This post is special and not only because I’m sharing the things that provided a life-raft of joy in these murky 2021 waters. It’s an amalgamation of my favourite things on my little corner of the Internet. It’s both plug and light: a reminder that the #QuestForBeauty is attainable even in the darkest of times.
Also features: #NtoetsesFavouriteThings, #WomenIveNeverMetWhoMoveMe. Enjoy!
So this year has been an extension of 2020 in many expected and unexpectedly disappointing ways. This is the show I wish Netflix would cancel before its 3rd season. But alas, having seen the shittiest South African Dezemba on record (even the weather didn’t want). This is my list of Joy and Intention for 2021/2 (see Last Year’s here)
Let’s start with the winning theme of the year: Second Acts aka The Power of the Pivot aka “Move, you are not a tree”. I’ve become consumed with the idea of pivoting; listening to the gentle nudges of the soul (sometimes also experienced as deafening screams to get the f*ck out of there). Naturally, when I wrote down my list of women I’m obsessed with and admire, it became a list of women pursuing exceptional Second Acts.
#WomenIveNeverMetWhoMoveMe Second Act Edition:
1. Adrienne Houghton (nee Bailon)
She’s probably best known as the Cheetah Girl/Teen Idol turned Emmy-winning TV Host of The Real. But I will always love her for her journey (I’m not convinced I’ve actually seen more than one Cheetah Girls movie; we didn’t have DSTV growing up). She stopped singing because she hated her voice, once had Rob Kardashian’s name tattooed on her body and publicly claimed to not need affection from her then-fiancée. Then she pivoted: she did the difficult thing of listening to her inner voice and choosing herself in spite of her fear. She ended the engagement that would’ve had her ticking off the box of “married by 30”. She lived in her favourite city (Paris) for a while, sat with herself, listened to her heart and cried. She became a student again because it was something she’d always wanted to do (at this point in her life, she’s the very picture of a successful and financially stable entertainment personality). And then her inner life exploded: she chose her family and made them her priority. She fell in love and found an affectionate purpose partner. She experimented with her creativity and what can sometimes seem like a silly YouTube channel turned into a labour of love and love letter to her fans and loved ones. I got chills when in one of her update videos she turned to her Grammy-award winning husband (Israel Houghton) when he casually mentioned that he was retired and she responded saying that she was not going to stand by and let that happen because what would she say to God when He asked her why she’d allowed him to stop using his Gift. That’s a purpose partner. Since returning to herself, she’s been brave enough to sing again (first as a Whisper then as a Shout) and try her hand at design and entrepreneurship. Did I mention shes now a Grammy-nominated producer?! Its been an absolute joy to witness Adrienne’s transformation from Uncertain Teen Idol to confident creative powerhouse as she pursues and lives in her Purpose. Ladies and gentlemen: A second act!
I’m not impressed that she’s a billionaire BTW (it’s my least favourite thing about her). We all know her origin story: she was bitten by a radioactive Jay-Z and Uncle Ben said something about an Umbrella (Ella Ella eh eh eh) and she gave us 7 albums and 7 distinct eras of shockingly consistently great quality pop culture and music. Then she pivoted. She stopped making music. And went into *checks notes* Beauty and Fashion. In hindsight it’s seems like an easy transition but it was a huge gamble. It was standard High Level Celebrity vibes to add perfume, some shoe campaigns and the occasional makeup collaboration to the repertoire but her game changing partnership with LVMH was historic. Her 50 shade Fenty launch was unheard of and is now the beauty standard. She literally raised the bar. Then with her lingerie SavagexFenty line, proceeded to usurp the Victoria Secret Fashion Show as the The Show/Event of the Year in a multimedia celebration of beautiful diverse bodies, dance, music and fashion. What’s she’s done since stopping music is astounding. She dropped an autobiographical Picture book (who does that?!). She not a mogul she’s more. She is the moment and has been for some time. She’s now a national hero and philanthropist and if she never sings another note she will still be a legend. A second act!
3. The Wild women: I’m grouping them together because they both featured in last year’s list and both joined the #GirlsWithTractors fam. Maya Washington and Kelis. Women who taught me that you can be both a cosmopolitan city girl, wildly creative and also be well suited for a life in the country owning your own kand and growing life frim the soil. They also taught me that love will find you again and second marriages are a perfectly reasonable gamble.
Maya is a YouTuber, photographer (she literally worked for Prince), presenter, content creating, tech-nerd who married young, shaved her head and changed her life and took a public vow of celibacy. She’s a traveller and cool girl. And now new mother, newlywed, farmer. And she’s still everything.
Kelis was Caught Out There, the famously fame-averse former half of the the Kelis-Nas duo who married in a bright green dress who walked away from it all, became a cordon-bleu chef and has since pivoted into being a sauce-queen and farm-owner. I love her with my whole heart and she reminds me that I can do whatever I want and that it’s OK to be wild, your life will find you as long as you plant yourself in fertile soil.
That you can grow it all again from the ground up.
4. Michaela Coel: I know I May Destroy You came out last year. I don’t care, I’m giving her her flowers now. It was phenomenal and I’ll probably never watch it again. When Chewing Gum was taken off Netflix I cried. That show got me through a tough time (or two). Her brand of brutal awkward honest off-the-wall-bonkers cringe comedy was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was truly magnificent. The reason I was crying was because I realised that if Netflix removed it because their deal went sour, it meant that we were unlikely to see her or her work again on such a large platform. I’m so glad I was wrong. But can we take a moment to talk about how this woman mined the depths of her darkest hour and gave us one of the most excruciatingly honest dramatic offerings of the year? And when she came back she owned the rights to her work. A boss, a second act. A generational talent.
5. Jackie Burger: former Editor-in-chief of Elle South Africa, fashion icon, local legend and owner/founder of Salon 58, Jackie Burger disappeared off of Instagram and I kept checking every few months just in case she decided to come back. It turns out her account had been hacked and held ransom. Rather than succumb, she chose instead to start over (from scratch). Welcome back Jackie!
6. Naomi (Campbell):
She chose motherhood for herself on her own terms. And that walk (at the 2021 Alexander McQueen show). Nuff said.
Top 10 film and television:
1. Spiderman No Way Home: sneaking in at the end of the year into the top spot. At the time of writing this I’m trying not be a dick and don’t want to spoil the joy for other people’s children (you probably shouldn’t be on the Internet at all if you want to truly avoid spoilers though). I highly recommend you see this movie unspoiled and in the company of people who love our favourite Web Head (and if you take the time to watch the full complement of existing live action Spiderman movies afresh beforehand, I guarantee a tenfold reward in potential joy). I’ll say this: it is a love letter to the fans, to the character and I was so happy afterwards that I vibrated all the way home and smiled for the next 48 hours. I don’t know when last I was so delighted walking out of the cinema. The 7 year old, 15 year and 29 year old me were all fed. Enjoy.
2. Lovecraft Country (HBO): a black nerd wet dream. I really don’t know know how to start going about describing the beauty and joy of this tour de force (please please please just go watch it). It made me want to be a better person, creative and writer. When one of us wins then all of us win. This is the artistic descendant and Fruit of Jordan Peele’s Oscar win. The fact that Misha Green was able to do this was because Hollywood realised that Black people can also belong in genre pieces (horror, in particular). I am not a horror fan but I watched every single episode with wrapt attention (even if it was through my fingers). It is glorious and rich and completely insane. the characters, story, acting performances, writing, imagination at play are mind-blowing. If you watch nothing else this year, watch this. I’m so excited for you already. Please and thank you. I also highly recommend you listen to the accompanying Official podcast. They give so much insight and depth and debriefing as well as lovely recommendations and companion pieces (poetry, essays, books and shows) to enjoy. Also, Jonathan Majors. That’s it, that’s the post.
3. Sex Education: top tier television writing and the fact that this highly anticipated 3rd season isn’t getting enough noise is hurting ny feelings. But I guess that means that people’s expectations were met and considering how high they were, that is no small feat.
4. Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Wow. If you were wondering what can defeat Superman, its not just Kryptonite, it’s also Studio interference + personal tragedy. Zack’s controversial universe became much more interesting when he was given a second chance to finish and share his full creative vision for the DC universe: given full creative freedom, financial and fan backing. This fangirl fantasy urban legend of a movie (#SnyderCut) finally happened and it was well worth the wait. It was easily one if my favoutire days of the year (I’m a cheap date: fresh air, art, wine and a nerdy ending).
5. WandaVision: I initially struggled with the idea of this one. The trailer was strange and I was happy to leave Marvel behind with it’s new slew of television shows. But then I watched CinemaWins wonderful video breakdowns and this is such a beautiful story: (spoiler alert) the real villain is grief.
6. New Girl: an oldie but a goodie. after Lovecraft you’re going to need a feelgood Come Down, and honestly I don’t know why but I found myself rewatching this lovely silly show with so much heart (turns out I got tired during my initial watch and had stopped somewhere near season 5 and had never actually finished it). Find yourself a New Girl to rewatch as comfort. Cici and Schmidt are the loveliest evolution.
7. Insecure: Issa Rae’s final season isn’t my personal favourite season but its unbelievably real, beautiful and grounding. It’s black people living life, sometimes striving, sometimes thriving and honestly: it’s necessary. But Issa girl, choose you hle (at time of writing this the finale hadn’t aired yet). Insecuritea, the accompanying Official podcast with Crissle and HeyFranHey is a gem (beeeeeen a gem). Additional gem: the soundtrack has unsurprisingly been a highlight.
8. Rick and Morty: anything with an obnoxiously smug fandom can be off-putting (as a J Cole fan, I’m familiar) and Dan Harmon went full Dan Harmon last season. I was so put off that I didn’t notice that there even was a new season until a few weeks ago. Thank you Season 5 for reminding me why I loved this show.
9. Hip Hop Evolution (Netflix): I’ve been having a very serious Hip Hop year and gift-wrapped just for me, the team at Netflix decided to tell the story of Hip Hop directly from the horse’s collective mouth. If you love Hip Hop or at the very least want to understand or trace its history, evolution and cultural significance from even from a purely anthropological perspective, this is for you. Even if you just want to understand why the living (and past) legends are in fact, legends: do yourself this favour.
10. The Graham Norton Show: he is easily the best talk show host working today. Period. Witty, fun, impish, intelligent, thoroughly prepared and hilarious. Please do yourself this favour. Nobody else interviews like he does. Look!
Literal favourite things:
1. My car: if freedom has a name it’s Juniper Lightningbug. My trusty steed and partner in crime. I can come and go as I please, when I please and I am so very thankful for this. And boy did I ROADTRIP this year (see: part 2). I’ve had a flat tyre from the very depths of hell but this freedom doesn’t have a name or price. I love her.
2.Markets: an invitation I’ll never turn down. What’s not to love? The dressing up, variety, great food, people watching, flowers, dessert, views. It’s the perfect day out: facilitates conversation, allows warm meandering catch ups, supports local farmers and artisans and sometimes introduces you to new local musicians abd artists. Win win win.
3. Live music: this has been sorely missing from my life. I can’t wait until we can do this properly again. Ugh, God bless performing artists in these tough times.
4. Bubble baths: listen, it’s not loadshedding if you light candles, sprinkle bath salts, set a playlist (fun fact: the song Ninety is my non-negotiable bath song starter and is single-handedly responsible for Jaden Smith topping my Spotify wrapped artist list). I’ve been mad in the Bath, I’ve cried in the bath, I’ve come up with ideas in the bath, all while drinking a lovingly prepared beverage and snack. I used to read novels then switched to poetry but have since added magazines and visual books to the mix. Romance yourself hle. You deserve. Cc: Lush bath bombs.
5. Walks: I had to draw a line at some point this year and refused to bring work stress into the house (and it was becoming impractical to sit in my car blasting music for an hour after I got home). So I started taking walks. Fresh air, views, photography practice, earphone music. Before you know it you’ve blown off steam. Its a remnant of a habit I really enjoyed when I had COVID in December 2021. Also, hikes are just fancy walks.
6. Tornado ice lolly (because there’s no cream). The best R15-24 you’ll ever spend. It’s almost a staple of my road trip starter kit. Icy treats treats calm me down and make me happy. Blue slushy also does the trick.
6. This line from DVSN’s Body smile: “everything that you need, it’s more water, less stress, more sex”
7. Marc Jacobs: Daisy Sunshine (limited edition). It smells like my favourite made-up word “buttermellow”. It smells like magic and what I hope ny personality becomes when I’ve unlocked my final form. I found it at a duty free and bought it at a different duty free knowing that that bottle would be my first and last. I generally don’t like any of the other Daisy fragrances. At all. Though the Daisy Love duo has me in a chokehold (the Foschini fragrance sale is severely underrated) and I don’t even like floral scents.
8. A good cookbook is a joy forever: both of Chrissy Tiegen’s offerings are phenomenal. It’s worth the effort of substitution and conversions. And I hate doing both. Try not to think too hard about the author.
9. Gardening: I don’t claim to be very good. My strawberries were eaten by the monkeys and never grew again. But I’ve kept my herbs alive, bought a beginner’s book and I’ve enjoyed tending to and eating my own fresh herbs. I’m practicing for my farm and You have to start somewhere.
10. The movies: dating tip. If you want to make out in the dark, don’t come with me to the movies (I might make out with you if it’s a second viewing though). I’ve been watching movies solo as long as I can remember and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Fun fact: the price of petrol and the cost of living is so high that cinema snacks seem almost normally priced by comparison. Or maybe its been a long time.
11. Fresh flowers. I will not elaborate.
12. Pinterest: vision board x #QuestForBeauty ❤️❤️❤️. Fun fact: I no longer buy anything I wouldn’t pin and over the years my wardrobe now looks like my pin board (a massive win). Also, its made me braver, a better artist and more clear about the things I want.
13. Collaborative eavesdropping: this blog. It’s a parable: leap and the net will appear. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here with me dear reader.
14. My study groups: the first group welcomed me to a new city and got me through the most protracted period of studying since graduation 5 years ago. They’re also lovely humans and served as alarm clocks when I had COVID. The second Study Group was an actual Godsend when I’d abandoned all hope and misplaced my academic drive. They literally swooped in at the 11th hour and delivered me my DCH (SA). Thanks guys, you’re all awesome and I’m so glad we met.
Honourable mentions: soft rain, thunderstorms, long warm hugs, homemade soup, video calls with friends and family.
MVP of the year: my intuition.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
This is something I’m encouraging everyone to do: A list of your favourite things this year. You create your own categories. It reminds you that there was joy and beauty in this shit show of a year. And can also act as a plug for others. Fosters gratitude. Literally no down sides. Please share yours (or don’t, but still do it). 😘