Film Review: Beauty Is…

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 20.07.24

Beauty Is… is a new documentary from social activist and filmmaker Toyin Agbetu that thoroughly explores the topic of beauty from a pan African perspective. Featuring a number of interviews with a wide range of people including British rapper/poet Akala and British actress Judith Jacob, the film looks at how we ourselves define beauty and how black beauty is viewed by society.

The film begins with a screenshot of the word ‘beauty’ being Googled and the search results are overwhelmingly dominated with images of Caucasian women; no brown-skinned women are visible.

The risks of skin bleaching and chemical hair straightening are examined well in the film. Several informative insights are shared on these serious issues including those from professionals such as pharmacists and dermatologists.

As expected, hair is a major theme in the film, which delves into the natural/unnatural debate and ideas surrounding good and bad hair. We also hear from a woman living with Alopecia and her views on beauty.
I liked that there were a range of experiences and opinions shared by women and men while remaining balanced. It didn’t feel like the film was saying one was better than the other or more beautiful when it comes to natural or unnatural hairstyles, but more about confidence. Most of the men interviewed insisted they preferred natural-haired women to women who wear weaves or have relaxed hair.

The controversial issue of colourism is also tackled in the film, which doesn’t hold back on the light skin-dark skin debate. A woman with Vitiligo recounts a time she was asked by another woman what bleaching cream she used to get that light shade. Such an instance shows the contrast between a woman who is eager to get rid of her dark skin and a woman who is deeply upset about losing hers. We also hear from a woman who previously used skin-bleaching products who said she received more male attention when her skin was lighter.

The effect of the media, how it portrays beauty and affects our self-image, is discussed in-depth in the film, while other factors such as education, religion and relationships are also addressed.

I can’t recommend Beauty Is… enough. It’s a deeply thought-provoking, emotional and brilliantly executed documentary that will make you question and rethink your ideas about beauty. I think the opening shot with the Google search demonstrates why this is such an important film. Regardless of your race, culture or gender, it encourages you to think about more globally about beauty, which is a wonderful thing.

Visit the Beauty Is… website to find out more about the global campaign behind the film and details about upcoming screenings.

Note: I won tickets to a Beauty Is… screening and debate at SOAS University courtesy of Brown Beauty Talk, a fab beauty website aimed at Women of Colour. Make sure you check it out!

The Vogue Festival 2014

 

Entrance to the festival

Entrance to the festival

Franca Sozanni, Naomi Campbell and Alexandra Shulman during the Fashion Legends talk

Franca Sozanni, Naomi Campbell and Alexandra Shulman during the Fashion Legends talk

The Vogue cover wall

The Vogue cover wall

image

I visited the Vogue Festival for the first time on Sunday. I’m not really a Vogue reader but when I found out that Naomi Campbell was one of the speakers this year I knew I had to get tickets. I have to say the entire programme looked very impressive (plus all the extra activities they had going on too) and I might consider going again next year. The final talk of the festival (the best was saved for last!) featured supermodel Naomi Campbell and Editor-in-Chief of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani who were interviewed by the editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman. It was fittingly called ‘Fashion Legends’. The two discussed how they built their careers, the issue of diversity in fashion and why Africa could be the future of luxury.

It was magical when Naomi stepped onto the stage. I tingled with excitement and lost concentration for two minutes or so as I was so busy staring in awe at her perfect endless legs and flawless weave.

Franca and Naomi are both funny, passionate and intelligent and it was inspiring to see how committed they both are to making positive changes in an industry they’ve been a part of for so long. It was interesting hearing Franca talk about Vogue Italia’s famous Black Issue which was inspired by the lack of racial diversity on the runways as well as Barack Obama’s campaign.

Naomi said she felt that things were changing in regards to racial diversity in fashion, and told Alexandra Shulman, “When we started this whole thing about diversity, it wasn’t just about the fashion shows — it was that the designers would then follow through and use models of colour in the campaigns, which is what we’ve all wanted to see.” She held up a copy of British Vogue and flicked through the adverts, showing to the audience the models of colour that they featured. When asked whether she prefers to be called a black model or model of colour, Naomi stated she generally preferred the latter term as it includes all (non-white) ethnicities.

Naomi revealed her upcoming projects and confirmed that she will design a clothing line after previously being hesitant to do so. “Hopefully one of the things will be out by 2015,” she said. She plans to release two coffee table books with Taschen later this year as well as an anthology of nude archive images taken by Paolo Roversi. She will continue working on TV series The Face where she is executive producer and mentor, and she will continue her philanthropy work in Africa.

Perhaps surprisingly, Naomi Campbell admitted that she still gets nervous today when working on photo shoots and catwalk shows even though she is one of the most successful supermodels on the planet. She cares deeply about using her success and accomplishments to help provide opportunities to others, which I find remarkable.

Talking about her phenomenal success, she said, “In order to stand the test of time you have to be someone who can change and reinvent yourself and you must have a personality! But most importantly, you have to love what you do in an authentic way.”

I was a big Naomi Campbell fan before my visit to the Vogue festival, but now I’m in awe of her generosity, charisma and overall fabulousness and love her 1000 times more. She’s a brilliant inspiration to women everywhere and thank goodness there are women like her in the industry.

All Hail Queen Naomi.

 

Food review: A Sunday tradition

Dish: Roast chicken, rice, peas, macaroni cheese and lamb

Dish: Roast chicken, rice, peas, macaroni cheese and lamb

This particular dish is a favourite in my house and my mother has been cooking it every Sunday for as long as I can remember. Every weekend, me my two younger brothers and my mother gather in the evenings to enjoy this wonderful meal. It’s something of a tradition.

The dish was presented well with roughly equal amounts of rice and macaroni with the peas spread over them both. The soft peas were cooked in a thick, gravy-like paste, which had a reasonably salty flavour.

The macaroni cheese was cooked as a round pie, with a slightly hardened layer of cheese covering the top. The texture inside is hard to distinguish. The fusilli pasta blended into the cheese completely however it was bursting with flavour and delightful to eat without being overly cheesy. The basmati rice, which we all know requires precise cooking times, was fluffy and not soft, sticky or overcooked.

The gravy, which was splashed over the food, was a product of the lamb. It was well seasoned and almost carried a sweetish taste, without a hint of spice or pepper. It complimented the food perfectly despite its consistency being a little thin. The lamb appeared well cooked with a dark appearance.

It’s only real downfall, if I can call it that, was that it was slightly chewy in the mouth. The roast chicken was pretty much faultless; soft and not over or under seasoned.

Overall this was a fabulous West-Indian dish that did not fall short on flavour, care and presentation.

The Future Is Exciting

Sorry I haven’t posted for a long time. In a way, I think that blogging break was good.

I’ve just began a journalism degree at the University of Westminster, which so far I love. This time last year when I was applying to university, I went in circles trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to work in media. There were no uncertainties about that. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to be in five or ten years time frightened me.

Then, a lightbulb moment. Journalism. I should study JOURNALISM! I like writing. I love learning about the media etc. Sorted.

So yes, I WILL go to university. I will apply myself and work incredibly hard and meet new people and broaden my horizons and have fun.

Initially I had my heart set on a great London (but not really in London) university that was highly rated for journalism in terms of student satisfaction, employment rates and teaching. After a few months and some unresolved accommodation issues, I was forced to enter the Clearing process. This made me panic even though I was more than pleased with my college results. On the 15th October, I rang up Uni of Westminster feeling nervous as hell and… well, here I am.

Now I know that I made the right choice choosing to study journalism. The criticisms and negative attitudes towards journalism and media degrees don’t bother me anymore. I am quite aware that taking a degree in journalism isn’t a ticket to a six figure salary. Nonetheless I am doing things to kick-start my career such as seeking relevant experience, networking and of course, blogging.

You see, there’s a smidgen of self-belief in me that says “you will be successful and you will be a bloody brilliant journalist/ media mogul/ whatever else you end up wanting to do if you persevere, stay focused and work really hard.” 

I am the sort of person who likes to plan things, but 8 times out of 10 things don’t turn out the way I thought they would, so I learn to adapt and appreciate even though life sometimes doesn’t make sense. 

I’ve definitely grown to appreciate being a student at the University of Westminster. I will document my journey here as I pursue a career in the world of journalism and media. Check out my university blog, Tenelle Writes.

Something tells me that an exiting future awaits.

New Reads

Below are the latest issues (and first I’ve ever bought) of Ballad Of and TLG magazines. I try to limit the number of magazines I buy as I used to hoard too many of them! In this case though, its worth it as I sometimes get bored with celeb/gossip/style ones that dominate the market.

Each issue of Ballad Of is based on a theme and shaped by the work of contributors; it’s a great opportunity for creatives to get their work seen. Next we have TLG, the UK’s first magazine to promote underground arts and culture from a female perspective. Fans of street wear, electronic music and hip hop culture, for example, won’t be disappointed. I’m very impressed by both magazines and will buy them again. Check them out.

BalladOfcovBalladOf1BalladOf2tlg covertlgmag1tlgmag3

Future Film Festival Highlights

BFI logo1

Last month I visited BFI’s Future Film Festival, an exciting event for young film makers full of networking opportunities, masterclasses, workshops and more. Even if you’re a film fan but don’t aspire to work in the industry one day, I’d still recommend going as it really doesn’t cost much. Shortly before my visit, someone described the event to me as “a place where creative flares are struck”, and I soon realised that this couldn’t be more true. At the time I was producing my own film (post on that coming soon!) and had been feeling anxious about the whole thing, and thought I could do with some… filmspiration?

Besides learning about the industry from experts and meeting lovely people, I got a taste of emerging film making talent at this years Future Film Documentary Awards. Below are my personal favourites.

The overall winner from the 15 – 18 category was Pippa Jayne, a portrait of a transvestite escort from Bournemouth. I liked the editing and felt engaged from start to finish.

Click here to watch Pippa Jayne.

The Father’s Heart is an intimate and touching film in which young fathers express positive feelings on being dads. The Father’s Heart aired on Channel 4 earlier this month as part of their hour-long short film TV slot, The Shooting Gallery. For more information and previous episodes, click here.

Click here to watch The Father’s Heart.

The winning documentary in the 19 – 25 category was Marie, a beautifully animated and moving film based on a true story which is set in Rwanda.

Click here to watch Marie.

I’d love to hear your film/music festival experiences in the comments.

#TwilightForever: Premiere of Breaking Dawn Part 2

As some of you may know from my tweets, I attended my first film premiere last Wednesday, which was that of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Despite being shoved, tugged and squashed half to death in a pool of Londoners, I couldn’t be any happier to be in Leicester Square on the 14th November. As those three cast members arrived, it was time for us to make our way into the cinema. My guest and I were delighted to find ourselves on the red carpet (which was inevitable as we had to walk on it to get to VUE). But it gets better. We were treated to free snacks and drinks once we were inside; well it was bottled water but come on… Free snacks inside a West End cinema! While guests got comfortable and waited rather impatiently for the movie to start, we got to see what was going on outside by watching the stars on CCTV.

Then, at around 7.30pm, the lights went down and so did the curtains…

*

I won my premiere tickets courtesy of ShowFilmFirst. All film lovers need to know about this website because they hold film previews for audiences before they’re open in cinema. Check out my first blog post here.

After watching the premiere, I was overcome with emotion. Tears in my eyes, clapping hysterically throughout the closing credits, shrieking with disbelief that the Twilight phenomenon was ending. It was a beautiful end to a magical evening.

How do you feel about the Twilight Saga series ending? What did you think of Breaking Dawn Part 2 (if you’ve seen it)?

 

Fashion Weekend

My outfit: Sports jacket- Adidas, Cropped tee- Urban Outfitters, Skirt- Pull & Bear, Shoes- Dr Martens, Backpack- Gucci

On 21st September, I attended Vodafone London Fashion Weekend, an event that I never knew existed until a month before.

Curious to find out what “fashion’s finest shopping event” had to offer, I collected my Mulberry show bag on the way in (the photo above shows what’s inside). Before I could decided what area of Somerset House to wander through first, I was approached and snapped by Fashion Weekend’s Street Style team! My photo appeared in Fashion Weekend’s digital magazine. Click here to read the issue.

Any trip to Fashion Weekend is not complete without visiting the Shoe Room because it is to die for. Here, you can find top shoe designers such as French Sole, Finsk and Kat Maconie.

Fancy being an ELLE cover star? Look no further. The brilliant Canon Studio allows Fashion Weekend visitors to star in their own ELLE front cover with a free photo shoot. Yes, normal, everyday people like me and you on the cover of a fashion magazine. Don’t worry, it’s not about pulling off high-fashion poses or “smizing” until your eyes begin to twitch. If you happen to be a little camera-shy like me, why not grab a friend to join you in front of the lens? No-one is asking you to be a model, so just have fun! As Canon is an official sponsor of London Fashion Weekend, all you photography enthusiasts can view and purchase the company’s newest releases.

Although I didn’t buy anything, I was fortunate to receive tips and advice from successful editors, journalists and bloggers about how to get noticed and get ahead in the industry. So, in addition to shopping the latest catwalk trends, attendees got to meet like-minded fashionistas and gain knowledge. Who can say no to that?

If you want to have fun, attend catwalk shows, meet new people, and buy discounted items from premium and designer brands, you should come down to London Fashion Weekend. It’s fun, it’s informal and more than a designer shopping event.

Tickets for Vodafone London Fashion Weekend SS13 are now on sale. The dates are Thursday 21st – Sunday 24th Febuary.

See you next year?

My ShowFilmFirst day

Saturday July 21st, a chilly day in Leicester Square, London. I sit inside the Empire cinema staring at the big screen in front of me which says ShowFilmFirst, anticipating the day ahead…

It began with a screenwriting talk given by script editor Ludo Smolski. Ludo’s talk included useful advice on what makes a good script and story, screenwriting books and what to do before you write your first screenplay.

The next speaker was Mia Bays, Creative Executive for Film London Microwave, a feature film fund for micro-budget projects. Mia talked about how the Microwave scheme works, what the scheme provides and gave her tips on how to achieve low budget film success.

Films such as Shifty, Freestyle, Mum & Dad and Ben Drew’s directorial debut Ill Manors were all supported and funded with the help of Film London’s Microwave scheme.

For a great end to an informative and inspiring day, the audience were treated to a surprise preview screening in the afternoon.

This screening turned out to be The Imposter, a chilling – and may I add, spectacular – documentary which was released last month and directed by Bart Layton. After watching The Imposter, I thought of nothing else for the following seven days. It still occasionally keeps me awake at night. If you didn’t catch The Imposter in cinema, fear not as the movie will be released on Blu-Ray/ DVD on Monday 7 January. Whatever your thoughts and opinions on documentary films, The Imposter can’t be missed. See for yourself why several film critics and blogs consider it to be one of 2012′s top films.

That day, I learned that anyone can make a film if they want to. The process is by no means easy, but resources are available to support and guide you along the way. It is not vital to have studied at film school or have a enormous budget; it’s your passion and ideas that count the most.

Happy filming!