“It helps to have those that look like you occupying all spaces and doing all things to genuinely galvanise you into believing that you too can do something.”
For my final Unconventional Mentor post of the year I wanted to feature someone who I have found through Instagram, as I have had so much inspiration from this platform over the last 12 months. Seeing people be themselves and share their stories has been a huge help in building my confidence and allowed me to put myself out there. It was hard to choose just one person (and I will be featuring other people on my feed this week) but when I thought about it, I just knew who it had to be…
I first started following Candice Brathwaite earlier this year, just after the birth of her second child RJ when she was talking about how her body was feeling after giving birth. I was immediately drawn to her confidence, positivity and honesty in everything that she spoke about. I love it when Candice pops up on stories, she has an amazing smile that radiates confidence and kindness. From her writing I know how hard she works at everything she does, so that confidence is earned, it doesn’t just happen, but it sure makes me think I can up my game and try to put myself out into the world that confidently.
I’m not a mother by choice, but I am the biggest champion of women being able to mother confidently and with the support they need, so Candice’s project Make Motherhood Diverse is something that I am so pleased exists. Along with her co-founders Nicola Washington and Sarah Gregory Candice has created a space that challenges the ideas we hold about what it is to be a mother, showcasing the stories of all the different types of mothers, making this space a place that is inclusive for all.
“Because when we look at representations of motherhood in our society awareness demands we ask, where are the black mums, the brown mums, the differently-abled mums? Where are those caring for children with additional needs? Where are those with tattoos and piercings, pink hair or those who just don’t care about their appearance? Where are the gay mums, the fat mums, the working-class mums? Where are the mums who might tick several or all of these boxes?
You’re all out there, but ask yourself how many times do we see your faces or hear your stories?”
Following Candice and Make Motherhood Diverse over this last year has opened my eyes to so many different experiences that people have that I just wasn’t aware of. One of the most moving things Candice has spoken about this year is the rise of knife crime in London and how dangerous it is to be a black boy in London. She talks about her fears for her own family and has shared the story of Rachel Webb whose son Kyron who was killed in an unprovoked knife attack in Manchester in 2017. Her story on MMD is heartbreaking to read.
“All women but black women especially need to see themselves enjoying exercise outside of trying to win gold at the Olympics.”
I’ve also been really inspired by Candice talking about the lack of representation of black women in sport (and in life in general) and how she has pushed past her own discomfort to embrace exercise. She featured on an advert for Samsung wearable technology, made by Kevin Morosky, running whilst only being part way through the couch to 5K programme. I was so excited when I saw Candice in the advert, knowing how much work had gone in to her getting to that point.
I can’t write about Candice without mentioning her partner Papa B who features regularly on her Instagram and who she presents her podcast “Pillow Talk” with every week. They are a great couple and they show the work and effort that goes in to having a strong relationship. He is a fantastic role model for young men and dads everywhere and he even has his own Instagram account.
I saw Candice speak at the Stylist Live event in November and she is just as brilliant in person as she is on her Instagram. I really wanted her to have the stage to herself as she has so much to say about being a mother and her views on life. I felt that the host moved on far too quickly when she highlighted that the maternal death rate for black mothers is five times higher in the UK than for other women. FIVE TIMES! I was surprised that the host didn’t want to dive into this more and ask what can be done about it. Candice has written about that shocking statistic for Huffington Post. The fact that I find this statistic shocking is a reflection of how ignorant I am about the experiences of black women, this is not an issue that gets regular media coverage. Black women are all too aware of the racial bias they experience when seeking healthcare, so to have a study with statistics to back it up hopefully means that it can be talked about and dealt with. I am incredibly thankful for Candice writing this piece. I know that 2019 is going to be a big year for Candice and her voice will get heard even more and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.
Mentor advice: Believe in yourself and your vision and you will make it happen
The advice that I take from Candice Brathwaite is that you have to believe in yourself, even when things seem to be going against you. Candice talks about her big goals and dreams, even when things don’t work out quite how she had hoped. Two of her recent posts really sum this up. The first is a post on Instagram about her being turned down for a blue tick, being told she wasn’t important enough. Instead of seeing this as a failure, Candice took it as a call to work harder.
“There is no rhyme nor reason to someone bestowing you with their version of well done but I’m learning that in the search of acclaim from others, I have to truly work hard to ensure that the things are create have the ability to verify themselves.”
The second post was from her blog where Candice reflected on her two Tea Time live events that took place a year apart. One was in the basement of a venue in Crystal Palace, the other, held a year later, at Mortimer House, a very swanky venue in central London. Candice took the energy from the success of her first event, knew that she could make it bigger and better and worked towards doing it. She was gracious about the things that she hadn’t done well or could have done differently, and she used these to make a plan. Believing in her vision and putting the work in to make that second event a huge success. I love this approach Candice has towards to her work and I hope to channel a little bit of it for myself in 2019.
Candice is going to be speaking at Pregnant Then Screwed Live on 19th January with Papa B talking about their relationship and she is also chairing a talk on mental health, more info can be found here.