Category Archives: Inspirational

“WONDER WOMEN” – An evening of extraordinary talent for IWM

In the month of March​ ​TV and Radio Broadcaster,  Leah Charles-King hosted a successful Wonder Women inspirational evening at the swanky Primo Bar in Westminster Park Plaza hotel in honour of International Women’s Month.

The ​evening ​secured a ​fantastic line up of inspiring women who ​happily rallied around Leah in ​support​ of​ the even, starting with Claudine Reid MBE. Claudine was voted as one of Britain’s Top 100 Most Entrepreneurial Women by Real Business Magazine. Her track record is truly inspiring as a C.E.O, Coach, Mentor, Trainer, Radio & TV Presenter, Author & Social Entrepreneur, Wife & Mother, Claudine somehow managed to make time to speak at the event. Giving a motivating and inspirational speech about women in business.

Claudine was able to grab everyone’s attention with her words of wisdom, leaving the audience fired-up​ to ​take their careers to a whole new level.

Nairobi Thompson followed with a stunningly beautiful and ​powerful ​spoken word​ ​which​ kept the room ​hanging on her every word. Nairobi is a performance artist with a distinctive style and tone​ and ​writes and shares poetry that inspires, challenges and empathises​ with women and men alike.

After 2 inspirational speakers, it was time to get some speed networking underway. Jackie Groundsell, successful business woman, had the audience on their feet for 30 second networking session. ​A​ll participants had half a minute to ​deliver their pitch ​and make strong connections. This was networking like no other, and it was a ​great ​success.

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To close what was already a successful evening, comedienne Melanie Gayle  showed the audience her uncanny impersonation of Missy Elliot and Jennifer Hudson. Melanie, a Beffta winner for best comedian in 2015, had the crowd in hysterics with her brilliant anecdotes and hilarious singing voice. There was no better way to end the perfect evening than with a room full of laughter.

​”Wonder Women – an evening of extraordinary talent” – which was sponsored by The Red Carpet Academy ​- definitely lived up to its name​. I​t was truly an evening of women inspiring other women​!​ ​Ending ​with ​some aspirational​​ words​, ​its founder Leah Charles-King, ​said ​’We need to empower each other more and help each other break that glass ceiling’. These words ​strongly ​struck ​a​ chord with the audience and it was safe to say that every ​woman present​ left ​with ​​a new sense of zeal whilst booming with ​a refreshed ​confidence and armed with a number of new ​business​ contacts and firm friends.

HOW WOMEN CHANGE THE WORLD: Yoani Sánchez

After bringing a new face to Cuban media and journalism Yoani Sánchez has been awarded several journalism awards over the years, some of which have caused controversy within Cuban media, to now surpassing that with her greatest achievement to date, the launch of a new Cuban news outlet 14YMedio.

Born September 4th 1975 (aged 39) in Havana Cuba, Yoani was subjected to hardship from an early age. She attended primary school during a time that the Soviet Union was providing considerable aid to Cuba, however due to the collapse within the Soviet Union years later education experienced a detrimental hit to its finances, which left Yoani in a period of despair.

After her time in university Yoani acquired disgust for high culture and Philology (her chosen field of study), which subsequently led to her leaving Cuba for Switzerland where she acquired an interest in computer science. Upon Yoani’s return to Cuba with her newly acquired capabilities in computer technology, she went on to develop a web Blog called Generación Y in 2008.

Generación Y was a blog aimed to help her deal with the frustrations she felt with the situations occurring within Cuba. The Blog became a huge hit, which is one of the main reasons of her success to date; however the success came at a cost. Generación Y was available in 17 languages and was highly popular with some of the world’s most influential people. Obama in 2009 wrote that “her blog provides an unique insight to the reality in which is daily life in Cuba, and found it empowering to fellow Cuban’s to express themselves freely through the use of technology”. However, the blog was targeted by Cuban state security due to her ability to freely express Cuban situations which journalists were forbidden from. This eventually led to here blog being blocked by the Cuban government, which only lead to the ever-increasing popularity of her page.

In 2009 the page became available again and she continued to proceed with her posts. From her consistent hard work, determination and honesty, her blog has won her prestigious awards such as the Ortega and Gasset Journalism Award in Spain however; she was forbidden to travel to the ceremony, only under speculation that it was by the Cuban government. This didn’t stop her from continuing her work.

Later in her career Yoani and her husband were arrested in 2012 in an alleged attempt to prevent her to write about a controversial trial about a politician Angle Carromero, who was believed to of crashed a rental car killing a Cuban political activist.

After the release of her arrest despite all hardship Yoani again proceeded with her work, which brought the first independent digital media outlet in Cuba, 14YMedio. This, like all previous work by Yoani was subject to controversy from the start. 14YMedio focused on a variety of topics such as politics, culture and society, however within three hours after 14Ymedio published its first edition on the Internet, it was hacked. Internet technicians later on tested to reveal it was the Cuban Government that in fact hacked the page in an attempt to rid Yoani from the media light. The action from the Cuban Government provoked reactions from the international arena, which subsequently led to the re-opening of 14YMedio and has continued worldwide growth.

Yoani’s determination enhanced the power she had in the eye of Cuban civilisation, and clearly expressed the fear the Cuban government had for her and her ability to freely express. Yoani shows that no matter how big or how small, freedom to express  yourself is something everyone should have.  Yoani’s activism is to express the hardship that is circulating throughout Cuba. She is a strong, influential woman that emphasises empowerment and freedom. This is why I believe Yoani Sánchez should be included in my “How Women Change the World” series. 

How Women Changed the World: CILLA BLACK

One of the most successful loved and multi-talented women in showbiz, Cilla Black was a pioneer for women in media. From her early teens she always had a drive to make something of herself and she sure made it clear that she was determined not to be a girl best suited for office work, and how right she was.

Her career began when she was working part-time as a cloakroom attendant Cavern Club in Liverpool. The same club The Beatles would play at. After making her debut at the now famous Cavern Club, Cilla went on to release 15 studio albums, 37 singles and became the best-selling UK female artist of the 1960’s. On top of hosting some of the most well-known British television shows which included “Surprise Surprise”  and “Blind Date”, I think it’s safe to say she is an icon of our times, and although these words get thrown around far to often she really is a national treasure.

When I first started as a TV presenter 15 years ago Cilla was my first inspiration. I used to say tongue in cheek that I wanted to be “the black Cilla black”. She was a natural entertainer, who charmed the nation week after week on her TV shows. Cilla was no ordinary woman, she worked exceptionally hard over a 60 year career and also had a genuine passion about performing, which is what made her so special.

Born Priscilla White, Ms Black was also known for her famous catch phrases. A majority of them coming from her hugely successful show Blind Date, reaching audiences of over 18.2 million viewers on weekly on ITV in the 80s. “Lorra lorra laughs” and “What’
s your name and where d’ya come from?” are two of her most famous catch phrases which kept the audience glued to their sofas for 18 years.

Over the decades Cilla presented and acted in countless television programs such as The Moment of Truth, Benidorm and performed at the The Royal Variety in 2001, which arguably is one of the most memorable Royal Variety performances ever. She also got offered to appear on X-Factor as judge in 2006 by Simon Cowell, however Cilla declined as she said she would find it too hard to put down the less talented contestants. On top of X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing were grasping to get their hands on her too as a contestant. However she declined by saying no ‘oldie’ had won Strictly and she didn’t want to participate by entering  something she didn’t win.

Although wanted by Simon Cowell and loved by a majority of the world, there was an exception to some including artist Gillian Wearing. Gillian designed on G2’s cover paper a picture that read ‘F**CK CILLA BLACK.’ The feature’s purpose was to instigate a boycott on Cilla’s brand of ‘nice television’ to a abrupt end. However although having an effect on her family, Cilla wasn’t bothered by the article and had a pretty cool-headed reaction by responding that she “wanted to buy a copy and hang it on her wall.” All in all Cilla was an outstanding woman. Appearing in an interview on ‘Loose Women’ she said she’d rather see young, attractive people when she switched on her TV rather than herself. She received a special award at the Arqiva British Academy Television Awards 2014 for marking her 50 years in showbiz which she truly deserved. Although she has sadly passed away at the age of just 72, throughout her life she has made a remarkable impact. Women of all ages can regard her legacy as an inspirational and formidable woman who has had such a huge impingement on the world of showbiz.

This is why I believe Cilla Black OBE should definitely have a place in my “How Women Changed the World” Hall of Fame.

HOW WOMEN CHANGE THE WORLD: Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow

It is such a shame that for so much of her life Mia Farrow gained publicity for negative aspects of her personal life when her accomplishments spans across five decades and she is continuously involved in campaigns to improve the lives of impoverished people.

Mia Farrow Tours Eastern Chad As Violence Continues

Born Maria De Lourdes Villies Farrow in Los Angeles in 1945, she later became known professionally as Mia Farrow. She is a world-renowned multi-award winning actress and a humanitarian activist. After a short-lived marriage to Frank Sinatra and a long term relationship with director Woody Allen, she is a mother of 14 children, 11 of whom she adopted. They range in age from 20 to 44, 2 of whom unfortunately pass away. She first gained recognition for an off-Broadway production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, then gained status by starring as Alison MacKenzie in the popular soap opera Peyton Place. Since then she has starred in more than 40 high-profile films, including Rosemary’s Baby, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA and won a Golden Globe. With an acting career that has spanned across many generations; from 1964 until most recently in 2014, where she appeared on Broadway, Mia Farrow is very successful and respected in her field.

Mia Farrow In 'Miami Rhapsody'

There was a shift in focus from her acting career to activism, and in september 2000 was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador where she used the platform to promote rights for children in countries where it was not deemed a priority. She raised money for women and children whose lives had been impacted by violence in countries like Nigeria, Chad, Angola and Haiti to name a few. In 2007, she co-founded the ‘Olympic Dream for Darfur’ campaign which highlighted China’s support of the Sudan government, particularly with reference to the mass killings, with the end goal of forcing them to change their policy in the build-up to the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. During the Olympics, she streamed a video from a refugee camp in Sudan to visualise the involvement of China. Since then, she has been involved in more than 20 activist campaigns, including testifying in the trial of Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2010. Farrow has received numerous awards for her work, including The Presidential Medal of Honour. Her hands-on and relentless approach to activism has led her to success and change in areas which need it.

Mia Farrow Visits Sudan

Mia Farrow has a long-standing career, both as an actress and activist. Her selfless dedication to the causes in which she supports makes her a huge inspiration to the capital-driven society in which we live in. Her relentless dedication to fight for communities in need is why I believe Ms Farrow should be included in my “How Women Change the World” series.

US actress and UNICEF ambassador Mia Far

HOW WOMEN CHANGE THE WORLD: Malala Yousafzai

Malala-Quote-10.10-Twitter

Malala Yousafzai is an activist for female education from Swat in Pakistan. At only 16 years old, she is one of the most inspiring young role models in modern society. She first caught our attention with a reflective diary about her experience of the Taliban enforcing a ban on female education.

Born and raised in Swat, Pakistan, where she lived with her parents and younger brothers. Malala, meaning ‘grief stricken’ was derived from Malalai of Maiwand, a poet from Afghanistan.

Malala-Nobel-Peace-Prize

Growing up, Malala was always different from her peers. She had a keen interest in politics, which was unique for someone so young and she would stay up late talking about current affairs with her father after putting her younger brothers to bed. She had a dream of becoming a doctor, but her father thought she should be a politician.

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Her path in activism began in September 2008, where she spoke about at the local press club against the Taliban taking away female rights to education. At the time, the BBC Urdu website were looking for interesting ways of covering the rule of the Taliban in Swat. They came up with the idea of getting a young schoolgirl to write anonymously, but it was too high a risk and understandably no one was up for the challenge. Malala’s father suggested her for the role and she was only 11 years old at the time. The Taliban militants were taking over and banned music, TV and girls education.

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Under the pseudonym Gul Makai, Malala began to write emotional accounts of the horrors that occurred in Swat which took readers on a journey from the first battles in Swat to the absence of many girls from local schools which eventually shut down. This sparked her career as a female activist, as she began to do public appearances and interviews, finally revealing her identity in 2009. This gave Malala international popularity. Retired bishop and social activist, Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Award and she was the first to win Pakistan’s National Youth Peace prize. She made it clear that she did not belong to any particular political party but had plans to start her own that promoted education for women.

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Malala has overcome many challenges and comes back fighting each time. As her international popularity increased so did the threat to her safety. She received numerous death threats both online and at her home, until eventually a member of the Taliban shot her on her way home from school, which put her in a coma. This sparked an international outpouring of support and anger towards the Taliban, and 2 million people signed the right to education campaign’s petition, which forced the Pakistani government to pass the Right to Education Bill.

Malala-Yousafzai

Malala continues to promote education, particularly for young girls. She has been invited to speak at events worldwide. On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to advocate for young people to have access to education globally. The UN renamed the event “Malala Day”. On 10 October 2014, she became the youngest Nobel Prize winner.

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At 17 years old, Malala has written a memoir, spoken worldwide advocating for rights for education and received over 30 awards from different countries. She is an inspiration for women of all ages. If everyone had Malala’s courage, the world would be a very different place.

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This is why I believe Malala Yousafzai must surely be honoured in my “How Women Changed The World” series.

 

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WHAT EVERYONE OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT… JOAN RIVERS

Joan Rivers rip

Legendary comedienne Joan Rivers passed away on the 4th September 2014 at the age of 81. She was reportedly taken off life support after a routine operation on her throat went wrong and caused her to stop breathing. She then went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to Mt. Sinai hospital in New York, where she spent her final days among family and friends.

Joan was a talented trailblazer who was one of the first women to break into mainstream comedy. She went on to become a extremely multi-faceted from doing stand-up to being a red carpet diva. An author of  12 best-selling books to promoting her own clothing and jewellery line on QVC. She also became co-host of The Fashion Police on the E! channel with her daughter Melissa Rivers.

Joan was extremely controversial in her delivery yet had a way of laughing at herself through her comedy. Whether you loved her or hated her are a few things everyone ought to know about Joan Rivers – RIP.

 

Joan Rivers childhood 1933Joan Rivers Was Not Her Given Name: Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky

 

 

 

 

Joan Rivers and Johnny CarsonGuess Who Was Responsible for Giving Joan Her Big Break? She received her first big moment in the spotlight by being a guest host on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”

 

Joan Rivers plastic surgeryShe Was An Open Book, No Topic Was Off-Limits Even Plastic Surgery. Joan began her plastic surgery early at the age of 31!

 

 

Joan Rivers success quotes

She Had a Big Social Circle. We all know Joan Rivers was a people person, not afraid to engage with anyone or speak her mind, no matter how controversial the topic and the potential backlash. You have got to love her courageousness!

She Was a Huge Animal Lover. Joan Rivers dogsMost of the dogs she added to her family were all rescues.

 

 

 

joan rivers china platesShe was a collector of china. She told everyone if you were a guest in her home, you’d never eat off the same pattern twice! I would love to see that collection.

 

 

anthropologySome may be surprised to know Joan’s alternative career path. Joan stated in a 2011 interview, that if she weren’t in show business, she would be an anthropologist. Polar opposite to her lively show biz career!

joan rivers edgar rosenburgYou may not know that Mrs. Rivers was married several times, and one courtship is quite shocking. She married a British TV producer, Edgar Rosenberg — after only four-day courtship. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1984.

joan rivers melissa riversAlthough very close as mother and daughter as well as co-hosts, Joan became estranged from Melissa after the suicide of Rosenburg. His passing caused a rift between the pair and they didn’t speak for almost a year. When Joan passed she and Melissa – her only child – had been working together side by side for many years.

joan rivers depressionDespite her growing success, Joan suffered mood swings and would get very low. After the death of her husband Edgar Rosenburg, she went into depression and also contemplated suicide. She then developed bulimia.

Joan Rivers QVCBefore becoming the “Fashion Police”  Joan had a real career in fashion. She created her own collections for QVC for over 25 years and made over $1 billion in sales.

Joan rivers miss piggyEarlier this year Joan got pied on the face by Miss Piggy from The Muppets! The two developed “beef” whilst working together on QVC and during a pre-oscars birthday bash, Joan was seen angrily leaving the event covered in cake.

Joan rivers baby north west feudNobody could escape her caustic tongue! Joan was known for having many celebrity feuds from singer Rhianna to actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Earlier this year she upset the Kardashian clan but having a dig at Kimye’s sprog, baby North West. Joan said, “That baby is ugly…. I’ve never seen a six-month-old so desperately in need of a waxing!” OUCH.

joan rivers houseShe left a legacy of over $150 million. This includes a$35 million NYC apartment, that she left to her only child, Melissa Rivers and her $40 million per year, QVC fortune.

joan rivers donald trumpAside from the sharp tongue Joan was a great philanthropist with a real heart. She supported 13 charities and 16 great causes in her life. She also raised money for charity by appearing in several tv shows, including The Apprentice USA. She gave a formidable performance by raising over half a million dollars.

It’s only fitting to end this post by watching Joan Rivers at her best. Here’s a clip from “Live at The Apollo” filmed right here in the UK. ENJOY, it really is LOL comedy.

 

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What Everyone Ought to know about… Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

nelson mandela quote no passion

It is with immense sadness to hear that the legend that was, Nelson Mandela has passed away peacefully on the 5th December 2013.

nelson Mandela tribal madeaThe son of a tribal chief born in 1918, his given name was Madiba which meant “trouble maker”. Mischievous and funny. But my, did he shake up nations!

Nelson Mandela had a unique moral authority against a “white man rule” in South Africa. A rule of segregation and limited or no rights for black South Africans who had no equality and were under an all white supremacy. He fought for his people and became so powerful amongst them as a beacon of hope. A hope for change. In 1964 the South African government came to fear Mandela to the degree of incarcerating him for 27 years. 18 years of which were in solitary confinement. Yet he never sought revenge. And whilst outside of the jail many campaigned for his freedom, Mr Mandela used whatever he had to still convince the world that South Africa was a country for all. nelson mandela in jail 1964

Despite taking away his freedom, Mandela refused to negotiate with the South African government on their terms.  Upon his arrest as he was taken to jail on April 20th 1964, Mandela’s court statement was this:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela prepared to die speech

After 27 years years of being locked up for simply seeking freedom, due to immense pressure campaigns from both white and black South Africans, Mr Mandela walked free as one of the most recognised and powerful men in the world. The government who were still all white, swiftly became afraid of black domination and now that Mandela was out of incarceration they believed the streets would go up in flames. Unfortunately there was some unrest, and Mandela appealed for peace. He fought for peace and equality. His mission was to establish a multi racial society. And so he did.

Nelson Mandela shakes hand with white south african government A determined fighter for democracy. He was a symbol of justice. His long walk to freedom was celebrated worldwide. He was elected as South Africa’s first black president at the age of 77 in 1994. And because of him all South Africans were now able to vote and elect a leader of of their choice. This was now proof that in his own words he had “climbed one mountain against oppression, but still had another mountain to climb against apartheid to democracy“. He never stop climbing.

I can’t help thinking… what a Moses moment! Just as as in the Bible, when many may have thought he’d reached his peak and had done his part, God used Mandela at his ripe old age of 77 to really begin his life’s mission. Just like he did with Moses. To set his people free and lead them to the promise land. And Mandela did it with great success. His long walk to freedom is celebrated worldwide. Nelson Mandela celebrates democracy

A freedom fighter to prisoner to president. One of the most powerful men of our times. I thank God that as a man seeking such major change for the masses, he was one who escaped assassination unlike Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Ghandi, JFK, and most controversially Diana, Princess of Wales should conspiracy theories be believed.

Poignantly, tonight was the UK premier of the bio-epic story of his life. Starring a stellar performance by actor Edris Elba as Mandela himself. The premier was attended by many high profile celebrities as well as Royalty. As those in the theatre arrived to watch the film entitled “Long walk to freedom” they left with immense sadness as they heard of this passing.

nelson mandela and queen of englandHowever his people – black and white – have taken to the streets of South Africa to sing and dance jubilantly in his name. The scenes on the news showing that of Soweto where Mandela once lived, has a party atmosphere which displays a rainbow of colours all in celebration of one man. A rainbow of colours of people coherent as one nation which would never have happened of it wasn’t for one man. Mandela is being remembered in every nation as a remarkable human being whose biggest legacy emphasised reconciliation. He will be remembered as great unifier.

In the last century their are not many people or individuals who have made such political and humanitarian change as he did. Nelson Mandela will always be remembered as one of “the greats” of our time and foreverNelson Mandela and Michael Jackson

Mandela’s life and dedication impacted change not only in South Africa but around the world. So much so I could write many many many pages of his amazing achievements, his commitments and his legacy.  However, tonight I write this to thank him. To congratulate him in securing his place in history. And his remarkable contribution to the world.

Nelson Mandela was loved by all, and he will be greatly missed. A man who needed no website, social media or even TED Talks. But just his eternal drive, passion and God given ambition to bring freedom to his people.

Never underestimate what one man can achieve. Never underestimate what we as individuals and as people can achieve. 

Thank you, Mr Mandela. You certainly have inspired me. And I believe you have inspired many.

Rest in divine peace.

Nelson mandela 1918-2013

How Women Change the World – Series Introduction

To all my ladies, sisters, friends and lovers of women,

Those who have been getting to know me over the years may be aware that I have been campaigning for women particularly in the UK to be accounted for more in society. There is visibly a lack of us seen within business, on television, within society. Ironic.

Much of my work is inspired by women for women. You may have heard that I’m currently in pre-production of what I like to call a “ground-breaking” documentary series called (In)visible Women which turns the spotlight on black, British women in the UK – within media, music, sport, politics, business.

Some may wonder why I’m only focussing on black women in this series and not simply women in general, so I’ll get this part out of the way early on…

I’d like to point out that I am proudly from a very multi-cultural family of black, white, asian, mixed race – we pretty much have it all – so I am accustomed to accepting others and being accepted amongst my own. However, I have been within the entertainment industry for almost 30 years. I’ve grown up in it and witnessed things from many angles. I’ve been hired because I’m black. Fired because I’m black. Demoted or not even given an audition because I’m black.

Leah Charles-King(c) Photography by Anthony David King 2013
Leah Charles-King
(c) Photography by Anthony David King 2013

Once I was working for a particular show where one of the executive producer’s candidly explained to me that I would never be allowed onto what was percieved to be the “prime-time show” because I was “black”. Full stop. No sugar coating. No glossing over it. Just blatantly in my face he told me in the nicest way possible “Leah, we think you’re one of our top presenters here. Definitely the best out of all the girls… But, you’re black. You tick a box [as our only black cast member]. But we [the company] will never put you on to our main show because viewers don’t want to see black people on [television] screen. They’ll turn elsewhere.”

Sadly it wasn’t the first time I’d suffered at the hands of racism, but on this occasion it really knocked me sideways. I remember finishing my shift and fighting back tears all the way home on the train. Trying to figure out what on earth this guy was telling me. So I’m talented. I’m (one of) the best. I’m professional. I’ve got star quality. Blah blah blah. But, I’m BLACK!!!!! I’m black. I’m black? Really??!! Now should he have said I needed room for improvement, or I wasn’t good enough in his eyes etc, I would have lapped that up as constructive critisism. I would have “checked myself”. However, this man was telling me something I have no control over. And even if I did why would I or should I change it to “fit in” with his perception of society.

Diversity & Equality in the UK A little while later I went through a phase of campaigning in getting a meeting with every head of department and every executive producer at all the major networks. I figured at almost 10 years of paying my dues in television alone and watching all my (blonde hair, blue eyed) peers passing me by up the ranks that I no longer had anything to lose. I did my research and contacted them all whilst boldly telling them they had a lack of black women on screen and if they are looking for new talent there was plenty out there like myself who they should give a chance to.

I became determined. I was so empassioned about my cause that it was no longer about myself and my career. It was now about my younger cousins. The little girl next door. Kids and teens in the street who I’d never met. My own children who I haven’t even conceived yet. I felt so strongly that I didn’t want them experiencing the types of discrimination that I was experiencing in the 21st century. I wanted them to be able to choose from a range of role models who they could identify with, and not a “token” forced upon them.

I got the meetings. Whether out of curiousity. Sympathy. Guilt. I got up to a 45 minutes with some of the biggest decision makers in telly. Many were lovely people. But all said pretty much the same thing.

A few years ago I started a campaign to get more black women recognised in TV
A few years ago I started a campaign to get more black women recognised in TV

I got to have a coffee with a well respected head of department at the Beeb. He’s responsible for some of the best shows you may have watched on telly and was actually a really nice man. I genuinely appreciated the time he gave me. However after explaining to him my plight and the fact I believe there needs to be more women and to add ‘black women’ on screen, he went on to tell me this: “Leah I’ve watched your showreel. I’ve seen your work. There’s no doubt that you are extremely talented. But unfortunately the UK are racist outside of London. Without regional television it’s almost impossible to put black people on TV unless they have already been accepted by the public. So unfortunately, until you get yourself famous [by whatever means}, as much as you are talented, we just can’t take that chance. if you get famous, this means you have been accepted by the public, which means it’s okay to give you a chance.”

Here we go again. The “you’re black” excuse. As if I hadn’t noticed. Gee wizz. But now you’re actually telling me that I am unaccepted and potentially unsafe to travel across the country I’m born and bred in? That outside of London the vast majority of people do not and will not accept “black folk”. For goodness sake, man!

I’m no wallflower. I will fight to the death for what I believe in. I have no idea how I kept my cool that day, but I did. Like I said, he was a nice man and I dont think he was meaning to be rude, but perhaps just real. I certainly wasn’t going to adhere to yet another stereotype of “the angry black woman”, so I tried calmly putting across the point that if people outside of London are as racist as Mr Executive is claiming they are, then the BBC and all the other major networks have a duty of care to change those views. Unless they too agree with them?

Television is one of the most powerful tools we have. People pretty much believe everything they see on TV, and if any big wig sitting in their lovely central london glass office wants to make a change on how a certain genre or enthnicity is viewed within television, then the change begins with them.

Want fame? Sell your soul, here.
Want fame? Sell your soul, here.

Unfortunately, said Exec wasn’t having it. He was pretty firm in his belief and advised me to “get famous”, despite my talent. Hooking up with a famous footballer, making a fool of myself in clubs with wannabe wags or hanging out with the “too cool for school overtly trendy T4 crowd” would get me a few rails up the ladder. Screw all the years I’ve put in. Just “sell your soul, Leah. And sell it good, girl!”.

I admit. I considered these tips for about a minute. Almost every TV Exec up to this point had pretty much told me the same thing. Perhaps that’s the new way of the world and they had a point? Maybe I should discredit all my long, hard years of blood, sweat and tears in exchange for a few weeks, months, maybe years (if lucky) of fame? It’s clearly the way forward. Or is it?

By the end of my meeting with the nice man from the BBC, I was so accustomed to hearing this style of diatribe I merely thanked him for his time, picked up what was remaining of my dignity and left with my head held high.

I decided at that moment I will never compromise my moral standing for a “job’. It’s about a career. Longevity. Legacy. A way to stand up for good old fashioned values whilst sticking two fingers up to the ‘all about me – get rich or die trying – don’t want to work for it – fame monster’ culture of the modern 21st century generation. [Rant over. Now breathe]

I'm not for Sale!
I’m not for Sale!

I can’t change the colour of my skin. And I certainly ain’t cheatin’!! What happened to the “work hard and you will certainly be rewarded” ethos in which I and many other generations were brought up on? Now not only must I compete with my contemporaries, I must also do it alongside a bunch of charlatans too. People who want the easy life, and simply don’t want to put the work in. And unfortunately it seems like they’re the ones getting ahead. I’ve got some first hand experience on this subject which I’ll save for a whole other blog!

Since my campaign with the Television Executives I made a decision to no longer “beg bread” from any one any more. I don’t mind working my butt off. In fact I’ve worked even harder because of the colour of my skin as there have been times I felt I had to over-compensate. So if anyone doesn’t take me for that job, or gives me some lame ass excuse, they have to look me in the eye and tell me that despite being the best for the job I won’t get it because a) I’m black and b) I’m a black woman.

I met this guy once who asked me, “why does it matter whether your role model is black or white? A role model is a role model. Why can’t it just be a woman, why must she be a black woman?”. I thought he had a valid point, which did stop me in my tracks for a while.

How do I answer it. Apart from saying “why not?!”. Why is it damning in my face that I cannot identify with a huge black female television star, who is not a criminal, a bitch, a man eater or some other stereotype that has been casted by a TV company agent.

Off the top of my head, America at least have Oprah, Wendy Williams, Tyra… The list goes on. And many would complain the US is still mostly racist. I’m not so sure. But at least there are opportunities. And black people in high places. The UK still has a long way to go in gaining black decision makers in the right spots who can make a big difference within their fields.

The Trisha Show USA
The Trisha Show USA

No disrespect intended, but even our very own and closest thing we can get to a black, British talk show “superstar”, Trisha Goddard has fled the UK for greater recognition and opportunities stateside.

I really shouldn’t have to scratch my head in being able to think of a number of major British television presenters who have climbed the ranks and has not got there by default such as dating the right person or being in a different industry before and is perhaps famous. Can’t present for toffee, but she’s famous. Which apparently means she’s qualified.

The UK enjoy a plethora of major television accolades such as the National Television Awards, the TV BAFTAS etc, but I couldn’t tell you the last time (or any time) I have seen a black woman nominated along with the likes of Fearne Cotton, Holly Willoughby, Davina McCall et al. Equally talented black female and British presenters are out there. So why are we not being recognised? Why are we still invisible?

I recognise that I am surrounded by some amazing women who are doing great things but are seldom heard. Whilst I appreciate the contribution that all women have made in society – particularly in my chosen industry of the media business – I wanted to do something that celebrates the contribution of black women in society. Starting off with women in the UK. If I google black female leaders, most are american. So I feel I must begin a resource for black brtish females role models and hence why I believe my (In)visible women documentary series is very relevant and very important.

I’m brimming with ideas, emotions and excitement which I can barely contain. It’s been a long time coming. Believe me.

Things don’t appear to be getting better for us, but worse. Being a woman in business or society is tough enough, let alone being a black woman. I can only speak from my experiences and I encourage you all to get talking and expressing how we feel about the issues we face. No matter your colour or creed. As cheesy as this part may be, it’s time we unite and raise our voices. Get seen. Be heard. And retain our integrity.

Women of colour
Women of colour

Coming from a family of many nationalities under one proverbial roof, I also recognise that for women as a whole it is still very much a man’s world. And so whilst the first series of my documentary (In)visible Women is all about black British females, I have decided to start a blog series which highlights all women. Great women. Known women. Unknown women. Black women. White women. Green women. Blue women.

As women we are more than mothers, sisters and friends. We have so much more inside of us. Only we can be responsible for unlocking it. But once opened, who knows what we are truly capable of? This blog series is entitledHow Women Change the World. I will be highlighting all types of women past and present. Women who are making or have made changes in their communities. Society. The world.

Women of many nationalities

There will be no order in the how I write about these wonderful women, other than I will choose a lady who has inspired me to write about them in that moment.

I invite you to Tweet, Facebook, Email me and suggest any women whom you think is changing or has changed the world. They could have had long, lengthy careers or been a public figure or just someone in your community who is doing something great.

If you find them interesting I would also be grateful if you would kindly share my blog posts with your own networks and perhaps together we can start networking and creating a community.

This blog series on How Women Change the World will offer up a stream of profiles on amazing women such as actress and celebrity activist, Rosario Dawson who has tirelessly dedicated her life to activism within her community. Dame Cleo Laine, english jazz singer who is the only performer to have ever received Grammy nominations within the jazz, popular and classical music categories. Dido Elizabeth Belle Lyndsay, the illegitamate daughter of a black slave who became a British aristocrat within the Georgian era. And so much more.

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I decided a while back that if I wasn’t going to have a role model then I would be an inspiration to others and along the way open up to be inspired by others. So that’s what I’m going to do.

But I can’t do it alone. I need YOU!

We can do it!

So calling all women worldwide…. It’s time to stand up and be counted!

It’s time to be seen more.

Leah xxx

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