it was because my tolerance was significantly higher so I was able to drink vodka like it was water, or what. But I think students can universally agree when we say that from the age of eighteen onward, usually indicates a shift in everything, and hangovers become more severe.

When I first moved to Nottingham I tried to fit into the culture by drinking everything in sight; which I did. It was bad, but only freshers week bad- I woke up with a massive receipt from Subway (yes, the sandwich place), I’d have other people’s clothes on (God knows how that happened) and at some stage I was spiked which resulted in me losing feeling in my legs for the night. I took it easy from then on onward, I mean, I got really messed up (accidentally) during a day drinking session once but that didn’t stop me.

On my 19th birthday, I got into a random mans’ car and didn’t get out of bed for over 24 hours. Then on my 20th, it was more or less the same thing. It was all okay, though. Right? I’m a young, university student, I’m British and it’s the way of life. Which is fine. But it’s about time we had an honest conversation about how alcohol really affects our mental health. In an era where drinking to excess has become heavily normalised, it can be difficult to navigate the culture; to see who is just like everyone else and who is actually struggling.

At the age of 21, I’ve come to a realisation that getting drunk casually isn’t for me. And, no. I don’t hold some sort of god complex (that’s exactly what someone with a god complex would say) and I certainly don’t look down on those that drink, at all. Especially as the summer approaches along with the alarmingly high temperature rise, causing people to crack open ‘a cold one’ before the afternoon. I can fully understand the urges. But the U.K. has a drinking problem. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t drink less than the recommended units and the shared mentality has always been “As long as no one is getting hurt then there’s no problem with it”. If alcohol were a new discovery, this wouldn’t be okay, but because this is what we have always known, heavy drinking has become glamorised and almost celebrated. Whereas drugs, understandably, are still a massive taboo. Depending on where you live.

The NHS recommendation of 14 units per week, which is about 6 pints or 7 glasses of wine. But who can keep track? Drinking is everywhere. We drink to celebrate, we drink when we are sad, we drink to relax – we drink on any occasion for any excuse. As a collective we normalise blackouts, frequent puking and humiliation. We need more awareness that alcohol affects our mental health as well as our physical health: while we may be enjoying ourselves, alcohol is also a depressant, the viscous cycle of feeling miserable and anxious was something that I personally couldn’t handle anymore.

Whenever I tell people that I once went an entire year without drinking (that’s a story for another post) it is always met with all kinds of strange reactions, as if I told them that I just won the lottery. Actually, more pitying than that. As if my dog just died. I mean, I don’t have a dog- but you get the gist. However, you never gain this sort of reaction when you tell people that you went on holiday and binged for an entire week? Last summer, I was the only one not drinking at a garden party and a girl there felt the need to tell me that staying sober was really sad and pathetic.

Look, I’m not trying to convince people to stop drinking. The total opposite, actually. However, the main point of this blog post is to explain how the idea of getting too intoxicated regularly is one that seriously needs to be looked at and re-evaluated. That we need to look at how much we consume and start being more responsible. I learnt a lot in my year of sobriety. Did I ever miss drinking? Absolutely. But I became more focused on my work and priorities, I saved money, I felt fresh everyday to the point where I just never wanted to turn back. And I felt like I was overall becoming a better version of myself. Believe me, I am far from perfect, but since leaning more towards regular sobriety I have just been happier. And as a generally rather unhappy person, I am continuously aiming towards that. It’s a peculiar feeling- like stepping from the clamour of a street riot, stepping into the house, and locking the door.

Mandy Wu and her cinematic take on the muse

It’s no secret that I’m seriously infatuated with art and photography, especially when created by self-identifying women (no discrimination, I’ve interviewed Male artists too!) and so, when I find one that particularly inspires me, I like to grab them for a quick Q&A and feature them here! So, for this months ‘Rookie Girl’ feature, Mandy Wu is gracefully in the spotlight and taking centre stage. I came across the stellar photographer through I-D magazine’s ‘young talent’ page, where she humbly showcased her photos for all the members to see. Almost immediately, Mandy was met with a wave of like and love reacts, compliments and collaboration requests; one in which, were from me.

Woven with detail and bursting with colour, the photographer’s landscape photography and poignant still-life portraits depict poetry and stories that make you feel like you’re experiencing an old memory that you never had. Inspired by Zhang Jiacheng and his stylised documentary, Mandy Wu found herself mesmerised by the colour drenched dreamscapes “my life philosophy, my fantasy about love, my observation of the world- is my inspiration!” She muses.

Gina

 

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When did you began taking photos?
I started taking photos during the first year of my university while doing my bachelor in history. So it’s been around 6 years!

Why did you begin taking photos?
My dad gave me a camera as my birthday gift. I started playing with it since then. I always want to capture a moment and let it live forever and taking picture enables me to do that.

What or who is your biggest muse?
My biggest muse now is Zhang JiaCheng. I just discovered him at the end of last year but I really enjoy his portraits. Each one of them is like painting.

Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from films, my life philosophy, my fantasy about love, my observation of the world!

Ongoing

 

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How would you describe your style of photography?
I have always found it hard to describe my style. I guess my style is a bit cinematic, nostalgic, dreamy and sometimes sensual.

Exactly what is it you want to say with your portraits and photography?
I think I just want my photographs to make people feel how I feel. Sometimes others will see my work and feel something completely different, which is also what I love so much about photographs. They make people feel, and sometimes the feelings can’t be described by words.

How do you get your photography to say what you want it to?
By being genuine and honest. Feel it all and express it all.

What type of camera and lens do you use? If you use more than one, what is your favourite? And why?
I use both digital and analog cameras. I use 35mm, 45mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses. My favourite is my contax g2 and its 45mm lens. It’s easy to focus and make solid. Since I travel often and take lots of portraits, I find 45mm to be a perfect lens for me!

What made you decide to pursue photography as a full time career?
I love photography and I want to devote my time and energy into it. It was also a hard decision because I didn’t know if I could support myself with it. Even until now I struggle sometimes with not being able to have the freedom to create fully in order to meet the clients’ needs.

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Ongoing soulmate

What motivates you to make art and photography?
To be able to express myself through art and photography.

What is the best and worst thing about being an artist?
The best part is the freedom of creating. The worst part for me is when there’s no inspiration and feeling stuck in a place with no energy motivation creating. It happens sometimes and I never know when to expect it.

How do you educate yourself to take better photographers?
Reading lots of books, watching heaps of movies, listening to songs, etc. For me, it’s all about feelings. I sometime look at other photographers’ work and try to understand what’s the reason that I find one certain piece of work so intriguing.

Talk to me about your “Wasted Youth” portrait photos.
During the time when I was studying in Milan, there’s a cultural centre called Macao, an abandoned slaughterhouse, that I went to every weekend. This is a documentary project about the place, which has transformed me in lots of different ways. The place feels free and liberated. I found a missing piece of myself there.

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Wasted Youth_1

 

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Talk us through your ‘Duo’ collection in the portrait gallery section of your site.
I met these two when I was in Milan. They were really cute together when I met them so I thought it’d be really great to document the feelings they have for each other. We chose the location and the outfits together. The light was perfect on that day and I’m really happy with the results.

 

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Your “Beautiful Imperfect” project is stunning, tell us about the process of creating that.
Thank you! Those photographs are little pieces that I have collected over the years from my travels since I was 20. I hope I can keep on travelling and adding more to the project.

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You’ve previously said “Oftentimes, photographs has the power to bring back those long-lost feelings, be it joy or sadness. Through my works, I try to make those feelings tangible so that people can relive those moments again. ”– why is it so important to you for to keep memories?                                                                                     I think it’s all because I’m a very nostalgic person. I often look back at memories. Probably because I’m not living at the present but anyway I find it really interesting how a photograph can be so powerful to bring back those lost and forgotten feelings even just for a second.

It is also mentioned that you decided to pursue your passion for photography in Italy. Why did you decide to go there? Do you get a different feeling every time you enter a another country? Does each new country bring something new to your work?
I used to live in Umbria and during the time I worked there as an au-pair. I travelled to many different towns in Italy. I found the country full of history and beauty. The place inspired me to take more pictures. The country also put lots of effort into restoration of historical buildings. After going back to Taiwan, I started taking Italian class. After I graduated from university, I felt like Italy would be a good place for studying art since It was easy for me to find inspiration around me and it could also help me improve my Italian.

Yes, I do! Not even just another country but a new place tends change my feeling drastically. When I’m in a new place, I become more sensitive and more observant and I end up having more motivation and inspiration to take pictures. I remember during the time when I was living in Yangon, Myanmar, I was very intrigued by the dark old streets in the old town of Yangon and I did a series on the different colours of neon lights there. Definitely brings lots of new perspectives to my work but at the same time, I’m also trying to be observant in the place I’m living, which can be quite difficult at times as everyday the life becomes pretty much the same.

Is there a general message behind your work? Are you challenging the ‘male gaze’ or anything of the sort?
I’m often told that my work has warmth in it. Maybe that’s the general message I want people to see subconsciously.

What is the ultimate goal with photography? What do you hope to achieve in 5 years time?
I hope I get to create freely without any limits and I can bring something to people, the people around me as well as those that don’t know me personally.
in 5 years time, I’d be 30! I hope I will be an artist that can touch more mediums of arts and express myself through them. I also hope to be able to share and create with like-minded people from different places in the world. Hopefully I can also make some music for my photographs or vise versa.

What quote motivates you most to keep going?
Bill Evans, ”My creed for art in general is that it should enrich the soul; it should teach spirituality by showing a person a portion of himself that he would not discover otherwise… a part of yourself you never knew existed”. 

 

All work copyright © Mandy Wu

 

Keep up with Mandy and her work here;

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What I learnt from celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’

The closing of a year is often lead with great anticipation. Halloween, bonfire night, Thanksgiving (for my American readers), Hanukkah, Christmas celebrations and then finally…the New Years build up. Then creeps in January, dragging its oversized shoes on the floor. January is like the Maroon 5 performing at the Super Bowl of months, despite my own birthday being during this month, I too, have to admit that it overstays it’s welcome. A guest that you were once looking forward to seeing, but is now refusing to leave.

Then, after this excruciatingly dull month of broken resolutions and “I’ll start tomorrow”-s, comes an infamously suffocating day for singles and even couples alike. Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the day because it allows you to show appreciation to your significant other, plus the aesthetic of pink and red hearts everywhere may appear as obnoxious to some but I personally think they’re beautiful and uplifting. In a world that seems to forever filled with fake news and depressing headlines, then to suddenly be hit with flowers of all colours and love hearts is pretty encouraging to me. Lord knows we all need it.

But there is also a capitalist, ‘do it for the gram’ element involved which takes the real fun out of it. An haughty, pompous aspect that places couples to compare themselves to other couples. As though your relationships’ depth and meaning is measured based off of your financial income. A factor that is unfair and shallow to say the least. Personally, I’m a working-class student with low earning parents. Therefore, I don’t get any help from them. I simply rely on myself and how often I work, when I can. But with juggling a degree, a long distance relationship and other prospects; it can all get a little (VERY) strenuous. So with this continuous obligation to flex our lives on social media adds even more pressure on this particular occasion, minus the others- birthdays, Christmas etc.

In fact, just yesterday I was speaking to a work colleague who did not hesitate to tell me all about the expensive trips and gifts that her much older boyfriend so lovingly gives. Of course then, this was met with my own romance interrogation; “Where did you go?” “How much did they spend on you?” and “How much did YOU spend on THEM?” So whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a pain. Don’t worry single people, least you can treat yourself to a cheap bottle of wine and a Netflix marathon then call it a night, it’s not as pathetic as everyone makes it out to be. I promise.

Anyhow, so due to my long-distance relationship circumstances, this year I decided to celebrate my first ever Galentine’s Day with my single friends. Because being single doesn’t mean that you’re alone, at all. This is a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day. To quote main character Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” So for context, back in February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, a described ‘civic crusader’ and ‘friend extraordinaire’. As Knope explains it, each year on February 13th, she gathers together all her best female friends, including her mother, to celebrate what she loves about her female companions over waffles.

However, the biggest lesson that I learnt from Galentine’s Day isn’t to only challenge hetero-normative romantic relationships and gross gender roles and forever pining over ‘the right one’ but of also finally normalising the idea that being single IS NOT something to be distracted from. As someone that is currently in a relationship, I can understand why you’re reading this whilst rolling your eyes. Or how this advice would fall on death ears. Take this with a pinch of salt if you must, but the most significant rule to remember is that you’re able to be by yourself and not hate it. I know right, wild(!) I apologise if this sounds patronising, but you’re allowed to be single on purpose and enjoy it.

Galentine’s day doesn’t have to be surrounded by the concept of filling some sort of ‘romantic void’ otherwise you’re not full. That’s a complete lie. People speak to me nowadays as if by having a boyfriend, I have been “blessed” and that I have been changed for the better. As much as I love being in a relationship, I can be strong and empowered whether I’m in one or not. Galentine’s Day is for all female-identifying folks celebrating themselves, no man-dominated underbelly included, please.

As well as this, Galentines Day should be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Not everybody has this Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars-esque girl group. Sometimes our closest friends live in different parts of the country and so seeing all these cliquey squads can emphasise on the loneliness. I often feel it. So another lesson I have learnt is to keep open-minded and productive when it comes to this kind of thing. Galentine’s can be a beautiful day, but always remember to show love and support for women throughout all the other days to.

💚

Erasing “toxic positivity”

“Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn to new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough, we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always”.

S.C. Lourie

It’s been exactly five months since I’ve last published a blog post, which is pretty unbelievable to me! Not only have I failed to keep to my manifesto of coming up with new content every calendar month, but this realisation that five whole months have passed by is something kind of surreal altogether. Alongside the dreadful pressure of maintaining an online presence despite having no cool social life to flex, I’m also having to continuously convince you (my very limited audience) and myself that I’m vaguely fun, creative and relatable to read about. However, these feelings of doubt and inadequacy don’t need to be acknowledged or explained, only lived. So anyway, I’ve recently noticed a growing trend of people becoming overly positive. Though there is nothing wrong with seeing the glass as always half full, it can be ultimately damaging to entirely dismiss any natural emotions of anger, sadness or any feeling that isn’t completely positive. I understand the need to surround yourself with “positive vibes” which is mostly good, the majority of the time it can just come across as disingenuous and forced. So without further ado, here is an update on why I personally believe that we shouldn’t focus too much on what the chemicals in our brains are weighing and my newfound mentality of not caring. Not to seem generally insensitive towards people with genuine mental health issues of course, I couldn’t recommend therapy enough. However, this is just a personal mantra that keeps me afloat.

Okay, so I’m currently living in a house with three other girls, and in typical student-house fashion we have seen the worst and the best of each other. Emotional breakdowns over deadlines and assignments, momentary, short-lived ‘heartbreak’ over guys that won’t text us back anymore, financial restraints further exacerbated via fast fashion, year-long next day delivery and Klarna (you know, that whole ‘buy now, pay later’ deal that’s going on?) ASOS, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal, Missguided- I’m looking at you, please let me live my life.

But once I came to discover that 2/3 of my housemates were on antidepressants and anxiety tablets, whilst regularly making appointments with therapists, the realisation forced me to have a serious think about my generation and our newfound outlook on mental health. Despite stigma decreasing by over 6% within the past decade, the overall outlook hasn’t REALLY changed all that much, I recall one of my housemates telling me “I just got tired of not feeling normal, I felt so embarrassed about crying all the time!”- which is of course, a very much valid emotion. But, I have to meet it with some critique.

Why has it become an embarrassment to say how we feel and why must wesolveor fix” these emotions? Throughout my time in higher education, whether that be in secondary school or university, the main lesson that I have learnt is to just tell people how you feel. The collapse of a lot of my friendships penned from being dishonest, antisocial and just an overall lack of real communication on how I feel. I’m still working on it, actually.

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary,” observed Cecil Beaton, who was born in 1904.

For so long, I thought that the past 2-3 years had been dedicated to recovering. I fully committed myself to feeling better about things. I wanted to recover from the trauma that secondary school brought me, my home life, and other disappointments. Then I learnt that there’s absolutely no avoiding it. You can go your whole life insisting that it only gets better from here onwards, but you’ll always be faced with something new that will kick and punch you. And you’re not wrong for feeling bad about these things.

For example, when I was seventeen I went through my first brutal heartbreak. It’s never been easy for me to talk about, even today. Without going into too much detail, he was a drug addict with eyes for someone else and I was a lovesick teen with no sense of self-worth, we were only 16-17 but it had a profound experience on me as a teenager. It may not have been real for him but it certainly was for me, and it was one of the worst emotional experiences that a 17-year-old could go through. So after that, I recall thinking “Okay, I’ve experienced this thing and now it’s over” but then once I turned 18, it happened again, but with a slightly different narrative. Cheating boyfriend, not a drug addict but instead emotionally abusive; and on top of that he quickly began to hook up with my friend who I thought would never do that sort of thing, and nobody seemed to mind, either. Nobody checked in to see how I was doing. As if this was just “normal”.

Then throughout the years as I became older, things took another bad turn. I was having very bad family problems, I lost jobs, I lost friends that I thought would stick around forever, I hated my university and began doubting my place on this earth (I’m going somewhere with this, don’t worry) I knew that I wanted to be a journalist but I began to hate my course and the people in it, so I didn’t see the point anymore. I had completely lost all motivation. And I felt bad about it.

People will always tell you that you serve no purpose being sad, that it’s a major sign of weakness and that someone out there is always going through something worse- which is indeed true but that in no way should invalidate whatever it is that you’re feeling. There we are again, feelings. I used to hang on to that word by a thread, like I said earlier, there was always this belief that you would experience something tremendously bad but it was okay because it will eventually stop. One day you’ll wake up and everything will calm down a bit and be…better. Which is to some extent true, but let’s not dismiss the fact that this is real life. Bad things happen all the time, but so do the good.

I read a quote on Man Repeller once which said You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels“. And that’s it, bad emotions aren’t exactly bad overall, we often treat our uncomfortable feelings and emotions as if they had no real right to exist, inconveniences to be anesthetized or bludgeoned into extinction. But emotions aren’t really the enemy. They are feedback sent from within, messages sent from our deeper self that tell us how we are doing. As such, there really are no bad feelings — only comfortable or uncomfortable ones.

I know that there is this ongoing pressure to always seem busy, I get questioned all the time on what it is I do all day. I also know that there is this urgency to escape the hardship through grit and sweat, that any form of negative emotion has to be immediately wiped or otherwise you’re a depressed failure. Like say, if you submit one exam or essay that didn’t get the best grade, then you felt like you weren’t made for academia and that you should give up wanting a degree. But that’s not the case, it took a very long time for me not to treat these emotions as a blanket diagnosis but rather a stepping stone to something else. And I like to think that being able to bare this in mind keeps me up a level. You’re not doing it wrong, sadness and frustration aren’t just the shitty parts to make the good parts feel better, but just parts — the logical means through which get through to the next one.

Maybe I’m not the best person to take emotional advice from, and within the many times in life that I’ve been wrong and have poorly misjudged a situation, I can guarantee that I’m kind of right about this one thing. Without sounding corny or tedious, you can’t appreciate a good meal without having starved (not literally, I mean don’t deliberately go hungry) and you don’t appreciate a hot shower unless you’ve been out all day and you don’t appreciate the summer without going through the miserable months of January, February and March first. There’s something amazing in just riding it out and going through it. It’s not always good, but it makes a hell of a story to tell afterwards. Life is a far more interesting that way, like literally every movie that you will ever watch will have a point where something supposedly sad happens halfway through- both the cheesy and the epic ones. So don’t feel weird for having negative emotions, do not apologise for the inconvenience and then try to immediately jump to fix them. They always say it’s better to have felt something rather than nothing at all, it gives everything substance and meaning, and isn’t that what they’re meant for anyway?

Why you should definitely go to a gig alone 

At least once.

Whether it’s a song, perfume, book, album, movie, television show, or underground cultural phenomenon, there are certain seemingly small things that have actually changed the course of our lives. Even if it’s minor and quite superficial through the eyes of others, if it makes you feel alive in some way then hang onto that.

This is going to sound kind of dark; but around two years ago when I was heavily suicidal, I read a post that suggested that if you feel as though you serve no purpose being alive, then stick around for the minor things. Like never being able to taste your favourite ice cream ever again, or  not being able to stroke your neighbours cute Labrador anymore, or trying the first bite of a delicious pizza, or even turning up at that event coming up that actually looked kind of cool (?).

For me, this ‘seemingly small superficial thing’ was Frank Ocean’s Blonde & Endless. If you’re under the age of 40, you’ll probably know who he is. Ocean’s lyrics deal with themes of love, longing, spiritually, misgiving, and nostalgia, all that resonated with to new extents. I won’t go into his entire discography but since his first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra revealing his idiosyncratic approach to pop, I was hooked. Years clicked and in this super weird way, I found the wait to be part of the thrill. It was easy to worry as there are precedents for this sort of thing, for disappearances of the self-implosion of Black genius.

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But eventually, he came back. And it was amazing. This’ll seem corny but it restored my belief in the phrase “When one door closes, another one opens”. Despite going through a rough time and dealing with a lot of losses, with the thought of waiting for the new album to finally come out then having it do so gave me something to look forward to. It made me want to wait for the other little thing, then the other minor thing, then another, until I was past the rough time and wasn’t feeling so sad anymore. Through sharing the things that helped us become who we are today, hopefully it’ll  inspire you to try them out for yourselves. Anyway, aside from me basically admitting that Frank Ocean saved my life there was a point to this. What I’m saying is that the experience made me a little more introspective, thereby leading me to do a more things alone; like attending concerts.

I’m a music journalist (kind of, let me gas myself), so whenever a concert is in my town and I’m interested in the performer, I ask a publication to contact the PR team then I get in for free. Back in November, I went to see Mac Demarco in Rock City, Nottingham. I reviewed the show and even made friends with a girl that was friendly with the supporting band leading in me meeting Mac after the show- you can read the interview/review here. Plus, as sad as it sounds, I actually like being alone. I’m virtually always by myself, I go shopping alone, I go to my lectures alone, hell, I’ve even travelled around some areas around Europe alone when I finished high school. And I’ve become quite an evangelist about it.

But no matter what, I believe that everyone who can safely go to a show alone absolutely should, especially if it’s for a band you really love. Why? Music is evocative and emotional, and I’ve previously explained, it is extremely significant for ones well-being. Sometimes, by going to a gig or concert by yourself it’s easier to not have to explain everything to someone else. You have the right to dance, sing along or even cry at when you want to without worrying about the people with you, and you should get to experience that at a show without worrying about what anyone else’s experience looks or feels like. And this isn’t to say you shouldn’t share these experiences with your loved ones, but it is to say that YOUR experience should not be dependent on theirs.

On the night I went to see Mac Demarco, I learnt a lot in the space of a couple of hours. If you’re nervous about going alone or you feel sort of weird about it, that’s fine. It’s totally normal, actually. The main thing to remember is that doing anything outside of your comfort zone is bound to feel uncomfortable at first. But that’s how you grow. Obviously, if you feel truly scared to go to a show by yourself, or your gut senses something weird, then don’t. Or maybe find another show that you’d feel comfortable going to. The whole ordeal is going to look different for everyone. So, if you have ever been really keen to see someone live but none of your friends are down for it; here are some tips I’ve learnt about going to a gig or concert alone.

  • Turn up early, it’s kind of boring and maybe a little cold at first, but eventually people will turn up and maybe you’ll even get an opportunity to meet the artist! Weirdly for me, not only did Mac go out for a cigarette but he also got locked out the venue- so I  had a small opportunity to speak with him prior. Plus, you’ll be right at the front. Which is always great.
  • Speaking of people, even when you’re bored you can still find something to occupy with other than just staring down at your phone and refreshing snapchat. Interact with the crowd so that you feel more apart of it, additionally, you may get lucky- it’s how I met Mac.
  • Check out the location beforehand and let someone know you’re going to the function. If you’re going to a sketchy area, consider having an Uber drop you off so you don’t have to walk alone.
  • Speaking of which, I know this is a dark example but think about what happened at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester- Let family/friends/significant other  know around what time you expect to leave the show. Text them updates about when you’re leaving.
  • Don’t drink too much, you are alone after all.
  • Charge your phone fully because you’ll almost definitely run dry and please, please invest in a portable charger. You’ll thank me later.
  • If you want to avoid the massive rush at the end, leave early, being surrounded by sweaty strangers is pretty gross. Also, know where the fire exits are because you never know.

Most importantly, trust your gut, prepare in advance, and have an amazing time, kid! It’s never as scary as you think it will be, you’ll leave feeling super empowered and it should remind you of why you love music in first place. And maybe you’ll be so inspired after the experience that you’ll feel the need to blog and tell other people about it. Or maybe, it’ll restore your tiny faith in humanity just a little bit, I know it helped with mine.

 

 

 

How To Act Like You’re Over It (until you actually are)

“Grow from the dirt that they left you in”.

It’s easy for me to just sit here and write “Who cares? Do better and move on”. Because that’s the sort of guidance that I was usually given to by other people, but let’s be honest- it’s pretty useless and patronising advice. And I know this is not always the case, sometimes time flies by and you’re still feeling slightly paralysed by whatever happened. It’s hard to get by knowing that you’re not going to get closure in a particular scenario anytime soon. But honestly, the best feeling ever is realising you’re not sad anymore over something you thought you would never get over.

Nowadays, we place a lot of emphasis on healing. This is especially true for mentally ill people who are recovering from trauma. And it’s for a good reason: we want one another to feel better, to cope better with pain, and to be happier. However, with all the emphasis on that, it’s normal to sometimes feel frustrated with yourself when your healing process is taking forever.

This post isn’t about romantic breakups exclusively, this can also apply to friends or family or anything that meant a lot to you during that period in your life that you may have lost. But sometimes it’s also important to realise that being alone is better than they were for you. If you’ve been through it once, you can certainly do it again. So, with that being said, here are just some of the rules that have kept me mindful while I was going through some tough times. The truth is, you’re all too young for unnecessary stress anyway, y’all gotta live.

Disclaimer: a bulk of this advice has been pulled from blogs on Tumblr, Instagram and other websites. I do not take full credit for the words mentioned in this post.


 

STOP GETTING INVOLVED WITH SHITTY PEOPLE-

People aren’t going to treat you right because you love them, and they don’t have to because not everyone is going to love you back and not everyone is going to want to be your best friend. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve stopped trying with. And that’s okay, I promise it is. Stay away from people who are committed to misunderstanding you. Take the L and unfollow them. Some things really are unforgivable, your life isn’t going to be unfulfilling and miserable if you don’t forgive every single person that’s ever wronged you.

 

DISCONNECT AND UNPLUG, SOMETIMES- 

Let’s not be too hasty here, I’m not saying deactivate and delete all of your social media and chuck your phone into the nearest river. Who can actually afford that? But just stop checking who’s watching your story compulsively. Quit oversharing on social media, don’t announce everything. Don’t share your plans. Show your progress maybe, prove your growth. Let em’ see your prosperity and not what steps it took to get there. And stop deleting photos/posts when they don’t get enough attention, it’s transparent and we all know that it wasn’t “an accident”. Smh.

 

TAKE CHANGE IN DOSES- 

Don’t get a spontaneous haircut, for Christ sake. Once again, it is transparent and predicable, trim your split ends and re-dye your roots or something, instead. Shit.

 

 

GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOURSELF- 

Trust yourself. Listen to yourself, but also make an effort and try. Brush your hair, shower, clean your room. Say “yes” more. Try. I know getting up early and running a long distance sucks and the gym is gross but won’t it be worth it when you not only look good but feel good too? Plus, when you finally love yourself you stop putting your self-esteem in the hands of others. There is no limit to loving yo’ damn self.

 

SET SOME GOALS- 

Even if they’re small achievements, like you haven’t skipped a meal in over a week. Message that friend you’ve lost touch with and actually make concrete plans, do a pushup, read a sentence from that book you’ve been meaning to read. Minor goals! Yay! You can stay in bed all day but nothing is going to happen there. Sometimes, you’ve honestly just got to get up.

 

LET TIME DO ITS THING-

I mean, life is so subtle sometimes that you barely notice yourself walking through the doors you once hoped would open. Reflect on how far you’ve already come. Think about the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, and how each day feels a little lighter than the last.

 

i love myself

 

STOP COMPARING. STOP COMPARING. STOP COMPARING- 

You know that saying? Comparison will kill you? Well it’s true, especially for your self-esteem. I don’t have any magical words, it’s a gradual process that requires a conscious and continuous effort. There’s inherent value in embracing your authentic self. With social media’s omnipresence it’s difficult to truly avoid people that distress you. I know everyone seems like they’re way happier than you and/or are doing better, but please be mindful and know that it’s all trivial and that nobody has it all figured out. Glo and grow privately xxx

 

YOU ARE A WHOLE DAMN BEING- 

Yes, some days are hard but that doesn’t make you an unhappy person. It doesn’t make you depressed or bipolar, so stop trying to diagnose yourself. It’s just a hard day, week, month. Sometimes even more, but it will be better. You are growing and you are becoming. Don’t rush it but don’t fight it either, sis.

 

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF EVEN IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN LOVE- 

De-romanticise the idea that love will turn you into the person you want to be. And that’s okay!! Take things as impersonally as you can and rely on yourself, there is nothing wrong with being alone. You are the best company you’ll ever know. It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay and none of this was ever your fault. Sometimes people just fall out of love and sometimes people change their minds. It’s okay. It’s okay. You’ll one day discover you didn’t need them, they weren’t shit anyway.

 

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The importance of “Dear White People” and the struggle with self-indentity

An opinion piece on the Netflix series “Dear White People” told from a mixed race perspective.

“When the truth is suppressed, it doesn’t die; it goes underground”.

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a blog post, I find that my intentions with this site change every other month. Originally, it was just a safe space for me to talk about my life and adventures, then it became a platform for me to practice my music journalism by reviewing albums, but then somewhere along the way I lost track of all of that in an abundance of things, like my exams, internships, portfolio expanding, maintaining friendships, working etc. And as a result my self-esteem sort of plummeted, especially in a creative sense. But one thing that I like and, above all else, appreciate about this blog is that I’m free to express whatever I want, no judgement on how I deliver statements or no one to devalue my views and opinions, and nowadays I find that my work frequently intersects with issues of race, gender, sexuality, feminism, and progressive politics.

Nevertheless, everybody experiences things in a different way, it’s not always easy to get people to understand what you mean or for everyone to see eye-to -eye. We’re living in far more polarising, politically intense times where things almost go full circle to the point that we lose direction. Or that we’re all reciting the same lines to the point where every room becomes an echo chamber, and it’s getting cramped.

If I choose to one day have children, the only values I hope for them to have is to appreciate nature, to love themselves and their bodies, have gratitude and empathy towards others but most importantly, to keep an open mind towards things and people that they don’t understand. This should be just the basis, but unfortunately this isn’t a natural inclination for everybody.

As a young person I always felt that it was important that I cultivate these strengths within my own character so that I can lead by example, not words. To be open to a new era of political correctness and changing sexual politics. You can call it whatever you want, whether it be “a liberal” or a “social justice warrior”, or the current favourite insult, a “snowflake” *cringes* however, these are the values I live by. Though it hasn’t always been this way.

Growing up in a predominantly white area in the UK (no, seriously the population of minorities is 2.2% in my area and that’s all the minority races in total) I never realised how oblivious I was to a lot of things, or how oblivious others were. Every comment that was made about my appearance and identity I mostly usually brushed off, especially because I was (unfortunately fortunate) enough to be light-skinned and borderline considered “White passing”. Yet still had the features of a Black person. So all my life I’ve been, what can be considered as ‘lucky’ in a way that not being ‘black’ enough came to my advantage, but in the least rewarding way. It’s as complex as it is problematic.

And that’s where my fascination with “Dear White People” came in, I immediately recognised the protagonist, played by Logan Browning, from Bratz: The Movie in 2007. My initial thoughts were “Oh god, please don’t let another mixed race girl not acknowledge her biracial heritage” I know, to some of you this may sound ghastly. But Zendaya in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up had two Black parents, and growing up I found this quite damaging, because it made it seem like multiculturalism couldn’t and shouldn’t exist, like we’re experiments and not the real thing, as if you had to be either one or the other. A “watered down” version of the original. So watching a show that finally addresses the struggles of a biracial individual and the war with their self-identification was refreshing to say the least, as well as reflecting the real internal struggle of figuring out who you are in this world.

Gail Lukasik’s novel ‘White Like Her‘ is a prime example of the struggle with self-identifying, she explains how her mother pretended to be White throughout her entire life and by doing this, she received a lot more privileges socially and economically, because she was “passing”. The saddest part, is that it all has to even matter in the first place. It’s funny how race is apparent on sight, isn’t it?

Yet racism hasn’t always been black and white. White supremacists, for example, used to hate Irish and Italians at the turn of the century. They weren’t considered white. But once people realised that there were a huge amount of them, they needed to include them for power’s sake and they did. Race is almost a concept, but in which involves real and damaging effects.

I kind of understand why people are interested in people like myself who are racially ambiguous. Race, however flawed the concept, is used as a tool for understanding people. Personally, I’m curious about other people’s racial backgrounds too and as human beings we are always searching for ways to identify, and factors like skin tone serve as physical reminders of our ancestry and racial heritage.

BUUUUUT, there are appropriate ways to talk to someone about their background and then there are ways to sound like, for lack of better words, an ignorant dickhead. And a lot of what I went through before was never worth compromising myself and who I am just to have a couple of friends, I’d go through the countless eye rolls and the tone deaf “You’re not even Black so you have no right to be offended!” statements just to get people to finally understand me on some level.

Since recently visiting an old friend from school that I had contrasting views with, the daunting realisation that I’m forever going to have to explain and justify my existence hit me like a bus. It was a heart-breaking epitome, racism is a lot more than “being mean” to someone because of their race. They’re a whole load of stages in White supremacy before being considered an extremist and with the case of my close friend from school, it was past indifference and minimisation, you know, “We all belong to the human race!” and the use of phrases like “post-racial society” and the casual White saviour complex followed by the denial of White privilege, plus never forgetting the constant false equivocation. Classic.

Yet the movie/television show “Dear White People” was enough in its title because it caused a bellicose, erupting reaction. Even Antoinette Robertson who played ‘white whisperer’ Coco Conners stated in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar that the name and podcasts ‘alienated’ White people. The like/dislike ratio on the YouTube official trailer was almost equal and the comments were all too familiar “What if there was a show called ‘Dear Black People??? There would be a war!”

Sigh. In explanation of that; first of all, the intent with the show was to generally raise more awareness with racial sensitivity i.e not doing black face and other blatantly racist hate crimes. Whereas a show directed towards minorities is always done with malicious intentions and is poorly informed i.e. everything Nicole Arbour has posted, ever.

Back to the show; each episode in the second season, save for the last, focuses on the experiences of one character, nose-diving viewers into the realities and trepidation’s of what it means to be black, or not black, or not black enough. Although the creator recognises that the show quantifies this problem through blackness, he thinks it’s a systemic result of the human condition.

In an ideal world, Dear White People would be better received. It encourages people to call out ignorance when they see it while educating individuals without chastising them, and holding both sides accountable. It deserves to have its watercooler moment because it encourages the discussions and bring issues to the surface that we really need to be having during these increasingly divisive times.

As journalist Wesley Morris of The New York Times pointed out in a podcast, change is happening in the Western world; “It’s just happening in dog years”.