I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like an adult. I know I’m hitting my 30’s – yes that’s right, that’s what I said – but I don’t feel like an adult woman. A lady yes, a woman….umm, not really. Maybe it is because I don’t have any children of my own or the industry that I am in is kinda carefree (i.e. an event might come up tonight and if I’ve got a dress ready I’ll go) or my career so far has kept me young at heart (from inner city rude girl to various characters playing pranks on the street to younger sister who intends and enjoys being footloose and fancy free). But recently I had to take stock of myself and say I’m really growing up.
Last month I gave a talk at my old primary school as part of Black History Month. The school hadn’t changed that much as I remembered exactly where the toilets were and various rooms. I was going to talk to the whole school in assembly in the main hall. When I arrived all the children (and some parents and teachers) were looking at me and whispering. The head teacher in true old school head-mastering style asked them to be quiet by putting a finger to her lips. The children did so. It immediately reminded me of the time when I attended the school and Floella Benjamin was our special guest for assembly. I remembered how tall and beautiful she was. She spoke quite softly and had an infectious smile.
I was asked to talk about my time at the school and my career. I didn’t write anything down as I could remember quite vividly my time in the school. I started talking about the time my two best friends Natalie Malcom and Giselle Morris (isn’t it funny how you always remember the surname of people back in the day) and I did a talent show at the school and performed the hip hop song Push It’ by Salt n Pepa’ (Natalie was Salt’ I was Pepper’ and Giselle was Spinderella’ who was the group’s DJ). Not being boastful but we were great!! I was really getting into it talking about what we wore and how the song went then I realised that the children were looking at me with blank faces – they didn’t have a clue who I was talking about, all before their time. I then switched it and spoke to the parents and teachers as I knew they would appreciate my story.
I then went on to talk about various things in my life growing up and my career to date but the message I wanted to drill in their heads was to work hard, be patient, be proactive and to always remember and thank your family as we all know that the big wide world can be cruel at times but family are always there (which includes friends who are family).
I finished my talk by showing them my Inside Soap Award for funniest performance in Eastenders which I won a few weeks earlier (see my blog…). I bought it along not to show off but for the children to see an award close up and touch it, to bring home the idea that they too can achieve. It did the trick! The gasp in the room with various Wow’ and O.M.G’ (Oh My Gosh! for those who may not know) was so loud and dramatic it made me laugh. The excitement on their faces and the dropped jaws was a picture I will never forget. I remember being that young and wanted to be famous. I wanted to do it all, the singing the dancing, the acting, the writing, the directing. It was only when I gave the talk that I realised that I had done quite a lot in my life and that I had moved on in ways, and experienced certain things that I did not imagine I would.
As I began to leave and go to my car, the year group that I met with after the assembly all ran out of the playground into the car park hugging me to say goodbye. I remembered that was exactly what I and the rest of my classmates did when Floella was leaving the school. We all ran around her and gave her hugs and told her that we loved her and many years later it was happening to me.
I was very touched by all the children I met that day and I know that they will remember the day with fond memories as I will too. There was a girl in the year group that I was with that performed Alicia Keys Falling’ for me. I feel that she is going to make it and maybe one day it will be her who will go back to the school to give a talk.
Pass on the baton
Have a fit week! x