Q+A with Yomi Adegoke
Yomi Adegoke is a multi-award winning British journalist and co-author of the 2018 book ‘Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible’.
Yomi has a column in The Guardian where she writes about race, feminism, popular culture and how they intersect, as well as class and politics. She was named one of the most influential people in London by the Evening Standard, as well as winning the Groucho Maverick Award and the Marie Clare Future Shaper award. The follow up companion ‘Slay In Your Lane: The Journal’ came out in 2019 and the anthology book ‘Loud Black Girls’ was released in 2020.
In addition to all this, Yomi somehow manages to find the time to be an Eve Appeal ambassador. I sat down with Yomi to find out why she is Getting Lippy to break down the taboos around gynaecological health, her best career advice, and how lockdown impacted her work and family life.
Yomi, why did you decide to become an ambassador for The Eve Appeal?
I’ve always been a really personal advocate for the importance of a smear test to the point where I think I actually very much irritate my friends and family by being that person who is just constantly sort of on their neck about making sure they get it done. I think I originally started making sure I was really vocal about when me and best friend were co-writing the book ‘Slay In Your Lane’ and we had decided that we wanted to have a chapter on health and it was when we were writing that chapter that I sort of came across some research that showed the lack of engagement in services from black and minority women. I think it’s invaluable and that was really important to me. It’s not as though we don’t have the ability to safeguard ourselves. The fact that is there, but there’s a miscommunication or disconnect for certain communities I just though ‘this is something I want to talk about’.
Have you always been quite open about that kind of stuff?
I’ve always been someone who likes to check things to make sure everything’s running in tip-top shape. So I have always been really open about it. The first time I got my letter, aged 25 to go and get a smear, I think I’d had it done within 2 months. But my friends were telling me that they’d never got it done and I that’s when I realised. I started to have conversations about the myths surrounding it.
You have talked a lot about the need for particularly BAME women to be aware of symptoms and what gynae healthcare is available – why do you think this an issue?
The same kind of issues that you saw with black women and minority women checking their breasts or engaging with breast cancer literature, because they’re seeing images of white women in the literature and thinking ‘oh, this doesn’t apply to me’… those same problems were carrying over into gynae cancers.
I had my last smear during the pandemic. I thought it was not going to go ahead but I was genuinely thrilled when I was told they’re still going ahead. It was so nice to have that peace of mind and get it out of the way and of course. They are still taking all the necessary precautions.
Research has shown BAME women twice as likely to be worried about being screened during the pandemic. Twice as many believe that delaying a screening is the safest thing to do at the moment.
You talk and write about ‘Analysis Paralysis’ – where you get so struck with indecision that you do nothing. This really resonated with me, can you tell us a bit more?
I think like many people I can overthink or find it difficult to move forward because I’m thinking of every potential outcome – good and bad – and I spend so much time fixating on that that I struggle to actually do the thing.
That said, putting together the book showed me, and about myself that even though I would never have described myself as ambitious 10 years ago, is that I think I have become ambitious. I’m someone who likes to make things happen. I don’t like to sit on my hands. I hate the idea of life happening to me. I like to be an active participant in my life, so I definitely suffered from it and do overanalyse, and actually I hate the idea of missing an opportunity. I think I’ve also learned that the hard way, where I’ve overthought something, an application, and then it’s just gone. It happened to me the other day actually with a pair of shoes that were on sale and I was deliberating and then they were gone and I was like… I should have bought them!
What career advice do you wish you’d been given, Yomi?
I wish I had been more aware of how thick a skin you require. I don’t think you need a thick skin just because of the rejections. In my line of work you’re literally putting your self and your own opinions out there.
When I was 19/20 and I was on the internet talking about racism it wasn’t really the same climate, not that this climate is particularly great for those discussions but it’s definitely better. Getting rejected by editors is one thing but getting onslaughts of racist and sexist abuse in comments or on social media is a lot. So I think I really did learn to develop a very thick skin, I just don’t think I was aware that I’d need one in response to the commentary to my work.
Thankfully I’ve always noticed that I rarely would get comments that were negative about my actual ability which I always clung to. And often I know that who I am and what I’m saying is framing how people are reacting to it before they’re even engaging with the work, and that provided a comfort. I wish I was more aware of how much that would present in my career.
Do you ever engage with your trolls?
Absolutely not. I don’t read comments. When I was younger, I used to read the odd comment but at one point I just remember thinking either way if I don’t read them, that article’s still there. It’s not like I’m being paid extra to sift through the comments and moderate them myself. I’ve written this piece, it stands, people can disagree with me if they like but it’s not something I have to engage with. I haven’t read comments in a very long time. Some people do acknowledge that so will find me on Twitter and say what they’ve got to say there, and even then if someone disagrees and they’re polite with it then, you know, fine but it is very rare that I will reply to somebody. Obviously sometimes you have your bad days and you give someone a piece of your mind but 9 ½ times out of 10 I just ignore it.
You’re too busy, right?!
Exactly. Honestly, I’m super busy, I’m not getting paid for it, it’s not making me feel happy so what is the point in even bothering.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been so many. Last year was strange because it was such a difficult year for so many people in so many different ways. And even in terms of career, the pandemic and the first lockdown was announced during Women’s Month and I was super busy and I had all these planned events and there was so much stuff I had lined up for the year and like many other freelancers was panicking hugely.
But it was a real year of career highlights. Some of my biggest career milestones were achieved last year. It’s mainly been interviewing people and I was really lucky to interview Naomi Campbell and Issa Rae for The Observer, Dua Lipa for Vogue and Megan Thee Stallion for G2. In one year any one of those would have been mind-blowing for me but I think because people had less to do… Last year’s interviews were a very big career highlight. Especially as I don’t like writing interviews, it’s been a really big growth thing for me. I’m not a natural at it. I love the talking and getting to know people, but the structuring I really struggle with so I feel like I’ve really found my niche in it and I’ve learned how to do it.
Tell us, where did you spend lockdown and with who?
I have been locked down in my younger sister’s flat with my mum who usually lives 20 minutes away. So for a year now it’s been us. You know for so many people, when lockdown was lifted they would go home… my mum just never left. I live with my sister anyway and it has been the most insane year. I move tomorrow but the locking down with my mum… I haven’t lived with her for years and it’s been absolutely hilarious. I keep saying to everyone, I don’t know how I missed this, I did not know my mum was funny until we got locked down, she’s hilarious! How did I miss this for 29 years? It’s actually been really enjoyable spending time with my mum and sister.
Can you tell us what you are working on right now, Yomi?
I’m writing a piece about how the true meaning of life is watching Lifetime with your family!
How has the lockdown changed how you work – for better or worse?
It definitely changed my work and definitely for worse. I think of those lost months where people were baking sourdough bread and I was painting and sculpting. It’s been very difficult to revert back from that. I wake up at what my body feels is quite early but it’s 10am and I’ve had half a day’s worth of emails because everybody else is up like they used to be, but my body clock is so out of sync. I tend to work in the evening, throughout the night and into the morning. So I need to relearn a lot!
How would you sum up your approach to beauty and to ageing?
Honestly, inconsistent. I think that’s why skin is so important to me. I generally don’t wear much makeup. Lockdown means I haven’t worn makeup for several months at a time and I tend not to unless I ‘have to’. So for me, I see skin as a big thing because I like to go without makeup. The only think I’m consistent about is my skin because sometimes I’ll wear makeup, sometimes I won’t.
What do you look for in skincare and how have your needs changed over time?
I’m very lucky because my mum’s skin is phenomenal so I’m not someone who has to work too hard, but I’m 30 this September, so I’ve started using my first little night creams and my eye creams. For me that’s really different because before my ‘beauty regime’ was E45 until I was about 22. I was raised with E45 cream on my face. In the past five or six years I’ve really got into skincare.
Which Votary product wouldn’t you be without?
I love the Pillow Spray and the Brightening Hyaluronic Serum.
Dream lockdown bubble?
RuPaul. I’ve become obsessed. I started watching the UK series of Drag Race in 2019. How did I miss ten years of this? I know he’s considered quite divisive by the fans of this series but he can do no wrong in my eyes. Rhianna – I don’t even have to explain that! Issa Rae. She’s incredible, I interviewed her and she’s hilarious, down-to-earth and a massive inspiration in terms of what her work is and what she does), Tom Hanks (because he’s my favourite actor and seems like the nicest person in the world), I think Kim Woodburn because it’s lockdown and we’d need somebody to be keeping the house together and she’s hilarious, I’m being practical now! The last two would definitely be my mum and my sister because I’d need someone to watch Lifetime with, and their commentary is …!
Last book you read?
‘Our House’ by Louise Candelish. It’s the first audiobook I’ve listened to and it felt like I was in a film. It was a brilliant plot, but also the audio experience elevated it.
Best nail varnish ever?
I love a nudey-chocolate skin tone.
What makes you laugh?
Peep Show. Favourite TV show in the world. Peep Show could make me laugh at a funeral.
What are your favourite shoes, Yomi?
Oh my god. So I have a massive pair of Gucci loafers that I’ve been trying to wear for the whole of lockdown. I’ve had loads of shoots and I’ve been wearing them but I keep being shot from the waist up and finally I got a picture of them and their on my Instagram now. I’ve been trying to put my foot practically up by my chin so I can get them in the shot! However, I got sent a pair of Crocs the other day and I am not looking back. I genuinely, non-ironically love Crocs now. They’re so comfortable. I have platform ones. I’ve got the gems.
I don’t cook. So turkey dinosaurs and cheesy chips!
I always say authenticity over everything. If people don’t like you, at least it’s for you, in the same way that if people love you at least it’s for you. (Kurt Cobain quote) ‘I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.’
You can catch up on Yomi’s articles in Vogue here.
Find Yomi here on Instagram.
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