So, I have had new publicity photos taken (by the lovely Niall McDiarmid).
My life has moved on a huge amount in the four years since the last lot of publicity ones were shot (also by Niall). When I posed for those photos I had recently dusted off the sunshine and sand of Australia having arrived home permanently from my time there. I was also single, sleeping on my brother’s sofabed, waiting for Marshmallows For Breakfast to be published, while trying to work out how I was going to be able to afford to move to Brighton.
Now, I live a ten-minute walk from the sea, my seventh novel has been published, I’m married, and I’ve stopped watching EastEnders (used to be obsessed with EastEnders but we fell out over the baby swap thing). As I say, a lot has evolved since 2007, which is why I willingly got in front of the camera again – I wanted new photos to remind myself how the changes of my life had left impressions on my face.
Oh, and on my hair. That’s probably one of the biggest outward changes I’ve undergone since my last photos were taken – I decided at the end of 2010 to stop chemically straightening my hair and to wear it as God/nature intended. (If you include the hours I spend taking care of my hair as part of what God/nature intended for my barnet, of course.)
I had my last relaxer in May 2010, and wore twists and extensions because they were the low-maintenance styles I needed while I was immersed in finishing The Woman He Loved Before. And by the time I typed the last word, I decided that I was going to permanently ditch the relaxers.
You see, I underwent a bit of a journey as I was writing the book. In the ‘About The Book’ section at the back of the book, I talk about how Libby’s story and injuries made me confront how I felt about my looks, and inspired me to see the good bits when I looked in the mirror or at a photo of myself rather than focusing instantly on the negative things. Part of this journey into confronting my demons about my looks was to take a step back and look at why I had never actively chosen to have natural hair as my style of choice.
I’ve had non-straightened hairstyles for far more years than I’ve had straightened hairstyles, but they’ve mainly been styles on the way to another ‘do’ or styles that serve a purpose: e.g. extensions when I was in Australia because I just couldn’t be sure I’d find a suitable black hair dresser; or twists in between relaxers because I was too busy to care for my hair properly. This question about why I’d never actively chosen to have natural hair was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me, and like I do when I come across a potential idea for a book, I ‘what if’d’ myself. I asked myself, ‘what if I chose my natural hair?’ ‘What if I stopped trying to “tame” my locks and worked with them instead?’ ‘What if I tried something completely different with my hair?’
And here I am. Almost a year later with, as a choice, natural hair – that I LOVE – and a newfound appreciation for my looks. (And a rather healthy dose of what other ‘naturals’ call product junky-ism – meaning I’ll buy pretty much anything if it’ll help my hair).
The beauty of it, if you’ll excuse the pun, is that I am enjoying myself on this journey. As Jack tells Libby in The Woman He Loved Before, ‘happiness shouldn’t be a destination in your life. It should be part of the journey of your life.’ That’s how I feel about my hair and my looks at the moment: my ease with them are part of the journey of my life, I’m not waiting for a later date to feel comfortable them, I’m enjoying them now.
And, like I enjoy writing a book and telling a story, I’m learning new things (like how to make my own hair gel from linseeds) while getting closer and closer to the heart of who I am.
To paraphrase what I wrote in the ‘About The Book’ section of The Woman He Loved Before: I may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but that’s OK. Because I am me. And I truly wouldn’t want to be anyone else.
You know how awful you feel when a relationship comes to an end? That’s how I’ve been feeling of late. One of my longest working relationships has come to an end and I feel pretty sad. Yes, I’ve parted company with the publisher who I’ve been with for the last seven years. I’ll never forget how much I loved being published by Sphere/Little,Brown but the time has come to move on. Where this big move will take me, I have no idea. I’m known by my friends and family for not playing it safe and taking massive leaps of faith – and this is probably one of the biggest leaps of all. Good thing, really, that I’m as excited as I am nervous about where the big jump will land me. I’ll keep you updated on what happens next.
© Dorothy Koomson 2011