So it’s a couple of weeks into January and I wasn’t going to do a yearly round up because, well – there’s only so many peoples’ new year goals anyone wants to hear. But last night I finally took down my 2017 calender – the one that is hung up on my fridge; the one where I write every major thing in, in black marker pen. And so as I did a quick flick through, I realised what an amazing year its been and without documenting the highlights, I’d be kinda disrespecting the progress I’ve made. So here goes:
2017 started badly. Really badly. I was for the first time in my adult life, alone and single. At the time, it felt like the world had ended. But luckily I had previously bagged myself one of the best acting jobs I’ve ever done: a play called ‘HashtagLightie’. The sold out weeks run at The Arcola Theatre, and the following weeks tour, kicked off the year brilliantly - lifting my spirits and throwing me into the new year productively.
On the last day of the run I had auditioned for a guest part in BBC Doctors. I nailed it, got the part, and shot the emotionally challenging episode – of as an abused teenager, the next month. It was the highlight of my February.
The month of inspiration and theatre. As a new review writer for Stagey Lady, and a general theatre lover, I saw some great theatre back to back this month including; Diary of a Hounslow Girl - which had me in tears as I watched this British Asian girl navigate adolescence and cultural conflict in an early 2000s world I knew all too well. I also saw Kicked in the Shitter at the Hope Theatre - a moving piece on the impact of austerity on working class Britons; Grounded at The Gate - a one woman play about war and PST, and The Good Dog at The Albany Theatre - a one man play dealing with growing up and the pressures of masculinity on young black men.
In April I shot the short film ‘’Boys’, and it was a pleasure to be part of a ‘The Colour Network’ production - a platform for showcasing British, black talent. I also binge watched 2 seasons of Netflix’s The Get Down in a week and loved every second of it, but The Handmaids Tale remains my favourite series of not only that month, but of the whole of 2017.
Assata Taught Me was my May – and possibly my 2017 - theatre highlight . This Lynette Linton directed play, at The Gate, focused on Black Panther activist Assata Shakur (also Tupac’s Godmother), and the imagined tale of her being alive today, hiding out in Cuba, watching the US Police shootings and the ‘blacklivesmatter’ protests from a far, whilst fighting her own demons in exile.
May also saw ‘Sky above Sand Below’ released on the Brothers With No Game Youtube channel. This short film that I starred in (but filmed a year before) was about love, loss and the depression that comes with a relationship ending. Weirdly, watching it a year on, post real break up, it suddenly felt like an incredibly real and important piece of work.
But the overall highlight of the month was the airing of my BBC Doctors episode, which I was super nervous to see – but turned out to be a brilliant, moving piece of television that I am uber proud of!
June was the election madness. I had put all my energy and support into trying to get a man in number 10 who could offer the UK real change and care about the ordinary, working person. As the campaign gained momentum, the rallys generated a real buzz amongst young people in London that I have never seen before or since. I was of course disappointed with the outcome but soooo inspired by the way Corbyn brought the people together; showed the media who he really was; and most importantly, forced Theresa May to reconsider some of her aggressive austerity cuts.
June also saw my first published article in Gal-Dem magazine! A fantastic magazine for woman of colour dealing with the issues we face, unapologetically - what a pleasure to be part of it.
But with highs come lows – and June was also the month of the passing of a good friend of mine. Not a highlight in any way, but remembering that Davina was a part of my life for 31 years – and the hilarious moments she brought in that time – means her memory will always shine bright to me, and June will always remind me of her.
I kicked off the month with another BBC appearance. I featured alongside my bestie and BAFTA nominated TV presenter, Mehreen Baig - on her BBC Sunday Morning Live segment, talking about the problem of mobile phone and social media addiction. We had soo much fun filming, I hope we get to work to gather on something again soon!
August started with my being a guest speaker at Catalyst Connects Networking event in Birmingham. I had a great time talking about my journey so far and inspiring others about to start that rocky road into the creative industries. I then finally got to have a break and took my first holiday of the year. Where better to chill out and relax than…. Ibiza? I know, but I’m such a sucker for a rave. Ibiza offered this, a beach, a pool and some good Tapas. I then headed to Cape Verde for a more appropriate place to relax. That said, me and my sister did manage to find the only night-club on the entire island of Sal and ‘Bikini Beach’ became our regular night time go to spot.
After landing back in chilly London, by early September I took to the skies again, and headed out to LA. I did some touristy things (Runyon Canyon hike is NO joke!), found amazing vegan food, took an acting class, and most importantly bagged myself some meetings in preparation for a return visit later in the year. All in all, the trip was sick. I officially love LA.
Later in the month I premiered my first ever radio show on online station Crackers Radio. A 90s hip-hop and rnb show, at night on a Wednesday, where I got to play the music that I loved, weekly!
In October my radio journey went further - I featured in documentary ‘Too Dark to Mention’, which was aired on BBCiplayer and 1Xtra, discussing colourism and light skinned privilege in the media today.
October is also my Birthday month, so there’s always that annoying pressure to do something that inevitably goes wrong – but this year was great; I attended an old school UK Garage rave with about 10 of my closest girls. Deep in nostalgia, we stayed out dancing until 6am and I felt like I was 16 again.
Ooh and this month I also found out I was nominated for Best Actress at the UK Entertainment Awards!
November was back to the theatre - ‘Hashtag Lightie’ play rehearsals began again, ready for our three week run! It was even better this time; the feedback was phenomenal and we were nominated for 2 Off West End awards!
I also debuted on BBC 1Xtra, on the Reece Parkinson show, discussing shadeism, the term ‘Lighty’ and why light-skinned fetishisation is offensive. A couple of days later I was interviewed on Channel 4 News talking about Meghan Markle, the royal wedding and the symbolic impact on British Culture of a mixed race woman entering the Establishment.
The play ended and I said goodbye to a cast who had become like family. But soon began the run up to Christmas. Funnily enough, I’ve not liked Christmas for years – loss, break ups and death seem to happen around that time and so it tends to make me feel sad and reflective - but this year, was different. I embraced the festive period. I had had one hell of a year and a felt positive about what the future would bring.
And here we are in another dark, chilly January and I’m a cliche as I end this post to head off to gym, to work on my new healthy, fit ‘me’. But if we don’t try, if we don’t go for it, we’ll never know what lessons and gifts the future has in store. We’ll never know who we can be. I’m not even close to where I want to be. But I’m closer than I was yesterday. And a hell of a lot closer than a year ago.
Happy New Year xx.