I thought it would be good to have a little catch up as this year has been absolutely CRAZY but it has been such a great year for me personally, spiritually, emotionally & business wise!
Last year I remember speaking to my home girl Scotty saying that I wanted 2016 to be an epic year for me & if you remember my post "No DICKstractions in 2016"
I spoke about how many things I wanted to achieve in 2016, I started the year off by reading Shonda Rhimes book "Year Of Yes" which literally opened my eyes to not only how AWESOME she is but gave me the courage to not stand in my own way to all the things that I wanted to achieve! Whenever I felt like I couldn't do something, Scotty would be right there cussing me (out of love) saying
I'm so grateful to have a friend like Scotty because you need that person that will cuss your ass out & remind you that you can do it, give you advice, that you can laugh & curse with that's why she's my edges!
Throughout this review I'll be showing you the ups, downs & what the fuck moments that happened this year but I can wholeheartedly say that my "Year of Yes" has been the most incredible year of my life so far!
I started my #YearOfYes with a NYE pyjama party with my closest friends & family. I forgot how much hosting a party is stress, instead of me turning up I was making sure that people didn't break anything so that my mother wouldn't end up breaking my neck. I've never been a NYE person I think it's just an expensive hype but it was great to see everyone enjoy themselves plus my drunken friends left me enough alcohol to last me the whole year so thanks!
After the NYE party, I had the difficult time of burying my grandfather. Anyone that knows me, knows that I was incredibly close to my grandfather. He raised me, he prayed for me & he loved me. My grandad was awesome, a God-fearing Seventh Day Adventist who was the first example of what a man looked like, he was my last grandparent alive as I had lost my grandparents on my mother's side 5 years ago & my gran the year before that. Losing my grandad..was..hard its still something that I struggle with today I am just so thankful that I was with him on his last day, we sang gospel songs together & he prayed over me so I know that he is now at peace. You know when you get that feeling that is was going to be the last time you see someone? I had that, I can only put it down to the Holy Spirit & God speaking to me, as upset as I was this was going to be the last time I'm so glad that I listened to the voice within me saying to go that night at hospital to see him. My grandad is awesome, to this day I still get signs that he is watching over me, I will be walking down the street & an elderly black gentleman who reminds me of my grandad will smile & speak to me, I kid you not! Also during January I lost my granny's sister who we call Granny Rufee she was the best, she was always smiling, had the most distinct raspy voice & loved her TV soaps like the "Young & The Restless" whilst she sat in her garden in St.Lucia. Losing someone you love is always hard, but I am so grateful for the time and memories I have with both my grandad and my Granny Rufee, during these times you really rely on your family for support. I don't take death well, it's the one thing that makes me cry but I had to stay strong & I was determined to make my all my grandparents proud this year.
Love you Grandad - Wilfred & Keith
Granny - Hazel & Octavia x x R.I.P
Following my grandad's burial I treated my mother and sister to an evening at the theatre to watch "In The Heights" in King Cross Theatre it's important to me to spend time with them since I moved out 5 years ago I like to make sure we at least do some things together, thanks to a website I was able to get us tickets for just £20 each but the musical was so dope & they really enjoyed it, I seriously recommend you all go & watch "In The Heights" before it's run finishes.
Between all of this, I found out that I had made the finals of the UK Blog Awards. This was incredible to me because I put myself forward thinking that I wouldn't even get many votes as I had just relaunched my site, didn't have a huge following compared to others & there was bigger and more professional looking blogs in my category. When I received the email that I had made the top 10 I was at work & I screamed my head off! I wanted to make the awards so badly & it was in fact one of my goals for 2016 that I had written down so I was happy I could go to the awards in April...now I needed to find something epic to wear *let the stress begin*
Lastly, I uploaded my honest review of the dating application Tinder on my Youtube page! Which you can watch below, don't forget to subscribe to my channel too!
I've always loved poetry nights, so I took my two betches Scotty & Yashi to an event called "Poetry After Dark" to not only get inspired by words, but also give me the kick up my bum I needed to start looking for poets for my theatre play "Ex-periences" as I knew that I wanted two scenes with genuine poets to perform their art. At the event, I was introduced to some amazing poets & talent, one of them being the incredible lyricist "Rara" when I tell you guys Rara is the truth....that's exactly what she is! I was immediately drawn to Rara and after the event we spoke & I knew instantly that I wanted her involved with my theatre production because she spoke with such raw edginess but was so sexy with it & she swore I WAS SOLD!
Valentines Day I always spend with my mother & sister because as always I was single, I went over to my mothers for a drink or 4 then later that night I went to the cinema with whom I call my estranged husband Bounce to watch Avengers Assemble at Westfields. I met Mister Bounce years ago when we both had radio shows on Radio King Online and were part of the #HeavyweightThursdays clique, we've made it a tradition that we always see the Marvel films together, the reason I call him my estranged husband is because he didn't keep that tradition as he became busier throughout the year with djing & travelling...but I'm proud of him of everything he's accomplished this year even though he gets on my last tit!
I took a much needed 3 day break with my work colleague Keisha to Amsterdam which was beyond fun, we crammed a lot of fun & alcohol into 3 days but it was a good way for me to refuel & refocus as I knew once I got back I had serious work to do in order to make Experiences a reality which meant one thing...a lot of long nights with my Mac, Celtx, rewrites & alcohol.
Let me tell you guys about my best friend Tanya, she's not only my best friend she is my rock. I met Tanya was I was 16 & on my first day we clicked & she's been by my side ever since. We finish each others sentences, we can communicate with just a look, she is more than a friend she is family! The beginning of my birthday month I saw my best friend as one of the Supremes in "Motown The Musical" she was absolutely awesome! I had a front row seat & witnessed her sing her throat...OFF! I'm not biased when I say this but hands down Tanya has the best voice in that whole musical, she never ceases to amaze me when she performs she is 100% doing what God put her on this earth to do! Motown the musical will have you singing & bumflicking along from start to finish, oh & let's not forget to mention on press night I was able to meet THE Berry Gordy owner of Motown Records & Smokey Robinson too *dusts shoulders*.
My birthday is March 16th, I was turning 25 +4 as I like to say as I like to be in denial of my age, however for this birthday I just did something low key & invited my closest friends to Bubba Gumps for a birthday meal. The shrimp at Bubba Gumps are to DIE FOR. I kid you not I had to take a doggy bag home including a free Bubba Gump cocktail cooler that I got with my meal woohoo! I was grateful that I spent my birthday with people that I love thank you Scotty, Roxy, Rieanna, Josh, Rhoda, Leeonda for attending!
After my birthday meal, I spent a special evening with my brother Dillan who treated me..yes you read right treated moi to my first ever lobster at Burger & Lobster in Knightsbridge! My brother is a sweetheart can't believe that he's now a grown man driving & buying me meals but it was nice to spend some quality time with him - thank you bro!
The gifts kept on coming with the birth of my niece Alessia being born, those that follow me on Snapchat have already become familiar with my crazy niece Tiarna so having another one especially one born so close to my birthday was the greatest gift this year! My eldest brother Aden & my sis in law Jojo are incredibly strong parents, I was there when my first niece was born which was an hilarious night & just put me off labour even more, however Joanna wasn't waiting for no-one for the birth of Alessia but I had to be there on day one & I will continue to be the loud aunty that teaches them foolishness, has them every month & spoil them rotten!
Bursting with all the love, I closed my eyes & thanks to the assistance of Scotty I put out an open casting for Ex-periences. I held my auditions at The Calder Bookshop which is an an absolute bargain of £8 an hour for their rehearsal space & I anxiously waited whilst I posted my audition on my website, Starnow & Casting Call Pro for actors & actresses to hopefully want to be a part of my theatre production!
Within 10 days all the audition slots for my theatre play were sold out, thats when I realised that I had no choice BUT to put on my theatre play because I had not only invested time & money into running 2 auditions but I also had people who were relying on me to deliver a play as I appreciated they had taken time to turn up for auditions.
I won a competition to have a posh nosh brunch with Rare Thoughts & Lionheart the masterminds behind the "Subjectivity" event which I have gone to before & I loved, it was great to see their friendship. debates & hear their plans for the future. I also met the lovely ladies Rochelle & Tasneim.
One thing I love about my girl Chantelle, is she is spontaneous she messaged me one day & simply said "Tiller Time in Berlin 24 hour turn up you down?" & of course I said yes! So that's exactly what we did! We landed in Berlin & booked a room thanks to AirBnB in the morning, drank a lot of Ciroc & listened to music until 7pm when we went to the Bryson Tiller concert (I somehow caught the flu within hours of landing by the way) when we returned we had a nap & we caught a flight back early hours of the morning! We did all of that for about 80 Euros BARGAIN!
Finally the time had come for me to attend the UK Blog Awards which was in the amazing Westminster Plaza Hotel. I found a dress courtesy of Grassfields, which not only reflected my personality but I absolutely adored! I wish I could wear my dress everyday & it didn't go unnoticed at the awards! I attended the awards alone however thanks to the complimentary champagne & my social media I didn't feel alone! It was a great experience to be there & receive my certificate for making the finals & seeing my blog name in massive lights was indescribable. It certainly gave me the push I needed not only to continue my blog but to keep saying YES to myself & what I wanted to achieve!
On the 14th we completed our first table read at the Cockpit Theatre for Ex-periences, it took much deliberation, phone-calls & call backs to finally cement the final cast as in the world of acting you must always be prepared as some of my original cast ended up dropping out, getting other gigs or being double-booked. The old Delia-Rene would have taken it personally, but I've been in this industry long enough to know that everything happens for a reason & I have no doubt that the cast that I did have for my play I was supposed to! They showed me loyalty, love & pushed me to a new level as a writer & director whilst rehearsals begin at Lost Theatre in May!
Whilst I was rehearsing with my cast for my play, I still had a 9-5 of being a Head Of Year 11 in a secondary school. These kids have no idea how they literally changed my life. I had been their Head Of Year since they were in Year 10, I saw them every day, we laughed, screamed, stressed together but they have inspired me in more ways than they know. The time had come in May where I had done all I could do because they were now leaving school on study leave & were only coming back for their exams! You really become attached to the students that you work with, it's more than just a professional relationship because I saw them grow up in front of my eyes. I was practically their parent from 8:20am - 4:30pm I knew every single student within my Year Group & I made it my responsibility to make sure they were supported as much as I could! But the time had come for them to start living their life (& to give me a little break!) having a 9-5 job plus directing a play at the same time was absolutely crazy not sure how I did it, but my passion for what I did grew every day. I was excited when it was a rehearsal day , leave my job & travel to Lost Theatre for rehearsal until 9pm, go home do rewrites of the script & start all over again! By the way...I don't drink coffee so it was adrenaline & God alone that gave me energy to do this!
Rehearsals...rehearsals & more rehearsals at the Lost Theatre. We began rehearsals three times a week all while the cast & myself had full time jobs! I began realising that I was able to utilise my skills & responsibilities for my theatre production by making lists. I made lists in advance, added new tasks & loved when I had achieved it I could cross it off.
One task that I put on my list that I did in advance was book the photoshoot for my play. I wanted pictures that would reflect their personality, catch people's eye for promotion & wasn't your stereotypical photos for a play. So every night I would research images that I loved & add it to my Evernote to help me visualise what I wanted, Rieanna whom I call my wife knows what I like & helped me to create a vision board with colours, themes & even the poses that we wanted each character to do for our photo shoot! With the help of "Crowned Hearts" & "Moore Vigilance" who provided us with clothing for the photoshoot we all woke up at the crack of dawn to go to East London to create our photoshoot! The amazing thing was all of my pictures were done by one of my previous students who I kept in contact with called Montana Hall she is only 18 but unbelievably talented! She felt nervous at first, but quickly got into the swing of it & if you follow our Instagram for Experiences, you can see how great of a job she did!
Mid-way through my #YearOfYes & I am in full swing of rehearsals for my theatre production at last I had a little breathing space from work & begun my 6 weeks holiday but the REAL work for my brand was just about to begin. Time was quickly ticking for our first date so I had even more work to do than before as I was determined to make it a success! My cast & everyone involved with my project had worked so hard & I made it my priority to ensure that they got the recognition that they deserved!
I had wanted to cut my hair for soooo long but kept punking out, I was afraid without having relaxed hair that I wouldn't look pretty. A huge inspiration for me in terms of hair & in life has been Just Tori, she held a movement called #Fly30 during her birthday month in June for people to face their fears & achieve goals, of course I had to take part in my #YearOfYes & one of my goals was to cut off my hair. I can't begin to tell you how many times I psyched myself up & Tori did too & then I would punk out. But one day on the last week of work in school, I asked one of my favourite students what barbershop he went to, he walked me after school & I just did it. I didn't think about it, I didn't tell anyone I just went in told him to cut it off & cut my hair! Then I shit myself because I realised what I had done...there was no going back! At first I thought I looked like a boy, Tori advised me to calm down go home & wash my hair. When I washed it for the first time ever I saw something...I saw my natural curly hair & at that moment I cried. I cried because I finally felt like me, I had been relaxing my hair since I was a young teen & became used to the creamy crack routine, combs breaking in my hair because it was so thick but I envied women with natural hair as I am a huge advocate for natural beauty, I rarely wear make-up (I'm shit at art) but I wasn't brave enough to cut my hair until now. To know that now I had short natural hair I felt free. All I have to do is co-wash, water & use Cantu products or ORS curl activator & a betch is good to go!
Sickened by what I had seen happening in America I marched at the #BlackLivesMatter protest which is something that I will remember for the rest of my life! It was great to see thousands of people unifying for one cause, to meet new people, to show love to everyone & feel part of something but it also made me realise that we have to do more than simply protest, we have to educate ourselves & others, support each other & I have to do more as a writer & a black woman to dispel the myths & perceptions of my culture & people.
Thanks to the British Blacklist I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Oscar Documentary Masterclass at the Hospital Club to hear from Oscar nominees & award winners on how they won Oscars for their documentary. Asif Kapadia the director behind Oscar winning documentary "Amy" following the life & death of Amy Winehouse stood out to me hands down. He was so honest & inspiring in his speech which he basically told us to never give up, film & then film some more!
Anyone that knows me, know my love for UFC & MMA. I've been watching MMA since I was 18 years old at university & to this day I have not missed one UFC fight night or pay-per-view! I am also honoured that Michael Venom Page a well-known British MMA & Kickboxing Champion is a close-friend of mine who I've known since I was a teenager. When I saw that he was fighting in London against Cyborg I didn't hesitate to buy tickets & see his win & devastating knee at O2!
I rounded up with speaking at Atlanta Green's event "As Told By Her" which is an incredible platform for all female poets & speakers to encourage others! I was humbled that she had asked me to speak about my journey as a blogger & scriptwriter, it was a wonderful opportunity to inspire others as well as meet new people. Atlanta is also an accomplished writer & author herself & once again I had the opportunity to see my homie Rara perform who doesn't love that?
Another poetry event I HAVE to mention is Ruth Sutoye entitled "Archive". This event spoke to my heart & soul the music & poets on the night were incredible! I am so glad that I went to this event with my sister Danielle Dash, Danielle is my angel on earth. She is an amazing writer of the award winning Youtube series "Dear Jesus" who also did Sarah Akwisombe's "No Bull Blog School" with myself & Roxy. God knows how much I love Danielle she's been a blessing ever since I began speaking to her & has taught me to be unapologetically black, to be myself & to live life!
The time has come...no holding back & no putting it off! Within 2 weeks my play was SOLD OUT, I remember when the last ticket had gone all I could do was pray & cry then I put on music & bumflicked all over my house! I checked & checked again to make sure that I somehow hadn't miscalculated & still had more tickets to sell but thanks to relentless promotion by my cast & myself with no financial investment but my own we was able to put on this production. I had to make many sacrifices in order to make that happen, no more going out, no cheeky Nandos, I walked to work instead of getting public transport, I saved & watched every penny coming in & out of my bank account, sometimes had to go to my mothers in order to have a hot meal but thanks to God the sacrifice was worth it.
The 13th was the last rehearsal & we all stood in a circle showing love & gratitude for the journey we had been on for the past 3 months together. When you rehearse 3 times a week with people it becomes more than just a project we bonded & became incredibly close & I was excited for everyone to see what they had been up to!
14th was SHOWTIME I couldn't sleep the night before, I remember praying to God thanking him for the past 8 months & for this pivotal moment. I wasn't scared that something bad would happen in the play, I was more nervous that people wouldn't receive the play & not like it! It's true when Erykah Badu says " I'm at artist & I'm sensitive about my shit" but seeing how amazingly talented my cast was there was no reason to doubt that the play would do well. This was my first theatre production, my words, my script, my story, my life, my name on the line but I had to do it because I needed to feel like I was a writer. It might sound crazy but I didn't feel I could call myself a writer, yes I wrote a blog, yes I had written something that appeared on TV, but I wanted something of my own so I could feel accomplished within myself.
My first show was absolutely magical & went by so quickly. To see every seat filled, people laughing from the first scene, everything going smoothly, people tweeting & taking pictures was phenomenal. When the last scene was over & I came out last to see my friends & family giving me a standing ovation again had me crying! It was at that moment on the stage I finally felt like a writer. 180 people had seen my words, my script, my story , my life , my name on the line...& it was worth it! No matter what happens in the future no-one can take that moment from us & I love that!
Following the high of our first show, we decided to put on a second date at Lost Theatre. I can not thank Mark & Martin who work at the Lost Theatre enough! They went above & beyond to assist me with my first production, Mark the Artistic Director is an incredible man who managed to assure me that my production was great he even complimented how professional our production was & easy it was to host our theatre show at the Lost Theatre. If anyone is thinking of putting on a production I can not recommend Lost Theatre enough! They helped to make my dream come true, they helped me see the business side of a theatre production including the contracts, risk assessment, promotion, ticket sales & the sneaky rum we all had afterwards to celebrate at the bar within Lost Theatre!
On the 18th we put on our second show at The Lost Theatre and the response from the audience was even more electric than the first! The cast raised the bar even higher with the second show & I could see that they were enjoying themselves, they weren't worried about lines because it was so natural to them. My cast own their characters hands down, they didn't need me to direct them about only I would tell them to PROJECT their voices & to be aware of blocking but they needed minimal direction the second time round! Tori did an incredible job of designing our own Snapchat filter for the night which the audience loved & the amazing Linda E asked us to be on her show on Pulse 88 radio for promotion!
I also organised a 50th birthday for my queen my mother. My mother is an incredible, strong loving woman who raised me single handedly. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my mother. She taught me so many things for which I am grateful so I felt it was only right that I gave her a party because she deserved it & so much more. My mother had never had a huge party before & I wasn't going to allow her 50th birthday to go by without us celebrating! Being the eldest naturally the responsibility was on me to make sure it was a night to remember! Again with my homegirl Rieanna who owns her own event company "Pic & Mix" who provided the cake we put on an event for my brother where all our St.Lucian friends & family celebrated my queen!
Still on a high from 2 shows at Lost Theatre, I struggled to still have the same passion for my job when I went back in September. I knew that with my Year group who had now gone to college I was starting again with a new year group but I wasn't the same woman I was when I first got the job. I now craved more for myself & I knew that it was now or never to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Again with the help of my close friends I prayed long & hard about it and on the 16th I gave in my notice at my job. I began to really visualise myself as a writer & began to dream big for what I wanted, I knew in order to do that I couldn't still be a Head of Year at a secondary school! It was a tough decision that my work mates were not happy about but they had come to see my play so they understood & I knew that they supported me!
Towards the end of the month, I was asked to speak at an event organised by We Young Queens entitled "What A Woman" where I was a panellist with some amazing women including "Premae Skincare" founder Dr Clare Eluka, U.S Attorney & University professor Helen Ashegbeyeri , & finally "Nubian Skin" founder Ade Hassan throughout these many opportunities to speak at events I realised my fear of speaking about my journey diminished & I thoroughly enjoyed giving my words of wisdom & realness about my life the past few years. Am I the greatest most elegant speaker hell no! I'm just me & I've realised that's alright! I obviously know that I have to be professional but I also realise it's important that I am myself. Reading the speeches of Shonda Rhimes in her book I saw that she was always honest about herself so who am I not to do the same? Because of this event I began a friendship with Helen who was only here for 3 days but I made sure that we spent some time together over some chicken & alcohol in Central London!
Thanks to my friendship with Helen, she asked me to teach her students at Houston Baptist University about blogging! I stayed up at midnight & taught 2 classes in Houston about the world of blogging & how to make business from it. The students were so polite & I loved their accents! But I was just so humbled that she thought I was qualified enough to even lecture the students, again I wouldn't have done this if it wasn't my #YearOfYes
The 11th marked 8 amazing years of Vex In The City, I still can't believe that I've come so far & how much blogging has literally changed my life. It's been a long & really hard road sometimes but one thing that has always kept my going has been the amazing & loyal followers I have. Even through the moments when I was inconsistent people to this day still tell me how much they love & enjoy my blog. They promote & share my blogs, turn up every week for my Vex In The City live talk on Facebook & interact with me on social media. That means more to me than have 1 million followers that just follow my blog because it's popular. I wanted a blog that meant something, that was different to the stereotypical blogs out there & which was inclusive & welcoming to all, it's still something that I am working on & in 2017 I plan to take my blog to a next level!
Early on in the year I spoke at an event for Nadine Sandcroft of "Just Entrepreneurs" at Canvas & Cream so was delighted when she asked me to speak again at her event for "The Women's Blogging Club" at Goldsmith's University. It more importantly gave me the opportunity to learn more about the world of blogging which has already helped me immensely, Nadine is a powerhouse & a living superhero how she manages to run a business as well as look after 3 children I do not know but I commend her because she does it so well!
Before I knew it the end of my #YearOfYes had come to an end, I left my job on the 16th December I cried, I said goodbye to my colleagues who I loved dearly, said goodbye to my now Year 12 who I had witnessed started to embark on 6th form that was the hardest goodbye to do! But I knew it was the right time many of the teachers looked at me like I was crazy for leaving the stability of my job to become self-employed but my students supported me telling me many times "Yes Miss Donaldson we are sorry to see you go but we are so proud of you!" I received so many presents from my amazing students that I had to take an Uber home! I'm very sentimental so I will keep all their cards, handwritten notes & the fact that one of my favourite students got me a notebook & a journal has hands down been the best gift I have ever received!
Unlike the beginning of the year where I nominated myself for the UK Blog Awards this year some of my readers nominated me themselves without me even knowing! The fact that they took time out of their day to nominate me means everything to me, even if I do or don't make the finals (as much I would love to go again!) I have seen full circle that hard work does pay off! I have to see in January whether I have made the finals fingers & titties crossed!
Finally, how crazy that to end my #YearOfYes I was gifted Shonda Rhimes Masterclass which begins in spring 2017 to learn how to write & pitch to TV! When I received the email I kid you not I fell to the floor in tears of joy, I had seen the advertisement for the Masterclass but I couldn't afford it as my Macbook had decided to die on me two months ago & I had just paid for a new one! The fact that someone paid it for me...was...sort...heartwarming! I am beyond excited to start this course! I can't wait to watch it, to learn, to write & elevate my writing to another level by doing this course during 2017 #YearOfLavish
Needless to say, this year has been incredible there are many more things I could have added, some things I've probably forgotten but throughout it all this has been an amazing year for myself.
Scotty Unfamous, Tanya Nicole Edwards, Danielle Dash, Roxanne W, Monica Rahman, Rhoda Redd, Leon "MovieKnights" Palmer, Rieanna Wilkinson, SJP, Lost Theatre, Sarah Akwisombe, Nadine Sandcroft, Tori "KBD" , Montana Hall, Sasha " Crowned Hearts", Narada " Moore Vigilance", Sir Bigga, Joshua Braithwaite, Cam Hall, Lost Theatre staff, British Blacklist, Linda E, We Young Queens, Just Entrepreneurs, Atlanta Green, Rara, Bakita KK, Linda Albert, Keshia Campbell, Chantelle Clarke, Andrea Corbett
To my amazing Ex-periences cast for making my dream reality:
Derek Jellow, Elisha Myton, Nicola Lamb, Dontae Lindsay, Luca Molinari, Juel Vassell, Dominic Bryan-Wilson, Rachel Clarke, Rachel Summers, Jamie Charles, Cherelle Taylor
To all my amazing friend & family who have kept me going this year I am nothing without you.
To my amazing readers & followers you guys support has been absolutely amazing I couldn't have done it without you & there WOULD BE NO VEX IN THE CITY without you all!
To my inspiration Shonda Rhimes for teaching me the importance of saying Yes to myself!
To my incredible students past & present - you have all changed my life!
To my grandparents I hope I made you proud, I miss you so much & I love you
To my wonderful, awesome, all knowing God who has blessed me abundantly & never left my side I thank you for my life, for my gifts & for your love - Phillipians 4:13
To myself - we did it!!