A Braidy Business.

Young black girls have been wearing braids since the dawn of time. I never thought that such a simple hairstyle would be seen as problematic until I saw this tweet on Twitter last week:

I was so shocked by this because I had no idea that it was an issue. Why should it be? When I was a teenager, I wore braids at secondary school and not one teacher told me that my hair was ‘unsuitable’ or ‘unnatural’. That was in the early to mid-1990s, so how is it a problem now? If anything, schools should be more knowledgeable about this instead of wanting all children to conform to one generic look. Many of them cannot do that because: genetics.

According to this school’s uniform policy (which encourages pupils to adopt a ‘corporate identity’ – I’m guessing this extends to how they look as well), braids fall under the category of an ‘extreme hairstyle’. This is nonsense. Braids are not an extreme hairstyle, they are a protective hairstyle – two very different things. They protect our fragile follicles and strands. Not every black child wants to relax their hair and braids are a convenient and stylish way to maintain their Afro locks. If this teacher did some research, he would have known that.

This situation is scandalous and yet again adds to the policing and demonisation of black hair and the myopic viewpoint that our hair is perceived as ‘unprofessional’, no matter how we style it.

If the girl’s braids were down to her knees, it could be deemed a health and safety issue but this is not the case – it is a cultural issue and that’s not all. First, the head of year said her braids were ‘unnatural’; then he declared that the colour of the braids contravened the uniform policy, so she must remove the blonde bits. Like she can just pull them out quickly as if the hairdresser didn’t spend hours painstakingly braiding her hair. She cannot remove the blonde bits because that would mean SHE WOULD HAVE TO REMOVE ALL HER BRAIDS.

Knowing how much it costs to braid hair – both in price and in time – would mean that the whole process was a waste of time for the poor girl, merely because her teacher viewed her hair negatively and in an ignorant manner.

All this happened on her first day of secondary school. Imagine! The poor girl must have been excited and nervous starting at a new school. Then, she walked in and her new head of year criticised her hair, implying that she did not fit in because of this one aspect. That staff member likely gave that young girl a poor start to her experience at her new school because he’s now provided her with a complex, thanks to his dismissal of her perfectly fine hairstyle.

Also, how can you such a style is unnatural and yet have a young black girl on your homepage wearing – yes, you’ve guessed it – braids? Oh, the irony. But then again, what do you expect from a school that doesn’t even allow their pupils to wear earrings? I understand if they restricted pupils to wearing studs, but no earrings at all? Really?

Their policy states that ‘unnatural hair extensions or dyes are not permitted’. Fair enough, but what if there is a pupil at the school who has, say, a serious illness or alopecia and want to cover up by wearing a wig? Would that be allowed? Or would they make up another excuse on the spot and humiliate the child on their first day?

Fortunately, the school in question saw sense and softened their stance on this, so the young girl did not have to remove her braids. Thank goodness they did. Negatively affecting this young girl’s progress before she’s even begun because she sported braids is ridiculous. Wearing them will not impact her education or how she learns in any way and maybe they will realise that this hairstyle can be a part of her corporate and cultural identities. The two should not be mutually exclusive.

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Unwanted Frizz.

Rochelle Humes has been announced as the new Curl Ambassador for Frizz Ease, John Frieda’s longtime serum. Good for her – girl, get your coins. But this has not gone down well with some folk who are annoyed that she has been chosen to represent this brand.

You see, Rochelle is mixed-race and has loose curly hair. But many black women are not happy about her new role as they feel she does not represent them or their hair, and that Frizz Ease been on the market long enough to start doing so. At first, I was a little swept up by the row and could see their point. There is a feeling that Rochelle was picked as an ambassador because she is the more ‘acceptable’ face (or hair) of black hair: curly and malleable, but not too Nubian, kinky and ‘unmanageable’, which is what my hair type (4c/4d) is perceived as. It is the in-between level, straddling both spheres and seen as desirable and palatable. As I said, I understood why people are wound up by this, but then I thought the rage about this needs to calm down – and let me tell you why.

I bought Frizz Ease curl serum for the first (and last) time several years ago. I wanted something to help tame my curls as I was growing my hair out. At the time, there was not as much choice on the high street for women with natural hair like mine (thick, kinky and coily) as there is now, so I was in trial and error mode most of the time. I quickly realised that the serum was not right for me and found it to be a waste of money.

Since then, – judging by his appointment of Rochelle as ambassador – Frieda must have updated the product to be suitable for mixed-race hair, but I knew years ago that Frizz Ease was not the one and I still do. It is mainly for Caucasian hair and is now suitable for mixed-race follicles, but not for women like me with kinky Afro hair – and that’s OK.

This trifling serum was never meant for me or for us. Rochelle’s hair is very different to mine, in terms of curl type and texture. What I need for my hair differs to what a Caucasian or mixed-race woman would require. I would rather use something that is specifically suited for my hair type than a generic ‘for all hair types’ product that works on everyone’s hair but mine. Not everything in the mainstream will work on my hair – that’s just the way it is.

Thanks to social media, things have changed and black women (and girls) are more knowledgeable regarding the best products for our hair. There are more ranges than ever on the high street which cater for Afro hair and it’s late, but great. We can protest by not putting our hands in our pockets for the products that do not cater to us. Also we don’t always have to rely on the mainstream, as we can make or own products (though buying hair food in Boots is less problematic than whipping something up at home).

Now before anyone says this situation is similar to that of, say, make-up – no, it is not. Skin is skin – the only difference is in our skin tones, therefore all make-up brands should be catering to people of all colours as far as I am concerned. With hair, there are different factors to take into account: the texture, how curly or straight it is and the porosity levels of your barnet. What works on Caucasian hair will most likely not work on my Blackity-Black hair because we are at different ends of the spectrum.

Some of the women berating Rochelle for taking the ambassador role are the same ones who claim that her hair type excludes her from the natural hair movement, because they see her as ‘not black enough’. Make up your minds! One minute it’s, ‘you’ve got mixed-race hair, you can’t sit with us’ – the next, you say she should be representing all of us. It does not make sense. To my fellow black women: this product is not worth ranting about. You are getting upset over a product that was never meant for us in the first place. Save your breath and spend your money on what is meant for you.

Stormzy’s Scholarship.

Stormzy continues to excel in his quest for world domination. Earlier today, he announced a new Stormzy Scholarship, a new venture in partnership with Cambridge University which gives two black British students the fully-funded opportunity to study at the esteemed institution.

Wow. First, his publishing project with Penguin Books – called Merky Books – and now this. What an absolutely fantastic opportunity and a boost to black British students, many of whom often feel that, while the road to Oxbridge is an option, it is not exactly open to them.

Of course in this day and age of people who moan for moaning’s sake, there were dunces out there bleating, “Why is Stormzy only doing this scholarship for underprivileged black British students? Why not include underprivileged white students?”

The reason why he is doing this, you ignorant fools, is because even an underprivileged white student has a better chance of getting into Oxbridge than a black British student – thanks to their skin colour they are not subjected to quotas or outright ignored, as everything is geared in their favour. The number of black British students at Cambridge would be laughable if it wasn’t so low – they even asked for help from schools and parents to increase the number of black British students enrolling at the university (because Cambridge ‘could not do it on its own.’)

See, this is what the class system does in Britain – it tries to obstruct certain people from certain backgrounds gaining access to certain institutions. Despite all the talk of diversity, the Oxbridge definition is along the lines of allowing more white women through the doors – a bit like golf clubs (though they still do not want women in the clubhouse). They look down upon those whose looks and image does not fit the general consensus and allow a select number of ethnic minorities within the hallowed walls – and even then, instead of allowing them to flourish, the black British contingent are made to feel like they should be forever grateful that they were allowed to study at Oxbridge. Never mind that they got there on merit by getting the grades and working their backsides off to achieve and succeed – they endured snippy comments from those who looked down at them saying, ‘You can’t sit with us.’

In an ideal world Stormzy should not have had to do this scholarship. It also (in a roundabout way) shamed Cambridge University and highlighted the lack of action with their previous (ahem) ‘efforts’ regarding diversity. However, the fact that he has made this happen demonstrates his greatness, his astute nature and his desire to level the playing field. At the end of the day, an underprivileged white student is still a white person and a part of the mainstream. Black people are a very visible minority so anything that helps raise the number of us within such stiflingly white institutions is a great thing. Education is for all – Stormzy’s scholarship proves so.

Rudd Resignation: My Verdict.

Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary on Sunday night. I feel a slight degree of sympathy for her, as she fell on her sword by taking the blame for her predecessor’s mess. The Windrush debacle is mainly Theresa May’s fault as it was she who lit the fuse for this scandal when she was Home Secretary in 2010. May should step down but she’s currently immovable as PM because her supposed leadership is needed to steer the Good Ship Brexit and if she goes, we’ll be rudderless (no pun intended) as we veer towards one of the most pivotal moments in British history.

I’m amazed that she’s still at the helm after the shitfest that was last year (or last June). She did not have the landslide victory that was predicted at the general election, then the Grenfell Tower tragedy occurred and her failure to reach out to those affected made her a lame duck PM. Cut to nearly a year later and she’s still here, like a fly on excrement and it’s a shame.

Someone had to take the blame for the Windrush debacle and it had to be Rudd – she was the person in charge and didn’t seem to know what was going on and she ‘inadvertently misled’ MPs (her own words) about this and other issues, so she had to go. But May is getting off scot-free and surely that cannot be right? Everyone knows that she should resign but it’s like a whole heap of tumbleweed has blown into Parliament because it seems nobody is coming out and saying it.

Joshua v Parker: The Verdict.

I was so hyped for this fight. It was an intriguing set-up: Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker: the battle of the unbeaten boxers.

The fight had the potential to be a proper nail-biting dust-up but all that was ruined thanks to one man: the referee, Giuseppe Quartarone.

I don’t know if he was channelling infamous football ref Mike Dean, but he was atrocious. He kept stopping any contact between both fighters, even though that is the actual point of this sport, and on the rare occasions when it looked like an actual fight was going to happen, the ref butted in and parted them both like Moses and the Red Sea. There was one moment in the fifth round where the fight got a bit tasty and the crowd were roaring in approval and Quartarone charged in and separated them. Again.

He also made farcical decisions such as halting a fight in the last ten seconds of one round so that Joshua strapped up his glove properly. Never mind that the glove was like that for the previous two minutes and he did not notice. He could have waited until the bell rang at the end of the round but that would have meant using common sense. No wonder Joshua and Parker were so vexed. All the commentators on TV and radio grew more and more irritated by Quartarone’s atrocious officiating – people paid money to watch that fight, only to see him on a one-man mission to destroy a potentially blockbusting bout.

Joshua looked in control for most of the fight. It was not a thrill-a-minute bout like the classic against Klitschko but he got the job done. Parker was an unknown quantity to most Brits but, considering he was unbeaten, we knew that he had a fair amount of quality. The Kiwi is two years younger than Joshua, but had an issue with his elbow which he said had cleared up before the fight, so he’d be fighting ‘at 100%’. Despite his disadvantage height-wise, he fared well but was swinging wild punches at his opponent’s head and never really succeeding in getting a true connection. Plus, every time he got into a groove, that damn referee put a stop to his flow.

Overall, a fight that could have been a cracker fizzled out with a whimper. A dull bout between two quality fighters and an attention-seeking referee.

What’s next? Joshua v Wilder is on the horizon! Now that is going to be one helluva knock-down-drag-out fight. Joshua called out Wilder after his win (“Let’s go, baby, LET’S GO,” he hollered) and said he is ready to roll whenever, so long as the venue is on British shores. Damn right. What a fight that’ll be!

Let’s hope if it does take place in the near future that tonight’s referee isn’t allowed anywhere near it- not even as a spectator.

Korean Skincare Cleansing Routine: My Verdict.

I tried the Korean 10-step skincare routine that has revolutionised the beauty world. Here are my thoughts on how it went…

Why?

I am a sucker for beauty products and love trying and buying new skincare items and finding different ways to get great skin. Although my skincare routine prior to this made my face flawless, I had been wearing more make-up recently and was keen to try out Korean-style cleansing, so I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

The method.

The 10 steps to glorious skin Korean-style are laid out below:

To start with, I cleansed my face with extra virgin olive oil almost everyday, smothering it all over my boat-race with abandon before wiping it off with a hot(ish) cloth. I then used my soap-free face wash (from a well-known brand) or my cleansing lotion to complete the double cleanse.

After that, it was onto the toner, then I gave the essence a swerve. I will freely admit that I sort of skipped that part because I am a cheap bitch and did not fancy paying over £60 for something that may or may not have aggravated my dry and sensitive skin. I am a high-street kinda girl – nothing wrong with more expensive items but high-street stores have upped their game when it comes to skincare.

Also, facial essence is quite a highbrow product and I could not find many on the high street, only online at ridiculous prices. So I used a Vitamin C skin booster as an inexpensive alternative to the essence and mixed it with my facial serum. But the strong scent of the skin booster triggered a reaction (the serum was not fragranced) so I had to stay away from that as well.

I finished off with the final three steps (eye cream, Shea butter and cocoa butter) and went on my merry way.

The result.

I was so enthusiastic when I started adopting the Korean skincare routine. It may have ten steps but it was not as long-winded as I thought it would be. I enjoyed the self-care element of it, as you couldn’t really rush yourself. You had to give yourself a bit of time to devote to your face and that practice was nice.

But I soon realised that double cleansing literally meant over-cleansing. Yes, the routine removed every last bit of makeup from my face, but a few days after I started, several dreadful dark patches rocked up on my face. I’ve had these patches many times before and now they are on my forehead and all over my cheeks and around my mouth. The irony is my face felt good and not dried out or dehydrated, but the dark areas showed up to a party they were not invited to, along with a load of blemishes and have scarred my face.

The Koreans are all about looking after their skin with more than a face wipe and, while I understand that this is beneficial, there is such a thing as over-cleansing. The whole ten-step routine proved too much for me. The glowing skin that I had a fortnight ago had gone and it was all because I over-cleansed. My skin was telling me, ‘Leave it, Gill,’ and I did not notice until it was too late.

I still think oil cleansing is a good way to cleanse your skin, especially if you have been wearing make-up all day. It purged all traces of foundation and concealer, but it also dried my skin out and gave me an uneven skintone. However, I will continue using this method, but not so often – once or twice a week rather than everyday. After all, less is more. People with oily skin would more than likely find double cleansing to be a real boost to their skincare regime but for me, doing that on a daily basis was problematic.

So now I’m going back to basics to restore my face to its former glory. Bish, bash, bosh.

Overall, I’m glad I tried the routine by I realised that a lot of these skincare trends aren’t for me. Ten steps to flawless skin is not happening via this method. I’m keeping it simple from now on.

Beggars Belief.

Another day, another example of a council showing their callous disregard for those in their region. Fresh from councils putting spikes in doorways and weirdly shaped steel straps on benches to deter homeless people from sleeping rough, now Poole council are to start fining beggars £100 for bedding down in their city centre. Where these beggars are going to find the money to pay off said debt is another matter.

In this day and age where many people are one missed payment away from ending up on the streets, this is a pretty shitty idea. The price of everything is going up but people’s salaries are often not enough to cover their rent or bills and many are constantly teetering on the edge. Whatever happened to helping residents? Because let’s be honest, that is what these homeless people are. They barely have much so how are you, dear council, planning to collect the money from them? Prise the pennies out of their cold hands?

There must be a better alternative than enforcing fines that will not be paid. How the hell are they going to pay? They have no fixed abode yet will miraculously have the funds to cough up £100 each time they are caught sleeping in a car park. It will be like a bar tab that is not resolved – and what happens then? Will that person continue to accumulate more fines until it reaches a level where it will be written off? If that is the case, surely it will be a pointless exercise and a failure for the council to add to their list.

Various people have been vocal in their criticism of the plan (which was originally put off due to the anger against it) and more than 3,500 people have signed a petition to get this new plan shelved. But it’s to no avail, as this fining fiasco is to go ahead next month. It does not seem like they will differentiate between ‘professional’ beggars and those that are genuinely in hard times either – it’s a one size fits all policy, which makes things worse and makes absolutely no sense.

Nobody wants to see homeless people sleeping rough but this is not the solution most had in mind. The government must do more than pay lip service for those in need. It should not be left to the likes of Shelter to always step in and help the homeless – this is a nationwide issue, after all.

What about helping the homeless to not be in such a situation? Give them the means to find other accommodation or something. Perhaps open up a soup kitchen for the whole year, instead of the odd one at Christmas that can barely hold the total number of homeless in your borough? Anything must be better than treating them like an empty cash machine?

I don’t know what Poole council hope to achieve from this but it is likely they will target those that actually need their help rather than this nonsense. Good luck to them trying to enforce this – maybe some good will come out of this but judging by the way it will be implemented, I doubt that very much.