Creative director and fashionista
What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Everyone makes fun of me in Winter because I love drinking hot water “don’t you want a cup of tea…what about a bit of lemon and honey?” No thank you, just some nice hot water. And when I go out I ask for 2/3 hot 1/3 cold, so that it’s not scalding hot.
What is the best thing that happened to you today?
It’s still a bit early in the day, but last night I was chatting with my partner about feeling stressed and he was so lovely and reassuring…and then my cat jumped up on the bed and came and gave me kisses. Was a moment of feeling very loved.
If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
What talent would you most like to possess?
I always wished I had one of those ‘take it to church’ voices.
What is the best part of your job?
I work as the creative director of The Fashion Market. We design creative concepts with local artists and we produce a fashion editorial called The Fashion Marketfor Ascension Magazine (and Stella Magazine from August) which features all Indigenous and ethnically diverse models and focuses on recycled clothing, vintage and op-shopping, ethical clothing and women who design their own clothes.
I don’t get much sleep and I spend a lot of time doing admin, but I love everything about the work that I do because it’s all about expanding definitions of beauty, embracing the unique style of the women we feature in our editorials and connecting promoting local artists. Think global, act local.
What do you most value in your friends?
That they will be honest with me…even when I don’t really want them to be. Ha ha.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Find your community. Because there is not equal representation of Indigenous and ethnically diverse people in mainstream media it can seem like there is not much diversity in the arts, culture, music and fashion scene in Australia. But, that is not true. There is a vibrant, warm, welcoming community of artists from diverse backgrounds in Australia, particularly in Melbourne. So, get out there! Put your hand up, say yes, get involved in everything you can until you find where it is you want to be.
What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
Penultimate. It means second to last. English language doesn’t always have specific words like this, so I get a kick out of enjoying my ‘penultimate mouthful of cake’ or the ‘penultimate day of the school year’.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
My biggest challenge in immigrating to Australia has probably been financial. Over the past ten years I’ve poured a lot of money into the Australian economy through Uni fees, visa fees, health care fees and on and on. There seems to be this idea that if you want to immigrate to Australia, for whatever reason, you must have a bottomless pit of money. And that is not the case for everyone. I came here on my own, for my own reasons. I went to university here, I work here and I don’t have people at home offering me a substantial amount of financial support. And I am not the only woman in this position. Sometimes it feels like that determination and sacrifice goes unnoticed and unrewarded. If the Australian government put even 10% more investment into supporting immigrant women, we would be able to give back so much more.
Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
Ha ha. I’ve got a funny one for that. To help pay the bills I do some work in a call centre between my other jobs. Usually people call up and need help with something,pretty straight forward. A lady called up last week and wanted something that we couldn’t do. She got a bit angry and said “I’m going to say something that might sound a bit rude, but I’d rather speak to an Australian.” I didn’t miss a beat, just replied “yes, that is rude. I am an Australian”…she hung up.
For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
My mother immigrated to the US from Barbados before I was born. When I was growing up I was bounced around between America and Barbados, spending a few years in one and then the other. As a result I never had that automatic feeling of ‘belonging’ to either country. Instead, I had to cultivate my own belonging to both. As human beings we are all searching for a sense of belonging, for a community. Since I immigrated to Australia ten years ago I feel like I’ve gotten a better understanding of what my mother would have gone through immigrating to a new country. But, unlike her I did not come here knowing anyone. What I’ve found is that regardless of our backgrounds we all just want to belong, be accepted and have a community. For me the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant background is knowing that no matter where you are, you belong. The world is big enough for us all.
If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Maya Angelou. Hands down. When I heard she passed away, I cried. You would have thought I knew her personally, I cried so much…and in a way I did. Her passing was so shocking to me because I honestly couldn’t imagine a world without Maya Angelou, and I still can’t. She’s been such a part of my life. I feel like if I had the chance to meet her I’d probably turn into an 11 year old super fan and just jump up and down for a full minute before I was actually able to get a word out…which is a long time for me. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to talk.
Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
Aside from working on The Fashion Market I’m also on the creative board for Australia’s first Indigenous and ethnic women’s lifestyle magazine. Ascension Magazine is the brainchild of Sasha Sarago and I feel so honoured to be able to work with her and help build Ascension. I don’t know what to say about Sasha except that she is a powerhouse and an inspiration. She has taken her dream of seeing a more diverse and inclusive Australia and made it into a reality. We launched the digital edition of Ascension for iPads and android tablets in November of last year and our team is currently working on a crowd funding campaign to get the magazine in print! This is all happening because Sasha refused to give up on her dreams. To me Sasha is the just an unstoppable woman.
Name a book or film that changed your life.
Ok, I’m just going to use this question to say that I love Maxine Beneba-Clarke. I read her collection of short stories ‘Foreign Soil’ and absolutely fell in love with her writing style. But, more than that I loved the stories set in Footscray, where I live. Knowing that she was an Australian immigrant of Afro-Caribbean descent—like me—made me feel like I existed. These streets are my streets. I can lay my stories down here and I can be heard. Thank you Maxine!
What are you reading right now?
I just downloaded an e-book version of Oprah Winfrey’s “What I know For Sure” (unabridged). It’s a collection of 14 years worth of columns that Oprah wrote and she narrates it herself. And…oh my word, she is speaking some truth! In one section she mentions how her friend Gayle never judged her when she was in bad relationships in the past, but would say “he’s just chipping away at your spirit, and I hope one day he chips deep enough for you to see yourself and see that you are worth more”. It’s three hours long. I’m one hour in and looking forward to the rest. Already know I’ll be listening to it more than once…and getting copies for my friends!
If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
That taking the time to heal—and allowing yourself being vulnerable—is not shameful and it is not a sign of weakness; it is a revolutionary act of self-love.