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So this has been long coming!  Each year I try to sum up my year with some reflections, and thoughts for the new year.  This year I thought I’d do that while I was laying on the beach in Koh Samet, Thailand, sipping on a cocktail, counting my blessings.  Alas I was busy still doing work – but on the beach in Koh Samet, so I can’t be too mad!

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2016 was an interesting year for me – perhaps a year I entered into a different cycle of my life.  I ended the year completely burnt out but definitely worth it.  While 2016 was a ‘surviving’ year for most, it was a challenging year for me.

At the beginning of 2016, if you recall I blogged about this, I decided it was time to believe in myself more and push myself to do things that scared me.  At that point I had already been toying with the idea of launching a female led talkshow.   I wanted to give women a voice, I wanted to actively engage in dialogue that contributed to the development of the country and our lives, and I wanted to show that women can and do support each other.

There were many times in that process of developing the show that I wanted to quit – it was scary, not easy, not to mention costly.  But I told people about it, knowing they would hold me accountable to ensure it happened.  And it did!

The show was quoted in the Daily Mail, and now it’s airing on Zambezi Magic – across the region.  My heart literally stopped as I thought about that – people outside of Zambia are seeing my face and listening to what I have to say… it is surreal.

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But that was just the beginning of the year!

Loads of work in the middle of the year, and then my most challenging work fell squarely on my lap – Our Perfect Wedding Zambia.  The project that gave me sleepless nights and exhausted me (and had me looking like a homeless person).  Adapt the hugely popular South African show, how hard could it be?!

Hmmm.  Let me back track a bit.  The set-up of our company is usually myself and Mary write the proposal, secure the deals and client manage.  Tasha does the research and insights.  Freddy is the creative lead – he directs and produces.  We still work on the creative side inputting in character development, script, wardrobe, art direction etc.  But in a very basic way that’s the make-up.

So after writing the proposal, doing the pitch, we win the bid!  Great.  Just one small problem; Freddy is unable to direct or produce the show.  Probably the obvious decision would have been to hire someone to direct.

I like to think of myself as a business person, I looked at the numbers and realized it would be pointless for us to do this show if we hire a director.  I’d just produced and semi-directed (ha!) a talk show, how hard could a 4-day reality shoot be?

Famous last words.

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I like to surround myself with people who are good at what they do but also people I can work with.  There were a lot of people in the industry who I thought had bad attitudes and who I just couldn’t imagine doing a 52-day shoot with.  So I chose a crew I thought I could work with, mainly young up-and coming and hungry.

No one had shot a reality show before, or one of this nature.  In fact client expectations were to exceed even what the South Africa’s were doing, the pressure was immense.

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time crying and wishing I could quit!  But quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.

When I wasn’t shooting, I was in editing mode.  It was non-stop.  And pleasing the client was even harder.  Some of our seasoned editors were also suffering, getting the format right was hard on everyone.

The season is coming to an end and while I can definitely agree there were some bad episodes, there were also some amazing stories and great couples – it almost made me believe in love again! LOL.

I did learn though that maybe hunger wasn’t enough, on certain projects you have no choice but to put personal differences aside and bring in the best people for the job, at least close enough to the best (though not sure they would have done it for the budget).   However, because of the attitude of some of the crew, I know I will be working with them for time to come, because at the end of the day, attitude is so important in getting ahead and moving past mediocrity.  The ones who chose to be unprofessional, well those are their career choices.

I was then fortunate to get away for 10 days to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand.  It was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t get to consciously do the reflections I needed but I think the downtime, the rest and recovery allowed my mind to settle, clear out the noise and focus.

There were things I wanted to do last year that I never got to do, my experience last year proved that anything is possible, so this year I plan on soaring, trusting in myself – in God – and taking that next step to greatness.  We can all achieve it if we believe!

Have a great 2017!  (I won’t even promise to blog more because… well life gets in the way, and I’m busy on my grind and living my life!)

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So I did it!  I ran straight into the fear and launched my online talkshow!  Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I’ve been hinting at doing something ‘big’ since January, and this is it.

But, boy, how many times I came close to scraping the entire project – even after I had already shot the episodes! LOL.  The fear of failure can be so powerful that it can stop you in your tracks.

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Add to that, that I have been so vocal on bad quality works and the mediocrity that is rampant in Zambia, and I just never thought the episodes were good enough.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, drama and conflict behind the scenes made me want to pack it all it, it was just too hard!

But I had committed to it.  I talked it through with my life coach, who couldn’t understand my hesitation, and so I closed my eyes and jumped!

Even when it went live, I held my breath, waiting for the trolls to come, my friend in Nigeria telling me not to worry – ‘even Oprah has haters’ he said.  Hmmm yes but Oprah can then jump in her private jet and go to some fabulous destination, drink mojitos, have massages on the beach and not let any of that negativity get to her.

The number of people watching the first episode kept growing, within a week over 1,000 people had watched it.  1,000 people!  Ok, I wish I could say there were 10s of thousands, but you have to start somewhere.  And that start was encouraging.

Friends shared it, friends called me to give me their positive feedback, but still I held my breath.

Three episodes in, and I haven’t had any trolls, had some great constructive feedback, and generally people believing there was a need for what what I was trying to do – foster a community to shape not only the country we live in, but also the positive female community we don’t always talk about.

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My father watched the third episode the other day – he was surprised that I could speak on any issue that I wanted lol – but he was impressed and supportive as well.  My father is not an easy person to impress.

As the episodes unfold, as I still cringe at the imperfectness of it, I am excited about where it could go.  Hard for it to go much further right now, because it was self-financed by Media 365 (like us on Facebook!) and we only have a finite amount of resources to put into passion projects, but the scope is huge.

My focus was on Zambia, spurned by the elections and the governance challenges I was concerned with, but it’s more than that now, there are so many issues that women (not only in Zambia) have challenges with, issues that I could be lending a voice to, giving a platform to, making it a much rounded show.

Sponsorship is hard to come by in Zambia, I find the marketing people in most large corporates have a very parastatal way of thinking – i.e. let’s not do anything original or creative, let’s see what works in the market then jump on it.  It’s exactly what happened with Love Games.  Sponsors wanted to come in at the end, when it was too late.

But knowing this, and because it is an owned property, I’m trying to ensure the numbers stay up so that someone  will want to sponsor it and keep it going.  I only have about 6 more episodes in the bank (6 more weeks of content, yay!), so I really do need people to keep watching, sharing and discussing it, hoping that will lead to sponsorship of season 2.

I have learnt so many lessons on this journey though.  Some about friendships – man have I seen the ride or die’s in my life – and they’re global, UK, South Africa, Nigeria, and of course Zambia.  I’ve learnt that even if it’s not perfect, and the intention is honest, people will appreciate it.  And of course, that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

There is so much in this process I don’t control, and I have to trust others – that’s also taught me lessons, there are people you can trust to be professional, and to make it work, and there are people who just want to get paid.  Be very wary of those just trying to get paid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about the people wanting to get paid (we all want to get paid!), I just can’t afford them on my team right now, I need people I can trust me to want to make it the best possible project, to give me their all, at cost, for a bigger reward in future.

But that can never overshadow the gratitude I feel about the people who have been there, the ones who simply watched, gave feedback, let me vent, let me talk out my crazy ideas, turned out graphics in hours, not days, and just helped bring this project to life.

There is still a long way for us to go in Zambia in raising the creative standard, but sitting around complaining about it won’t help.  Same with shaping our country, being armchair critics is easy.  But it is time for action (cue Redman lol).

This is a new chapter in my life – I never ever saw myself in front of the camera – still don’t – but I also want to be involved, want to be awake, and be part of the change I want to see.

Thank you for all those of you who have already watched HerStory, if you haven’t watched it, check it out and share with all your friends and family!  Help me get the 10s of thousands views!

Thank you in advance! xoxo (yes an ode to an old favourite! lol)

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to live life to its fullest potential and start really following my dreams, because up until then, I realized I’d spent a lot of my time pleasing people. My work was not what I considered my best because I was constantly compromising and conforming to meet what the client wanted. I had become all about ‘if they pay, they say’ and stopped arguing with them over ‘ugly’ products. Though don’t get me wrong, if they pay, they still say, I’m just more wary of which clients I take on – if they’re not ready to excel, or innovative, I’m not about that life.

But before I made that decision, it ate at me. I looked at some of my past work and remembered the high I got from being true to my inner spirit – the spirit that some times runs wild but appreciates nice looking things!

2016 was going to be about me, and doing things that I wanted to do, throwing caution to the wind! Or so I thought.

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January 2016 I decided to embark on a passion project. Before I could even get started, we suddenly had more work than expected – Q1 is usually very slow, with things only really picking up around April/May.

While I was counting our blessings, I was also wondering what would happen to my passion project, pushing it to the back of my mind, ‘we’re too busy’, I told myself.

And then a friend of mine said ‘you’re scared.’ I was going to protest, instead I walked away annoyed by the comment – do I look like I get scared?! But deep down, I knew she was right.

I had minor panic attacks worrying about whether it would work or not, I reached out to several friends and people I knew in the industry who I felt had more experience than me for advise. Some came back, most didn’t. I focused on that. If I couldn’t get the help from these people, how on earth did I expect to make this work, what would I do?

But I also had so many supportive people in my corner – people I didn’t even know where there, including some incredible women who I am beginning to believe God brought us together for a reason.

Yet there was still a lot of back and forth on my part. First I was scared it would be lame – I’m not about mediocre. That thought was spoken by someone in my inner circle – ‘you are not the type of person to allow mediocrity, why would it be now?’

Of course I could point to many a times I thought I was involved in mediocrity, though it wasn’t of my doing so, fair point.

I had a1001 excuses not to do it. After awhile I realized that my fear was not of just being mediocre but actually of doing a good job. It seems weird to have such a fear but there is just a much pressure with being good and maintaining or exceeding!

And on my mum’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and just do it! It seemed fitting to do it on her birthday – she is an extraordinary woman to me, so good time to ‘jump’.

It was a great experience! Ok it was running late – another story. But when it was done, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t freaked out, only messed up my lines once. It was awesome.

I might not use it – despite me appreciating I don’t have to be fantastic all the time, it can be better so why not do better?

The important thing for me was to let go of the fear and listen to my truth, and follow that truth – good things await those who are true to themselves!

It may not be the dream exactly, but it’s a step closer, without doing this, I would have been so much further from all I imagine for my life. And that’s what’s the most important thing.

Coming soon…

after the show

So this happened. I was asked to speak on a career panel for Peace Corp Zamba’s first urban-based Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), which is a worldwide ignition to foster the global movement of gender equality and youth empowerment. This particular Camp GLOW was for 30 high achieving secondary school girls from compounds in Lusaka. I was supposed to talk to these young women (aged 15-17) about what my job is, benefits, challenges etc but also give them some career/life advice.

As you’re probably aware by now, empowering young girls and women gives me life. I find it so important, not only because of the empowering and inspirational women I know, but because I think it’s hard being a girl, those of us who have made it through to womanhood owe it to our younger selves and those coming up behind us, to light the way for them. So I was more than happy to attend.

No validation needed

The event was kind of like a speed dating session. I sat and every 5 minutes a group of 6 young girls came to sit with me and ask me questions. The problem (or the good thing for them) was that most of these girls already knew they wanted to be doctors or accountants. Funny how things haven’t changed in the last 50 or so years.

To be honest, they weren’t at all interested in what I did – ok one was – and they kept calling me a journalist, sigh. But I didn’t lose my temper with them – I have no problem with journalists, I may have been trained as one, but I’m not a journalist. Frustrated by the inability to ask me questions that challenged me – yes, I know, I was there for them, not for myself but I figured if I had to answer one more time what challenges I face in my work I was going to walk out of the room! – so instead I opened it up for them to ask me any question that interested them, not necessarily about my career. The young girl next to me was eager to ask ‘Why are you not married?

The question floored me.

I’m not used to people asking me why I’m not married – except for the men trying to hit on me. And I paused for a second. The truth? I told her.

In my twenties I was focused on my career, I never thought about marriage. Maybe this had to do with my father insisting I didn’t date while in secondary/high school so that I didn’t lose sight of my goals. Or it could just have been that deep down I knew that if I got into a serious relationship, I might be forced to compromise on my goals and dreams.

Now that I’m realizing my dreams, I think it’s more I simply haven’t found the right man – certainly not one that has asked the question, and I’m not the type of woman who’d ask a man.

And that’s how the day ended; me, uninspired by the young girls because of their lack of energy. But I don’t entirely blame them. There were some pretty amazing and inspiring women on the panel, powerful and super successful some of them were. But I don’t think the young girls truly understood the magnitude of these women so didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity they had to meet one on one with these women (myself included if I have to be honest).

Anyway, I tweeted my thoughts on the session and ended with the question the young girl asked me – I honestly thought it was amusing. When I read all the replies to that tweet, I was a little shocked, maybe even a bit disappointed that I had caused such a reaction. A lot of people, mainly women, thought it was sad that this girl trumped all questions to ask about marriage.

It got me thinking, why do we think it’s so wrong for women to want to get married above everything else? Does marriage, and aspiring to get married make you less of a woman? Did the feminist movement and now the girls’ empowerment movement get out of sync?

Perhaps I misunderstood it, but I thought the point of the feminist movement was to allow women to have choices to be what they wanted to be and to do what they wanted to do, freedom from judgment. And now, us women want to judge another woman for wanting to choose marriage over a high-powered career? If she’s getting an education and then chooses to get married is that so wrong?

What if her husband is a good match for her who supports her to be a better person than she is now, and if her partner is helping her reach those career goals, should she want to pursue them?

Empowered and married

Does being empowered mean you have to shun marriage and be a #BOSS only? We should be teaching young girls that marriage is an option, but one of many options and all are ok, as long as it makes them happy. I think that’s the most important thing – being happy, by your choices you make, not choices forced on you. It’s like now being empowered is making it difficult to just be a girl and be happy and like pink, and like cooking, and all the things that used to be gender specific to a girl. Now you’re the cool, empowered role model if you’re an engineer or a geek or something that used to be male dominated.

I remember one of the last words of advice a few of the women on the panel gave was ‘don’t be one of those women who just wants to look for a rich man to take care of her and buy her Brazilian weaves’. I didn’t say anything but thought to myself, ‘yes, make your own money so that you can look for a rich man to partner with you so you can both be doubly rich and buy Peruvian hair because who still wears Brazilian hair anyway?’ LOL. (sidebar:  money really isn’t that important ehem)

Serious talk though, must we be the women to judge the other woman? They are some women that I can judge (don’t get upset that people call you a ‘ho if you behave like a ‘ho), but these are girls getting ready to go into the world, there’s so much they are already going to be judged for, why should we add to that stress?

At the end of the day, like I told the girls, no matter what they choose to do, they are queens and no one can take that away from them, as long as they remember it and embrace it.