I grew up in Hackney with no immediate friendship group, so I’d go to raves with my older sister and her friends or hang out with my younger sister and her friends. I had locs at one point, cut them, and started doing perms at home using a “Just For Me” kit. My ends were frazzled, and to add insult to injury, I dyed them blonde too, which didn’t age well. I have always loved fashion and remember going to Probito just off Oxford Street and buying a pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans. They were a high-waisted, skinny fit, and everyone had to know that they were designer, so I wore them with cropped jackets to show the back pocket logo.
Later, I worked at Harrods as a brand ambassador for Yves Saint Laurent. At work, you’re the alien (not intentionally) – people have different upbringings. They don’t understand the smell of your food or other cultural differences, but my food was always good, and I never struggled to acknowledge and love my Blackness.
At 37, I’m happily married, have found God, and I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of GRACE Magazine, a digital faith, fashion and lifestyle publication. I’ve also written a book on my story – Seventy: A Work in Progress.
London in the ’10s, remembered by Erika Cudjoe
I do not recommend moving to London in your twenties unless you have family in the city. When I was 20, I worked two jobs – one at my college and another at Mecca Bingo. Eventually, college got too draining, so I left. I’m so glad that my auntie in South London asked me to move in with her and later found me council housing because renting a room was not it.
London wasn’t an easy place to make friends if you weren’t a student. Those days, it was just me and my cousin – I really looked up to her. We’d spend Friday night in nightclubs and bars in Shoreditch, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, and sometimes go to student parties, but the vibe is so different now. I don’t really like clubbing anymore.
Dating wasn’t hard for us – we were skinny, bellies were out, and the boys were looking at us. We had more important things to think about, but we wanted to have fun, you know? On a serious note, I just wanted a guy to look after me. I actually dated one guy for three years – he was cool.