Author of the number one Sunday Times bestseller What A Time To Be Alone and brainchild of the #saggyboobsmatter movement, Chidera Eggerue has extraordinary energy. Intelligent, insightful and passionate about life as a woman – a black woman - her forthrightness on issues like sexism, racism and white supremacy has garnered her fans and staunch critics alike.
In an exclusive interview with Spell, she opens up about her public fallout with a fellow author and spills the tea on her expanding wig collection...
How has lockdown 3.0 been?
A lot has been going on to say the least. I decided to go public about my management team supporting a white author who was plagiarising my work and just so happened to belong to the same agency. My main concern was that no one would be believe me, but I felt like my back was against the wall and I had to say something. I’ve been gaslighted and dragged through a media fiasco; to experience this during lockdown has been horrific.
Have you always been one to stand up for yourself?
Because of what I stand for and my presence online, I’m seasoned in standing up for myself. The internet exposes you to a world of trolls, so the way I equip myself against them is by having a deep inner knowing of who I am and what I’m willing to accept. I don’t need people to agree with my reality for it to serve me.
Where did the name 'The Slumflower' derive from?
It was inspired by the photographers Street Etiquette who are two guys from New York. They made a project called Slumflower where a young boy from the hood was aesthetically shown wearing flowers. The story was heavy, but the imagery was so delicate and I loved the idea. Being from Peckham and growing up pre-gentrification, people always assumed you must be ‘ghetto’. I wanted to flip that on its head and choose a name that embraces a beautiful thing growing out of an environment that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily promote its growth.
Let's talk hair: How many wigs do you own and which is your favourite of them all?
I think I own 20 wigs and my favourite has to be my big afro. It’s followed me to so many places and served me so well. It’s a synthetic wig I found on either eBay or Amazon. I brushed it out to the max to get it to the texture and volume it is now.
What’s your go-to hairstyle?
Right now, my go-to hairstyle is genuinely cornrows so I’m wig ready. My hairstyle really does depend on my mood. I go for styles that suit my face shape and I like a cut with a good middle part. Hello, front cover!
What's the most you've ever paid for a unit?
It’s a custom-made wig and I paid around £1k. Hair is just like a sass thing and for the right wig I’m prepared to put down the money. I feel like black women are made to feel shame for investing in themselves when in fact buying hair is not a shallow exercise. We can be smart, financially secure and adore ourselves. Where’s the crime?
On a scale of one to 10, how good are you at doing your own hair and make-up?
I’d rate myself seven for hair and a 9.8 for make-up. The only time I don’t do my own make-up is for photo shoots. When it comes to events and public appearances, it’s easier for me do my own make-up. I really know the nuances to my face, plus it’s part of my ritual to going out and getting amped up for the night.
How did you get into writing?
Writing wasn't always an area of interest. Growing up I wanted to become a fashion designer or a visual artist selling fine art. It wasn't until my fashion blog took off and I was more vocal on Twitter that people encouraged me to write more because they loved my tweets and content. So, I decided to make an online zine. I made all by myself in Adobe InDesign and posted screenshots of the pages which got loads of engagement. People were really excited about it and that’s how I came across my first literary agent.
How did social media come into the picture?
When I was at uni, especially during my final year, I started to realise the power of social media. My blog was beginning to take off (I say that in the most humble way), and I was starting to find more passion in the more social side of the fashion industry. Rather than following the traditional route: completing your degree being picked for the final show; having your work seen on the runway; being scouted by a fashion buyer or doing editorials for a magazine, I realised that with my own social media platform, I had access to the things that I was paying for my course.
Do you believe in the phrase, there’s a book in everyone?
It comes down to who you are telling your story too. Just because you have a book in you it doesn't guarantee success. There are books that are better than others and often the reason why certain books perform better than others are because of how it connects with people. How you write and what the reader sees in you to make them identify with your story is so vital. Being a great writer is not an easy thing. So again, just because you have a story, it doesn’t necessarily have to be published. There are different creative outlets worth exploring too. You could choose to make it a moving image instead. It's about how you choose to tell your story and connect with the audience that counts.