New year, New beginnings

makeup instructor

2019 is shaping up to be a hectic and exciting year for me !!!  Not only have I got a number of really amazing projects on the go with my charity work, but following a number of discussions with my friend Lesley, I agreed to join her team at Lesley Gray as their make up instructor, working on helping trans women in the states learn how to make best use of their makeup as well as helping Lesley developing her business in preparation for retirement.

It’s always so much fun working with Lesley, not only is she a wonderful woman and great friend to me personally, but she gives so freely of herself, with no thought of reward, that you can’t help but be inspired by what she is doing and  join in !!

I’m really excited to join her team for a number of reasons, firstly, its a natural extension of what we’re doing in the UK with YNotbU and the Transgender Makeup pages and groups I run in Facebook, but secondly, it continues to validate my work as a professional makeup artist.  Something I’m not only having a lot of fun doing, but also immensely privileged for the trust, friendship and the chance to be able to share what I’ve learnt with Lesley and her friends.  Really thrilling for me !!

Bring on 2019 is what I say !!!

Joanna

The Dance – Suzie Carr

the danceFor me, every release of a book by Suzie is pretty special.  I even have my own routine.  It has to be Sunday morning when I first read it.  I pile all the cushions into the corner of my sofa, make myself a hot chocolate in a wide cup and stuff it full of as many marshmallows as I can.  I keep a box of tissues close by (because I know I’m going to cry) and then one, just one milk chocolate hobnob as a treat when I’ve finished.  I have to read it in my big green sloppy jumper, which I can tuck my knees into.   It might not seem much, but these are important details to get right.

Time simply stopped when I read this wonderful book. Literally stopped.  The first clues I had as to how long it had been and how it had completely captured me was when I looked over to my right, at my cup of hot chocolate, stuffed with marshmallows, which had gone cold and solidified.  To my left, there was a pile of used tissues from the impact of the sudden loss early in the book had made.  It was a perfect Sunday.

The first thing you notice about “the dance” is the stunning cover photo.  It’s simply a beautiful close up shot of nature, which hints at the message of the book to come.  A bee, captured in the moment, going about it’s everyday business.  Fragile.  Unaware of the events on a wider scale that impact it.  Just being.  Moving on, with selfless compassion.

We first meet Jacky and Sophie, whose world collapses when Drew, Sophie’s mother and Jacky, Drew’s partner is killed in a car crash after a sharp exchange with Jacky.  The sense of hurt and regret that Jacky feels is the first effect of loss that Suzie explores, along with the fractious nature of Jacky’s relationship with Sophie who overhears a conversation between her parents that changes her feelings towards her stepmother.

This is more than a book about coping or surviving with loss though.  It’s about moving on, letting go of that moment of pain and opening your heart up to the possibilities love can bring through living in the moment of something so powerfully simple as nature.  Suzie treats us to two superbly crafted, beautifully matched characters who come to find each other through Jacky’s abilities as a “dog whisperer” and Brookes need to treat her over protective dog “Bee”.  From their initial encounter, you just want them to fit together.   Then there’s the wonderful supporting characters of Brookes Nana and Jacky’s stepdaughter Sophie, who each add new layers to the story through their own personal demons.  Writing with confidence and enviable skill, Suzie lets the book flow exquisitely between them.  We get to see Jacky and Sophie healing through  Brooke’s love and belief that mother nature is the ultimate nurturer. Then there’s Brooke herself, whose role changes as their story unfolds and we get to see her insecurities in trusting Jacky as a new partner.  Let’s not forget the wonderful Nana too, who brings a wisdom that only age can know.

It’s a beautifully told and well thought out, gentle love story, whose characters speak to you as a reader on a number of different levels.  But the simplest one is the one that the front cover hints at, where the plight of bees is a metaphor for a better world   It’s just exquisite. I hope you give yourself the chance to read it and you let its message into your heart.  It’s simply beautiful.

You can get it on amazon by clicking here  – you really should.

Caroline Cossey – My Story

Caroline CosseyWith the increased awareness and social acceptance our community enjoys in todays society, it’s easy to forget that things weren’t always this way.  Much of the freedom and acceptance we enjoy has been hard fought and built on the lessons from the lives of role models who have not just had the courage and determination to be themselves, but also to stand up, broadcast and campaign for the moral rights and justice of a largely hidden community.

Caroline Cossey is one such person and “My Story” is the wonderfully written, emotional and uplifting account of her living in the face of considerable adversity.  It’s a compelling read, which has recently been re-imagined as an audio-book, brought to life by Katherine Fenton.  I bought both versions as part of a deal from the Amazon website, never regretting it for a moment and returning to them often.

Each version of “my story” has a unique special quality.  The kindle version is beautifully written, an honest and open account of Caroline’s experience growing up transgender.  The Audible version, skilfully read as it is, adds a richness of emotions, which draws you into her most desperate of moments as well as the most joyful of highs. Both will leave an impression on you, hopefully inspiring you to find the same courage and determination of this rare woman, leading to you finding the same belief in yourself.

“My Story” falls neatly into three sections, the first tells of Caroline’s early years growing up and her first tentative steps leading to her transition.  The second, tells of the battle for acceptance and the utterly despicable treatment of her by the tabloid press and now defunct “news of the world”.  The third, a chapter in it’s own right, tells of her battle with the UK and European courts for the right to be legally recognised and to marry.  Punctuated with the key events and her memories of the time, its an inspiring tale of a woman looking to find acceptance and love.  The personal way in which Caroline tells her story makes it a difficult book to put down, I frequently found myself welling up or bawling my eyes out uncontrollably.  It’s THAT emotional.   The moments where Caroline recounts being outed by the tabloid press, losing her father and having her marriage annulled are so poignant and sad, it’s impossible to not be affected.  On the newly released audible version, Katherine reads these parts so so well.  its a wonderful way to experience Caroline’s story.

It’s no exaggeration to say this is a landmark autobiography for our community.  I can’t imagine what it was like to go through what Caroline did, or how she found the strength of character to come out the other side.  But come through it she did, and whether you read the kindle or listen to the audio version, when you come to the end, you’ll be cheering for her and wanting her to be hard at work on the next instalment.  Best of all, after reading it, you’ll  beaming with pride, knowing that such a generous, loving, genuine person exists.   A life and a book which our community should celebrate and a book which I would wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend.  I can only hope one day she gets the credit and place in history she deserves for her life’s achievements.

If you would like to download the audible production – you can click here to be taken to the Audible website.

If you would like to download the Kindle E-book – you can click here to be taken to the Amazon website.

You can also catch a video interview Caroline did with the wonderful people at Transgenderzone by clicking here

Catching up with friends

Diane McGavin 

Have you ever had the chance to meet up with someone that you’ve admired for quite a while, even become friends with ?  Incredibly that happened to little old me recently when the gorgeous Diane and Angela came to London to see the recent Kate Bush concert (lucky moos, my time will come) They’re such lovely people, friendly, fun, chatty, have wonderful smiles and one of them is even a star Author on Amazon with her books regularly appearing in Amazons top ten as well as Goodreads……………

But what do you say to someone like that for that all important first meeting ?  You want to make a good impression obviously, but something funny ?  just a simple hello ? Maybe even a you look nice or its so lovely to see you ?  Being my own woman I went for the totally original – “Doing the tourist thing and shopping for cookies eh ?” and then followed it up with a creepy stalker moment following them around Harrods (They’re so down to earth)

Thankfully though it wasn’t long before we all recovered by the olives in the delicatessen, relaxed and tried the “hello” thing instead. That seemed to work better and my nerves settled  Nearly four hours later, and our  “Ladies that do lunch”, souvenir shopping, (WOW, just how many teddies, handbags, chocolate and cookies do two people need ?)  obligatory photos with the legendary doorman Michael Pinsker and hearing of the wonders of earl grey fudge (you can find it just the left of the confectionary section, just of the side entrance) and our first meeting was over.  Can’t wait to do it all again, lots more, but not before I’ve read all the lovely pressies they bought with them. 

The only downside was when they posted a video of one of the songs from the concert online – note to self must be strong and resist.

Meeting Suzie Carr though ?  I’m not ready for that quite yet !!!

Christine Macdonald #inspiration #girlcrush

Christine Macdonald

Most of my friends know how good a friend this woman is, as well as what she means to me. Even if we haven’t actually met and we’re just digital friends, you’ll have seen me tweet and post in facebook about her latest blog post, how its made me feel and my amazement that I know her.

Someone asked me why though yesterday and I was genuinely taken aback. I asked them “haven’t you read any of my posts and what she says ?” For a moment, it seemed that in criticising her, my friend was questioning not just my friends but the people that I hold close and dear to me. So I explained………

I’ve read everything Christine has written, followed every post and journeyed with her adventure and efforts to produce her book. Damnit, she’s not just a friend – she’s a role model for me. I love the way she writes, drawing on her past life as a stripper, sharing the lessons she’s learned, the battles she’s faced. Her blog reflects her past life, its naked, raw, exposed, laid bare before you and you need to do the same if you’re to read it and benefit from it. It’s not a work of fiction, its real and you should treat it with respect.

All too often we get fed plastic celebrities by the media, who present a polished image of perfection that is as impossible to achieve as it is false. Christine nor I would ever say she or I am perfect, we make mistakes, we frick up royally sometimes, but we dust ourselves off, apply foundation and mascara and get the job done. We survive, live and thrive. I don’t want my role models to be fake, I want them real, genuine, accessible, believable, human.

Through reading Christines blog and talking to her, I’ve learnt to face myself, challenge myself, confronting issues that I never knew I had a long the way. I’ve needed a role model to do that, someone who wasn’t perfect, someone who had lived and seen life from the other side of the fence. It didn’t need to be the same as mine, it needed to be someone who I could relate to and who could show me a way through it was possible, I didn’t even need them to show me that way.

Have you ever noticed your friends don’t do that ? The good ones are there when you need them and support you through the bad times, sure, but this is different. You even get the friends who tell you what to do and try to take control. I once asked Christine what she would do and she told me plain – I’d sort that sh*t out !!

OMG she said, you have a #girlcrush !!!

Now she was teasing me. I thought about it and replied “So what if I do ? I’ve worn lots of labels over the years which people use to judge me, I could do a lot worse than that one. Jealousy’s not a pretty colour on you by the way”

Check out Christine for yourself at poletosole.me , or follow her on twitter at @thatgalkiki –  it will be the best thing you do this weekend.  Promise x