Congratulations June Sarpong!

June Sarpong and I at her ‘Diversify’ book launch in March 2018

Have you heard the news? June Sarpong has been appointed the BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity. For those who don’t know her, she is a longstanding TV presenter and author. She has appeared on channel 4’s T4, ITV’s Loose Women, Sky News and MTV. Last year I was in the fortunate position of interviewing her for her debut book ‘Diversify’ in Birmingham (hence the photo).

Tony Hall the Director general at the BBC said June would have ‘a wide remit to deliver change.’ This is fabulous news! The corporation has been widely criticised for its lack of diversity and with this move clearly, they are serious about shaking things up. As someone who would love more opportunities in the media, this is a momentous moment filled with much hope and anticipation.

June says, ‘I relish the challenge of working with senior leadership to make the BBC more inclusive and representative of the broad and diverse audience it serves”. I could use this space to tell you how painstakingly frustrating it has been to see on screen, typecast people of colour and see very few at all in many programmes, but as this is a time to look forward, I shall refrain.

Much of my work over the years has been on trying to improve thinking around diversity in the work place by looking at its benefits, possibilities and morality. It’s a tough job ultimately as many people want to be successful in their areas of work and there only so many opportunities. However, having a truly diverse workforce means creating an equality of opportunity for everyone and I believe that June is committed to doing just that.

June goes on to say, “The task is indeed daunting, however being awarded the opportunity to help level the playing field for the next generation of diverse talent, makes the obstacles and discrimination I have personally faced throughout my own career all the more worthwhile”.

June you rock, you totally have my backing and I wish you every success in your role!

Photo credit: Gavin Tefler of Plugged Designs

June Sarpong Interview

This blog forms part of the Throwback series of blogs. In 2018 my blog malfunctioned and many of my posts disappeared from the web. At the time I was still recovering from my breast cancer ordeal and just didn’t have the heart to repost them. Now, I am in a much better place, I have decided since I know these blogs are helping others, they must be reinstated. This was originally posted in March 2018.

Taking questions from the audience

So this night is best told in photographs. I cannot express to you how elated I feel after interviewing June Sarpong. She was so warm and accommodating. It truly felt like I was having a chat with a friend. Well done to Sandy Joseph and all the organisers for curating such a fun and important event. June I wish you every success with Diversify – it’s a book everyone serious about creating a diverse world, should read.

A full house, pregnant with questions
Many women spoke about how they could relate to issues brought up in the book
Performance poet Janette Barrett and saxophonist Millicent Stephenson kept the crowd ignited
My make up artist and friend Sabrina Gonzales captures a moment with June

Photo credit: Gavin Tefler of Plugged Designs

Videographers: Gillian Harvey and Leonie Smith

June Sarpong – no way!

June Sarpong's Diversify book launch with Rebbecca Hemmings
June Sarpong’s Diversify book launch with Rebbecca Hemmings

The Throwback Series

This blog forms part of the Throwback series of blogs. In 2018 my blog malfunctioned and many of my post disappeared from the web. At the time I was still recovering from my breast cancer ordeal and just didn’t have the heart to repost them. Now, I am in a much better place, I have decided since I know these blogs are helping others, they must be reinstated.

Yes way!

Tonight, I get to sit down with the amazing June Sarpong and interview about her new book: Diversify. Yes, it’s her Birmingham book launch which is taking place tonight at the Malmaison Hotel. Just in case you don’t know who June Sarpong is, she is the British TV presenter who became famous for her role on Channel 4’s T4 programme and MTV. She’s also been a Loose Women panellist, has interviewed Tony Blair, co-hosted Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations with Will Smith, yadda, yadda, yadda. She is amazeballs!

June is a massive role model for many, including me. She has managed to navigate through some seriously rough terrain to break through and become a success on British TV. Through reading her book I have gained new insights into Miss Sarpong, such as: her passion and dedication to put diversity heavily on the agenda. She doesn’t have to do this, she is already successful but she cares and this is evident in her actions – I love her for this!

Plus, I didn’t know about her debilitating car accident at the age of 15 that nearly left her paralysed for life. The resilience she gained from being hospitalised for a year, absolutely must have helped her push through other tough times in life.

Massive respect goes to her for advocating to make poverty history. It’s a gigantic problem in society and we need more people with power and influence to talk about it and act!

Also, I could totally relate to her imposter syndrome (when you feel like a fraud) whom she names Agyness. I was surprised to learn that this was something she feels at times, given all her success, but she admits that it can and does still rear its ugly head every now and again.

The biggest lesson I have learned about June is just how concerned she is about the ‘othering’ of key groups of society, of which I am three: black, a woman and working class. At times it was difficult read as the words in black and white force you to face up to the problems that we deal with daily. But equally it offers hope and encouragement for better times ahead. Plus, the very fact that June herself shares the same ‘others’ as me, yet has defied the odds and smashed it, is hugely motivating.

I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity, especially since I have not really been out and about in large crowds (where I know lots of people) since way before my cancer diagnosis in April 17. Tonight, I put on a brave face, my fancy shoes and take a massive leap back into society. What a way to do it!

Strange Things are Happening

 

Modelling earrings by Proud2bafricanwoman from Instagram

Something strange has happened over the last 6 weeks or so. Have you ever realised you’ve been functioning differently, but you only see it when you’re back to normal? I’ve been feeling and behaving very differently and not in a great way. I liken the encounter to driving a car and not being sure on where you are going. You drive aimlessly and it’s made worse by dense fog, therefore you have limited vision and a very disorientating journey. I’ve recently learned that although I didn’t have chemotherapy, it is possible because of my operation and having had cancer, that I’ve suffered from chemo-brain also known as cancer-related cognitive impairment.

Cancer Research UK describes chemo brain as “…changes in memory, concentration and the way a person is able to think.”

That is exactly what I have been enduring over the last two years or so. I’ve found it very difficult for instance to: read long reports for work, decide on little tasks like what to cook for dinner and sometimes I would even struggle to spell simple words. It wasn’t very nice as I began to feel that I just wasn’t as smart as I once was. I thought my brain function was in decline.

In the last few weeks, it’s as if that fog has been lifted. It’s almost as if I have been sleep walking all that time and now finally, I have awoken. I have clarity of mind, my thinking is sharper and I am beginning to get really pumped up about opportunities that are arising.

It’s wonderful!

Celebrating a friend’s birthday in Birmingham City Centre

This new awakening has caused me to really open my eyes. Now I’m seeing all sorts I’ve never seen and I am getting quite adventurous. For instance, I’ve never really been into fashion. However, after recently working with stylist Miss LMRX (from Instagram), I am open to a world of styling options. The other night, I went out in a leopard print dress! I’ve never worn animal print before!

Now I have this insatiable thirst for knowledge again; I can’t get enough! I was introduced to the book ‘The Birth Order Book’ by Dr Kevin Leman. Fantastic! I now understand why I operate the way I do, it’s because I have typical first-born traits. Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness is so refreshing. I’m learning that the state of the world is actually getting better (albeit not perfect) and not worse like the media would have us believe. It’s all backed up by robust data.

Fellow BBC New Voices auditionees Grace and Aurora.

Yesterday (Sunday morning), I woke up at silly o’clock to try out for BBC New Voices. The local BBC radio station Radio WM is looking for new presenters. I almost didn’t go as I’d had a tough week, but my inner No Excuses Coach kicked me out of bed and straight to Birmingham Mailbox at 8:15am for a 10 o’clock audition. I had a delightful time speaking with fellow auditionees in the queue. Then we were required to tell a story in 60 seconds. I told the one about when I met America’s Most Wanted Criminal (true story). I got four votes from the judges and I’m thrilled to say I am through to Round Two! I have no idea what it will entail. I will keep you all posted.

It feels like, for the first time since my early twenties (when I was carefree and before all the life dramas), I am permitting myself to truly indulge in what makes me happy. I’m not overthinking the outcomes but jumping in the middle of the experience and dancing wildly and freely because I can! The fog has cleared and there is a big wide road leading to wonderful, exciting new destinations. I have a tank full of petrol, a revved-up engine and I’m off!

Let me know your thoughts. Have you ever experienced something like this (it doesn’t have to be cancer-related)? What did you do as a result?

My Selfish Blog

Lately I have been posting quite a few ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos on my social media accounts. It’s not because I think I look more beautiful when slimmer (as some have alluded to). It is because I have totally ‘wowed’ myself as I honestly never believed I would be as fit and as healthy as I am today.

Recently, I found an old body analytics sheet from 2017 – the year of the diagnosis and  the year I stopped eating meat and dairy. My body fat percentage was 42%! Today it is 32%. This has shocked me to the core. I have lost 10% body fat in the last 2 years. The figure still isn’t as I’d like as apparently my ideal lies somewhere in the early 20s. Also, I now run regularly! I never used to be able to walk on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes!

Seeing my body fat loss, sparked off my search for more ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos.The ‘then’ photos are from my biggest days which lie somewhere between 2009 – 2013. All the ‘now’ photos have been taken within the last month.   So, this blog is a short one really and is definitely quite a selfish one because I plan to keep coming back to this page, to constantly remind myself, how far I have come.

 

Oh and if this inspires you too, fantastic! 🙂 No really, I hope that you too might be inspired to make healthier lifestyle choices. Our lives depend on it.