As most people could tell from a quick glance at my Facebook photos, I’m no slave to fashion. In fact I’m probably not even a well looked after and healthily remunerated employee to it, yet there is one thing currently in fashion that I can fully support, and that is The Strong Female Lead. Not just in film and TV, but in real life too. I’m very on board with the Katniss Everdeen’s, Leslie Knope’s, Beatrix Kiddo’s and such of film and TV fame (if they’re not pining for a man throughout the entire story and you know, have actual interests and aspirations aside from having the most amazing wedding of all time, like actual real women then I’m all for it) but strong women who haven’t been dreamed up by writers in Hollywood are far more intriguing and inspiring to me. Let’s get the sob story out of the way quick – I’m not a fan of self-pity and I don’t like to dwell on the past, but without the sob story my fascination with strong women makes no sense. My mum passed away when I was young, so when a couple of years on from this I was bought a Janet Jackson CD it was like a light had been switched on. I had my female relatives there for me who were and are brilliant still, but for everyday female inspiration, I had pop stars to rely on. Janet Jackson sang about feminism! Racism! Inequality! SEX! Of course, 10 year old me wasn’t really aware of any of these issues and couldn’t really get her head around what any of it really meant, but here was a woman totally not afraid about speaking her mind, sounding completely bad ass and starting to teach me valuable life lessons that (and this is very important) I could make up awesome dance routines to in my bedroom. I just wanted to be the girl sassy enough to be able to throw out the line “no my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” to any boy foolish enough to mess with me. It’s not happened yet, my name isn’t Janet Jackson, I’m betrothed to be wed and mum to a demanding one year old, so the likelihood of me ever saying it grows slimmer by the day but you never know… The Design of a Decade album was a crash course in being a woman, what to believe in and stand for, and my tiny little mind soaked it all up so that I would be ready for when I would be old enough to get my head around it all.
Fast forward twenty years or so and my favourite Real Life Strong Female Lead is of course, Nigella Lawson (and Beyoncé. Always Beyoncé.) If you’re ever feeling like crap and you just can’t face something, google the footage of Nigella arriving in court for the trial of her former assistants. The press were tearing her apart, incredibly private and mortifying details about her home life and marriage were being discussed in court and splashed all over the tabloids, and she was going through a divorce from a man who had publicly humiliated her. Does she look even remotely bothered? No, she looks incredible, confident and her IDGAF face is on point. If that doesn’t inspire you to attend that job interview/go to a terrifying meeting/meet that blind date then there’s no helping you. Team Nigella all the way in my house. Obviously then, I snaffled up her new cookbook Simply Nigella, which I have been cooking recipes from over the past few weeks. It’s a bit of a departure from her usual style in that alongside the heavenly looking baking recipes and savoury comfort food that she’s famous for, she also includes quite a lot of healthy and ‘free from’ recipes. I’ve no beef with that, you can’t constantly eat butter and cream filled foods unless your goal in life is to keel over from a heart attack at 30, and it’s good to have a healthy balance in your kitchen. So far I’ve cooked the chicken shawarma (juicy, spicy chicken that received a rave review from The Boyfriend, so a complete success), Thai cinnamon prawn noodles (warm, savoury and tongue tingling-ly yummy), coconut spiced cod (not bad but not amazing) and split pea soup with ginger, chilli and lime (I wasn’t very enthused about this one, it just didn’t do it for me). A mixed bag so far, although there are loads of recipes I can’t wait to find the time to try, such as Indian spiced shepherd’s pie, chai muffins, sweet potato macaroni cheese, ramen, salted chocolate tart, Asian short ribs and chocolate chip cookie dough pots. There are lots more I’m itching to try but the latter are high up on the ‘to cook’ list. I’m hoping Simply Nigella will be just as trusty a steed as her Express, Kitchen, Bites and Christmas books have ended up being for me.
As for me, I’m certainly no Janet Jackson, Beyonce or Nigella, but I’d like to consider myself a Strong Female Lead in my own life. Maybe not physically (although carrying around a baby for the last year has certainly done my arms a few favours) but in other ways, definitely. I like to think of myself as a cotton ball with a hidden rod of metal running through it. I’ll cry at the series finale of New Girl, sure, and watching the news is risky business these days for my mascara, plus don’t get me started on how mushy I can get when my baby boy breaks out into laughter, but when push comes to shove I am made of tougher stuff. When my son was much smaller and my significant other wasn’t working away, I didn’t think I would be able to manage at all with looking after a baby once my other half went back to working away for weeks at a time, and yet I’ve managed to do it without losing my mind. Plus I’ve managed to work full time whilst doing so. I know, single parents do it all the time and I have nothing but respect for them, but for me, Miss Anxiety, Miss I Have An Itinerary For Everything And I Don’t Know How To Fit All Of This Into One, it’s a big deal. I managed to live in a house that was practically a building site for two years and didn’t have a stroke – badass. I got made redundant while on maternity leave, and after 10 months of spending my days singing nursery rhymes and turning pears into mush, I somehow managed to get through my first job interview in five years and miraculously got the job. That’s a straight to video film (showing my age there) in then making right there! I’ve already said I’m not good with self-pity, and I’m really not good at bigging myself up so this blog entry has been excruciating for me to write (thank God for self-deprecation) but it’s definitely time for women to embrace their inner Strong Female Lead, so I’m starting with myself. Nigella has taught me how to cook over the years, but recently she’s also inspired me to keep my head up, pull my shoulders back and just get on with it. She’s also bloody good with a Middle Eastern marinated chicken recipe. The girl’s alright with me.