Category Archives: Features

The Ice Cream Girls and 4 Other Books That Should Head To The Small Screen

I can recall going off on an angry tweeter tirade while watching the  Channel 4 drama Top Boy which aired at the start of the year. For those who missed the memo, Top Boy is a TV series starring Ashley Walters and Kano, about a gang of black men who (yawn) sell drugs and  find themselves in life threatening situations as try to navigate through the brutal and ruthless world of class A drug dealing. My annoyance stemmed from us having to go round this particular mulberry bush yet again. Yes, we get it. SOME young black men are involved in various acts of criminality (like many other races of people of course), and I don’t deny that it’s a story worth telling, but haven’t we got the message from Adulthood, Kidulthood, Bullet Boy, W10 LDN and any other identikit film/TV series that we’ve been exposed to over the last five years or so? I recall tweeting that I longed for the day that books by Black British authors such as Dorothy Koomson, Lesley Lokko and Lola Jaye were given the TV treatment to show that we aren’t one homogeneous bunch and  our lives are as varied/ beautiful/complicated as any other race. So I was delighted to learn recently that my favourite book by Koomson, The Ice Cream Girls, is scheduled to be made into a TV drama which will air in Spring 2013.

No doubt I’ll be comparing the TV series to the novel when it comes out, and although the screen versions never quite compare to the books, I’m still super excited that  it has been given the green light. When I heard the news, it got me thinking what other books by black British authors would make for good TV? So Mr TV Commissioner, if you’re reading, here are my suggestions.

LOVE ME by Gemma Weekes

I adore this little book. I so, so, so wished it had received the exposure it deserved, because it’s  one of few books that I’ve read that perfectly captures  the elements of being a young black girl in Blighty. The vernacular, the streets, the places and spaces so reminded me of my life as a single, childless twenty-something living in the big smoke that I read through the first few chapters feeling like I was hopscotching down memory lane. What starts off as a classic tale of unrequited love between the original awkward black girl, Eden, and her sexy, self-assured object of desire – Zed – suddenly shifts gears, transferring into a heart-wrenching tale about family secrets, redemption, cultural history and a woman’s journey toward self-discovery. It was not only beautifully written but traversed between the gritty urban streets of London and New York city, to the lush, earthy landscape of St Lucia. I can imagine this transferring beautifully on-screen.

BITTER CHOCOLATE by Lesley Lokko

Remember that old school eighties drama set in Australia, about a woman who got attacked by a crocodile but managed to shell out major moola for some pretty amazing plastic surgery, re-emerging as a successful model? I can’t recall the name of the series, but I remember it being a riveting drama that kept me on the edge of my seat alongside the rest of the nation. Although there aren’t any deadly animals involved, Bitter Chocolate by Lesley Lokko reminds me of that old school drama. The best way to describe this book is EPIC. The characters are EPIC. The book size (at 500 plus pages) is EPIC. The plot = EPIC, it’s just one big, gregarious, over the top piece of fiction that would make for an ideal TV mini series. The story is essentially a cautionary tale about how decisions we make could potentially negatively impact our lives. I can’t recall any narrative with black central characters getting the blockbuster treatment on British TV, so Bitter Chocolate would be perfect in all it’s brash, glamorous, melodramatic splendour.

ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith 

For some reason programme makers have a hard time processing the fact that a black middle class exists in this country. They have no problem portraying  us as the underclass (see intro), or the ‘barely getting by’ type of working class (think Patrick Truman, market trader, Winston, or any other Black character to have graced Albert Square), but as educated, socially mobile, aspirational? You’d have to search long and hard to find anything of that nature on the box. For this reason I’d like to throw Zadie Smith’s On Beauty into the mix. Although the novel about two rival middle class families – one black, and one interracial – received countless accolades, it seemed to polarize a lot of readers. But l really liked it. It made Ivy League academia and intellectualism look crazy, sexy, cool. Also some of the social issues examined i.e. cultural identity in mixed race families, atheism versus traditional, black Christian values, would make for compelling viewing.

UGLY Constance Briscoe  

There was such a buzz surrounding this book when it first came out that I’m quite surprised it hasn’t been optioned for a TV show already. Based on the best-selling memoir by Constance Briscoe, UGLY tells the harrowing tale of Briscoe who suffered physical abuse at the hands of her mother who disliked her for being a repeated bed wetter, and in her twisted eyes, ‘ugly’. Despite physical punishment being illegal in this country, there are still a considerable amount of folks within the Black community who continue to support it as a means of punishment. And although Briscoe’s case was extreme, a televised version of her book would present such a great opportunity to bring the issue to the forefront. Couple that with the fact that as a narrative it’s well-plotted, engrossing and has a positive, fairytale ending – and voila,you’re onto a ratings winner!

 

 

 

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Super Seven – My London 2012 Highlights!

So this post may be a day late and a dollar short, but please indulge me for a minute. Last week Thursday I woke up in the pissiest of moods and for the life of me I couldn’t work out why. Now don’t get me wrong, getting up at 5.45am will never be anything to shuffle and jive about, but this particular morning I felt more ratty than usual. It was only when I caught sight of the solemn expressions on the faces of my fellow commuters on the tube that the penny dropped – OLYMPIC FEVER WAS ALMOST OVER! Arrrggh!! Now what was I going to do?

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Guest Review: Meet The Adebanjos

Meet The Adebanjos is the brainchild of Debra Odutuyo, a British Nigerian from south London. Debra grew up in a loving, supportive family full of laughs and wondered why similar tales of contemporary African family life were not reflected on British television. With a background in producing, Debra decided to create a sitcom centred around a Nigerian family called the Adebanjos but unsurprisingly found it difficult to get a TV network to back them.

Deciding to take matters in her own hands, the budding TV producer set up her own production company and made her vision a reality. Meet The Adebanjos immediately gained a strong following when it made its debut on the internet and subsequently caught the eye of  and TV channel Vox Africa who snapped it up. But the story doesn’t end there. Recently, the lovable family hit the theatre circuit and the press night for the show took place last week. Remember guest blogger Leonie O’Connor? Well Leonie attended the event exclusively for The Cocoa Diaries. Read what she had to say about the show.

Following a successful stint on TV, the slightly erratic but lovable Adebanjos have finally hit the stage with a bang! Bayo, Gladys, Sade and Toby were on fine form as a British-Nigerian family living in Peckham, with dad Bayo trying to instil his traditional African values on his two children, without much luck.

The first half of the play saw Gladys waiting for the ultra romantic anniversary gift that Bayo promised her the year before, only to find out that he had forgotten (typical man). Of course, Gladys gets upset, which sends Bayo into damage control with hilarious results. Meanwhile Auntie Funke embarks on a strict diet in order to fit into her dress and enlists the help of a personal trainer, played by Tolu Ogunmefun (AKA Don’t Jealous Me). Needless to say, Auntie Funke turns into a right diva but somehow manages to fit into her dress in time for the gala! And we cannot forget Toby and his partner in crime Kevin; who fancy themselves as modern day Casanovas.

The second half saw Sade trying to sneak out of the house to go to a Halloween party, Bayo getting conned by a preacher and Auntie Funke being Auntie Funke. The preacher’s impromptu Azonto drew huge cheers from the crowd, as did Kevin’s declaration of love for egusi soup.

Although I’d heard about Meet the Adebanjos before, I never got around to actually watching any of the episodes, so this was my first time meeting the family. I absolutely love the Adebanjos; they’re like a British version of My Wife and Kids.  It’s always good to see more Black productions on TV and the stage in diverse roles and I really commend Debra Odutuyo for her perseverance in getting this show on air. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the Adebanjos yet, I suggest you do so ASAP.

To find out when the next show will take place visit here 

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Guest Post: Fast Girls Review

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would’ve probably noted that I’m a pretty keen athletics fan. And with the London Grand Prix currently taking place in Crystal Palace and London 2012 exactly two weeks away, suffice to say I’m pretty amped right now. One lady who shares my enthusiasm for the sport is my friend, fellow blogger, marketeer and social media expert – Ronke Adeyemi AKA Ondo Lady. Ronke is a prolific blogger who covers popular culture on her award-winning blog  Ondo Lady. If you’ve yet to check out her recently revamped site, head over once you’ve finished reading.

Ronke recently reviewed the track and field themed feature film Fast Girls for The Cocoa Diaries. So without further ado, take it away…

I fell in love with athletics back in 1983 when I saw Carl Lewis dominate the inaugural World Championships. To me Carl Lewis had it all, agility, grace and most of all speed. His record winning four gold medals the following year at the LA games only cemented his position as the fastest man in the world. Since then sprint kings and queens have come and gone. The likes of Linford Christie, Merlene Ottey, Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffiths Joyner, Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson have all delighted and thrilled us. Of course some have been better than others and some cleaner than others. On Sunday 5th August the world will wait with baited breath to see if a certain Usain Bolt can retain his title and becomes the double Olympic champion over the 100 metres.

As soon as I saw the trailer for Fast Girls, I was really keen to see it. The film is about a group of British female sprinters who are seeking glory at the World Championships.

Lenora Crichlow

Shania played by Lenora Crichlow is a talented sprinter who dreams of being a champion, however with zero funding and no access to coaching and training facilities it seems that this will be nothing more than a pipedream. This is a far cry from Lisa played by Lily James who is the pampered daughter of a former champion. She has been groomed for success and is the darling of UK sprinting. Sadly Shania stands in her way and the two find themselves battling on and off the track. Both ladies have inner demons to conquer such as Shania’s ack of self belief which is stemmed from her poverty striken background. Lisa also has to deal with the demanding pressures from her father who is living his dreams through her. Fast Girls has a touch of Bend it Like Beckham about it – a girl who realises her potential in a sport she loves, female solidarity and some romance thrown in for good measure. The sprinting scenes are extremely well produced and exciting to watch and it is really fascinating to see what goes into training a sprinter. Lenora is a brilliant as ever (that lady has a wonderful career ahead of her) and the supporting cast hold their own. It is really great to see a mainstream film with females in the lead roles.  With the Olympics just round the corner, watching Fast Girls only makes the build up to the games more exciting.
Fast Girls is available to watch in cinemas now!

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Cocoa Travels: My Spanish Week!

Me taking in all the sights and sounds of Malaga while riding the bus

Despite constant feelings of exhaustion,  dizziness and frazzled nerves, I only realised exactly how much I needed a holiday when I woke up the first day of our vacation waaaay past midday.  I would’ve continued sleeping as well if it wasn’t for the blazing sunshine beaming into our cosy room at my in-laws’ house in Alhaurin, Malaga. I haven’t had a holiday since 2008. Yes, that’s right folks, for four entire years I’ve deprived myself of one of life’s greatest pleasures. But God willing, that won’t happen again. I’ve now promised myself to never neglect my body, mind and soul in the name of ambition and the modern affliction that affects many of us living in huge cosmopolitan cities – the Superwoman/Man pursuit.

That said, Spain was errrythang folks; it was simply terrific. It’s only my second visit to the country and on each visit I fall deeper and deeper in love. Firstly, let me get the showing off  bit out-of-the-way. Temperatures on average ranged from 28 F at the lowest (that was considered a cool day) and peaked at around the mid-late 30s. Sometimes it got so hot that all you could do was cool off in the pool, or spend a few minutes in the blazing sunshine before running  for cover in one of the air-conditioned rooms.

My second home for the week: the swimming pool.

By day one I adopted a standard uniform: a pair of shorts, sun hat, dark glasses and a huge permanent grin. It was the tonic my soul had desperately been pleading me for – long hot days, plenty of rest, good food, great company and room to just think, and breathe.

Alhaurin at night.

Alhaurin el Grande is a town located in Malaga, on the southern part of Spain. It’s really sleepy, and quaint, with winding roads and huge mountains. Rich’s folks have a gorgeous house with a swimming pool and a vast garden that houses orange trees, lime trees and a whole host of other goodies. The first day we naturally spent sleeping and just recovering from the daily grind of London life. Then we set about exploring the city of Malaga. We visited the city centre which has several shopping centres with shops that you’ll find in the  UK such as Mango, H&M, Primark and Zara. And then of course, there were several Spanish boutiques where you’re able to pick up unique buys.

Me and K AKA The Travelling Lil Man roaming the streets of Malaga.

The first time I visited Malaga Khy was an 18 month old toddler who still demanded plenty of my time and therefore I felt I was unable to get a real feel of the city. On this occasion however, my seven year old son acted like a seasoned traveller. We had a ball riding the waves at The Playa beach in Malaga. A few days later we travelled to the popular coastal resort of Fuengirola renowned for its sandy beaches, bars and popular night spots. Then it was onto Torremolinos to visit the water park Aqualand where despite having a great time, we had a bit of a scare when Khy who can’t swim ended up on a slide which shoots you out into a 6ft plus pool of water. My heart still beats rapidly even while typing this. Picture me bellowing out “HE CAN’T SWIM, HE CAN’T SWIM” to the confused Spanish life guard waiting at the end of the pool. Thankfully Daddy Rich stepped back into Superman mode and rescued our boy who somehow managed to stay calm and doggy paddled while his Dad did his best Baywatch impression to bring him back to safety. Swimming lessons start in September.

Squint and you’ll see the carefree smiles of me and K going into Aqualand prior to our ‘incident’.

But we had more than enough humorous moments to counter the scary ones. My fondest being the time I pleaded with Rich for us to sample Alhurian’s ‘nightlife’. So off we went to a bar in neighbouring town, Coin, where we treated to hits performed by a covers band called Dirty Little Secrets . In between tracks they’d sip on San Miguel beer and we discovered they were Scottish when they attempted to talk to the ten people who were in attendance (us included) although clearly 8 out of 10 couldn’t speak a word of English.

We were lucky to nab front row seats to a performance by Dirty Little Secrets

Things got progressively worse for the band when the local police arrived on the scene and told them they were playing their music too loud which marked an abrupt end to their set. I nearly spat my generously measured rum and coke out in hysterics when the guitar player looked down from the stage at me and Rich wistfully and said “Ahh, that’s a shame. We were just about to play our best song”.

Yes the music was tacky, yes there were only 10 people, but we had a fun night.

Like most holidays, my Spanish week ended just as we were getting into the swing of things. And I can’t say it’s been easy coming back to more grey clouds, abysmal summer temperatures and torrential downpours. I took a quick glance on Easyjet at lunchtime and already I’m eyeing up my next European adventure. Bring it on!

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Bright Lips in the Dark City

Model spotted wearing shocking pink lippy at Nicole Fahri’s SS12 show

You know the first thing that crossed my mind when I woke up this morning? Where on earth should I migrate to. As much as I love living in London, it’s days like today (you know, the wind, rain, dark clouds… IN SUMMER) that make me think I’m doing myself a disservice by living in these depressing conditions, because I’m a sunshine girl at heart. When I first caught wind of the neon and pastel trends that were set to dominate this summer, you wouldn’t believe how super excited this  80s kid got. I’ve been holding out to wear my Morange shade from M.A.C since the start of summer, but it seems like I’ll just have to be content with wearing against a backdrop of grey.

M.A.C’s Morange

I’ve written a piece on the trend for the next issue of Blackhair. A lot of black women shy away from brightly coloured lipsticks and tend to stick to fail-safe colours of plums and browns, but brights are so complimentary to dark skin tones. Some of my favourite brands who are repping this trend are Bobbi Brown who released their Neons & Nudes collection earlier this year. M.A.C are renowned for their show-stopping, dramatic colours so along with the aforementioned Morange shade (which is a deeply pigmented orange), there are a whole host of other neon colours. But probably my favourite brand for the neon trend is blackUp.

blackUp’s take on the neon trend

I’ve fallen in love with their fuschia shade. It’s bright but not too loud, so you can wear it during the daytime as well vamp up your look at night. Another great thing about it is it’s staying power. I wore it to Afro Hair & Beauty Live and only had to top up after devouring a plate of salmon and rice and peas.

Me wearing my fuschia lippy posing with former Top Model of Colour Nana Afua-Antwi.

If you’re still not convinced that bright is right, take the advice of acclaimed makeup artist and Blackhair contributor, Joy Adenuga who says,  “If you’re not totally sure about the neon trend, go for a lip stain which is a softer more subtle version of a lipstick. Or yet still, buy your neon lipstick of choice but tone it down a bit by getting a piece of tissue and blotting your lips twice”. Great advice. However you decide to do it, have fun with it!

 

 

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June 12, 2012 · 8:13 pm

My Hairy Week

Me at the 2012 L’Oreal Professionnel Colour Trophy Awards

Sorry for the lack of posts this week my dear friends, it’s been quite a busy one this week especially on the hair front. Within the last seven days I’ve been to a plush hair awards, coordinated a hair makeover with two members of Team GB, attended a launch of a new natural haircare brand and tomorrow I’m off to the annual Black Hair & Beauty Live where I’ll be exhibiting with Blackhair (come over and say hi to us if you’re going, we’ll be on stand 84).

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