Why I Blog

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When I first created this blog, the template title appeared, and it read: Just Another WordPress Blog. And to be fair, that’s exactly what it was. It was just another blog, amongst the millions others. I had created Just Another Blog that would probably never ever get discovered. Even though that was a depressing truth, the exciting thing was that it was all mine. One person might read it, or 10,000 people, or no-one. I didn’t care. I wanted an online diary, and an online diary is exactly what I created.

As it’s nearing towards the end of 2014 (WTF – where did the time go?) I started to get a bit reflective, as I normally do around this time of the year. It’s that time where people start thinking what have I done, what have I achieved, where is all this going? The main source of finding out what had happened in my life even last month was by going on this blog and going through my old posts from the year. This blog serves as a memory bank, and that’s only one of the amazing reasons why I urge everyone to have one.

Obviously as blogging has become a bigger industry in it’s own right, there are elements of monetization around content, sponsored partnerships, advertising deals and of course the “free stuff”. Two of the myths that annoy me the most is that 1) bloggers are all materialistic and 2) if you have a blog, you’ll automatically get an endless truckload of freebies. It doesn’t work like that; and I truly believe that if you ever start a blog for that reason alone, your blog will not last. It is about so much more. That was another reason I wanted to write this post, is to celebrate the real reasons to have a blog. It’s about having a place you can call your own, connecting with like-minded people; all that other “stuff” comes in later, and only as a bonus.

So here are the other reasons why blogging is amazing:

It goes beyond the blog post

Back in May, I blogged about my favourite book of the year The Opposite Of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, a talented young writer who tragically died in 2012. After blogging about the book and championing it for months, I made friends with the wonderful press officer at Simon & Schuster and we chatted about the book over email each day and she shared my blog post. We became friends. Later this year, I went along to a Waterstones event where Marina’s friends and family talked about the book and about Marina. I went home and blogged about how incredible the evening was, and then to my utter delight I was invited by Marina’s family to do a reading the next night at Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford. This demonstrates that writing about something you love can in turn lead to meeting the people behind the project. To go from blogging about something to being part of it was amazing. It was an evening I’ll never ever forget.

Out of the blue emails can make your day

Sometimes I wish it was compulsory for everyone to have a penpal. I love receiving emails from people who are in different countries, or who stumbled across something and they wanted to share their thoughts with you. Yesterday I received a virtual wave from America saying she enjoyed something I wrote and explained why it has resonated with her. Sometimes I think there’s nothing better than a lengthy heartfelt email. In a world where we are all busy and stressed and frantic, receiving little bursts of positivity in my inbox is one of my favourite things.

Cringe experiences can make great blog posts

I am often more likely to do something because I know I’ll want to write about it afterwards. For example, when I read my teenage diary in a room full of strangers, it was petrifying at the time, but so so fun to blog about. I read the cringiest diary excerpts from when I was 14, chubby and confused, but it is HILARIOUS. The buzz of being on stage, laughing at yourself and having a room of friendly faces encourage you to relax and enjoy it was something I’m glad to have done.

Meeting Internet friends IRL is the best

One of the most AWESOME things about having a blog is getting to meet people at blogger events, or natural connections made by chatting through Twitter which often leads to meeting up. I’ve met LOADS of people through this blog but I’m especially thankful to have made friendships with Laura (@superlativelyj), Jamie (@photogirluk), Daisy (@notrollergirl), Sasha (@libertylndngirl), Plum (@plumtweets), Zoe (@ZozeeBo), Megs (@Wonderful_u), Elizabeth (@elizabethmoya), Olivia (@livpurvis) and Alex (Alex_Cameron) who even took the naked photos of me. The blogging community is an amazing thing to be part of, and everyone’s invited. I even got to meet LENA frigging DUNHAM, Caitlin Moran, and the lovely Dawn O’Porter a few times this year. (And so many others I’ve definitely missed people out- to those I have, I’m sorry and I love you!)  It’s been amazing year for connecting with awesome women.

You become braver

Every time you hit “publish” you are putting a little bit more of yourself out there into the world. People can like it, love it, not care about it, dislike it. Either way, you are saying “this is what I think!” and every time you hit that button, it gets easier and easier. I remember that nervous feeling every time I’d written something personal, or intense, or opinionated and worry that it was out there in the world, for people to respond to. But the truth is, it’s made me surer of myself, of my thoughts, and I’ve learned that I love starting a conversation. Obviously it’s amazing if people agree or relate to something, but even if it someone disagrees I find it interesting to chat it out.

Your writing gets better over time

Writing genuinely is like playing a piano. You have to have the passion in the first place, the determination to keep doing it, and then practice does really make perfect. Having written this blog for nearly four years and writing at least once a week, I know that my writing has improved, it’s impossible not to. I usually blog on here when I’m half asleep so nothing is ever perfect, but you learn to have an opinion on things, how to write quickly and efficiently, and how to edit. Blog posts don’t have to be perfect, it’s just doing it because you want to that counts.

XOX

Feminist events: Getting the boys involved

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#Feminism. It is everywhere, and it is glorious. In my teens, I read Mary Wollstonecraft in my English lessons I naively (and temporarily) thought everything was fixed. Because a) I was about 14 b) Mary was not taking any shit from anyone in her essays and c) she raised some extremely good points as to why women were equal to men, and that was in 1792. Even though I’m terrible at maths I knew that was a loooong time ago and it was a no brainer: women were totally equal to men. We sang Auld Lang Syne and brought in a new Millenium not that long ago. During that time we’ve invented electric toothbrushes, 3D cinema and tourist packages into outer space. It’s a bit embarrassing not to have eradicated such old fashioned sexism by now, right? RIGHT?

Turns out, feminism is a never-ending campaign.

A glossy women’s magazine got my goat last year when it casually suggested that feminism was “having a moment“, like a type of platform shoe. It’s back you guys, and it’s so in fashion! On separate but related note, you can even purchase a £45 t-shirt from Whistles that reads “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” in child’s writing. (A sore subject today as the world questions why David Cameron won’t wear one, when his mates will). But that aside, I like the idea of the feminist memorabilia – especially when the proceeds go to charity. For example, I’m a big fan of the Caitlin Moran tea towel.

It’s an exciting time to be feminist. We have our ancestors to thank for doing incredible work: fighting for the vote, for proving we can do “mens’ jobs, for rebelling against stereotypes, for making it the norm to wear trousers and said a big ‘fuck off’ to anyone that suggested they wore a corset or rudely assumed they knew what to do with a needle and thread. The fight is not over, but we are moving towards a fairer future, so we hope, with some seriously badass women leading the revolution. (That’s all of us).

Whenever I feel a bit pessimistic or want an opportunity to meet like-minded people, I love going to feminist events. In London there are loads. It’s an amazing way to join an IRL community, ask some questions, listen to interesting people, and to go home feeling reflective and empowered. It makes me feel part of it all.

A few weekends ago I went to a talk with my boyfriend held at the Guildford Book Festival. The speaker was Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism Project. I’d read Laura’s book (of the same name), listened to her on things like Women’s Hour, and been interested in her points of view on feminist weddings, but I hadn’t yet seen her in real life. I liked instantly because she was fearless, passionate and wasn’t afraid of making people feeling a bit uncomfortable with her findings.

Her book Everyday Sexism is a collation of her project which all started online. Two years she set up the website and Twitter handle to encourage women to shout back at sexism they had encountered however ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ it might seem. The point is that nothing is too silly or small. The project is about saying no to things like groping on the tube, being harassed on the street, someone making a “joke” about you “getting back in the kitchen”. It’s about micro-inequities. It’s the “Alright love” as you try and walk up to your front door, it’s the “get ya tits out” outside a nightclub. It’s the stupid, annoying things.

Laura reeled off stats that shocked us all. 15% of statues round the world are of women. Every seven minutes someone is raped. One fifth of House of Lords are women. 18 out of 100 high court judges are women. 1 in 10 of engineers are women. 84% of news articles are written by men. At the Royal Opera house it’s been over 13 years since a woman has written a piece of choreography for the main stage.

I’d heard most of this before. I’d read it online, or heard things over drinks with friends, or seen Laura on YouTube,  or read it on Twitter. The Q&A is always really interesting – parents asking for advice, the debate about short skirts, the best way to respond to sexist comments, etc.  But the most interesting thing about the evening to me was how shocked my boyfriend looked when I glanced at him during the talk.

Everyday Sexism isn’t just about women, it’s about sexism towards men too – and I immediately realised that I don’t necessarily always involve him in the ongoing dialogue or invite him to feminist events very often. I mainly talk about this stuff with other women, on Twitter, at events, at book clubs. I had a really interesting debate with him that night and I found hearing his point of view on the talk the most interesting part of the evening. We chatted about everything. The Ched Evans case, the feminist books out at the moment, the issues we still have, the problems we still face. Day to day, we talk about feminism (or related topics) a lot, we’re a very balanced couple and we know each other inside out – but it made me realise that I’d subconsciously been talking more about it with female colleagues at work or inviting my female friends to things.

I also noticed that most of the time, at these types of feminism talks the audience is mostly women. It’s about time we made a concious effort to invite the boys along. It effects them too. And that’s the whole point: we’re all in this together.

Thank you to Radisson Blu Hotels for the invite and for the lovely stay xo

Battle Of The URLS: YouTubers vs Mainstream media

Screen shot 2014-10-26 at 22.40.25Everyone is confused, but excited. The Sunday Times newspaper, founded in 1821 (and my personal favourite of them all) features a 21-year-old YouTuber in high resolution on it’s glossy Sunday magazine cover this weekend, called Alfie Deyes. The words underneath the image of his face are slightly sarcastic: “silly, pointless, selfie-obsessed“. It’s quite clear to the reader that he has already been palmed into the same camp as shiny-haired Justin Bieber, or tragicomedy Jedward. Yes, he is partial to wearing jewellery and has a pop-star haircut, but to snigger at his success is to make the same mistake as judging a book way too early by its cover. The reality is that Alfie Deyes has a brand that has turned him into a Sunday Times bestselling author, even though his book doesn’t consist of many words. They sort of had to put him on the cover. I bet they didn’t really want to. But that, in itself, is interesting.

Suddenly we have a group of individuals who are potentially as powerful as an old media-house.

Divided opinions to one-side, YouTubers like Alfie deserve to be treated as a hallmark for this bizarre shift in the media landscape. Right now is a strange no-mans land of Internet freedom vs newspapers freaking out about their commercial objectives. Men in grey suits are getting annoyed. These YouTubers mark this massive shift in the industry, whether they like it or not. Why are the newspapers and advertising networks suddenly all over the YouTubers like a rash? Because Alfie and the other YouTuber crew can sell things.

They properly sell things because they’re not asking for much. It’s the result of a snowball effect, and this is the beauty of the shift in eyeballs. It’s totally based on a voluntary audience – people type these names into Google. They subscribe because they want to. They are not being interrupted, except for an advert that lasts a few seconds; this beats the boring-as-shit ads on TV that drone on and on before XFactor or The Apprentice. YouTubers sell things base on customer demand. Write a book please. We want to see this type of video next. Can you film something with your sister? Come to Ireland. Sell some t-shirts with your face on. They respond to the requests of their massive and loyal community. Something a lot of companies could learn from. Because – are they really listening?

As a result, the YouTubers are scrutinised for not being perfect, or having shit videos. There’s always a small percentage of people who find chirpy young people irritating. In a sheer panic, one online publication ran a think-piece about one of my favourite YouTubers Zoella, criticising her for being a bad model to girls. Young audiences who grew up with the Internet are savvy. This didn’t wash with them. They know what click-bait is. And it certainly looked like click-bait.

We should also remember they didn’t actually ask for the fame in the first place. Of course serious authors are going to find them irritating. Of course anyone over the age of 25 will roll their eyes. But I don’t see this group as just video clowns, I totally respect them as entrepreneurs (that’s what they are; they are building empires) but I can openly admit I would never settle down to read Alfie’s book. But do you know what? That’s OK – I am not their target audience. I am objectively praising them for their success. Someone like Alfie, who hasn’t even been traditionally media trained can appear on This Morning or Saturday Kitchen and be flawless – funny, charismatic, inoffensive. To have these skills of being TV-friendly, filming your own content, editing it, having the energy to do it every day, interview well, go to meetings, create things, manage shitloads of different social media channels, travel, brainstorm ideas, multi-task, evolve, develop — that is the sort of person that I would want to employ.

The media world has changed and is changing and will change again. Vlogging is the new blogging, it’s an interesting format to consume when there is nothing on TV. We stream, we play, we pause, we listen, we watch three screens at once. We show a clip of YouTube to friend on our phone, whilst they’re on their laptop, whilst we’re both watching TV. This is life.

The point of all of this is: we all have our channels, our own waves of communication. You and me. Alfie and Zoella. These “silly videos” are no different from watching You’ve Been Framed on TV or watching some of the housemates on Big Brother plait each others hair, except it’s not being dedicated to by a bossy big cheese CEO has chosen people through a painful selection process. Goodbye middle man. These 20 somethings deliver their lives straight to our laptops, and it’s their choice. Mark Zuckerberg made a billion pounds all because he realised human beings are fucking nosy and built something that caters to our nosiness. We are all so nosy. We want to know what other people’s kitchens look like. We want to know if someone is happy or depressed, and the reasons for both. We want to know what people have in their fridge. The people who shout WHO CARES at YouTubers are just frustrated because they don’t want to watch it. The same reaction as me whenever the football is on.

Coincidentally Daily Mail’s You magazine features four “super bloggers” on its front page today, showing slightly more professionally shot familiar faces. These new type of media “celebrities” aren’t introduced by the size of their mansions, or Hollywood partners, or screaming fans, it’s ALL about the followers. Meet [insert name] who has 2.3 million followers, the interviewee announces. More than the prime minister, they explain. More than the population of Finland, they point out. Forget all other metrics, you guys.

It’s still slightly jarring and a bit off-kilter to see “internet celebs” in the mainstream media. I guess it’s always interesting when national newspaper suddenly “cottons on” to things. (It’s always a bit late, too). Things continue to evolve slowly and grow in popularity, but when “a new thing” reaches that point of being mainstream, the papers jump all over it. “Vlogging” isn’t new, it’s just become better quality. Technology has evolved, meaning the type of content people can make at home has improved and can be a true competitor of traditional sources. The YouTube and blogging crew have been in this game for years and now it’s all paying off. And to anyone who has a voice and WIFI connection, that’s fucking exciting.

LUNCH WITH DAWN: BOB BY DAWN O’PORTER DRESSES AND BOOKS

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I’ve been a #fangirl of Dawn O’Porter for yonks. I actually wrote her a slightly cringe email when I was about eighteen after watching her Channel 4 series where she got naked on a bus, went lesbian, had ‘a baby’, and tried to find her ‘dream man’ as a young energetic 20-something. Now she is having an actual baby and has found an actual dream man. But at the time she was answering every twenty-something’s woes and she asked a lot of questions that everyone wanted to know the answers to. She was brave, fearless, hilarious (and still is).

I tried to dig it out the other day but my old inbox deleted it, or it must have self-combusted out of sheer embarrassment. If I could find it, I know it would have said something along the lines of “I LOVE YOUR SHOWS! YOUR AMAZING! HELP ME.” God knows if I actually did send it to Dawn’s correct email address, or if I did, I definitely understand why I didn’t get a reply. But I distinctly remember being really inspired into writing after reading lots of her stuff. I think you always remember that moment of YUP: THIS PERSON HAS MADE ME FEEL EXCITED ABOUT A CAREER.

In a world of bitchy Daily Mail articles, Photoshopped boobs and feeling a bit uninspired at University, I enjoyed watching her brash honesty, happy imperfections and outgoing personality on TV. I listened to her podcast, read her blog posts (which go in to real honesty about how she felt living in LA the first time round) and her columns in Stylist. I bought her book Diaries of an Internet Lover. Yes I probably sound like the equivalent of a crazy One Direction fan, but on a serious note, it was rare to find someone who I genuinely felt was doing something really positive for women. I didn’t care about Lady Gaga, or Girls Aloud, or Victoria Beckham (although there’s nothing wrong with them), basically I found Dawn’s life way more interesting.

Over the years, I’ve come to discover more women like Dawn, the ones who aren’t afraid to say things how they are, who don’t bullshit around the obvious. The ones on Twitter like Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, Cherry Healey, Lena Dunham and others, who don’t care about saying ‘vagina’ or ‘feminism’ until they’ve made their point. But I distinctly remember thinking that Dawn did the whole honesty thing way before it was ‘cool’. She really did just say it how it was. And thank god she did – it was so so refreshing for the people reading it.

Since the TV show, Dawn’s career has exploded.

She launched BOB by Dawn O’Porter, her very own ready-to-wear  womenswear collection. This launch follows her TV show This Old Thing and brought out a modern day Trinny & Susannah book (with a vintage twist) to go with it. The show was good – but oh my god, her fashion range. It’s really beautiful. Looks like it belongs in a boutique shop on Stoke Newington Church Street. I went along to the bloggers breakfast at House of St Barnabus a few weeks back to go see the collection IRL. And honestly, it’s beautiful and very very…. Dawn.

Here’s why:

  • The dresses are named after her mates. There’s the Elvin (as in Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour UK), The Gem (Cairney), the Flack (Caroline), the Lou (best mate) the Buzz (her PA) and the Jane (her sis).
  • The material is brilliant quality and flattering too. The Lou is slimming as it is a LBD but as Dawn says “you can still eat a hearty meal before you go out out and still dance and feel good in it”. Also this one is amazing because it’s made out of more casual t-shirt type material meaning you can happily wear it in the daytime but the buttons make it quite dressed up too. These dresses are for girls who like to look good but also HAVE FUN TOO.
  • Two of the Jane skirts are inspired by Dawn’s books Paper Aeroplanes and Goose. AND ONE HAS A TAMPON ON IT.
  • They are limited edition. As in, there aren’t many of them being made. Because who wants to look the same as everyone else?

I’m so chuffed for Dawn to have her own clothing line, and to be the face of vintage dressing. It has also been announced TODAY that she has signed with book publisher Harper Collins for a two-book deal for adult novels.. AMAZING.

Especially after this article she wrote, and this one, that resonated with SO MANY of us, about feeling like a failure at certain points in your life and having to pick yourself back up again….well, she’s done exactly that, and I for one am DARN PROUD of her.

http://www.bobbydop.com

A Night At Waterstones: Marina Keegan’s Family

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Some people do more in a few years, than other people do in a whole lifetime.

Back in May, I read a book. Not just any book. A book that smacked me right in the face, out of nowhere, like an uncontrollable magnet. A girl with words, who played them like Beethoven having some playtime on a piano. I curled up with it every night for two weeks, scowling at anyone that dare interrupt me, lost in a world of a parallel 20-something in New York who wanted to unashamedly make art with her laptop and imagination. The Opposite Of Loneliness. The words made my eyes sparkle and my palms sweaty and my heart thud. This girl knew stuff. She was 22, and she had the most unique perspective on the world I’d ever come across for someone of that age – and she wasn’t afraid to ask uncomfortable questions or just prod someone into asking themselves questions. She wasn’t safe – but she was likeable. I then ending up Googling her work for hours on end. Every article, every quote, every single piece of writing I stumbled upon unlocked something in my brain. I wanted this young author, Marina Keegan, to be my friend.

 

In 2012, Marina Keegan died in a car crash. Her book “The Opposite Of Loneliness” is a posthumous assemblage of her wonderful essays. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever read, but with this added layer of emotion; a heavy sadness at a loss of such talent. And tonight, I went along to an incredibly special event at Waterstones in central London, where Marina Keegan’s parents, Tracy and Kevin, her tutor Beth McNamara and her school friends spoke about Marina and the reasons behind publishing the book of her essays.

Kevin Keegan, Marina’s dad, opened the evening was something poignant: “Marina wouldn’t have wanted to be remembered because she’s dead – she’d want to be remembered because she was good”. After all, Marina, at the age was 22 was already an award-winning playwright, activist, poet, writer, viral online journalist. Oh, she was good alright. Some work included in the book was written when Marina was just 16, with sentences powerful enough to send shivers up grown-ups’ spines.

Marina’s book is a combination of part fiction, part non-fiction. Marina’s au pair from when she was around five years old read a passage that Marina wrote, describing her the messy homeliness of inside her car. Her friends from Yale read parts of her book that were non-fiction – brilliant excerpts from short stories that involved mysterious, complicated characters who are way beyond her age. Marina’s amazing talent let her write so vividly from one person’s viewpoint, from someone so so far removed from her own life. The dialogue engrosses you, the audience sat there, eyes closed, conjuring up all this interesting people that came all from Marina’s imagination. This is all Marina. Continue Reading

Why Everyone Should Have Naked Photos Of Themselves

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*one non-naked photo from the shoot

What do you do when you find things hard to write? You write the truth.

“Live outside of your comfort zone” is a quote we all see on Pinterest, hanging in friends hallways, in episodes of Girls. We’ve been told it’s where the magic happens. It is the cringe inspirational quote that I actually do think about, daily.  But those things that are outside your comfort zone are different for everyone. Some people are scared of spiders. Some people are scared of relationships. Some people are scared of being alone, for some, it’s crowded rooms. For me, it’s having to looking at a naked photo of myself.

As a strong believer of body confidence, I was actually a big phoney. How can I parade around preaching body confidence when I had none myself? I used to work for Dove, for goodness sake, I work for an empowering women’s magazine, and yet I found myself terrified at the thought of showing all the bits I don’t like, and letting people see it, and/or judge it. The thought of having to properly look at my own body properly freaked me out. 

So this post is quite important for me. It might not seem huge, but for me, it’s something I’ve put on hold for a long time.

So let me tell the full story of how I got here. A few months ago I went to the pub with Laura and Megan, my two friends who also blog, write and put themselves out there. We’ve always had stuff in the common, frequently asking the same questions, feeling the same positive (and negative) feelings, all armed with an equally long self-inflicted to-do list of things we want to achieve in and outside of work. So we went for a drink and a brain download.

We were chatting about Laura’s recent naked photo shoot. I leaned in with my glass of prosecco, wide-eyed and utterly utterly in awe. You stripped off all your clothes, had yourself photographed, and are getting them framed? So that everyone could see? She was naked, in a field, to celebrate her body. For herself. I gulped on my drink, sat back and knew full well that I could never do that. I would be terrified. I’ve never seen a photo of myself like before. Wasn’t it awkward? Weren’t you afraid? Weren’t you worried about what you might see? Weren’t you worried about what people might think of you?

These shouldn’t have been my immediate reactions from someone who claimed to be ‘body confident’. These photos are beautiful, and they were art. But the truth was, my reaction to Laura’s photo shoot made me realise: I was terrified of the idea.

The story behind Laura’s photo-shoot is an inspiring one. It was to celebrate her hard-earned body transformation. She decided to go on a mission to change her lifestyle and in the process, she inevitably lost some pounds along the way. Day by day, Laura was focused, determined, happy – and it was infectious. She became the fairy godmother of getting shit done, inspiring other people, doing things for herself and having a rock solid attitude that was as hard as a brick wall.

To celebrate this new sense of self, and body-shape, Laura booked in her friend, a lady named Alexandra Cameron (a brilliantly talented photographer) to document this stage of her life as part of a #StrongAndSexy campaign. It was a milestone, and what’s better than taking seductive photos with a professional photographer to mark the occasion? Shortly after, Megan, to celebrate her 25th birthday, did the same. She stripped off and celebrated her body. She arranged for a similar type of shoot. She too, was nervous. It was a ripple effect, Laura’s shoot had been infectious, why shouldn’t we embrace our body, feel confident, and get over our niggling feelings of body perception? It appeared that facing your fears actually works.

This weekend I went to Laura’s house. Alex was there, and she had her camera. I realised that I actually deep-down wanted nothing more than to be part of the #StrongAndSexy campaign and whilst boiling the kettle I got over the fear and said I should do it. Have my picture taken. Be brave. Do the bungee jump. This wasn’t about doing a ‘sexy photo-shoot’, or being posey, or cringe or tacky. This was for me, to have naked photos of myself. And to celebrate my body so that in 50 years I can look back and think YOU LOOK ALRIGHT ACTUALLY.

This was also about saying a big EFF YOU to the beauty industry – the industry that seeps into us all from childhood. The industry that makes us feel that we don’t have the permission to be the way we are. And that we are silly or self-indulgent or ‘asking for it’ if we decide to celebrate it. I could just cover myself up and continue reading the magazines and wishing I looked different. But I know something for sure: that would be a waste.

So, the shoot itself: I felt ridiculous. Hilarious. Awkward. I am no model. I was sat on the bed wearing an over-sized t-shirt that Laura had bought from the charity shop next door for £1, taking off my bra (pants stayed on). I put it on, taking off my bra and thinking…what am I doing! I had been inspired enough to get that far, to want to join the conversation of removing the stigma attached to celebrating your body yet I was acting as if someone had asked me to dive with sharks. I didn’t have a CLUE how to pose, or act, or behave. Alex was amazing, telling me where to put my head, where to look, we chatted about other stuff whilst I was naked and I started to calm down a bit.

When I saw the photos, I felt a bit emotional. I looked…good. I’ve always been so terrified to actually embrace my whole body as it is and learn to love it. It’s strange to say, but I guess I’d never properly seen it before. I just put my clothes on each day. After seeing Alex’s photos I felt like I was letting out a big pent-up sigh of relief, and thought “you know what. This is what I’ve got. And actually I’m darn happy with it.”

In this world of the #Fappening, mobile hacking, J-Law leaked nude pics, it being REVOLUTIONARY that Lena Dunham got naked on TV I wanted to make a point. What happens if you want to celebrate yourself, for YOURSELF? What happens if it is posted out there, into a public forum, and it all goes tits up (mind the pun?) It’s OK to share them. I’ve got the pictures on my desktop. And for me, that in itself is f*cking terrifying. But won’t stop me from having them.

I decided to not post the revealing ones on here. I was going to. But actually, on reflection, they genuinely were just for myself. I will get them printed on big paper. Just having them stored somewhere I know will make me feel good.  I like looking at them. This whole experience made me realise that I don’t want to be scared of being myself, or at looking at my own body. It’s all about what you feel at the end of the day.

And if you ever come to my house, I’m sure I’ll get them out and bore you with them whilst you have a cup of tea.

If you’re interested in having this same experience (which I MASSIVELY recommend) – it’s terrifying yes, but it’s empowering doing it for YOURSELF – the shoots start from less than £100 and Alex’s contact details are here).

To keep up with her work, follow her on instagram, facebook and twitter.
Thanks for reading. X

Do You Want To Go To The MOBO Awards?

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You know I don’t normally do giveaways on this blog unless the prize is AWESOME, and this prize REALLY is. I’ve teamed up with Three this week to giveaway tickets for you and a friend to attend the MOBO Awards on Wednesday 22nd October at the SSE Arena!

All you have to do is send me an email with the answer to this question:

HTC’s latest flagship smartphone the HTC One M8 has super-long battery life (WOO!) but how many minutes of talk time can you get from a single charge?

Submit your answer – along with your name, age, email address and telephone number – for your chance to win two tickets to the MOBOs!

Email me with the subject “MOBO Three competition” to girllostinthecityblog@gmail.com and I’ll pick the correct answer and reveal the winner on my blog – and contact them directly.

So GO GO GO !

T&Cs (the boring bit…)

  • Only one winner will be selected
  • Winner will receive a pair of tickets to the MOBOs final on Wednesday 22 October at 7pm (19:00) at the SSE Arena, Arena Square, Engineers Way, London HA9 0AA
  • Winners will be contacted by me on Sunday 19 October, and asked to supply the names of both attendees
  • Tickets will be sent by Three on Monday 20 October using next day delivery to ensure the winner receives their tickets on time. Tickets will not be sent separately
  • Travel and accommodation costs are not included
  • Entrants must be 18 or over

Image source: newleafseniors.com

Not That Kind of Book

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In a strange way, I’m slightly gutted that my awkward teen/childhood has been trumped. I’m not usually that competitive about ‘who’s more of a loser’ but I thought my 14-year-old self was the worst one out there, surely. Surely all those weird dreams, getting into trouble at school, experimenting with baggy jeans and black lipstick and fancying the grossiest of boys made me the worst teen ever?

After reading Lena’s poignant memoir Not That Kind of Girl I no longer feel embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated anymore, about anything actually (which is quite extraordinary: I have some extremely cringe memories). Instead, I feel purged of my sins and at one with my awkward yesteryears because actually, Lena has tied up all that ‘shame’ into a book, put a bow around it and pushed it out into the world. The result being that now ALL my “skeletons” that used to reside in the closet are now walking around, quite confidently, introducing themselves to anyone they meet. ‘I used to do THIS, how grim is that! I win!’ The internet has allowed us to over-share (or should I say encouraged), and in fact it’s therapeutic. This book gives any millennial the confidence to say: YEAH I WAS WEIRD, WEREN’T WE ALL? And for that reason alone, I applaud it. It’s hard to be honest, especially when your past isn’t that far behind you. Plus, a lot of bad memories unfortunately exist somewhere, digitally online.

Here are the main themes that I took away from the book:

Being a teenager is literally the worst

NTKOG took me firmly by the hand and forced me down a #dark Memory Lane. In some chapters it all came suddenly spiralling back, lots of neglected memories that were once wedged into the hidden corners of my mind where suddenly staring at me, in loud technicolour. This resulted in a mixed feeling of gratitude to Lena and slight resentment: her sharp memory has now made me face up to my past. All those times I felt screwed over as a teen, not yet in control of myself enough to know how to go about solving issues, big or small. Because after all, who wants to face up to potentially the worst years of your life whilst curling up with a book? Those situations in which you test your parents (lying at house parties, getting into trouble, bad school reports, screaming matches) and leave you wondering why they still love you, but they always do – all that drama, all that worry. All of those hormones.  It’s these teething periods of being so hormonal that you could scream the house down and cry in the corner of your bathroom for weeks, just because someone commented on your new hairstyle. Ridiculous in hindsight, but oh so real and raw at the time. I remember thinking to myself you must promise to remember how f*cking awful it is being a teenager for when you have your own teenage nephew/niece/daughter/son to look after one day. Never make them feel ridiculous. 

Don’t deny that us Millennials are all massive geeks

Every mention of Lena’s teen milestones (like first sex, first period, first best friend), and even the smaller things like remembering Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and odd childhood traits like compulsive lying, made me remember things I’d sort of repressed. Things that, as an adult, I wouldn’t ever willingly need revisit. Even smaller seemly insignificant things like the moment when you were first introduced to a computer. Can you remember where you were when you first sat down onto a computer and ‘bonded’ with it? This big alien white box whirring and purring in the corner of a room, sitting there unused, until suddenly, it all clicks. You are communicating with people, really easily and it’s fun. All those days and nights of “socialising”: i.e. talking to your friends online or invited friends over to sit in front of the screen with you. Talking to boys on MSN together was your social meet-up, except you wouldn’t talk to each other. We practically taught ourselves HTML on Myspace only a few months after exiting the womb. Thinking about how much of life has been spent typing actual makes me feel a bit funny.

Really, really stupid things can disguise as being ‘fashionable’

Lena talks about things that A LOT of girls have done, whether or not you would probably ever own up to it. I too, “attempted” bulimia a few times, and like Lena, gorged and “dry heaved” with nothing coming out. It’s a serious matter of course, and I know true sufferers of this illness. But somehow I found myself laughing inwardly at this paragraph, at my stupidity, at my desperateness. In a similar situation to mine, Lena eats loads of crap food, then falls asleep by accident, and then tries this pathetic attempt at being bulimic for the day but it (fortunately) doesn’t quite work out. It totally sums up the strange teenage landscape of different trial and errors. I tried to be a vegan, vegetarian, not-eating, goth, hippy, gluten-free, Dukan diet, only-eating-Weetabix-diet, all for no longer than a few days. Of course for many others, an eating disorder it isn’t a ridiculous “fashionable thing to try out once”, it can turn into a proper problem which deserves separate attention, but this bit did relate to me, the fact I definitely tried and failed so many diet tactics, for no real reason.

It’s not all on you

“Going along with it” is a major theme of the book too. A difficult theme. Upon reading the story of Lena and Barry, I nodded along at the awful situation she finds herself in after a party. It goes a bit like this: you’re not entirely sure how you got there. You don’t really know what’s happening. You sort of trust this person, but you sort of don’t. You think ‘what’s the worst that can happen’. Luckily, in my situations I had managed to escape. But I could totally relate to these types of episodes, in which guys who lead you astray and you just follow their lead, plodding along. Walking right into the danger zone. Because in the drunken haze you see no warning signs, it’s all fun, and exciting, silly and strange, rather rebellious. But then: you realise, along with Lena’s own reflection, and her friends whom she confides in – that these situations can lead to rape. Suddenly it is extremely black and white, there, written down on the page. However reading the situation, where Lena appears to casually go along with it, you see how it was a spider’s web, a clear trap. A blurry night that can play mind-games with you for years, even though you know deep down it’s not your fault, it’s easy to doubt yourself on a hungover afternoon.

Overall….

I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg for Lena. She’s warmly introduced us to her talent: her amazing, friendly writing style. It excites me that there is so much more where this came from, more books, many more books. Her writing makes us feel like we know Lena a little better. I do think that this book is for a very specific audience. I’ve read some reviews by much older journalists who just don’t seem to get it – they think it’s self-indulged or cliche. But I disagree. In fact I think it’s cliche that their reviews just comment on her monetary advance from the publisher or dryly comparing it to “the Mindy’s” and “the Tina Fey’s” (who I love, by the way, but why does everything always need the same old reference point?). These reviews don’t comment on how the book made them feel.

I think NTKOG reviews a niche period of time and there are ‘in-jokes’ for Gen Y readers only. I think it’s brave. She never had to open up to all of us, but like the rest of our generation, we like to overshare. We almost need to overshare. “I have to tell my stories in order to stay sane,” Lena wrote. And if like me, reading this book makes you feel even a little bit more OK with yourself, including all your weird and wobbly bits, then that is money well spent, in my opinion.

Available on Amazon: Not That Kind Of Girl By Lena Dunham

BUG London: The Future of Journalism

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I honestly don’t think there’s a more exciting time to work in journalism, or in the media in general. For so long the media industry sort of tried to ignore the Internet, hoping it might just go away but obviously that was never going to happen, soz guys. In the last five years, we’ve gone from needing printed news (the websites were too shitty) to being introduced to a new whole world of social media – or social news, straight into the palms of our hands 24 hours a day.

And other media industries, like PR, marketing, advertising are all getting more “hip” and modern and undergoing massive structural re-shuffles, plus introducing new roles. People are now not just account managers but “writers”, “curators”, “chief brainstormers” (etc etc). Even though most millennials thought everything was a bit old-fashioned in their first graduate job (you want me to SCAN this?) turns out everything just takes a while to adapt to change. Finally, the companies, i.e. the people behind the companies, realised it’s actually much safer these days to take risks (before your competitors do).

So now we live in a world of many job roles that would make any grandparent go, HUH? YOU WHAT? Because journalism, I feel is currently having the biggest transformation of them all. We’re having to re-train ourselves almost daily on new platforms, new formats, new delivery. Breaking old habits, learning new ones. Re-learning what people want, how they want it, when they want it. You don’t have one channel anymore, you have about 8-10, when you count up all the different social channels that your audience will no doubt search for and expect daily refreshed content.

Because what we’re mostly talking about here is the news. The thing that has always been around forever and ever and ever. Whether it’s village gossip down the pub (local news), or the 10’clock news on TV, or going to the shops and buying a newspaper, there was a really clear way in which we received our news, and who verified it. We have our different preferred trusted sources. The paper we picked up would be the way we would define ourselves.

But now – newspapers are drying up and the business models are changing. Printed news is slow. We’ve already heard it whilst the ink was drying. What does this all mean? Is the industry dead, as Seth Godin insists?

Earlier this week I went to an event put on by Bug London which is a night at the House of St Barnabus, a not-for-profit members club in Soho. The event was hosted in the most beautiful part of the building, in a chapel, candles everywhere. The question to the panel was “Do we get the press we deserve?” which was an interesting one, because of course the way we receive our news has drastically changed over the last decade. The Fleet Street glory days appear to be over. It’s now all about Silicon Valley. Briefcases away, iPads out.

Are we overly sentimental about household names when it comes to press? Miranda Sawyer asked this question to the panel. For example, Sophie Heawood, who had a column “Milf Teeth” in Vice I’ve been following for yonks, has now jumped ship to the Guardian as a weekend columnist. A fabulous job of course, but said herself that Vice really is taking over financially and broadening their offering in very savvy ways. Given the choice, would you choose a household brand over a newer venture? Does a traditional paper even had more clout anymore? Is it a generational thing?

Matt Kelly, former head of features at the Daily Mirror was on the panel, reminiscing about the good old days (in the 80s) where the salary was huge and you could buy a house with your annual earnings, and have a never-ending budget to do some seriously high-rolling. (And he worked with Piers Morgan, nuff said). Now, the budgets in newspapers are much much lower, the teams are smaller, and it’s even harder to get an entry level job at one of them.

Scott Bryan from Buzzfeed jumped in and everyone was completely engrossed in hearing about the behind-the-scenes, you know, being the hottest new website on the block. Buzzfeed was only founded in 2006 and has just received $50 million in funding. AKA, doing way better than Rupert Murdoch’s papers who lose millions every day. People sat in the audience were sceptical and asked Scott some difficult questions about how such a site would be sustainable but he made it known that the site isn’t just cat videos and lists. He also made it clear that the staff writers also have proper editing, as it appears that a few people were assuming that things just get slapped on the site within moments. It was really interesting to hear because I love Buzzfeed long reads and overall the business model is so interesting. But it seemed as though the old school journalists weren’t happy with the idea of a gimmicky website taking over, taking eyeballs away from traditional news sources where you would normally pay for your content.

I asked a question at the end about the importance of the individuals who are profiled within the papers. I spend a small fortune every weekend on papers, but that’s because I want to read Caitlin’s Times column, Lauren Laverne in Observer, Katie Glass and Camilla Long in Sunday Times etc. Those writers have their own personal audience who enjoy their weekly words and trust their judgement – it’s the individuals who keep pulling in younger readers. Some writers have bigger social followings than the publications and could jump ship at any moment, taking that community with them. Then we all got sidetracked and spoke about Jenna Marbles for ages. But definitely an example though of a self-made platform with a mega audience. Everyone is self-publishing, it’s just that some grow to the millions and some don’t.

The night was full of debate, lots of reflectiveness, and a lot of questions. No one had all the answers. I think it’s fair to say that we all agreed that the media is in a total state of flux right now. But, as someone who is very much a “digital native” (vom at the over-use of those two words but you know what I mean) I am really excited for the digital future of the news. I think becoming more connected can only be a good thing, for everyone. It also gives everybody a reason to never become complacent.

I’ve Not Yet Seen A Movie That Beats The Book

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Last night I finally got round to watch Gone Girl. Ever since the news came out that there was to be a film I had mixed feelings. Of course I wasn’t at all surprised; Gone Girl was the biggest book of 2012. It’s the last book that I read with complete obsession, turning pages dramatically and being genuinely gutted whenever I would reach my stop on the tube. Any spare moment was filled with my nose in that book – the ending disappointed me after being so engrossed in the plot, but to be honest, it was probably just because the book had ended full stop. What ever the end may have been: a neat ending, a cliff-hanger, or a spanner in the works, nothing would have satisfied me, apart from me knowing there would be a Gone Girl: Part 2. It always sucks to finish a really good book. You do a little mourn for your devoured book.

The bit about the “Cool Girl” stayed with me, long after I finished the book. It was so fricking true. I must have re-read it about ten times. I wrote about how much I loved the book here, in early 2013, so I won’t bore you with it again. But I am enjoying some of the articles talking about this fictional “Cool Girl”, because we all relate to the pressures of who she is, but as Helen Coffey said, she doesn’t actually exist. 

The cool girl that eats hamburgers, stays out late, never gets jealous and always stays a size 8. She isn’t real.

I enjoyed the film, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book. This is because:

a) they’ve repackaged the plot as a full on thriller (cert 18), something that mass audiences will enjoy and;

b) I already knew that it would struggle to beat the experience I had of reading the book.

This is, of course, one of the those magical things about reading. The story is yours. You imagine the characters, the scenery, the voices, the thoughts. We already created the “film” in our heads. And then we are watching one of the most famous actors in the world try and recreate the character of Nick Dunne. Affleck did a good job, but it was too Hollywood for me, too shiny. The narration of Amy’s diary entries sounded like the woman who does the Gossip Girl “xoxo” voiceovers. It was too… perfect sounding.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching the film. It’s just that it missed out bits , clearly because of the time limit. They ruthlessly cut out some of the best clues of Amy’s treasure hunt, they missed out characters, and they changed bits to make it a bit simpler for first time viewers.

After stewing on it for a bit, I’ve realised I’m more obsessed with Gillian Flynn’s writing of Gone Girl that I am with Gone Girl. I think my love for the book goes back to the fact the Flynn’s writing is so incredible. I’m glad she wrote the screenplay, but of course it was watered down.

I love this article on Mamamia which title reads “Gone Girl Is Not About You”. It seems as though people are obsessed with writing long think-pieces about gender stereotypes, marriage analysis, feminism, sexism, murder, rape. They are interesting reads, but at the end of the day, Gillian Flynn wrote a really really good crime fiction novel. One of the best. It’s not necessarily about us.

On a side note, I got home last night and found her “About Me” section, it’s proper lolz.

xo