Black to the future: the fresh face of alt-culture

Alternative black girls have been around for a long time but have faced ridicule and alienation within their community. But with the likes of Rico Nasty and Mimi The Nerd embracing their alternative identities, changes are coming, writes Isatou Ndure.  

A pale, skinny white girl, that’s the ideal aesthetic for an alt, punk or e-girl: the signature deathly pale look, complete with dramatic eye make-up and a bold black lip.

Caprece Harvey

But scroll through TikTok and Instagram and you’ll see the faces of alternative girls are no longer white. Black alternative girls have blown over social media as more people begin to appreciate their uniqueness. 

What most people do not understand is that it was never a prerequisite to be pale or specifically white to be in the scene. It was all about the state of mind, the beauty, and the music. It’s never about the skin tone. The concept itself is absurd.

Growing up any black girl who dressed as a goth or punk would be labelled as an Oreo, “black on the outside and white on the inside.”   

If you were black and dressed differently you were not accepted by either race. You were somehow too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids and were deemed as outcasts. 

But these days, black alternative girls no longer rouse such negative reactions anymore from their peers, not to say they don’t receive negative reactions at all, but it is more likely from those in the older generation.  Trends that were once specific to particular groups, have to some degree submerged into the mainstream standard. In earlier times, a septum piercing was a stature of subverting the status quo. Now? Not so much. 

In high school, I had some guy scream ‘vampire’ as I walked into class. I took it as a compliment

Connie Williams

Eighteen-year-old Sumaya Botan, or Maya, from Birmingham classes herself as an alternative black girl and pinpoints her style as cottage core, scene and baby-doll like.  

Maya Botan

“I’ve always leaned towards being alt mostly because it’s such a welcoming open community and I love that anything is acceptable as long as you’re a nice person.

“I’ve always had a fascination in alt culture but would say I had the confidence to dress the way I do now around 2018.”

Even though alternative styles are now celebrated, girls like Maya still feel like outcasts to those that do not appreciate alternative culture and there are still occasions where girls are judged for the way they dress.  

“I have received quite a lot of hate for the way I dress and present myself mostly when I’m in public, I get a lot of stares or get called out in public quite often, but I mostly just take that as a compliment at this point!” 

“People are scared of what they don’t understand or know and it’s fine I know it mostly comes from a place of self-consciousness of not being able to fully be themselves.”

It seems to be a normal thing for alternative girls to take the negative reactions they receive and view them as compliments. Across the pond, 24-year-old Connie Williams and Caprece Harvey, 23, have had similar experiences. 

New Yorker Connie says: “In freshman year of high school, I had some guy scream “vampire” as soon as I walked into class. Everyone laughed whilst I was unfazed. I actually took it as a compliment.” 

Model Caprece, from Pennsylvania, chooses to not give her energy to those that do not match her own and spoke of her own negative reactions to the public. 

“If by negative you mean soccer moms scoffing at me in the grocery store, yes, but I view it as a compliment. Someone took the time out of their day to acknowledge me. Like what? Thank you boo it’s always a pleasure, mwah.”

Many of the foremost unconventional, exciting and edgy individuals within the world are black and they’re not any less because of it.  

I would try to hide the bright clothes my mother bought me. It just feel normal to shop for dark colours

Connie Williams

Connie grew up loving alternative styles. “I was a quiet kid and felt insecure around a lot of other girls who developed more than me. At the time, I would put more of an effort into my fashion in order to feel attractive and less like a wallflower.”

Connie Williams

Connie describes her style as e-girl, kawaii and preppy goth. She loved alternative clothing before it was labelled “cool” by the rest of the world.  

“I’ve been doing this since middle school, so it’s now natural to me. I hated pink, yellow and green on me. I would try to hide the bright clothes my mother brought me in the back of my closet. Now it just feels normal to shop for dark colours.

“Dressing in pink and wearing “girly” clothes made me feel ugly. Once I was able to shop for myself, I bought more black clothing and felt more like a pretty kickass wallflower.”

Many alternative girls are now aware of how mainstream their style has become over the years. Now it’s a trend to be an alternative.  

The rise of unconventional rappers like Rico Nasty, Willow and Mimi The Nerd who portray self-expressions that have been made invisible within the black community and as a rule are seen as the sole realm of white social pariahs, have displayed a new dawn for alternative black girls. 

Down in Pennsylvania, Caprece describes her style as “daring, unique and ethereal.”

“I have always had a fun style since I was a little girl. I used to reconstruct my clothes all the time, the older I got the more diverse and unique it became.

“I will always take my style further, evolution is inevitable. I don’t even stick to one style, so I can’t imagine staying on one wave, yikes.”

It’s fair to point out that goth and alternative cultures are connected to whiteness within the well-known imagination, but many characteristics related to these subcultures, such as tattoos, piercings and rock have roots in the black community.  

The deletion of black people’s commitments to such subcultures is overwhelming, if you look hard enough, it’s not difficult to spot how blackness and alternative styles converge. 

Sumaya, Connie and Caprece are keeping alternative styles alive in the black community.  Many don’t believe that the black alternative community is bigger than they think. Whilst some are open-minded, a certain stigma remains within the minds of others that alternative equals white.  

Connie Williams

As the new era of black alternative girls begins to take over the world, those that have come before offer some advice. 

Sumaya says: “Be the most you possibly can be because nothing anyone says or thinks really matters. They are too caught up in their own issues to worry about that outfit you’re too scared to wear.”

Caprece says: “Keep doing you babe, you’re going to change the world.” 

Connie says: “Buy wigs, not cheap hair clips from Hot Topic, they do not match your hair texture!” 

Lights, camera, stupefaction: filmmaker stunned to find herself on the Forbes tip list

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list is an incredible place to find yourself, no matter your age, writes Izzi Rix. It indicates significant achievement before you’ve even hit your prime, with previous year’s line-ups going on to become stars on a global scale. To her surprise, on the morning of April 8th 2021, at just 19 years old, that list is exactly where Ella Greenwood saw her own face gazing back at her.

“I was just scrolling and saw my face and it was literally incredible, I think it was 7.30 in the morning and I thought ‘oh my god I need to have cake and I need to have prosecco right now’,” she says.

Ella is one of an increasing number of female filmmakers disrupting the industry. For her, the world of film was clearly where she belonged from the get-go.

“I just always loved films. I would see the same film in the cinema so many times just because it was my favourite thing to do, all I wanted to do was sit in a dark room rather than be outside or anything,” she says.

While some children become obsessed with their favourite superhero or Disney princess, for Ella is was Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia.

“I can’t remember what age I was, maybe about – god time is a weird concept – maybe about eight. I would be like, ‘please I’ll use my pocket money on it’ and then for my birthday all I wanted to do was see it again and again,” she says.

Besotted with watching films, she knew she had to become a part of that world. She assumed acting was the way in, “For so long I thought that was it, that would be my only passion, if I didn’t do that, I would just be such a failure,” she says.

After years of auditions and landing a few projects, at 18 she realised acting wasn’t fulfilling her creative desires and decided to take things into her own hands.

“I just wanted to do something myself, to have more control and not just wait around for other people to decide how I spend my time and what I’m able to do.

“Now that I’m on set I have no urge to get in front of the camera. I still love acting, I really enjoy it, but I love film making more,” she says.

As well as being an ambassador for Stem4 (a charity promoting positive mental health in teenagers and their support network) she hopes to increase the number of representative portrayals of mental health by featuring them within her own films. Her first, Faulty Roots, delves into what it’s like for teenagers with depression.

“I wanted to do it on something that I thought could be important and potentially help people, because I have experience with mental health that just made it a bit easier,” she says.

Faulty Roots was met with great success, being nominated for an award by Film The House, a competition run by MPs to find ‘the filmmakers of the future’, and is now a feature film adaptation.

“I just felt like I didn’t have much to lose, I thought, well if the review’s bad then I just won’t share it I’ll just try and forget that it exists and hope that nobody sees it,” she says.

Being taken seriously as a female filmmaker is a struggle at any age, never mind at 19 years old. Ella decided she wasn’t leaving people’s perceptions of her up to chance, it was time to get serious, so she created Broken Flames Productions.

“I just thought ‘I’m nobody’ if I go to people like ‘Hi, my name’s Ella, I’m making a film can I hire you?’ people were going to skim past me, so I thought, if I’m going to do it let me try and do this properly and make it seem more professional.

“I had no qualifications, no training, I was like the least qualified person ever, but if you have a story you want to tell and if you’re passionate about what you’re doing then people are really nice,” she says.

In addition to a lack of personal expertise, Ella finds herself in the midst of an industry half frozen in its archaism and half hysterically trying to encourage equality.

“There is just so much in the industry based on structures that only help a certain group of people and elitism and nepotism that, I don’t know, I’m not sure I want to be a part of that,” she says.

A main aspect of her dedication and drive is to create change through her own work. In terms of mental health, the areas she sees as lacking representation are, “just everything.”

“I watched so many films growing up and so much TV and I just had no clue what mental health was at all. You’d see these really dramatic suicide scenes, it made it seem so intense and unrelatable. It just needs to be more normalised because so many people struggle with their mental health.

“For me, something that sticks in my mind a lot is the suicide scene from 13 Reasons Why, it was so graphic,” she says.

One of Ella’s upcoming films, Self-Charm, focusses on self-harm, but Ella made the decision to never show a cut or anything graphic.

“I think you can still get what you need to across and tell a story without, because it seemed like that (scene) was put in there for dramatic and entertainment value,” she says.

As a newcomer Ella wants to ensure she makes the right decisions socially and ethically, this means constantly assessing her options. “It’s so important to get it right and I’m very conscious of what I’m putting out there. It can get hard sometimes, I’m the only person making the decision.

“When I wanted to hire a fully female crew it was such a struggle to find females, but I was like, ‘No I want to do this and if it takes extra effort, it takes extra effort, but it’ll be worth it’,” she says.

Ella’s new projects are raring to go, with four currently in the works all progressing fantastically.

“I love working on different projects, it’s just nice to get to work with different people and different actors and different stories and themes, it’s really nice to have a variety of things going on,” she says.

When asked if there’s been any standout moments since she began producing, Ella encapsulates the typical manic beginning of a blossoming career, saying, “It’s all been a bit of a blur.”

Live blog: Pair of students feed homeless during Ramadan

12.58pm – Jewish group prepares for first post-lockdown face-to-face celebration

The Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation is planning its first face to face event in more than 15 months to celebrate Shavuot next month.

Luke Williamson finds out how important the easing of lockdown is for the group.

12.37pm – Family hope lockdown easing will see them celebrate ‘the Twelfth’ in Northern Ireland once more

The easing of lockdown restrictions has raised hopes for a Leicestershire family that they can once more travel to Northern Ireland to celebrate ‘the Twelfth’ this summer.

Abigail Beresford finds out how much this annual event means to Bradley McClean and his family.

12.31pm – Students pledge to feed homeless during Ramadan

Two students from De Montfort University have been feeding the homeless as part of their Ramadan commitments. Joshua Solomon reports on what inspired the pair.

12:20pm – Student describes her personal Ramadan journey.

A Business student has described her personal journey of fasting throughout Ramadan. Shantelle Gondo discovered how the month long celebration means more than just fasting.

11.55am – Call goes out for support for eco-friendly buses

People in Leicester are being urged to help name the new eco-friendly buses which will be serving passengers in the city and neighbouring areas soon. Kira Gibson reports.

10:49am – Party time! After being cancelled last year, Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival is back for 2021.

Here, Thomas Carter looks at what is in store for this year’s celebrations: https://leicestershirepress.com/2021/04/20/party-time-leicester-residents-highly-anticipate-carnival-return/

The city, however, will be marking St George’s Day this weekend with a series of online celebratory events.

10am: Welcome to today’s live blog

It is currently warm, and sunny with temperatures of 12ºC. The day is expected to get warmer, with highs of 16ºC.

Live blog: Father and son litter-pickers collect 160+ bags from lay-by

5.22pm – and our final report of the day is literally rubbish…or more accurately, about rubbish!

An army of litter-pickers are busy across Leicestershire to tackle the huge problem which has been growing across the country since lockdown began. Maria Regina Santos Semedo spoke to one self-confessed ‘womble’ about the need for volunteers like him.

Luke Williamson, meanwhile, caught up with an indefatigable father-and-son team who just don’t seem able to stop clearing up.

5.08pm – a flurry of stories now in, on a range of topics

Leicester Comedy Festival is set to celebrate Leicestershire talent through virtual showcase ‘Leicester’s Good Friday’ to raise money for the live entertainment scene in Leicester, writes Abigail Beresford.

The ugly problem of dog mess is infuriating one Rushey Mead resident, as Ben Adams discovered.

Meanwhile mysterious displays of affection have been found on various walls around Leicester by an unknown ‘Diego’ to his love ‘Marie’. Abigail Beresford went on the trail to find out more.

Molly Talbot took a look at how Pride celebrations were a success at DMU, even though the month-long event had to switch to being online.

Journalism student Thomas Carter gave his thoughts to colleague Luke Williamson on his appearance alongside City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby on the launch panel for DMU’s Festival of Teaching yesterday.

Reflections on the meaning, the importance and the success of International Women’s Day make up a report by Olivia Messum.

Meanwhile Ada White helps the Prince’s Trust promote the resumption of its courses which support young people in Leicester.

And two different viewpoints were gathered by Molly Talbot and Olivia Messum about a recent online burlesque dance class – one from a student and one from the dance tutor.

5pm – Sport now – fans are counting the days in the hope of returning to watch live cricket and football in Leicester

Leicester City football fans are eager to get back into stadiums as the much-anticipated reopening for live matches edges closer. Jayden Whitworth interviews Leicester Fan TV’s Phil Holloway as hopes grow for a return to the King Power.

Jayden’s also had a word with Dan Nice at the county cricket ground where preparations are in full flow for the fans to return to see live matches.

3.07pm – Leicester charity Baby Basics raises over £2700 for families in need

Volunteers at Baby Basic Leicester, a charity that supports families with young children, have raised over £2700 for their cause through an online donation drive.

The campaign, which has reached 92% of its target amount on Crowdfunder, will help families by providing useful baby items such as cots and cleaning products, reports Thomas Carter

3.03pm – Graffiti artists invited to descend on Leicester for summer festival

The award-winning international graffiti festival Bring the Paint has announced that it is taking place in Leicester between 23rd-29th August 2021, with the support of Leicester City Council, Abigail Beresford writes.

The city-wide festival will be free for all to attend, with opportunities for families and children to get involved, with workshops for everyone to enjoy, as well as music, food and drinks.

2.00pm – Police appeal for witnesses after two car collision

Leicestershire Police is appealing for witnesses after two cars were involved in a serious collision in Leicester last night.

The incident occurred on Abbey Park Road, at the junction with Wolsey Island Way at 7.55pm on Monday evening.

1.10pm – Do you love reading and are you on your own in Leicestershire? Read on…

Leicestershire’s library service and the Reading Agency are making weekly phonecalls to people who are isolated to get them involved in chats about books and reading.

Shantelle Gondo reports on how he new project will take place until the end of March, with the help provided from the National Reading Agency, with £5,600 of funding provided by the Government through the agency.

12.58pm – Two new helicopters join area’s air ambulance service.

The air ambulance service covering Leicestershire has added two new helicopters to help it cover its patch that includes Derbyshire, Rutland, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.

Read Joshua Solomon’s report here.

12.53pm – DMU student tells of her abuse torment in support of Sarah Everard movement

A student at DMU has come forward to reveal details about the history of sexual abuse in her own life, in a step to support the growing movement sparked by the murder of Sarah Everard.

Ellorie [not her real name], 22, came forward after seeing multiple women tell their stories about their experiences with sexual abuse. Kira Gibson reports.

11.45am – Heartfelt sign offers support to Leicester women affected by abuse or harassment

A sign put on a park gate in Leicester is echoing similar sentiments posted by women across the country who are leaving their mark as they protest about the way women are treated. Report by Kira Gibson.

11.40am – Leicester’s city centre St Patrick’s Day parade cancelled

St Patrick’ Day 2021 will be celebrated very differently in Leicester this year, due to the country’s national lockdown. 

Leicester’s St Patrick’s Day parade was due to go ahead this week but has been cancelled, due to the risk of breaking social distancing guidelines.

11.00am – Leicestershire Weather Update

Rain is forecast for the rest of the morning in Leicestershire, with cloudy skies expected for the rest of the day, highs of 14°C.

Visit bbc.co.uk/weather for more information.

10.40am – Countesthorpe Road reopens after roadworks

Good news! Countesthorpe Road has reopened after water main work has finished a day early.

10.30am – Welcome to today’s live blog from the Leicestershire Press newsdesk

Good morning Leicestershire. Hope you’re all staying safe. Stay switched on to our blog as we bring you news from Leicester and around the county today.

‘Lockdown has been tough – but my confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions’

DMU student Sahar Hussain tells Pythias Makonese that although she has struggled during lockdown, it has taught her many valuable lessons.

Sahar Hussain, 21, is currently doing a Masters in Research Applied Health Studies at De Montfort University. 

“I have been here for four years-the first three years were for my degree and now my one year for my masters,” she says.

She thinks the COVID 19 pandemic had many adverse effects on people in general, including herself. Being locked down and learning online makes uni life difficult, she says.

“There have been many effects on my studies and I think the biggest one has been trying to understand the lectures we have had, especially now some of the modules are completely new and we need more time to grasp them,” she says.

Sahar Hussain in the library: “I have found the lockdown tough – but it has improved my study skills.”

In terms of her education, she has found that her assignments are harder to complete – mainly because she finds it harder to concentrate during long online lectures.

“For me, personally, it has been the online activities and workshops we have to do that I have found most difficult,” she says.

“For example, I find it very hard to concentrate during online lectures compared to when I am attending lectures within the classroom.  I think students can be distracted especially when they are by themselves on a computer,” she says.

Sahar claims the effects of online learning have affected her quite severely.

However, using the library as her primary source of work and research has been helpful, she says.

“During lockdown I have noticed that the library has been a lot quieter and I have been coming to the library Monday to Friday – every single day due to there being fewer resources at home,” she says. 

She found disturbances at home unbearable because of different people coming in and out of the house . And at home her wif-if was slow. It made studying and watching online lectures even more difficult.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I have learnt is to be more independent to try to find better and more suitable ways to study. My confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions,” she say

 Sahar believes that the arrival of the vaccine will help to ease the lockdown. However, she still recommends that extra care is needed.

“I think we still need to be very careful with social distancing and putting on masks. We must take these measures because we are still currently not done at all with this pandemic,” she says.

Only leave your home if you have to, says Sahar. She only leaves her accommodation to study, go to the library and fetch essentials.

Sahar Hussain highly commends how DMU has handled the COVID-19 situation – especially with the introduction of the hardship fund.