The film produced by Austrian film makers MADMAN are being featured at the Tri – Beca 2021 Film Festival – chronicling the story of the Zimbabwean Sommeliers competing for The wine industries’ biggest and most coveted prize.



Hello Good people, allow me to intoduce myself, My name is Eugene Shirto, The short guy in the photo, yes that’s me with the shades on. My 1st post on here was deleted in error. So sorry if i dint get to respond to alot of your questions. My grammar may be a little rough & off a little here. I was born at Richard Morris in 26th August 1977, Baptized aged 6 by Father Rowland at St Andrews Roman Catholic Church, just off the airport road. I grew up on Fortris juice, Cashew nuts, Casino Chocolates golden Morn, ProNutro & alot of Sugar cane. We danced at Christmas parties for smarties or 50cents to Boney M” & Grease, Don Williams & John Denver are deeply engrained into my DNA.

Went to primary school, Hugh beadle Grade 1- 2, then onto Newmansford grade 3 – 7.
Completed my secondary education at Northlea High, we forged lifelong friendships thats what molded us into who we are today.

In this Pic below mid 1990s from your left to Derick Shelton , myself,to my right, The late Jerome Titley behind me with the peace sign✌🏽, Beven Payne & Lawrence Rajah Northlea boys! till this day we are sort of all connected and alive thanks to social media.

Wasnt a big fan of school, went to school more to socialise, and was a bit of a problem with the ladies, hence i failed dismally haha man what a ride!! .. , I messed up big time with school, we even joked about getting a “U” stood for “Unbelievable! in our final O’level results🤪. Once all the chynnahs from, Northend, Sauerstown, then the charasmatic, mischievous lot from Queens park west & East Boys all left Northlea High, we all separated & went our own ways through life , alot travelled to SA, the America’s & Europe, others passed away from Natural ailments, murdered, Stabbings and car accidents.
These special close friends i have named some taken suddenly whilst in our 20s. Gone too soon and not to be forgotten

RIP Eugene Brandt
RIP Jerome Titley
RIP Frank Lees
RIP Samantha Fisher
RIP Anthony Bennet
RIP Felix Vickery
RIP Eddy (Mhlanga) Reid Jnr
RIP Oswin Chinyoka(sp)

To only name a few these are the only ones I am able to remember. They are sadly missed
Growing up in Queens Park was a bizarre mystical, haphazard & strange experience , from watching bare knuckle Fights under the queens park west bustop besides a streetlight , to the Big Roundabout bike races, with Fix or Peri bicycles many injuries ” we were Gladiators! .to getting sozzled on DonJuan or Chibuxx & sometimes alot of Ouzo or Montello, The bulk of the local shops Were owned or run by a Greek guy called Costa. Hence i think the shop was called Costas🙄 Then later MSA Superette. Run by Manuel & his Wife Maria. There used to be massive big green rugged ole tool box under a acacia tree on the path heading towards Frere road. It was always locked.so we used it as a gathering spot and sat ontop of it. At the back of the shops was a park, with swings and a slide.
On leaving School, i worked briefly with Nathan Greenland and Fazil Greenland, lathe machining metal products n stuff, they had a converted extension attached to their house for a workshop.just over the railway line After Ainsley Road.
Buckley Rd, Conway Rd, Dane Rd, Elsley, Frere (my road) , Greedon Harrow & so on

Moved On to work for Mr Bazil J. Katz at Marvo Printers situated in Thorngrove, Waverley Rd as a 2D artist in the art studio for about 4 yrs , worked alongside Larry Muller, he got me that job , Bonang Mlilo & Jeremy Mckop, between that of turning 21 yrs old, working & been big headed, my then Girlfriend & i set off, eloped to Vic Falls, got Married & by the 11th month had the marriage annulled through the courts fell out of love… Not long got a job in Harare, moved there worked with Maxwell Kay Chabika for Mr Ken Spencer, Xpert Printers as a plate maker in the darkroom. Graniteside on Seke road early 2000

Left for London 2001, stayed in Addiscombe,, moved South London, West Croydon, then moved to Stratford Eastlondon. Worked as a labourer in Construction taught all the tricks of the trade by at the time he was 70yrs old, British Royal Air Force( RAF) Engineer named Mr John Peters, Married to Eileen. Worked from Brixton to knightsbridge and Chelsea all the way up to Poplar & Whitechapel, to Lewisham, site banksman at Canary Wharf, then a traffic wiring techy at the Barbican and Farringdon. Then worked for London Underground as a labourer , got a job part time Bellboy at The MaryGreen Manor In Brentwood, Essex. Then got permanently Employed at Marks&Spencer (Romford) with Joe Styrka for 8yrs, 17 years later returned Back to settle in Queens Park West, Bulawayo.

I am a self taught mixed media artist /Carpenter , well ive always thought of myself an artist, ive exhibited t a few small gallery’s & festivals across Central to West London to Vauxhall, Elephant & Castle, just that now I now make a living soley from selling my art woodwork, i drive a light Blue 1974 Corolla Named Agnes, I am happier now in Bulawayo, i figured its not where you are that matters its about what you doing with where you are that counts. Bulawayo isnt just a city its Alive!! and has hidden gems like Northlea High if you care to look close enough youl find me too haha. I am the only person i know that can proudly say I’ve eaten fire roasted Cane rats (mbebah) at Renkini (Byo) near The Blue Lagoon (Thorngrove) to dining at the Ritz eating one of Londons finest prepared cuisines, To sitting on the 1230 over head rail service from Kingscross to Birmingham to sitting in a tshova heading home after a long day of looking for car parts at Barons, these experiences happend in a space of 44 yrs of my existence. Thanks for reading.

I create art by using dried up palm tree casks to make Elephant heads. Which i have now turned into Wall art and a few are now Lampshades. Some are squank and so Picasso like & fun to look at 😁😁 , yet still resemble an Elephants head🐘. So Next time you are out and about in Nature or your garden, look closely at any old pieces of wood, pine cones, dried out pods, seeds etc..their not fire wood, pick it up! Clean it up,work on it a little. Its Therapeutic and self rewarding.

If you like seeing my artwork please Share kindly so others can maybe see my work , as it may encourage or inspire whoever reads this to go and get a little crafty outdoors🐘🐘

recycledart #StopBurningStuff #artwork #Bulawayo #palmtreeart #selftherapy #savetheplanet #savetheelephants #sculptureartist #gardenart




I laughed the other day when a lady told me she was going to get ‘barbed.’ I didn’t get it till she explained she was going to the barber…! Uhh..!?? BARBED.? I see now it’s an actual thing, especially by West Africans. I suppose before we laugh, we should find out if it’s not actual ‘proper English’ – though I’d hazard a guess – NOT!

It reminded me – waiting on bank cards to be delivered in Dubai once, I told off the guy who eventually delivered, a day after being promised – I’d wasted a day waiting for him. ‘No, it wasn’t me,’ he said, ‘that other one.’ (Initial delivery dude) had had an accident and ‘he is expired!’
‘Uhhh (again) – turns out,…yahhh…shame, but imagine my confusion as I was waiting on replacement cards for ones that had expired.
I suppose there was a time and era for that kind of ‘proper English,’ and I guess if you hung with old school peeps, that’d be a thing. I’m just not sold on being ‘barbed.’ It just simply doesn’t sound right. If she hadn’t explained, I’d have thought she’d sustained some injury from a ‘barbed wire fence.’

I miss Dubai and the expressions and mannerisms of the people, especially with the taxi drivers. A spot wasn’t behind a place; it was ‘backside’ Passengers irate because they be ‘fingering,’ and no one is coming (pressing/ringing the call bell for attention). ‘Scotch on the rocks, no ice’ kind of requests. Walking Johnnie (no prizes). Bring me the mother of this one (egg) – it took a while – an omelette wasn’t doing it for him, and he apparently wanted the adult in question – and who I ask, is that…? Oh yes, life was another level of laughs.!



As a former flight attendant – I don’t think one ever hangs up their wings, it’s just one of those things, but I digress… 

Now commonly known as cabin crew – the majority, if not all airlines, train their crew in the ART of restraint. It comes with teamwork, crew effort, and a lot of reliance on the element of shock. I can assure you it doesn’t always work, but done correctly can have the desired effect. Once a chick solely restrained a problematic passenger – handcuffed, etc.,  

What do I mean restrain – if you misbehave and are not compliant with crew instructions and pose a threat to aircraft, self and fellow passengers.! It’s a last resort type scenario, but believe it or not, but the crew has such powers that many passengers underestimate. In these days of terrorism being a huge problem, good luck with misbehaving on planes – it’s a lose situation – eat humble pie. 

My point… 

Every year we would renew our licenses, which involved many physical and written exams demonstrating our knowledge, and one of these was the restraint technique. Ask any crew, current and former, and it was possibly the worst part of our training – unless, of course, you were a fitness junkie cum-martial arts expert. The training involved throwing one to the floor, padded floors, and not ‘throwing’ as such, but you get the point of ‘throwing’ in a real-life situation. Restraining thrown individual involved having your knee on their back, and it was simply colleague to colleague playing make-believe. The discomfort was awful. We were enacting scenarios but had to remind each other not to go too hard because we were face-down and breathing was proving difficult, this was all done laughingly, but we were serious when warning each other. 

I personally always lasted all of 30 seconds before I had to get up and escape from my enforcer because not only could I not breathe, but it hurt terribly. Well, guess what, it wasn’t long before the governing body had to revise these policies as somebody did die (on another airline) based on actual re-enactments restraining a passenger. If someone claims they cannot breathe, you must believe them.! 

Going by what I considered the discomfort in that make-believe scenario, I’d hazard a guess that poor George Floyd was dead in less than 5 minutes. 

Was justice served – let us see what the sentence brings.



‘It’s thanks to you that she’s here’ – grateful mum thanks behind-the-scenes NHS staff for saving her baby

by Claire Still

Pictured l-r is Anne Minogue, interim lead transfusion practitioner, Angela, and Colleen.
Collen Sanderson and Colleagues

First-time mum Angela Burgess (pictured above, centre), 38, had an emotional meeting with Colleen Sanderson (pictured above, right), a senior biomedical scientist at our Trust, to thank her for the role she played in saving baby Grace’s life. (Also pictured above with Angela and Colleen is Anne Minogue, interim lead transfusion practitioner.)

Angela came to Queen’s Hospital on Wednesday 14 April, two weeks ahead of her due date to have a cervical stitch removed. It was when Colleen was looking at her routine blood sample in our Pathology lab that she realised something wasn’t right. On closer examination with her manager Xiaohui Tang, they found it was due to a large foetal bleed.

Baby Grace is pictured in our NICU

Quick-thinking Colleen contacted our ante-natal ward, from where Angela was about to be sent home, so an emergency c-section could be arranged. Baby Grace (pictured above) was delivered safely that same day, with Angela’s husband Christian rushing to our hospital to be by her side.

Angela, of Brentwood, said: “Colleen and the Transfusion team are the unsung heroes of the NHS. I see my doctors and nurses so I can thank them, I never realised there was a Transfusion team behind the scene that did this.

“No words can thank them for everything they’ve done and I will make sure one day Grace knows the story of how she got here and the people who saved her life. It’s thanks to them that she’s here. It was only when it was fully explained to me that I realised how serious it could have been. I am so grateful that Colleen was there that day, and picked this up.”

Colleen, who in the same week had become an acting senior biomedical scientist, said any of her colleagues would have done the same; however, she was delighted to meet Angela face-to-face.

She said: “As we are a behind-the-scenes service we don’t get to meet our patients, they are names on a tube, so it was lovely to see Angela’s face and hear that baby Grace is doing well.

“It feels really good to have played my part in this, it’s a humbling experience. I’m really proud to have an opportunity to show what goes on that patients don’t see, this is what we do every day and I don’t know how many lives the team has saved.”

Grace, a much-longed for IVF baby, has remained on our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to ensure she is feeding well before being allowed home.

Angela added: “It’s been quite a journey to have her. I’m so grateful my doctor explained to me what happened as I was worried I did something wrong.

“Colleen is so humble and I don’t think even she realises just what she’s done for my family.”




Global development

‘We forget our troubles’: crystal meth use rises during lockdown in Zimbabwe……

This should shock and frighten every Zimbabwean of every religion, race and rank in life. Everyone knows someone in Zimbabwe who has a loved one, friend or neighbour with problems of addiction. While the drug dealers boast about good business, a whole generation is at risk. This does not only affect them, it affects families and communities. It increases crime and suicides, not to mention eventual death. Nothing good comes from this. Hope is lost, love for oneself is lost, recovery is practically non existent. This is NOT one families problem, it’s an entire countries problem. There should be no such thing as silence, shame or fear to speak up about it. Dealers should be dealt with accordingly. So heartbreaking.

(Name and address supplied)

Harare’s drug dealers say business is booming as more young people, some at school, use mutoriro

A dirt road in a shanty town outside Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Years of high youth unemployment has seen more young people turn to drugs such as crystal meth.
A dirt road in a shanty town outside Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Years of high youth unemployment has seen more young people turn to drugs such as crystal meth. Photograph: Cynthia Matonhodze/Guardian

Global development is supported by

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

About this contentNyasha Chingono

 in HarareTue 16 Mar 2021 09.00 GMT

Inside a tiny room in Kuwadzana, a township in Harare, Solomon Sigauke* and his friends talk animatedly about football and listen to loud music. The misty vapour from the crystal meth fills the room as they take turns on a fluorescent pipe.

Sigauke, 25, has no cigarette lighter so he is improvises, holding a burning candle while his friend Kudzo puffs the smoke from the burning substance, known locally as mutoriro. .

It is 7pm in Kuwadzana, about nine miles from Harare’s central business district, where many youths have ventured into illicit and dangerous drugs such as mutoriro, with the numbers rising as the lockdown cut them off from jobs and their usual social lives. 

Known scientifically as methamphetamine, crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant used for its powerful euphoric effects.

Sigauke demonstrates the process of decrystallising the white chemical into a brown smoking smear. The curved pipe is made from fluorescent tubesfrom disused energy-saver lightbulbs that are cleaned and sold to drug users for $1.

As he exhales a cloud of the toxic smoke, his friends burst out laughing at Sigauke’s drooling face. “You should be careful not to ingest the smoke because it causes stomach-ache,” Sigauke explains.

We live in a world of our own

‘Solomon Sigauke’

Although the drug has been used in Zimbabwefor some years, its use has grown in the townships as the economic crisis grips the country, leaving few job prospects for its young people. Zimbabwe has nearly 90% unemployment, with young people worst affected.https://9d94ebe99fa165c44d12c3a076e32a92.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“This drug will just make you get into another zone altogether; we can spend the whole night talking and enjoying ourselves. We live in a world of our own and can even forget about our daily troubles,” Sigauke says.

He adds that as schools have closed because of the Covid pandemic, teenagers are now joining their ranks.

“These days you find little girls taking the substance. Most of them are coming here to smoke this thing. At 1am, you will find most kids flooding the streets smoking meth – it’s like you are watching a movie. These children have become wild,” Sigauke says.

A gram of crystal meth costs $12 – a steep cost for most users in the townships and equivalent to a week’s rent on a room in a township. The drug-pushers have taken advantage of the use of foreign currency as legal tender in the country to milk the drug-thirsty market. One supplier explains that crystal meth is smuggled into the country through Zimbabwe’s porous borders with South Africa.

A child scavenges for plastic waste and cardboard for resale in the Harare township of Warren Park. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis means there is no treatment for most drug addicts.
A child scavenges for plastic waste and cardboard for resale in the Harare township of Warren Park. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis means there is no treatment for most drug addicts. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

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“If I had money, I would buy it every day,” Sigauke says.

Mbare, the oldest and one of the most populous suburbs in Harare, is notorious for drug abuse. “Blah” Bullet sells crystal meth there. He says the market is growing fast, explaining that before it had only been youths in the affluent suburbs who could afford it, but now young people are turning to the drug in townships, where there is little else on offer.

Bullet makes $200 a day from his sales, which have grown since the start of the lockdown in Zimbabwe last March, and has a network of drug spots around the city where he also sells other drugs such as cannabis, as well as prescription drugs that commonly misused such as codeine, the cough syrup Broncleer, which contains codeine, and pills that are usually prescribed to combat mental illness.

Despite the prohibitive costs, many addicts find a way to fund their insatiable appetite by selling their possessions, while others are driven to steal.

Sigauke was thrown out of his parents’ home last year after selling their electrical appliances. His addiction has led to frosty relations with his father, his friend Marlon Muchaka, 24, says.

“His father does not want to see him. He almost reported Solo to the police because of his behaviour,” Muchaka says .

“There are people who say this drug is dangerous, but people continue to use it because it is not that deadly. I left other drugs because they do not give me the satisfaction I need,” Sigauke says.

“Sometimes I find myself getting agitated and angry – I do not like the way I feel but it is the drug. I find myself saying things I regret. I am just a free-spirited person when I am intoxicated,” he says.

I can work all night without even dozing … But I don’t advise the young ones to get this drug

‘Donald Mabhuku’

“My sleeping patterns have been disturbed by this drug. Last year, due to excessive use, I failed to sleep for a week and by the time I finally slept, it took me two days to wake up. My landlord thought I had died inside my room. That is when I was advised to take it slow,” Sigauke says.

Donald Mabhuku*, 29, is a security guard living in the Harare township of Highfield. He says the drug helps him stay awake during his night shifts.

“I like this stuff, it just does it for me. I can do my work all night without even dozing. It is good if you want to do something productive with your time. But I do not advise young ones to get this drug,” he says.Advertisement

An emaciated Mabhuku has experienced extreme weight loss since he started using the drug two years ago. “I lost a lot of weight due to excessive use of meth; it was bad but now that I am getting used to it, I am regaining my weight. But eating is still a problem. Most people lose weight because of lack of sleep,” he says.

A street in Kuwadzana. Crystal meth used to be only found in more affluent suburbs but has spread to the townships.
A street in Kuwadzana. Crystal meth used to be only found in more affluent suburbs but has spread to the townships. Photograph: Cynthia Matonhodze/Guardian

Smoking crystal meth comes with its own culture and has its own slang, and is often associated with Zimdancehall music.

“We have our own language here. Our language is like reverse words, so that no one else understands what we are talking about,” Mabhuku says.

Natasha Chipendo* is also addicted to crystal meth and has ran away from home. The 22-year-old has tried to quit in the past. “I just find myself going back to it,” she says.

With many young people battling drug addiction, the health system has been found wanting. Zimbabwe’s hospitals cannot treat addicts and the few rehabilitation centres are expensive. Peace Maramba, an expert in mental health, says the lack of public rehabilitation centres has worsened drug-induced mental health issues in the country.

“In Zimbabwe we do not have rehabilitation centres in government institutions. It is unfortunate that mental health has been neglected for long but I am glad that through funds from the World Health Organization there is hope that we can help more people,” Maramba says.

He says accessing any mental health services is prohibitively expensive for young people from the townships, and blamed the use of illicit substances on peer pressure and Zimbabwe’s unrelenting economic problems. 

While rehabilitation is achievable for drug addicts, Maramba says most drug users often relapse when they have nowhere to go but back to the shanty towns where the peer pressure they faced before remains along with the same daily problems.

* Names have been changed. 



“It is important to preserve ocean life and birds so they don’t become extinct. Only we can look after them and we need oxygen from trees to live. It is important for children to get involved with conservation to learn how to look after nature for our future.” Romario Moodley


Romario Moodley is in the history books as the youngest Ocean Sole ambassador, He brought awareness to the damage caused to ocean life through the way we pollute our waters. He is a established fundraiser , having exceeded expectations in his quest to raise money for a local bird sanctuary. He is also a talented Artist!

He’s has featured on 50/50, has been in National Geographic, and several others .

And now this young eco warrior is being featured in a book by British-Australian author, Leisa Stewart-Sharpe’s book “What a Wonderful World” as a young environmentalist, earth shaker. It will be released on 19th August 2021.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/what-a-wonderful-world/leisa-stewart-sharpe/lydia-hill/9781787418776

She is also the author of Blue Planet II, foreword by Sir David Attenborough.

What an incredible honour for Romario to be included at his tender age to be included amongst other eco warriors !



For years, hair and makeup products tended to exclude women of colour. Here, beauty columnist Funmi Fetto reveals how she faced up to racism in an industry that is finally undergoing its own makeover

by Funmi Fetto

If you had told my teen self, I would be a beauty journalist and that I would write a book on beauty, particularly one geared towards women of colour, I would have called you a false prophet. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is a hackneyed phrase, but in my case rang true. I loved magazines, but I always skipped the beauty pages. The voices behind them did not speak to me. The faces on the pages did not look like me. The products were not geared towards me. I had no place there. Growing up, I had always heard my Nigerian parents and their friends say: “This is not our country.” And so, despite being British, I parked any expectation to be included in the beauty industry. It never occurred to me that I could be a part of this world, let alone driving change from within.

When I started writing about beauty, almost 15 years ago, it was nothing to do with race. My reasons were pragmatic. I was a freelance fashion writer, work had dried up, so I turned my hand to writing everything and anything because at that time, in the timeless words of Gwen Guthrie, Ain’t Nothing Going on But the Rent. And I was irked by the way beauty was written – fluffy and asinine, as if for one-dimensional airheads. I made a conscious decision to go against that. Unconsciously, however, my foray into the beauty world was driven by my blackness and the industry’s rejection of it. My route to realising that was surprising, even to me.

‘Watching this British-born black woman navigate a very white world blows my mind’: Pat McGrath, the world’s most influential makeup artist.

 Photograph: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage

In February 2017, to coincide with Black History Month in the US, CNN launched a project inspired by WEB DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folks, a literary classic that talks about race and ethnicity in America. Du Bois wrote about the first time his skin colour made him realise he was different. CNN chronicled several high-profilepeople of colour revealing their own personal “moment”. It was called “The First Time I Realised I Was Black.” I pondered this, wondering what my answer would be.

I was born in St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and grew up by the Albert Embankment. We were not posh. We lived in a council house that happened to be in Zone 1. In the early 80s, when I was five, we moved to Lagos, Nigeria. I do not recall a single conversation there where anyone discussed being black. There were conversations about politics, which we studied in school. There were conversations about class, a residue of colonialism. And there were conversations about skin tone. (Centuries of being brainwashed to believe the fairer-skinned are superior and should, therefore, be more favoured – particularly if their facial features mimic Eurocentric ideals of beauty – has had a rippling effect. Ever wondered why the bestselling black female artists are Rhianna and Beyoncé?) But this was the closest we came to discussing “blackness”. Which was why, when I returned to London five years later, I still did not consider myself “black”. But goodness, I soon found out just how “other” I was.

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At school, a mixed comprehensive, I was the “African”. Children spat out the word in repulsion. Teachers would speak to me slowly as if English was not my first language. Someone once called me “Black Attack” because of my dark skin. I had short hair (I needed a hairstyle with minimal upkeep because I had attended a boarding school in Nigeria.) My TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) became a taking point. I remember someone sniggering that I looked like Kunta Kinte, the central character in Alex Haley’s Roots, viciously taken from his African village and sold into slavery. At swimming classes, I was the girl who “didn’t need arm bands because her rubber lips would help her float”. I am strangely sadder about those words now than I was then. I now see the depth and layers of hate from which this ignorance stems. As a young girl, I could not articulate my feelings beyond thinking: “This white boy is really horrible to me and thinks he is really funny.” Even so, these experiences made me feel “different”, but they were not signifiers of my blackness. I discovered that in something much more pedestrian: a trip to the chemist.

Cultural icons, speaking for change and representation in the industry: Edward Enninful, Rihanna, and Naomi Campbell at the 2014 British Fashion Awards. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

When I hit adolescence, I begun to get interested in beauty, not as a potential vocation, but to attract boys and to tackle my confidence-crippling acne. I would surreptitiously take from my mother’s stash of lipsticks – coloured bullets she would pick up from random stalls and stores in Brixton. The quality stretched from OK to diabolical. But I did not care. I would swipe it across my lips and head into school convinced I epitomised sophistication.

One day, I walked into the local pharmacy with my Caucasian friends to scope the beauty offering. While my friends giggled excitedly about their finds, everything I tried either left an ashy finish or just did not show up – the pigments were not strong enough. Still, I persevered, because at that age, aren’t we all desperate to be part of the collective? I moved towards the foundations and chose the darkest shade. It was called “Biscuit”. I looked like I had white chalk on my skin. I laughed to hide my embarrassment but, at that moment, everything changed. Suddenly colour mattered, in more ways than one. This is when I realised, I was black. It was like I had turned up to a party to which I was not invited. I felt irrelevant, excluded, and ashamed. The message from the beauty industry was loud and clear: I was not valuable enough to be part of the conversation.

In the years that followed, there were a few lights in the tunnel. I remember the first time I saw Naomi Campbell in Vogue. I was mesmerised. She looked like me – as far as skin colour went at least. In truth, she fitted into what the industry sees as the acceptable face of black. But she was black and that was enough for me. It gave me hope.

There were other key moments. After years of accepting and wearing foundations that were not made for my skin, I discovered MAC in the 90s. Their Studio Fix Foundation was a game changer. This mainstream brand was arguably the first to create foundations covering a wide spectrum of hues. I would go as far as saying it changed the lives of beauty-loving black women. It was the first foundation I wore that made me feel beautiful.

The rise of Pat McGrath, the world’s most influential makeup artist, also had an impact on how I viewed beauty. Even now, watching this British-born black woman navigate a very white space and reach the top of the game blows my mind. Still, the culture of silence around the lack of products available to darker skin types remained.

There are those who may think: “It’s just beauty, what’s the big deal?” Makeup and skincare are powerful tools that have helped me cope with difficult moments in my life. In my youth, acne plagued my skin and carried on long after I grew out of my teens. It killed my confidence. The discovery of a decent facial. 

Years later, when my premature son was seriously ill in intensive care, my daily hint of blush, slick of lip colour and touch of mascara provided a sense of normality when everything around me felt scarily precarious. So, no, it is not just beauty. It holds a power that is not always tangible but trust me, it is there.

Fast forward. It is 2019. There are moments when I sense an exciting shift taking place in the beauty industry. Along with sustainability, diversity and inclusivity seem to be at the top of every agenda. Whether this will extend beyond a trend or box-ticking exercise remains to be seen, but for now it is welcome. Foundation ranges suitable for all shades are omnipresent. In fact, thanks to the incredibly successful product launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which addressed the whitewashing of the beauty industry, any brands now launching with fewer than 40 shades of foundation are seen to be slacking.

I believe the boldness in calling out a lack of inclusivity stems from cultural icons in powerful positions speaking out. From Naomi Campbell to Beyoncé to Oprah Winfrey to Rihanna to Edward Enninful… Hearing them addressing issues of race has given so many people a voice. There still exists, of course, the tone-deaf brands that do not believe darker-skinned women are their “audience” and have purposely limited their foundation colours. Thankfully, there are other foundations to cater for everyone. Preferences may vary based on texture, finish, and skincare benefits, but the market is now so vast, “the one” is lurking out there somewhere.

The issue is not really about foundations. It is about representation and equality

That said, the issue is not really about foundations. It is about representation and equality. I have had countless women of colour approach me via social media, at dinner parties, on the streets, to ask me for product recommendations. Their ages span from 16 to 80. They cover the spectrum of class. They come from all walks of life – school-gate mothers, students, high-flying executives, fashion stylists. If all these women are struggling to find products and beauty “professionals” still do not know what to do with darker skin and Afro hair, then the beauty industry, retailers, brands, marketers and, yes, even editors, are failing them. When I told a friend that I planned to write a book on widely available and easily accessible products and brands women of colour should have on their radar, she was flummoxed: “How are you going to fill that book? There’s nothing out there.” Ah, but there is. It is not perfect, but a mind shift in marketing and media could make a significant difference.

Most beauty journalism still assumes readers are white. Cosmetic brands are trying in their marketing, but most skincare brands are not – by only featuring white women in their campaigns, they also assume their audience and consumer is white. At most of the the big beauty companies, all the key decision-makers are white, which invariably informs what ends up on advertising material. I must ignore that homogeneity to discover gems. Black women not in my position do not have that advantage and assume “it’s not for us”.

This seems like a commercial misstep. A few years ago, a Nielsen report in the US found that black women spend nearly nine times more than their Caucasian counterparts on hair and beauty – mainly on niche brands targeting this demographic; brands that are generally sold in beauty supply stores in “ethnic” areas. If this survey were conducted on this side of the Atlantic, I am convinced the results would be no different. A significant amount of this spend goes on black-hair products, yet the mainstream hair industry remains the least inclusive part of the beauty industry.

The mainstream hair industry remains the least inclusive part of the beauty industry.

At a recent beauty industry dinner, I complimented a fellow editor on her hair. She told me she had just had it done at a high-profilesalon loved, lauded, and frequented by every beauty editor I know. I had never been, I admitted. Another editor overheard and was aghast. “What! You’ve never been?” she said. In my head, I responded: “I can barely find suitable hair products from mainstream hair brands, let alone finding ‘white’ salons or stylists to cater for my hair. Most approach my coily texture with trepidation, as if a pet alien has just sprouted from my scalp. Or they view it as an unruly beast that requires bashing into submission. Or I am simply turned away. And so, for the sake of my self and hair preservation, I now stick to black-hair stylists, or those situated in so-called ethnic areas, who don’t find my hair such a terrifying aberration.”

But I did not say that, because I did not have the energy. I have had these conversations many times before. They are exhausting. So instead, I simply shrugged and said: “I don’t go because they don’t do Afro hair.” “Oh,” she mused, “I never thought about that.” Of course, she had not. This is an advantage afforded by white privilege. It is a small privilege, but a privilege, nonetheless. It is a privilege I do not have. So, despite the current talk of diversity and inclusivity, I am constantly reminded we are not there yet. While it is wonderful that I can now find a base that will not turn me deathly grey or cantaloupe orange, in order to really move forward, the beauty industry needs to start having conversations that go deeper than the shades of foundation.



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