Friday, 12 May 2017


A note from Joelle...
flowers, grunge, and hipster image

I’d known my new doctor for a whole twelve minutes before he wiped away my tears with a tissue from his pocket. There was a fresh box on the desk between us, but even he knew that I didn’t have the energy or willpower to dry my own tears and calm myself down.
He said he’d never seen anyone’s eyes as red as mine and the water he gave me was left touched but he understood how difficult it was for me to hold things without shaking. With my chest tightening and my mouth the driest it had ever been, I was punishing myself every second I went without a drink. But with absolutely zero fucks given about my own wellbeing, I knew something inside me cared because I was seeking medical help.

The burnout we often hear about has something to do with overheating, resulting in a reduction of fuel – cars and stuff. But the burnout I am more familiar with is a form of psychological distress that left me in tatters just months before graduating from university.

I passed it off as exhaustion because everyone in final year was exhausted. It’s pretty much a given when you’ve got lectures, three-hour labs, field trips, reports, group projects, dissertations, Masters applications, part-time jobs, relationships all with trying to maintain a social life at the same time. It’s not an easy for anyone so who was I to think I needed a break – a timeout from a hectic student life. Isn’t that kind of tiredness a rite of passage before the joy and celebrations that come with graduating and getting that first professional job? It was drummed into us at a young age that we are supposed to struggle and work flat-out now in order to earn the right to have a stable, well-paid job and a nice home later in life.

With that way of thinking, I didn’t have the right to complain about stress and exhaustion because everyone is exhausted. I ‘All Lives Matter’-ed myself and suffered the consequences all because I didn’t want to rock the boat and be seen as special.
But for me, I was more than just “exhausted”. I had given up on all my hobbies, had zero motivation, or a single ounce of enthusiasm for life anymore. Life as a hermit caused friendships to dissolve faster than the energy tablets I was slipping into my drinks every three hours, but I was completely disillusioned about the whole thing.
With all this came the frustration of not knowing what was actually wrong with me. My bones ached; my head constantly processed too many thoughts at once, leaving me dazed and unable to make basic decisions.

A stormy cloud of self-pity that billowed above my head went into overdrive every day and all I could do was stay still, hoping it would pass. The smallest of mistakes like leaving the tap running whilst cleaning my teeth could leave me hurling peppermint-infused insults at myself in the mirror.

This was not the same as anxiety and depression because I had experienced both for years and could tell that this was something different and brought on by something else. But what?
It’s not that I was overemotional; it was that I simply had no emotions at all. I had completely detached myself from my life and had no desire to restore what was once a really great life. I didn’t care at all because I saw myself as helpless and hopeless and that was that.
I was always told that more sleep would get rid of stress but I found myself oversleeping and wasting the days away. I knew I had to do something else before this weird state ruined everything I’d worked so hard for as just twenty-two years old.

I’m not alone, which is both a blessing and a worry. Research tells me that ‘Millennial Burnout’ is high amongst professional young women and burnout in general is high in the Black diaspora in the West. I see a link between the two mainly because I fit in both brackets: we are brought up as overachievers. Failure, no matter how small is weakness and that way of thinking is damaging young people. Overachievers can’t be quitters. Ambition and strenuous work comes first and everything is second – including rest. Minorities in particular often get lost in this mantra and sacrifice their sanity in order to make it to the same levels as our mediocre contemporaries. How many of us were told that “we have to work twice as hard to get the same place as other people”?
I took that phrase at a young age and ran with it. It left me always stressed and worried that I wasn’t doing enough to advance to a better class set/university course/job/lifestyle. It sucked the fun out of being young and I struggled relax around people because every minute I was at a party was a minute wasted not applying for internships, extra courses and jobs.

A lot is expected of young people, but we are seen as selfish, narcissists because we are creating new industries that are alien to other people. Most of us leave with degrees in a wide range of subjects (that wasn’t available to previous generations), we are seen as lazy for shunning manual labour and more traditional suit and tie jobs. We are seen as lazy because we are on laptops and smartphones all day and some older people can’t get their heads around that fact that times are changing and digital creative industry can bring in as much (if not, more) money as standard office jobs.

Now, burnout can come into play with a lot of us working remotely or freelancing. We forget to take scheduled breaks and can easily work well into the night. But because it’s ‘social’ media, we see browsing the web for work and pleasure as a single continuum – no clear boarders.
This is another way that life can become unbalanced, causing stress to take over.

I’m sure you’ve read this expecting a 5-step plan from me on how to cure burnout, but I don’t have the answers, beloved. Seeking medical help was a really good step, but I am still learning and a huge part of that journey is *unlearning*.

Unlearning the idea that you have to work yourself into an early grave to achieve your dreams. Unlearning the notion that everyone on social media is living an incredible life and mine is shit in comparison. Unlearning the once mentally crippling concept that young people need to struggle and half-kill themselves in order to one day accepted into adulthood. That’s the biggest lie of all.
Ambition is great, but so is balance and perspective. You can choose them all and have it all.


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Campo Colour Lab Wine Tasting x Norte

A note from Joelle... 
The Colour Lab by Campo Viejo is an interactive wine tasting experience that launched in March at Spanish restaurant Norte (Regent St, Piccadilly). 
I was lucky enough to be invited down last month to try the unique wine tasting experience and some tapas. 
Allow me to *spill*... (sorry - I really couldn't come up with a better pun!)
We assembled into a small room and were seated with three black wine glasses in front of us. The opaque glasses masked the colour of the wine, making it a bit harder for us to know what we were drinking.
After a little test, we were divided into two types of taste bud characteristics. This would fine distinguish the way we taste wine and what we get from them.
We did the traditional swirling of the wine and then smelling before taking a sip and discussing what we could taste. We were all certain that we knew the colour of all the wines (red, white, rose, etc.), but things were about to get interesting...
To be honest, I didn't think a change in the mood lighting would make a difference to the taste of the wine, but it did!
We started off in a bright but tame white lighting and the wines tasted relatively normal. No one noticed anything strange and we were all sure that we knew the types and colors of the wines in front of us - easy stuff.
The lighting changed to a soothing blue, and the flavour was less intense and more fruity instead of fresh.
We were all in agreement that the green lighting made us feel uncomfortable and this resulted in the wines tasting very intense - almost like vinegar. 
The whole idea sounds bizarre, but they have found the perfect mood lighting to match the relaxing dining experience without compromising on the wines and food. My best lighting was the red - everything tasted better in my opinion.
The tapas is pretty nifty too - all the meats, peppers and other ingredients are of excellent quality and the owners go to Spain almost weekly to source out the most authentic Spanish foods.
This wine tasting experience is not to be missed, especially if you're looking for a fun thing to do before a meal at Norte. 
Many thanks to Farrah and the team for having me!

2 Regent St, St. James's, London SW1Y 4LR

Monday, 3 April 2017

My Favourite Theatre Experiences

A note from Joelle... 

Hello and happy April! This year is whizzing by and I'm quite happy about that because London has a really nice and more relaxed vibe in the sunshine.
With bank holidays and Easter breaks approaching, it's a busy time for theatres, as they usually get quite busy around these times.
The theatre can open your eyes to incredible stories, productions, and actors, as well as immersing yourself in their world of music and dance - a few hours of blissful escapism!

You know I love going to the theatre and try out different genres, so in collaboration with, here are my top 3 favourite theatre moments from the last few years:

3) On my birthday weekend, I tried to get tickets for Uncle Vanya at the Almeida, but after failing miserably, I stumbled upon another show. This was a smaller fringe show at the Pleasance Theatre and performed by two best friends. Scary Shit was really, really powerful and intense - not what I was expecting at all.
The show was an emotional journey for not only the performers but for the audience too. I laughed a lot and shed genuine tears over their true stories. They were vulnerable and strong at the same time and it rubbed off on me. I left the theatre feeling refreshed and a few feet taller and it' a show I'll never forget.
It led me to seek out more non-West End shows and for that, I'm most grateful.
untitled (68 of 72)

2) Sticking with the "weird" theme, I saw a show in 2015 that left me with so many questions. On a whim, I booked tickets for a new Simon Steven's play, Carmen Disruption at the Almeida and managed to get a pretty good box seat for the first preview show. I had no idea what it was about and went alone. 
It certainly divided opinion, but I loved it - but I honestly pinpoint why. If you read my review, you'll see that I was left almost disturbed by the whole storyline the first time. A week later, I took a friend to see the show and it was like seeing it in a new light. I finally 'got it'.

1) It's a bigg'un! 
All the way back in 2010, my sister and I hopped on a tube and landed at the Gielgud Theatre to see the revival of HAIR. When it opened in the 60s on Broadway and the West End, people were outraged by the drug/sex/religious references as well as the onstage full nudity of the entire cast right at the end of Act I.
All of this was kept in the show when we watched it, but the best bit about it was the audience participation during the finale.
My sister and I were in the peasant seats in the Grand Circle, but cast members climbed on top of the balcony, inviting us down onto the stage! We were not going to miss this opportunity and jumped out of our seats, heading for the stage to join in singing The Flesh Failures/Let The Sun Shine In.
It's one of those moments I'll never forget because it was inclusive and vibrant. There were real flowers being tossed into the crowd, strangers joining hands and peace signs being thrust into the air unapologetically. 
It was the kind of feel-good escapism that draws so many people to the theatres every day and in these dark times, we need more of it.

Next up, I'm looking for some good shows to see over the Easter period. I've currently got my eye on An American in Paris, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and School of Rock.
Got any shows you're keen to see? Let me know!

This post is sponsored by


Saturday, 25 March 2017

"Sally Cinnamon" Rolls

A note from Joelle... 

I've  caught the baking bug again! It's great news for everyone and everything except my waistline. 

Now, I've made Swedish cinnamon buns before (kanelbulle) but this was the first time making American-style ones. These are much bigger, made to tear apart, fluffy and soft in the middle and are made in a big pan altogether. Once cooled a little bit, they are drizzled
(more in my case, drenched!) in vanilla cream cheese frosting - perfect!
Impress yourself and your mates with this really easy recipe that can literally feed like, 100 people.


100g plain flour
A splash of milk
4 tbsp Melted butter (unsalted)
Softened butter (unsalted)
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
4tbsp white sugar
1 packet or 1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp baking powder 
A pinch of salt

2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp milk
2tbsp cream cheese
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the bread, pour the milk, melted butter and sugar into a bowl, add the dry yeast and let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes. Add the sieve in the flour and then fold the mixture. It will be very sticky and maybe a bit lumpy but that's just how it is!
Place cling film or a kitchen towel over the bowl and allow it to rest for 1 hour. PLEASE don't skip this step, the rolls won't get that airy rise if the dough doesn't prove at room temperature.
When the hour is up, admire your beauty! My dough tripled in size but once you then work in the baking powder, salt and another half cup of flour, you'll notice it shrink back to size.

Roll out the dough into an oblong and try to get it evenly thin (around 1cm)
Spread some softened butter on the dough first, then sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar.
Start rolling from the long end of the oblong until you get one giant roll and then cut the roll every 5cm or so. Don't worry if the whirls are super-tight, as we are baking them all together, they won't spread too much and lose shape.
Place all the rolls in a dish and allow them to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking at 180C for
Whilst the rolls are baking, it's time to make the delicious icing!
In a bowl, add the soft butter, soft cheese (I used Philadelphia), vanilla, milk and stir until smooth. Then add the icing sugar and stir until all is incorporated. Boom - you're done!
Once golden brown, take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then drizzle on the icing, whilst the rolls are still warm.
Eat straight away, but they are amazing cold too!

Let me know if you make these - they are totally worth all the faff! The perfect Sunday treat!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Honeymoon in Vegas, Palladium

A note from Joelle... 
For one night and one night only, the concert performance of the hit Broadway musical, Honeymoon in Vegas came to London for the first time.
Freddie Tapner's London Musical Theatre Orchestra was conducted by the musical's composer, Jason Robert Brown and it was their first performance in their 2017 schedule.

The original film, starring Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker was released a bit before my time, so I had never heard of it before! And as you probably know from my other theatre reviews, when I get tickets for a new musical or play, I never google it or read reviews in advance - I need to see it with completely fresh eyes.
image: Nick Rutter
If like me, you've never heard of the film or musical, let me break down the synopsis for you (it's so bizarre):
The story follows Jack, a New Yorker who promised his dying mother that he would never get married. However, his girlfriend, Betsy is sick and tired of the "curse" and Jack's fear, so is keen to get married, even if it means eloping to Vegas. And that's what they do!
But after losing a game of poker to a Vegas gambling boss, who takes a liking to Betsy, the elopement goes really, really wrong - and of course, it's bloody hilarious.
Oh, and there are parachuting Elvises (Elvi (?)), a ghost of a dead mother, and a Hawaiian temptress - you know, your usual musical.
 image: Nick Rutter
What I noticed straight away was the diversity of the audience. The West End often gets a bad rep for only drawing in middle-class, middle-aged white people to shows, but tonight, Palladium was packed to bursting point with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Before the live band (who were not in the orchestra pit, but in full view on stage) took to the stage, I knew there had to be something really special about this show.
We all know Samantha Barks (BETSY) is an incredible actor and singer (she played Eponine in Les Mis, both in the West End and in the 2012 film!), but it was her co-star that stole the show in my opinion.
Arthur Darvill (JACK), who you'll know as the vicar in Broadchurch or Amy Pond's boyfriend in Doctor Who has a wonderful, earthy voice that marries so well with a large ensemble behind him. He was the real star of the show with not just his voice, but his comedic timing.

I also feel I need to give a special shout out to Simon Lipkin, who sang the part of Elvis. He really brought the house down with his charm and charisma.

The energy from the LMTO (including Jason Robert Brown), the supporting cast and the main cast was electric and that was the most refreshing thing about the performance - they all bounced off each other so well. When that happens, the usually stiff and reserved British audience relaxes more!
 image: Nick Rutter
With Brown's dazzling score made up of swing, rock 'n' roll and Hawaiian-inspired island numbers gave the show a varied vibe that people of all ages in the audience were tapping their feet to.
We gave the cast and band many standing ovations and they were so well-deserved.
Now, the only question left is: when is the full production coming to the West End? London is in desperate need of a funny, feel-good show like this.
4.5/5 stars.


Monday, 13 March 2017

Wagamama x Meantime Brewing Company

A note from Joelle... 

Craft beer is taking over my life.
We have boxes of the stuff sent to us at work (shhh...) every month, so I've been sipping lots of weird and wonderful flavours recently. YAY for my taste buds, nay for my ever-growing beer bump that's got people on the Tube wondering if they should give up their seat to me.

To my delight, a friend and I were invited down to Wagamama in Soho to try out two new craft beers created by Greenwich brewery, Meantime (d' gedd it?) a week before the launch in restaurants nationwide.
Wagamama's executive chef Steve Mangle and Meantime's Ciaran Giblin popped over to chat about the inspirations and origins of the new beers ans also th special food pairings.

First up was 'Kikku', a chilli-infused beer. As I'm used to spicy food (I add chilli flakes to evreything) I think my tastebuds had been desensitised because I only felt a teeny tiny kick to this beer.. A part of me liked the subtleness, but more would make this brew a 10/10.

Our favourite was 'Kansho', a ginger and lime brew, which went with pretty much every dish including the puddings. I did taste much of the ginger, but the lime's tanginess along with the airiness off the beer made for a lovely drinking experience. It's light but doesn't leave you bloated at all.

Bao buns, braised beef ramen, udon stir-fry, mini cream cakes and bucket-loads of edamame beans - the beers went down a treat with all of the food on offer.

Meantime's craft beers are launching on 15th March 2017 in all  UK restaurants.


Monday, 13 February 2017


A note from Joelle... 
  1. directed or moving backwards.
I can't wait for summer, but don't get it twisted - I'll still be wearing black.
Black on black on black on black.
I feel like I'm moving backwards into how I used to be - just wearing dark clothes, but is that actually such a bad thing?
Black goes with everything and it suits everyone. It's formal, it's casual and it never fades.
This winter, I've found mixing dark, casual dresses with dark shoes with a bit of detail makes the entire outfit a bit more special, without the cliche "pop of colour".
Check out my new lace-up midi heels (and ignore my ashy ankles)!
The dress is thin and slinky and the shoes are comfy - that's all I need in this weird weather.
Lace-up heels - ASOS

Make sure to check out for a great variety of clothes - especially the dresses! It's one of very few places that offer formal and casual clothes that are not only fashionable buy actually affordable.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

That's What She Said x For Book's Sake Open Mic Reading

A note from Joelle... 
♫♪'Carry On' - fun ♫♪
What happened to me?
If you had asked me a year ago to stand alone on stage and read out my most personal thoughts to a group of strangers, I would have politely declined and then sprinted away from you before you had a chance to convince me to try it.
It's not that I get really nervous (I mean I do about 5 minutes before I get on stage) about reading my deepest, darkest thoughts, it's more about stumbling over my own tongue and humiliating myself by stammering, squinting and hating the sound of my own voice.
But I did it anyway because I had a story to tell.
I was invited to read at a women's open mic event at The Book Club, hosted by For Book's Sake.
I had planned to read poems and mini-essays from my book 'Otherness', but at the last minute, I whipped out my Nasty Women essay that I'd printed out at work and read that instead.
I hadn't rehearsed it, forgot my glasses and I had also made the mistake of printing it out in size 9 font. Not forgetting to mention that the shadow of my microphone darkened the pages (yah, yah excuses...), so I basically had to improvise!

All these things did happen on the day, but I've learnt to carry on and laugh it off! The audience was with me even though I ended up speaking for almost half an hour (was meant to be 15 minutes, lololol).
My best mate was there cheering me on like the start that she is and it was honestly the best feeling. 
What's so lovely about these events are the other readers, some veterans and some total novices like myself all cheered each other on and I loved all their pieces. We had ghost stories, slam poetry and hilarious anecdotes and brave tales about sexual assault survival. 
I am in awe of all the other women who performed.

 - - -
If you haven't heard of the Nasty Women book by now, WHERE THE F**K HAVE YOU BEEN? It's a collection of essays written by women about what it's like to be a woman in the 21st Century. 
Our funding period ran from 1st January to the 30th January, and we managed to hit our goal in just 2 DAYS! - £6000. At the end of the month, our total was just over £22000 with 1336 supporters and none of us could quite believe it.
Laura and Heather, the founders of 404ink have done an incredible job with this project and I still can't believe I'm a part of it.

Our book has been backed by the likes of Marget Atwood (omg!!), Nikesh Shukla (The Good Immigrant) and Louise O'Neill. 

I had a story to tell.
I wrote it. I read it.
And now you can read it in Nasty Women at the beginning of March, just in time for International Women's Day.
In my chapter, I take you through the timeline of my life - from experiencing upfront racism for the first time, aged 7, to present day white feminism, which denies me (and women who look like me) a voice in the movement.

WARNING: It's not an easy read, with sunshine and rainbows - my life isn't like that and I don't think anyone's is. It's painfully honest from the start and since I published my diary, I have little fear because you never know who you might help with your words.

What's my next mission? I hear you ask...
Well, I'll be giving a solo lecture/Q&A at the Scottish Young Publisher's Conference in Edinburgh on the 3rd March. Come see me discuss 'The Good Immigrant' and Unbound's unique publishing model that got it into our hands.

Would you ever give a reading at an open mic? What would you read?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Convert, The Gate Theatre

A note from Joelle... 
The greatest love story of all time is between the theatre and I. My heart breaks, then mends and then soars. Every. Damn. time and I cannot get enough of that feeling from watching stories on stage.
 (© Iona Firouzabadi)
Apart from food, theatre tickets are the next biggest absorber of my money and I don’t really mind because I’m paying to feed my brain.
However, after I saw Scary Shit at The Pleasance on my birthday last year, I made a decision to break out of mainstream jazzhands-esque musicals and tap into experimental/smaller/powerful theatre this year.
My friend F sent me over a link to the show, The Convert at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill and I immediately asked her to book tickets for us to attend the Young Person’s Night (tickets were a steal at just £7.50). I’m glad we did it quickly because tickets for every single night sold out within a few days.
 (© Iona Firouzabadi)
After work (and a few glasses of prosecco), we headed to The Gate Theatre next door to the pub we were in. It’s quite easy to miss it, so I’m glad F knew where we were meant to go. Like the Pleasance, it’s super cosy with unallocated seats. This meant that we had the freedom to move around and find the perfect view of the stage. Speedy audience members who got into the theatre first were seated around the stage, allowing them to feel the stage lights and be as close to the seven actors as possible.
The staging of the play was rather simple in my view (F works in Theatre so she will know more about this than I ever will) and consisted of a cracked concrete floor and an old-fashioned sitting room. It was safe to say that I didn’t have a clue where the play was set or time period.

It’s a weird tradition of mine to book tickets to shows without reading a synopsis, reading reviews or even watching a trailer – I like new shows to be completely fresh in my eyes.
 (© Iona Firouzabadi)
The Convert is set in 1895 Rhodesia in the living room of Chilford (play brilliantly by Stefan Adebola) an African wannabe Catholic priest who has rejected his native, African upbringing full of pagan worship. He has changed his name, accent, religion and clothes in order to fit in with the more ‘civilised’ white settlers.
His house servant Mai Tamba is an unapologetically traditional woman who refuses to give up her spiritual beliefs in favour of Catholicism. Despite Chilford’s efforts to convert her, he turns his efforts to her niece (and his new servant girl), Jekesai.
Jekasai arrives with bare breasts and no understanding of the English language, which Chilford is quick to correct. By the next few scenes, Jekasai has changed her name to Ester, now wears dresses and speaks fluent English.
Ester finds herself in a tug-of-war between her new life as a promising missionary and her old life with her family.
The white characters in the play are not physically present in the play because the play isn't about them - more about how they have left an impression on the 'savage' natives and the 'civilised' Africans who follow their Western lifestyle. I found this really cleverly written by Gurira.

I could not stop thinking about the show for days afterwards and what surprised me the most was the playwright. It's extremely tense but broken up with pockets of hilarious dialogue and gestures.
The acting was sublime - honestly stunning. It has been a while since I've seen a show where I can't fault a single thing about it. It was an honour to be in the presence of those seven actors - they blew my mind!
Although it was the Young Person's Night, the audience was a melting pot of all races, genders and ages - I love when theatre brings us all together like this.
All this time, I just automatically assumed that the person who wrote The Convert was a middle-aged East African man – I was wrong.
It was written by American actress, Danai Gurira (Michonne on The Walking Dead), who also penned the award-winning Broadway play, Eclipsed, starring Lupita Nyong’o. 

View the trailer below:

The sold-out show ends today (weeps), but I recommend buying and reading the play - it's genius.
Oh and by the way… I GOT HAMILTON TICKETS… for summer 2018, when I’m back to all the happy-clappy musicals. I just couldn’t help myself.

Monday, 9 January 2017


A note from Joelle... 

This winter has been all about LBDs for me - classic ones and quirky ones, like this gem from Quiz Clothing. I've been living in black for the past three months and it's hard to go wrong when black genuinely goes with everything.
Quiz Clothing dresses (*) are giving me so much life at the moment. I'm usually quite boring when it comes to LBDs and just chose to add more excitement with jewellery and shoes, this dress is a game-changer.
I wasn't too sure about the cut-out lattice pattern at first, but it's something different and actually works out quite well with my debenhams clutch and Jon Snow-esque gillet from Primark.
It may look like texture-overload, but it just works! Adding a bit of sparkle takes the dark edge off and the gillet keeps you warm whilst showing off the detail of the dress.

Anyway, this was just a wee post to let you know that I am indeed alive and well. I made a promise to blog more this year, and will try my best to stick to that promise. Bear with me, folks!


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