It’s been 4 months since my last blog post, and almost as long since I was seen to be active across my social media platforms – all of which has been very conscious behaviour. So why the hiatus?
I should warn you now: This ended up being an unintentionally politically oriented post.
I consider myself a very young henna professional, in terms of career years. I’m actually turning 40 years old this year (I’m very excited about it) and hurtling towards the phase where the important things in life really start to emboss themselves on your perspective. 2018 was my 5th year of life with henna. From picking up my first henna cone in 2013 I had been extremely privileged to hit many milestones at a very fast pace, in a very short space of time. In those 5 short years I had not only formally set up my own insured business, with professional certification and a studio, plus a second social enterprise with a business partner, I had also had the privilege of attending numerous international henna conferences, and even taught at the largest international henna conference – twice, and invited to moderate the largest henna-dedicated forum on social media. I had fostered incredible new friendships spanning the globe. I had won awards, been featured on local radio shows, and also national television (the BBC, no less). Reading all of that back, it’s difficult not to be proud of what I have achieved. So did I peak too soon? Is that why I suddenly ran away?
They tell you “never meet your heroes” – I don’t know who I mean by “they”, but I know I have heard the phrase floated around by people who come face-to-face, and forge subsequent friendships with their biggest life inspirations. I have a large, LARGE contingent of henna heroes within the international community who I was inspired by creatively, professionally and personally. I had met my heroes – nearly every single one of them. They had welcomed me, nurtured me, supported me and brought me into the folds of the upper echelons of the henna community where they bestowed respect and love upon my imposter-self. I’ve never had such a homecoming in any other area of life (apart from my husband – that’s a separate, long, personal and off-topic post). From the outset, there were advisors who warned me that despite the loving nature of the henna world, like any other community there existed darker corners and factions. Jaded by my rose-tinted glasses and irrepressibly hopeful outlook on humanity, I pretended that I was not naïve or blind to flaws – but of course in reality I really felt that the henna community was basically a Disney plot line.
As my maturity in the henna profession progressed I began to see glimpses of the factions. The history. The fall outs. The ugliness. It all fell in line with the current state of the modern world – divisive issues based on politics, race, history, elitism/intellectualism. While the whole world struggled with the seismic changes in international power figures and cross-cultural misunderstandings, it inevitably spilled in to every other area of our lives – including my beloved henna community.
In 2017/2018 we had our eyes opened to the #blacklivesmatter movement, the #metoo movement; we began to learn about being an ally to the marginalised and the oppressed population. Now as 2019 progresses I sense that this has moved on to what it takes to be an ally and how to be an accomplice – using a position of privilege to not only ally with a minority, but to shield, protect and enforce their marginalised platform. I feel this is the reason I have taken a step away from my online presence.
Last year I had the privilege of being in front row seats for some unpleasantness. This is standard across all communities – and I am in no way conjecturing that these incidences are unique to the henna community. What I noticed was that people in highly influential positions on social media platforms were NOT demonstrating the inclusive and loving nature that underwrites the art of henna. Personal differences and opinions would divide and drive their behaviour and decisions. And being in positions of influence, any of their unacceptable behaviour was not appropriately challenged due to fear/respect/intimidation.
Now if anybody knows me personally and has spent any length of time with me, they will know that I have a streak of *devout righteousness* and am prone (too often according to some, not enough according to myself) to challenge and question why situations are the way they are. Through this act I have come to understand the importance of being/having an ally – and now also I comprehend why the role of an accomplice is even greater than that of an ally.
For humans who are in a marginalised group, be it by race, wealth, gender, sexual orientation – or education, economic circumstance or even just opinion – questioning a majority group is a frightening and daunting act of rebellion. It doesn’t feel like an act of rebellion. It doesn’t feel like an intended attack, as it comes from place of truly believing that something is not right and nobody seems to have noticed. A socially aware person will however have some expectation for a reaction to this act of rebellion. I am aware that when I raise a point, there is an inevitable back lash – not always negative though. So one day I used my position of privileged influence to voice my personal feelings and opinions on something I felt deeply was Not Right. It was met with a muted reception. Almost nervous. There was a spatter of voices from allies. But not much more. It was agreed that my voice and my truth was appreciated. And to summarise, that was that.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. I was less hurt by the predictable attack from the specific subject matter I was questioning, than I was by the lack of active allies – or accomplices as I now realise I needed. I was alone with my dissenting voice, while my supporters quietly nodded in agreement from a distance away. Supportive and loving, but ultimately not by my side. It was a crash course into understanding the viewpoint our current day activists like Rose McGowan, Rachel Cargle and many other “disruptive” figures are facing across social media and traditional media.
And so I took a step away from the platforms themselves to re-group with my in-person, real life support circle and allies (and accomplices). To remember that the real, actual human connection is what I exist for and why I am who I am, and why my business is what it is. I made a conscious choice to move away from the highlight-reel-lifestyle on social media, and back towards real world connections.
I wrote this update as my way of apologising for the unexplained absence, to provide you with that explanation – and to help you understand that in real life, I appreciate you for reading this far and I thank you for all your support. Additionally, I make the request that if you are EVER in a position as an ally and able to do so, then please be an accomplice. With your act of support, you can help change the world.
H/T Rachel Cargle, reposted from Ebony Janice’s Instagram – How to use your privilege to be an accomplice > ally: