Rosalind Jana is a superstar. She’s a model, a journalist, a student, a fashionista AND an author! We managed to steal a few minutes of her time to ask a few questions.
For those who don’t know, can you explain what your book is about in the length of a tweet? A non-fiction book for (& about) young women. Lots of my own experiences as a teen, as well as advice, interviews and general feminist sass
What was the most difficult part of writing ‘Notes on Being Teenage’? The chapters on mental health and relationships were both very rewarding, but also slightly more challenging because a.) I wanted to encompass the vast array of experiences when it comes to both of these areas, but knew that, inevitably, there wasn’t enough room to talk about EVERYTHING ALL OF IT ALL THE POSSIBILITIES, and b.) It required lots of careful research, discussion with professionals, and fact-checking. That’s not necessarily hard, but it meant paying lots of careful attention to the details, and combing through my words with care!
You got to include interviews with some really cool authors too, including Louise O’Neill and Juno Dawson – do have a favourite line from any of these interviews? Oh that is so difficult to choose! Everyone I talked to was brilliant, and brimming with insight. As a clothes-lover though, I especially adored this from Juno Dawson: “The most fashion-forward individuals are those who challenge traditional concepts of what men and women should wear: look at David Bowie, Tilda Swinton, Grace Coddington, Kanye West, Jim Morrison, Chloe Sevigny, Bjork. No one ever got it right without also getting it wrong.” But this, from Louise, is also really, really great: “Time and time again we have seen that women are silenced, we are told that our stories are not worthy of being told, and this is exasperating when it comes to young women when their age and relative inexperience is used against them.”
Can you name the most important thing you learned from surviving your teenage years? Yes. Technically it’s something I learnt from my mum – but it took moving through my teenage years to understand it. It’s a phrase she’s thrown at me (and my dad!) for years: “knocking at the right address.” Put bluntly, it means go where you’re wanted. Choose to ‘knock’ at the ‘address’ of those who’ll give you the time of day, who value you for being you, who won’t slam that door shut. Want to excitedly talk about something you’ve achieved? Don’t go to the person who will sneer, or doesn’t want to engage. Need a heart-to-heart? Choose someone you trust, where your words can be cradled safe, not used against you. I didn’t know how to knock at the right address at secondary school (and frankly, the choice of addresses was very limited). Instead I hung out with friends who chipped away at my sense of self, and it took a while to repair that damage. These days, I’m mostly pretty good at knocking at the right address – but I can still slip up!
Any embarrassing dating stories from those years? Not from those years, no! I really didn’t experience any form of dating until my late teens. It was actually something I struggled with: feeling like, maybe, I was missing out on something that everyone else had sorted. But actually I was just busy doing my own thing. The funny stories came later..
Best tip for anyone starting their own blog? As with most things, practice makes perfect! Every post you do, you’re sharpening your writing skills/ your thinking/ your photography (depending on what type of blog). Also, know that it might take time to build, but that it’s not about the page numbers – it should be done for the joy of connecting with new people and having a creative platform all of your own. Oh, and engage with other people genuinely. Build up your community by responding to and talking with others with meaning, and exploring the output of others. Mainly though, for me at least, it’s about just having an idea and running with it – seeing where it’ll take you.
We hear you’re also an “eco-fashion-expert” – can you tell us a little more about that and what it means? I’m really interested in sustainability, and think we should all be talking a lot more about where our clothes come from, and how they’re made. Age 16, I read a book by Lucy Siegle called ‘To Die For’, which really opened my eyes to all the things that happen in the production of clothes – especially when it comes to exploitation of both people and the environment. The fashion industry has a lot to answer for. I set about educating myself about it a lot more, researching ethical labels, and writing for places including Oxfam and Eco-Age. These days I mainly shop second hand (for the love of searching and seeking, more than anything else!) and still try to champion brands who are making steps to be more sustainable.
Because we want some TBR recs, can you show us your bookshelf!
Read it already? Let us know what you thought at @maximumpopbooks!
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