Monday, 22 August 2011

The Disappointment of Top Model of Colour

I went to the regional heats of the Top Model of Colour at the TigerTiger Club in Piccadilly on Sunday. I can only return from it questioning why I thought it would ever be a productive use of my time. I could think of a million other things that I would do instead, such as, research political topics to blog about, or clean my room in time for my sister's Canadian guest to occupy it this week, or oh, I dunno watch paint dry.

I guess by now you're wondering what was so bad about it that I must open this post so negatively. I just want to clarify that I have nothing against the models, even though it's not a profession I would ever consider, or attempt to save if the power were in my hands (if say we got hit with the Great Depression again, that is). The contestants all deserve a round of applause, they tried really hard.

The problem was the lack of organisation and frankly put, discipline from all those involved. There was no sign of a run through prior to the start of evening. The models were signaled to come down too slowly dragging out the whole catwalk process. The presenter didn't know who or where she was. She introduced former winners but had to ask them who they were on stage and no, not in that sort of introduce yourself to the audience way of asking. It genuinely was more of those, I don't know who you are and you could just be a random person taking the spotlight sort of way. Surely you should introduce people to each other beforehand so that they are familiar on stage. I don't appreciate awkward silences, or even worse the awkward umms and errs that she used to fill the awkward silences.

To add insult to injury the presenter at one moment thought she had somehow become Tyra Banks. She asked a model why she had chosen to apply to America's Next Top Model. really? You are the constant face of TMC this evening and you don't even know the company you represent. Disappointing.

The other thing that got to me was the judging process. The judges asked too many stupid questions that I can only assume they acquired from seasons upon seasons of ANTM (so the presenter isn't alone in that sense). I don't think even they had enough of a grasp of the industry themselves to judge whether the answers given were genuine and educated or pure blagged bull. I - being a master of blagging - could tell that a lot of the answers were blagged. Many of the models got through without answering questions or without providing quality answers when they did and I don't think the judges took this into consideration when deciding. That made the playing field completely uneven and that's definitely not fair.

Worse than that... the creme de la creme of things that really annoyed me... the lack of discipline in the selection process. All but one of the male contestants were chosen to go to the next round. In proportion you could say the same thing happened in the girls category. I believe we started with 20 girls or thereabouts and the end of the night left about 17 standing. I DID NOT JUST TURN UP TO SEE ONLY THREE GIRLS LEAVE THE COMPETITION?! Did I? It was completely dragged out.

Tokenism ran through the contest in a way that I would only be able to take offence to, if I were a member of the token ethnicity. There was a Persian girl who I would not say wasn't pretty, but she wasn't the prettiest Persian girl I've met. I wouldn't choose her to represent Persian or Arabic ladies in a major modelling contract. And same goes for the Oriental girl who flopped in her questions. She seemed so clueless about a lot but managed to get in to the list of those progressing to the next round. Many of the girls with the best sense of style failed to make it. And the 17th girl to make it was actually chosen because she had her entire social circle in the club. The judges had not chosen her initially but clearly the CEO's agenda was to keep the audience happy. After all they'd be the ones to buy out the bar and give him a good relationship with management. (I guess his was solidifying his contact list which is good business initiative). I grew bored and disappointed as the night progressed. Maybe because it didn't feel like a progression at all really. What could possibly be the difference between the previous rounds or the one to follow?

What this shows me is that they have no real understanding of organisation. The organisers haven't planned out the stages or duration of each stage properly. They should know that at Stage 1 there will be 100 people. Stage 2 - 50, Stage 3 - 25 and so on. And you must stick to that. Nothing frustrates me more than indecisive people. The judges weren't pressured to make an educated decision on the contestants in front of them because they were given the leeway to invite everyone back. It is a very important skill to learn - decision. Successful people make decisions. They take risks and they learn and work from the consequences. It is a farce and frankly a money scam that tickets could be £15 and all we see is a very drawn out method to remove 5 contestants out of 30 from a competition.

It's a shame, I could rant for forever about things like this because we always get upset when we don't see people within our community portrayed well, but having witnessed first hand a brand that claims to be a leading agency for ethnic models in Europe operate so unprofessionally, I now know that we cannot expect more than that. We will forever remain mediocre if we all take mediocrity to be the supposed gold standard.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Credit where it's due. Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings is helping again.

Nana Agyeman-Rawlings has embarked on a thank you tour to talk to the people who asked her to challenge the President and consequently author the demise of her political career. It has taken a while for her to do so, but I think it's good that she's brought a close to this chapter.

Expanded in this video:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tapping Wealth

Ghana's making movements and I'm so proud of them.

What am I talking about? Well, Tullow Oil sold many of their shares last month at a rate of GHC 31 (£12.59/$20.51) per share. They sold 3.5 million shares and raised almost GHC 110 million.

This is good news. I'm not sure how most oil companies fair in other countries and with other grades of oil but floating the company on the Ghana Stock Exchange gives Ghanaians a way of owning and benefitting from the oil find in another way than the often publisiced second-hand benefits (hotels, landlords, small local businesses). I'm just gutted that I wasn't aware of the offer because I've been awaiting the opportunity for years (buying shares at 19 years old FTW). It'll have to be at 20-years old if they don't put the last batch up before mid-August =[.

As with most things to do with Ghana I do have my reservations. A vast majority of the shares were bought up by large organisations who have the financial capacity to buy a significant percentage of the shares on offer, but as I grew up, I recall my father buying, tracking and selling shares- as ordinary as he is. My concern is that the ordinary Ghanaian didn't get the opportunity to buy into the shares. They first of all lack the finances to do so - my cousin earns just GHC 60 (£24/$39) a month and he has a family to support. How many months would it take for him to raise the money for just one share - and not neglect his duties as a father and husband?

And even if he could find a way by utilising the best of the African family structure, he doesn't have a  bank account. In fact many Ghanaians lack a bank account given the prevalence of the informal economy, irregular cash in hand work. So how does one go about transferring his/her money to the necessary parties in order to secure a share in Tullow Oil. The other negative of the informal transaction system, is when it's gone it's untraceable - false agents can decieve you and run away with you money and your so called investment may as well have been burnt away in the fires of Agbloboshie. Did the government think about these obstacles affecting the ordinary Ghanaian? Have they done enough to make sure that this oil find isn't another crank to widen the income gap? I don't think they have.

Ghana is about to see a number of other booms. I strongly believe there will be a property boom and tourism boom, given the number of returning Ghanaians (and those of heritage) as well as those here for the oil money. The National Mens Senior Football team will of course do much for our tourism if they continue to provide dramatic football a la their performance in South Africa last year, but is this government ready to make the ordinary Ghanaian benefit directly from these changes. I haven't seen evidence that will affirm this.

If you have ideas as to how Ghana can develop, or maybe you have an opinion on what they are lacking, then comment below. Let me know what your thinking, let's spark discussion and begin to change things.

Know the signs.

I don't know if anyone would appreciate this post since it isn't directly related to study abroad or Singapore. Also if you still have questions feel free to ask, I'm in the process of compiling The Ultimate Helpful Blogpost containing advice not just from me, but also my exchange friends.

Ok so, "know what signs?" I hear you ask. The Adinkra symbols. Adinkra symbols are native to the Akan people in Ghana where my mother is from. The problem is that whilst there are over 60 symbols, people only recognise the one. It's a fairly big one - Gye Nyame - literally translated "take God" it actually means "it takes God/without God". Ghanaians are really religious people hence why this symbol is real important. It's on everything, tattoos, tshirts, mugs, traditional cloth, logos... you name it! One thing it is not on is Kristen Wiig's neck in the movie "Bridesmaids". I would love for someone - connected to the film - to confirm for me my suspicions, but my sister and I think that the necklace around Kristen's neck is an Adinkra, meaning friendship and interdependence. 

It is called Ese Ne Tekrema - literally translated "the teeth and the tongue". Obviously the teeth and tongue cannot perform their functions well without the presence and effectiveness of each other and from that we understand that humans too need each other in order to meet their full potential. In other words "no man is an island". It is not as many have suggested, the Gye Nyame symbol. In fact, the Ese Ne Tekrema is a very fitting symbol for the message conveyed in the movie. The movie talks of the the strength of friendship and the need for the two ladies to remain good friends. Anyone with a good knowledge of the Adinkra culture will be able to identify this. I would love it if people widened their horizons and educated themselves further to give justice to the culture to which they subscribe.

So now you know.

Starving Hunger

There is a new initiative which is this time not run by Bono or Bob Geldof so I think I can throw my weight behind it more. It is the 1 billion hungry campaign: : 

I'm supporting it because I want us to put an end to hunger (if that doesn't sound too naive), I want us to try to starve hunger, if that makes sense, so that the factors that fuel it - corruption, displacement, poverty and all the rest - are addressed and eradicated.

If you go to the website you will see that they hope to get 1 billion in support of them and are far shy at only 3 million so if all of China could sign up tomorrow that'll be much appreciated, thanks.

I won't push it down anyone's throat because I find that people easily grow from being aware of things to  actually becoming immune to it. If you stumble across something and take your own time to read about it, I find people are much more likely to sympathise.

Join if you can, if you care.