VA­LERIE OMARI

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - REAL LIVES -

‘I didn’t have the eas­i­est time grow­ing up. Con­stantly mov­ing meant I be­came an ex­pert in adapt­ing to the dif­fer­ent be­hav­iours of each new group of friends. And be­cause I lived in so many ar­eas, my ac­cent be­came a mix of all sorts. At some point, I re­mem­ber be­ing im­pressed by this. It made me ex­otic. Peo­ple would hear me speak, and wouldn’t be­lieve I was black. They’d ask if I was “mixed race” – and I’d take it as a com­pli­ment.As a dark-skinned child, I never felt like the pretty one. Now that I’m older, I un­der­stand that I em­braced sound­ing, or seem­ing, dif­fer­ent, be­cause it meant I was too good to just be black. It’s an un­der­min­ing of black peo­ple – the idea that you’re more in­ter­est­ing if you’re some­thing else. Now, I nd that thought of­fen­sive. Wo­ke­ness isn’t some great mo­ment of en­light­en­ment. It’s grad­ual, and by sur­round­ing my­self with coura­geous peo­ple and read­ing more on the his­tory of my peo­ple, I’ve learned the im­mense beauty in be­ing black. I’m learn­ing to be more com­fort­able in my­self, and to ex­press my views – es­pe­cially when they rub peo­ple the wrong way.’ @itsva­lerieo­mari

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