Growing up in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic city, mixing with different races was an everyday part of life. It wasn't until I moved primary school, to an all white (I was the only black girl in my year) school, I realised that being black and female I may have hurdles to jump growing up. That, and being called the stereotypical racial names associated with my ethnicity, I questioned whether my experiences in my teenage and adult years would be riddled with stereotypes and perceptions.
If you walk down the high street in many UK cities, you are likely to encounter people who look different to yourself. Black, White, Chinese, Indian, Arab and Eastern European, you may not even bat an eyelid if you see a woman who is of a different race to you, speaks a different language and wears traditional clothes; multi cultural and multi-diverse Britain is rapidly growing. Unfortunately for black women cultural diversity stops on the high street, this is not reflected in influential areas of British life.
Take a look at the three biggest soaps on television: Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, only Eastenders actually feature key storylines by black actresses, the other two soaps do not even have black female characters, which is surprising, especially for Coronation Street as this soap is supposed to be based in Greater Manchester, an ethnically diverse area. And whilst there are several American programmes where black women have a prominent and leading role (Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Being Mary Jane), the same can not be said here in the UK and the likelihood is that this will not occur in the UK in my lifetime.
If you visit your local newsagents, all those beautiful glossy magazines with stunning women on the front cover, how many black faces do you see gracing the covers? Being specific, how many Black British female cover models do you see? They are few and far between, with the usual Caucasian and European features being the ideal standard of beauty. Although there have been a couple of stunning Black British supermodels that have graced magazines covers, there is a long way to go for black features; the wide broad nose, full thick lips and natural afro hair to be fully accepted in the mainstream beauty industry. I'm not sure how many black models walked the runway during the recent London Fashion Week, but having read a couple of blog posts, it appears to be the usual, tall, straight haired white and Caucasian featured models that made the pick, the ideal standard of beauty which seemingly we all must aspire to be.
What does this say to young black girls growing up in a supposedly multi-cultural society, am I not beautiful enough? Should I change my ethnic nose? I must straighten my hair and attempt to make my full lips look thin. This perception to what is beautiful can be damaging to young black girls, it basically says in order to be considered to be beautiful, and I must look a certain way.
And it's not only on our TV screens or the world of fashion, there appears to be a lack of prominent roles for black women in business. Cecila Anam, Karen Blackett and Sharon White, President of the Royal College of Nursing, Media-Com Chief Executive and OFCOM chief executive are names that you may not be familiar with but the number of black females in prominent roles are few and far between. Being black and being a female makes you have to work twice as hard to have to achieve in the world of business. In fact, even if you reach the success of Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Council, you still may be mistakes for a cleaner; this speaks volumes in society on our perceptions of black women.
Whilst there are more opportunities and better experiences for black women today (compared to my parents and grandparents generation), there is still a long way to be fully accepted into British society. Will there ever be a true representation of black women on British TV, or women with my features on the cover of magazines, or leading women in business that do not have to face the double jeopardy of being a woman and black, I'd like to think so. If we continue to raise the lack of diversity as an issue, than change can happen, hopefully not in the too distant future.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about