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Something that causes humans unnecessary discomfort and misery is our failure to accept that change is a constituent part of being. If we learn to embrace change, it could save us the agony of trying to cling on to status quos that were never intended to last forever. Conversely, if things aren’t going so well, it can be comforting to know that our current predicament also won’t last forever.
I’ve undergone changes during my lifetime, the most obvious being that in 2012 I left the UK to settle in the US (more on that later). I’ve also changed career. Several times, I might add! I started off in television post-production and stayed there for about ten years. I later shifted to production, which meant I was working closer to the actors, but still behind the scenes. With hindsight I can see that I chose to work behind the camera simply because I was too scared to step into the limelight myself, so I thought I’d get as close as I could to what I really wanted without taking any risks. But after a decade of denial, something inside me began to stir – that buzz for performing that I’d had when I was a kid; that same something that I had learned to supress over the years...
I feel like an alien when I go home, and it’s heart-breaking. Before my grandmother passed away, communicating with her was near impossible. There was a basic level of understanding between us, through use of emphatic gesturing and my parents and cousins acting as intermediaries. But those tender moments, those truly powerful moments that you can only get when you spend quality time one-on-one with somebody, I missed out on with my grandmother. Why? She couldn’t speak English. And I couldn’t speak her language, Twi...
Those with fair skin go further. That’s the troublingly powerful message that my industry transmits. The entertainment industry disproportionately projects and elevates light-skinned women in magazines, films, music and commercials. If there’s a fair girl in it then it’s most likely she’ll be the lead – affluent, attractive, desired, rich and successful. I am not against light-skinned ladies being centre-stage or in the spotlight. I have personally used fair-skinned dancers and backing singers in my videos and live performances, not because of the shade of their skin, but because they had the right talent for the project. In an ideal world, opportunity should always come down to how good you are at what you do, not how light your skin is. Yet this ‘fair girls go far’ belief is so deeply engrained in Africa’s entertainment industries that a generation of impressionable young people are being driven to seek brighter futures by lightening their skin.
If you’ve been plugged in to discussions pertaining to Africa in recent years, you’ve probably heard rhetoric aplenty along the lines of 'Africa is rising', 'Africa is the future', 'This is the new Africa' and other statements of a comparably rosy hue. Similarly, if you’re a lover of all things tech, you’ve probably heard – if you’re not one of the many tweeting it – that this is the digital era, technology is the now and the future (and other statements of a comparably rosy hue). Now pause for a second, if you will, and imagine the barrels of crude optimism pumping through the veins of someone who identifies as both a young African and a technophile. Given all this combined hype, such a person would be half forgiven for donning their dictator’s robes and embarking on a mission to conquer the planet (Google Maps app to hand - how else would we make it 100m down the road?), firm in the belief that the world really is theirs for the taking.