A letter to you, Joy Crookes: the importance of representation

Get to know Harry Styles' newest opening UK act, Joy Crookes ...
Still from the “Don’t Let Me Down” video.

God bless you, Joy Crookes.

Thank you for cutting through the generic chart-shite with your raw, unfiltered sound. You croon like Winehouse, singing from the soul about issues that reach out and really speak to me. From mental health to melanin, your voice matters and all the more so because it inspires bravery in your listeners.

Thank you for embracing the power of your platform and choosing to use that newfound and hard-earned privilege to draw attention to gender disparity and racial inequity. It’s awe-inspiring.

Thank you for talking about your mixed-race identity and encouraging little brown girls to honour their incredible heritage, instead of running from it. That’s kind of a big deal for people like me: 25 years old and only now acknowledging that my skin colour isn’t something to be ashamed of. As a brown girl in Bradford, I wanted to be white. I grew up moulding myself into the examples of the fabulous women I witnessed on TV and heard in the charts and read in the latest prize-winning novels. My dreams were to be the brown Gwen Stefani or the brown J.K Rowling because I couldn’t name anybody, through ignorance and lack of representation, that really stood out as an icon in the BAME community.

I was a product of what I consumed, so naturally, what else was I to be but a brown girl masquerading in white culture, instead of coming to terms with the beauty of her own authentic identity.

I chewed up my native culture and I spat it out. I rejected my tongue, my skin, the traditions of my family. Aside from slathering my face in white-face every day, I did everything else I could to run.

I bleached my identity. 

I prided myself on my “whiteness” and on being the exception to racist remarks: I was the modernised and anti-stereotypical image of the “British Asian”. I was the girl who adopted the mannerisms of her friends and thought that was enough to blend in. I was the chameleon. The “adoptive white friend”. The “coconut” in the classroom.

I thought I had found my place, that I’d been accepted for who I was. However, that acceptance was founded on denial because I’d not only played my peers, but myself in the process too.

No more, though!

Thank you, Joy Crookes, for being true to yourself in your art and for giving young brown folk somebody they can identify with in the charts. Thank you, Joy Crookes, for helping a Bradfordian girl with Bangladeshi blood feel a little more confident in herself.

Thank you, Joy Crookes, for inspiring audaciousness. I’m afraid every time I commit pen to paper or stand before an audience, my deepest fears leaking out in the lyrics I sing for everybody to hear. But that’s my soul on display and it has the power to do so much more when visible and audible than when locked up inside, for fear of judgment.

I can only hope that in the way your music has touched me, I do the same to whoever is reading or listening to what I have to say.

Thank you, Joy Crookes, for reminding me that no matter who you are and where you hail from, your story is important and should be heard.  Your story has as much value as your neighbour’s. Your feelings are valid and nobody should make you feel otherwise.

Thank you, Joy Crookes, for reminding me that despite adversity and the challenges of oppression, it is possible to produce greatness.If somebody tells you that you don’t look the part or sound the part or write the part… Own your uniqueness and prove them wrong! There’s space for everybody and you should occupy that space, just as you’re entitled to, without making yourself smaller for the convenience of others.

Thank you, Joy Crookes.

Joy Crookes | The best-dressed stars on the Brit Awards red carpet ...
Joy Crookes serving a lewk at the BRITs.

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