What Would Beyoncé Do?

A review: The awesome Luisa Omielan’s comedy show What Would Beyoncé Do at Leicester Square Theatre. Warning: it’s not only hilarious, but it makes you want to re-listen to every single Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé album ever released….and with a brand new context to each song.

 

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As we entered the small(ish) Leicester Square Theatre on Friday night, the comedy star herself Luisa Omielan, is already on the stage swaying to music pumping her fist in the air and twerking a little. She’s not backstage doing any breathing exercises with a massive entourage. She’s already sat on the stage, bopping and sipping a giant Coca Cola (mixed with something else in it probs) and watching over the crowd as her soon-to-be audience pile into the theatre, to see her perform.

This wasn’t your typical “take your seats and wait politely for the act to come on”. She was already there, like a mate, welcoming everyone into her comedy party. Luisa asked if anyone in the audience wanted to introduce the show, because y’know, if she was going to be Beyoncé she’d need a support act. Tipsy girls all around the auditorium waved their hands manically, shouting me-me-me! But Luisa picked the girl in the front row who was avoiding eye contact, and dragged her up on the stage instead.

The whole show was excruciatingly honest and at so many points in the show people were laughing and nodding so hard there heads might have fallen off. She poked fun at the weird little things in life: the etiquette of texting someone back, how to get over a break up, how confusing relationships and life can be.

Luisa was literally the life and soul of the party. She was really captivating on stage – not losing the audience’s attention for one second. Someone you want to be around because she is fun and loud and hilarious. And her impressions of Beyoncé (with her glittering gold top) were uncanny.

It wasn’t all fun and games though, there was parts where Luisa spoke about depression, family issues and really really low points in her life. It was this honesty, mixed with comedy and punctuated with Beyonce’s songs that were really poignant… I’ve never been to a comedy show where you are literally laughing so-hard-you-can’t-breathe one minute and then close to tears the next.

She embraced awkwardness. After one particular scene, there was no musical interlude on purpose. She made the audience reflect for a few moments. “Funny thing is, I don’t find this bit awkward, but I bet you lot are.”

Her own life story was also tied into the show. It was one big pep talk: she’d struggled, she had shit thrown at her, she clearly hadn’t been this confident all her life and yet here she was with a sell out tour in the West-End in London. WWBD clearly worked.

My thoughts on leaving the theatre? Screw Beyonce, I can’t relate to her.*

Instead, I’m thinking What Would Luisa Omielan Do? Because she’s pretty f*cking cool.

Get your tickets HERE.

*OK, expect maybe here. This is new video of hers is jokes.

How To Get Into Digital Journalism

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I didn’t take the most traditional path into working in an editorial team at a digital magazine. I always knew I wanted to work at a magazine, but as with most things in life, you have to work out the best way to get there, for you. It’s not as easy as just popping out of the womb and instantly becoming Carrie Bradshaw. You have to learn things the hard way. Plus not everyone knows what career they want to get into straight away. You have to try a few things out before you know for sure. I had to wait until the right role popped up that married up my social media and editorial skills so I could write and edit and hunt out the news in the hidden corners of the web and tie it all together. In this exciting digital era, there are jobs out there that they don’t necessary tell you about at university. Well, not when I was there anyway.

To work in editorial now doesn’t necessary mean working for a monthly print or newspaper or a household ‘heritage brand'; there are so many ways to write and get involved with awesome digital websites. So whether you’re want to get into writing, blogging, social media, editing – hopefully these handful of things I’ve learned along the may might help in some way.

So here are my bits of advice for when you’re starting out:

  • Join a blog network. I joined Huffington Post bloggers about four years ago. Also HelloGiggles (Zoey Deschanel’s website) as a contributor. It didn’t pay loads and sometimes not at all, but right at the start it was worth doing. I didn’t feel robbed because I needed the experience.
  • Team up with your pals. Write on each other’s blogs. Share links to each other.  I wrote a dating blog in 2010 with a guy I met on Twitter from the Gay Times. It got us a big of traffic, it was fun, it showed that we were enthusiastic, keen, had stuff to write about and could be arsed to create and share content.
  • Get on Linkedin. You don’t have to go on there everyday or write posts or look at people’s profiles if you don’t want to. BUT you should get on there, and have a good profile. If you’re lucky enough that someone might search for you, it’s embarrassing if nothing comes up.
  • Ask for advice. You can’t have an ego about it. Ask people for a coffee. Ask for advice. People will respond (they might take ages, but they eventually will). I met up with the digital directors for The Times, Guardian, Telegraph. Nothing happened immediately afterwards. But that wasn’t the point – the point was I was talking to them, one-on-one, which was invaluable.
  • Have an online space. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to start a blog. A blog isn’t for everyone, and not everyone wants to have the pressure of having to publicly share stuff all the time. But, I would say you do need to have an online space/porfolio to store your writing. Even if it’s a static page with your name as the URL. Also, how else do you keep track of your work? Plus if you send an email to someone, they won’t read the attachment (too much effort) but they will click a link. So it’s best you have a link that’s yours.
  • Pitch pitch pitch. Pitch ideas left right and centre. Editors emails are public knowledge. If you keep pitching you will soon learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Something will stick.
  • Be realistic. Lots of people just ‘want’ to be a writer. It won’t happen just by writing a blog. Or having a twitter feed. You need to get under the skin of your favourite publication and learn to be edited. It’s competitive so roll up your sleeves and be prepared to accept feedback/criticism of your work.
  • READ lots. There are so many amazing books out there that are genuinely helpful and tells it how it is in the industry. One of my favourites recently is Mistakes I Made At Work (25 amazing career women tell you how they fucked up, and later succeeded).
  • Go to events. I cannot stress enough the important of IRL networking. You can have a drink to calm your nerves and just go up to people. People aren’t monsters, they will talk to you. They will want to give you opportunities if you’re enthusiastic. Not all events are expensive. Keep your eye on Twitter and Eventbrite and make a list of the events you think are most important for you to go to.
  • Be reliable. If someone asks you to do something. Do it well, and do it ON TIME. You might be really good but if you’re always late, they’ll pick someone else over you.
  • Collaborate. Partner up with people and do things that are mutually beneficial. I had a few people guest blog on my website for a while and I linked to their social channels to grow their followers. I interviewed entrepreneurs for Huffington Post to raise their profile and in return I got to go to their events. If brands invite you to events make sure they tag you in their updates and link to you. Work out how you can pitch ideas to people that will actually benefit them.
  • Network online. Twitter is often compared to an online ‘cocktail party’ because it’s acceptable to just sort of enter a conversation if you feel like it. It’s sort of like sidling up to someone and say hello with your drink. Just do it. It’s so easy to make friends on Twitter.
  • Meet up with bloggers. If you do have a blog, go to blog events. There are also so many niche events like books, photography, YouTubers, bloggers. There are SO many networking groups out there, some of them are just drinks in a pub, some are panel events, some are parties. Go to them and you’ll work out what ones you enjoy the best.
  • Meet one new person a week. I go for a coffee with someone new every week. Yes EVERY WEEK. Make the effort to broaden your horizons. Both of you will always learn something new.
  • Be disciplined: Work out a schedule and stick to it. One pitch a week? 500 words every Sunday? Whatever you put in your diary, stick to it. Be reasonable, don’t put too much pressure on yourself otherwise you’ll never do it.
  • Own something. What’s your thing? Spend time working out what really interests you. Is it writing TV reviews? Food? Women’s rights? Get people to remember you as that person who can write well about that thing.
  • Follow people you admire closely. Not in real life obviously, that would be weird. But follow the people who’s job you want. See what they do, who they talk to, which events they go to, how often they blog etc. Learn from them and work your way up to achieving specific goals.
  • Tell people you like their work. If you’ve just read a book that you love then tell the author. Tell the publisher. Same for magazine. It’s a great way to tell people you like what they do, and they’ll probably remember you. Support and champion things.
  • Tag your work. Make sure you tag your posts so that they are easily searchable. Make your Google page look good, and full.
  • Social media management. Treat your social media channels like they are a brand. a) Don’t be a dick. b) be consistent c) be honest d) BE YOU. Really important to have a voice. A real one.
  • Build a contacts book. I have a Google doc with all the email addresses of people I’ve met and respect. It’s so important to have a network of people you know and trust.
  • KEEP GOING. It’s really important to be aware that things just don’t happen overnight. You have to go keep going, making progress each day, even if it’s really tiny steps forward. Even if it’s writing one small thing that hardly any one reads, you are improving and creating something. Pat yourself on the back. It really is a case of not giving up . It’s one of the hardest, but most crucial parts of getting to where you want to be.

Image source: topinspired.com

Rosewood London: A New Discovery

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We’re all guilty of going to the same places a lot. I’m totally guilty of it, me and boyfriend have been going to the same breakfast place (and ordering the same thing) about about three years now. Not cool, but a case of ‘if it ain’t broke’. If you know what you like then it’s just easy and comforting going to the same place a lot. But actually I love discovering new places, especially when going on new city breaks as you find really great hidden gems that you can recommend and tell people about.

So on Sunday evening I discovered an AMAZING new place. The lovely girls at Tribal Media invited me and Plum along to the Rosewood, which I had to Google as I’d never heard of it. It was so close to my office, and I probably walk past it most days, and yet, I’d never been inside. To be honest, this also suggests how rarely I look up, I’m always tip-tapping away on my phone, not looking where I am going.

Honestly on arrival, me and Plum were MIND BLOWN. It’s lovely. It’s grand and beautiful and friendly and warm. It’s got loads of twists and turns (we got lost on the way to the loo) and also has different wings. There’s the Holborn dining room, the Mirror room, the Lobby lounge, and of course, the bar (designed by Martin Brudnizki). There’s a real personality to the building, a mix of old-school architecture with modern art.

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There’s no surprise that it’s been voted Best New Hotel in the World 2014 – Telegraph Ultratravel  and on The Hot List 2014 (UK) by Condé Nast Traveller. The thing is, it’s not intimidating – it should be, but it isn’t. Anyone can come in, you don’t have to be a member, or spend £22,000 on a six room wing in the Grand Manor House Wing (which you can do and it HAS IT’S OWN POSTCODE). It’s a relaxed environment and the team concentrate on making people feel welcome, even if you’re not staying in the hotel and just want to stop by for a cup of tea.

And WHAT’S MORE: there was cabaret in the bar, which is called Scarfes Bar. And it wasn’t cheesy or tacky, it was brilliant. I felt like I was in the theatre, but in a beautiful open room with a big bar in the middle. We sat near the fire, all toasty and warm with drinks flowing and listened as the piano and band played songs and the two singing hosts entertained everyone all throughout the night. The cabaret group would perform in 15 minute chunks so you can time to chat with friends in between songs. It was informal and fun.

I totally recommend going. I can’t wait to go back. The perfect Sunday evening, fun but still casual. They also live complimentary jazz six nights a week. BOOM.

Xoxoxo

rosewoodhotels.com

facebook.com/rosewoodhotels

@rosewoodhotels

 

Early Christmas Present To Yourself: WIN £100 To Spend At ASOS

*This competition is now over*

If you love ASOS then you’re in the right place because they have been lovely enough to give me 2 x £100 vouchers to give away to YOU because it’s nearly Christmas and everyone’s in a great mood (six weeks until Chrimbo and counting…AHH).

Also, I always think it’s totally fine to give *yourself* a present for Christmas, because you’ve gotta give yourself some loving too. So these vouchers will be a perfect gift from me to you…. to you.

To get involved, just email me at girllostinthecityblog@gmail.com with your name and a link to your most wanted item that features in the below ASOS video.

Can be anything colourful from the video that you are currently dribbling over. I’ll be picking two emails at random to award the prize next week– so do it do it!

Look forward to seeing your faves. xoxo

 

 *this is a sponsored post* but I do love love ASOS*

 

London Literary Circle: Is it All Elitist Member’s Clubs?

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Nothing makes me happier than having a book in my hand. Mornings are made dramatically better when receiving a new book in the post, stroking its beautiful cover and opening up the magical pages can catapult me into my day in the most brilliant of moods. I can have a bad day but just knowing that I have a book in my bag that can calm me down on the journey home can make all the difference. It’s an easy and much-needed escapism, better than any app, or game or newsfeed. This summer, when I travelled to New York on my own, I had dinners by myself but I didn’t feel alone when in the company of a book. I could be left alone for hours in my own little world, because the conversation was happening between the pages in my hands.

Books are having a comeback. Not that they ever properly went away, but that they are continuing to boom whilst we are fearing the loss of so many things: analogue clocks, fax machines, VHS, printed newspapers, IRL cashiers, CD racks. Things we won’t miss too much. So much is vanishing and technology is the newest shiniest kid in town – yet the tube stations are littered with huge book advertisements. Books are continuing to fly off the shelves. People want physical copies of books to give to friends, to be signed, to remind you of something or someone, to pack into boxes when they move house. Books are causing media debates and creating headlines. Just look at the recent controversy over Lena Dunham and Russell Brand’s books, creating far greater media storm than anything they said or did on TV.

So last night I went along to a book event called Byte The Book. I was excited to go along, I went alone and was prepared to chat away with people, be it authors, aspiring authors, publishers, agents. I don’t know much about the business side of things, often wondering how does it actually work? Because it’s a major business, and a long process, and a hard, hard thing to do. To get a little glimpse into the literary “scene” was an exciting idea.

It was hosted at the Ivy Club, a member’s club in Soho, and it felt quite….guarded. Not really what I was expecting, but I didn’t know what to expect. I was escorted up a grand glass stairwell and then through a hidden door, then up two more smaller flights of stairs. It suddenly felt really formal. It’s an absolutely amazing venue. But it felt quite secretive. I did what anyone normally does at these things and headed straight for the bar, when I was presented with a £9.95 bill for a glass of wine that hardly filled up to the middle. A few drops of wine costed nearly as much as the ticket to the event.

I got chatting to some really great people who I was sitting next to, one had self-published a book and was in the midst of publishing her second and it was going really well. Then, the panel began, and they started to debate traditional publishing vs self-publishing. It got quite heated between the independent authors vs the agents, but it genuinely made for a great debate because both sides got quite heated. Orna Ross, founder of ALLi, had a rocky time with her agent meaning that when her book came out she hated the cover, and was never invited to any meetings. Suzie Doore from Hodder & Stoughton quite rightly said that she probably didn’t have a very good agent, and the agents are meant to include you in these things, and make you feel at ease. Orna felt like the only relationship that truly matters is the reader and the writer. I nodded along to both sides of the argument.

Every so often during the panel there would be some “in” jokes between the industry acquaintances who were scattered about the room. All this does is makes the people attending feel a bit on the peripheral of the event. Not everyone gets the jokes. Not everyone knows the score. You were encouraged to network, and yet the vibe was very ‘us’ and ‘them’. This was definitely an in-crowd. It was starting to look like a very small industry.

But I’d like to stress this isn’t about me, I felt disappointed on behalf of any aspiring author who pays money to go to these “how to get published” events and coming away feeling like it’s a totally impossible thing to get into. In such an old fashioned world of publishing, there must be ways in which people can feel included in the conversation. The Internet gives people a voice, but these publishing events make you feel like you’ve been stripped away of one. I’ve been so lots of these this year, and it’s always the same result.

After the panel ended, I spoke to an agent out of sheer curiosity for this blog post, someone who has had super success in publishing many authors. I asked: what’s the formula to picking your authors?

“I hate it when people name-drop. Literally if anyone even name-drops slightly I’ll delete their email. Hate it.”

OK. Have you got any advice for people submitting their ideas?

“Well, if it’s fiction then only send it in if it’s completely perfect and completely finished.”

I try and explain my idea.

“Is it finished?”

No. It’s not finished.

“People complain they don’t have time to write a book. Well I think, when *are* you going to write it then? Don’t bother if it’s not finished.”

I didn’t find this conversation helpful. I found it quite uninspiring, quite stand offish.

But they merrily continued drinking their red wine, being part of the literary gang, and let all the people who felt impassioned enough to attend slip away into the night, feeling a little less confident about their future books.

“Everyone *thinks* they’ve got a book in them”, I overheard someone scoff on the other side of the room, as I got my coat and left.

 

 

Brighten up Winter with ASOS Colour Control

 

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I love ASOS. It genuinely is the place I turn to whenever I need to emergency update my wardrobe – mainly whenever it’s raining, I’m hungover or just feeing a bit poop and don’t want to trek to the shops. I still love the fact that I order something straight from my bed and have the thrill of trying it all on in my home, in front of my own mirror without have to lug it all on the bus home.

Which is why I was super excited to hear from the ASOS team about all their new AW14 looks – of course I started making my shopping list asap. Do you know the best bit? It’s all SO COLOURFUL. There’s something about winter that means browns, greys, blacks (I do love these colours don’t get me wrong) but I also like being rebellious with colour during the colder months. There’s something really fun about wearing bright trousers, trainers, big bold coats. It’s like you’re sort of breaking the “rules” of classic fashion. Colour always seems to be synonymous with sunshine – but why?

I love love this new video they’ve brought out. I’m acquiring an interest recently for video making in general (keep obsessing over vloggings and cameras) and its just a really fun watch which got me excited about all the clothes featured in it. It’s also INTERACTIVE you guys – as in, you can switch-up the colours at the click of your mouse, and the video also features the band JUCE who I’ve only just discovered.

Check it out below – choose your colour and subscribe to the ASOS YouTube channel, it’s a good one.

*this is a sponsored post* but I do love love ASOS.

Meeting Lena Dunham IRL

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Anyone that follows me on Twitter will probably have noticed that I named this week #LENAWEEK because she was in London and took over the media world (BBC 6 music, Graham Norton Show, Grimmy’s Radio 1 show, Woman’s Hour etc). I’ve practically been a Lena spam-bot, just mouthing off about how much I adore her at any possible moment, to any one who will listen to me.

The truth of the matter is, there is no one out there right now like Lena Dunham. She is a multi-tasking dream machine who, by having the rare bravery of being totally herself, has had the power to change women’s lives. It’s difficult not to be 75% more confident in Lena’s presence. Back in 2012 when I first discovered GIRLS it very quickly became my escapism. I felt like finally I was seeing someone like myself  on TV, not something unattainable or intimidating. Hannah Horvath and co were like any other group of twenty-something girls trying to figure who they were, and suddenly we could all let out a big sigh of relief. Thanks to Lena, I genuinely began to think: I am going to be OK.

Having followed each other on Twitter for a while and conversed with sporadic messages, I plucked up the courage to ask if I could phone her for an interview. She replied saying she’d love to do one IRL and that we should meet when she was in London for the tour, and I was over the moon. On Tuesday I went along to meet her at a location in Soho and all my nerves instantly vanished. She was lovely, approachable, FUNNY, inspiring. “My twitter friend Emma! I love your blog!” she said, as I died, died died on the spot. For a few moments I forgot we were in a hotel reception, I felt like I was in a friend’s living room, just chit-chatting, bouncing ideas and opinions off each other. We just chatted and chatted and I felt so happy and grateful to have spent any time with her, one on one. Despite being so famous and busy and in-demand, she had a way of making everyone around her feel like a friend, like a someone. During the interview I lost count of how many of her friends, family, other women she would praise and celebrate their achievements; it was infectious.

On Wednesday I was so excited to have met Grace Dunham (Lena’s sister), bump into friends and meet other female journalists who loved the book. It was a lovely evening at Shoreditch House to celebrate the book and a chance to hear Fourth Estate (Lena’s publisher) talk about the book and Lena’s writing future: I felt excited for her because this is clearly the first of many book deals.

The crescendo was Friday night. Lena Dunham in conversation with Caitlin Moran at the Southbank centre. It was the Royal Festival Hall, but no gig, no band, no ‘act': instead it was two hilarious and clever women talking about food, books, periods, feminism and general life, on a massive stage. A sold-out auditorium, full of excited audience members who couldn’t wait to listen to these two awesome women chat about every day girl “stuff”. That in itself, is an amazing thing. Real life feminist rockstars. It’s taken us until now for this type of empowering feminist conversation to actually have the air-time it deserves.

Caitlin had a huge applause. She is as funny and fabulous as she is in print, but she made the night not about her. She made it all about Lena. Watching the two of them together was glorious. Lena read a chapter from her book, whilst mentioning she had an ulcer in between paragraphs. Her imperfections making her so relatable, normal, lovely, endearing. It was Halloween and she reminisced about going to a party as Louis C.K and someone thinking her actual stomach was “padding” for the outfit. The audience howled with laughter. We’ve all had these cringe-inducing moments, but Lena’s just brave enough to a tell room of hundreds of people.

I loved her brashness. She questioned why women are judged to closely for being “role models” and questioned about how much money they get paid. Howard Stern once said that everyone is asked about pay, not just women. She disagreed. She called out the Daily Mail for writing about her “noticeably slimmer face” at her launch party but not managing to mention much about the book. She responded brilliantly and articulately about wanting to change the current representation of women on TV when asked about not having a woman of colour in GIRLS.  

She laughed about how the media critique women’s dresses at award shows. How strange it is that people get angry when someone (like Lena) dresses for themselves, and not for the audience. (Sarah Millican got a special shout out who was in the audience, having faced similar treatment at the BAFTAs). She made a joke out of the backlash she got for her Emmy dress, that she felt great in it, and made a valid point that if you’re going to have sit around for six hours listening to quite a lot of boring stuff you might as well feel good in what you’re wearing. In a nutshell she had noticed that if you ever stray from the classic mermaid tail strapless dress and wear something a bit kooky “people think you are trying to troll the audience.. When I wore the pink dress to the Emmys people thought I had done it to ruin everyone’s day, but I thought “nailed it”. That’s the other thing about Lena, she is really, really funny. Another gem she said: “People love a Pygmalion story: “She came to Hollywood kooky and now look at her, she’s normal!”

 

She spoke about her anxiety, her habits. You can tell she reads heaps of books and she’s always referencing books. She spoke about the book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Take Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work. It was interesting hearing her speak about routines, how she wrote her book, how she writes her scripts, how she keeps to deadlines. All the stuff that most people don’t bother talking about (or don’t want to share).

Caitlin Moran asked some seriously good questions. One of my favourite discussions from the evening was about the way GIRLS broke a taboo and showed period blood on Jessa’s hands, which meant she no longer had to go through with an abortion. Lena spoke about how this plot-line in GIRLS was based on a true story: a girl who had booked a flight to Puerto Rico to have an abortion but then had her period in the airport, and that feeling she had of not having to go ahead on the flight. It’s a massively important part of women’s lives, and yet we don’t see it much on television. Caitlin made the good point that we see blood everywhere on TV and movies, but more the gory kind, not menstrual. Isn’t that so bizarre that’s OK to show someone’s head being chopped off, but people still GASP at the sight of pre-abortion period blood?

Someone in the audience asked Lena if she could go back in time would she changed the ending of Tiny Furniture. She said that although she liked the ending, she did re-watch it two years ago and notice things that weren’t technically perfect and there were things she would tweak slightly in hindsight, with more experience. Then she said something really really lovely: “I think it’s really important to look back at your old work and revisit it and hug yourself for trying.”

All in all, I couldn’t have hoped for a better week. Seeing Lena three times in one week was an absolute DREAM and I didn’t think it was possible to like her any more than I already did. She. Is. Brilliant. xo

Read my full interview with Lena on The Debrief here

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

laura

#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.