Before we start, this episode contains some shots that might be triggering for some listeners, if that sounds like it might apply to you, do check the show notes for more details.
Hello and welcome to a happy place with me, Fern Cotton. This is the show that allows you the head space to unpack some pretty tricky topics. Absolutely zero judgment here today. I'm chatting to June Sarpong about why we all need to step back and check our unconscious behavior.
Sometimes in that moment, I was able to really understand this issue from the other side. As a black woman, as a working class woman, I always looked at looked at it as being on the receiving end as opposed to doing it myself. And I thought, oh, my God, that's what happens when you meet someone that you perceive as different yourself. There's a disconnect that sets in like a wall that goes up.
And even though I had been campaigning for years that we needed to make our industry much more inclusive, blah, blah, blah, when the status quo was challenged, even I had to adjust.
I caught up with June just a couple of weeks ago, although it feels like so much longer because it was snowing at the time.
And now look, look where we are now. Spring is springing anyway. I can't wait for you to hear our shots. But first I've got to say a big thank you to we do the professional hair care brands sponsoring this series of happy place, the ingredients they use, and they're award winning shampoos, conditioners, unfair masks are ethically sourced and natural vegan and sulfate and silicone free. And the packaging is the best bet is 100 percent recyclable. Why don't you try?
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Hi, Jane Sarpong. Hi, beautiful function, how are you? I'm good. I'm I'm so glad that we're able to have a chat today.
It's it's lovely because we've sort of reconnected over the last couple of years. Yeah.
And I'm really happy about that because we've kind of known each other off for so long now.
I mean, I was the toll on kids TV and you were like the cool kids on T for that. We looked up to like, oh my God, the cool kids were we were we were called many things.
I don't know. But it's about 20 years, isn't it. I know this is about 20 years. It's mad.
It's mad. And I've loved bumping into you.
Well, not so much in the last 12 months, but before that, we bumped into each other a couple of times. And I'm really excited to talk to you today because you seem like someone that's had these really brilliant, like defined chapters of your life. And from the outside, it looks like you're in a chapter that is very passion driven and one that you're happy in at the moment. Would you say that's true?
Yeah, very much so. Well, you know, it's like what you're doing, I think, you know, when you kind of find an additional purpose to, you know, sort of original traditional day jobs, it just makes the kind of skills that we've learned along the way even more meaningful. Because the lucky thing is we come from a background of understanding how to communicate and connect with people. So to then have a message, as it were, just makes it just all the more kind of profound.
So, yeah, no. One hundred percent. Yeah.
I mean, I echo that entirely. It's exactly how I feel.
I, I feel like I'm perhaps useful for the first time, but I don't know about Eugene, but certainly in my TV career, for most of it I felt really disposable.
Well because we like you all were. Yeah.
Now I mean you're certainly not you know, you've got this you've got this amazing new role that is just so perfect for everything that you've learned throughout your life. I want to talk to you about today, your director of creative diversity at the BBC. Can you talk to us a little bit about what that role is and what it entails?
Yeah, sure. So how my department works is I don't commission, so we don't actually make programs, but we work with all of the content.
And now because radio comes under content as well, all of the content teams on how they can be more inclusive. So we will suggest writers, directors, presenters, talent behind the camera and then also to shape the kind of the global strategy for the BBC creative diversity strategy. So, yeah, no, it's it's a lot of fun. And also because having been telling myself I understand where the problems are and also I understand sometimes the way talent isn't treated.
Right and it's unintentional. Now I'm on the inside. I see that a lot of the things that I used to get so upset about and it's not intentional and they're not even aware of it. But now I'm there. I'm able to flag and say, you know what, this is how this might come across. Do you want to deal with it differently? Even the kind of you know, we all know when a commissioner doesn't reply to your email and all of that stuff and now on there, it could genuinely just be their inboxes inundated and through it.
But you take it personally as talent. So these are all the things that I sort of understand, having been on the other side for a very long time.
I mean, you've got the most brilliant intel in that way, which is genius. And it's going to be so helpful.
I mean, it's it's a huge job like you just talked about the amount of of content and people that you're working with. But you do seem from when I spoke to you, I think you'd just been offered the job when I saw you last. And you do seem very sort of calm about it. Like this is your comfort zone. You know what's what you know, what you need to do. What I mean, first of all, do you feel that way?
And also, what are your your direct aims like what are you aiming for at the moment with change in TV for sure?
Well, I mean, I don't know, calm, but you look calm, but I'm enjoying good for sure.
Even the challenges. And, you know, it's not easy. At the end of the day, you were dealing with an institution that is almost one hundred years old, that has done things a certain way for a very long time and been very successful doing things in that way. Let's not forget that, too. So it's not easy, but the good thing is there's a real willingness to change. And so that's made my life easier, as it were, in terms of what success will look like.
The three sort of key areas of focus for the first two years for my department is social economic diversity. So that's working with working class communities and making sure that we have an adequate representation of working class voices and storytellers, etc.. The same for Baim and the same for disability. And in terms of success, we laid out quoter. Well, I don't like that word, but we laid out targets for 20 percent behind the camera so that 20 percent of the talent that you see behind the camera has to come from one of these three groups.
And then also we managed to secure one hundred and twelve million pounds of the content spend to go on to diverse content. And that's ensuring that companies that are led by owned by some of the smaller companies also get to make programmes for the BBC and really making sure that our commissioners also then are comfortable with diverse voices and diverse communities.
So one of the things ones were out covid that we're going to be doing is really making sure that our commissioners are in communities so they understand people that may come from different backgrounds themselves, may come from different socioeconomic background to themselves. They really understand that lived experience. So we want it to be much more practical rather than just unit stats on a piece of paper.
So it's so important and I think it's giving people that opportunity that they would obviously think wasn't for them. And I I'd love to hear about your own experience because, you know, I come from a working class background and you certainly didn't know anybody that worked in TV and you certainly didn't think that it was going to be a thing that you might do easily. So I one was all little moments of chance and luck to get anywhere near work in the industry.
And I think I do often still hold quite a lot of insecurity that I didn't go to university. I don't come from a lineage of people that went to university.
So certainly when I'm talking to journalists, I feel so paranoid that I'm going to be tripped up or find out whatever.
And I know that, you know, when your family were in Ghana, you were living a very middle class or upper middle class experience and then, you know, coming to the UK and settling East London, that wasn't the case. You were in a council estate and it was a very different set up for you. And I wonder if you feel like you had opportunity at that point. What were your views on where you might head as a young person?
Yeah, I mean, like you, I am working class, proudly working class. And, you know, those are the communities that I just I just love it. I just love being around those communities all around the country, because whether it's the sort of east London community I grew up in or a community in Wakefield or Sunderland, I get there and I'm like, yeah, these are my people.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I feel at home and I think that the thing is, like you, I didn't go to university and I started very young in this industry. You know, I think you were 16 when you started. So was I. And so I started very young in this industry and and realised at an early age, my God, I really wasn't like everybody else because I when I was talking about colleges, I was talking about sixth form colleges and they were talking about colleges at Oxbridge.
So straight away I was different. But I think the lucky thing for me and I don't have the same thing for you, I grew up in a community that was really proud of of its roots and proud of who they were. But also my area was becoming gentrified as I was growing up. So you had a lot of working class kids myself, but then you had an influx of middle class families that moved into the area and sent their kids to my local state school.
So I was used to people from different backgrounds at a very early age, which meant when I went into our industry, I didn't feel uncomfortable. I felt different, but I didn't feel uncomfortable. And I just decided early on that I was just going to own my difference. And that actually that was why I was there. You know, I was I was there because I wasn't like everybody else. So.
Yeah, but I think it takes a lot of insight, a young age to to feel like that rather than to be paranoid and to feel like, oh, my gosh, I might be the outsider, I might not be part of the gang here. What I know I know that your dad moved to the States when you were young, but were your parents encouraging of you having that ambition and and doing something perhaps, you know, out of the box to what traditionally might have happened within your family framework?
Yeah, so they were there. They weren't encouraging of me being in the media. God, no. As we're Africans and for Africans, it was all about education, they asked me to go to university, but it is where I may be proud I didn't go. They weren't for them. They came to this country so we could go to university. So they weren't proud of that to begin with. But what they were very clear about was that they had high expectations for us in that their journey to the UK hadn't been an easy one.
It wasn't planned. The whole idea was we were going to even though we were all born in the UK, the idea was we were going to be raised in Ghana and then a coup happened. And Ghana, very peaceful country. But at one point in its history, there was a coup and we were caught on the wrong side of that. And so it meant that we had to flee and leave everything and end up back in the UK. And as a result of that, and when you experience something like that, an early age, you realize that you have a responsibility.
So for my siblings and I, it was very clear that there was a lot that was expected of us. And so therefore we worked hard at school, we were focused, et cetera, et cetera, because of that. But the funny thing is, in terms of media, when I first got my job at firm and decided to take that rather than go to university, my family were furious and they flew in aunts and uncles from Ghana to tell me how is bringing shame on the family and blah, blah, blah.
Oh yeah. Oh, no, this is serious. That's extreme. Extreme. And the only person who supported me was my dad. And the funny thing was once they all sort of paid off and I did well, my mum was like, oh yes.
I told her, follow your dreams.
That's wonderful. Just claiming that.
Glory, glory, glory. Why not? She's well, she's rewritten the narrative. She's running with it. Yeah, she's running with it.
So I mean, I've heard this wonderful tale about how, you know, you got work experience at SFM and and that was through a program happening at your school. Did you realise was there a sort of seminal moment where you thought, oh, that does for me, this is where I belong, I need to be speaking. I need to be using my voice and talking publicly?
You know, the lucky thing was being a case I, you know, wish you would touching on earlier about being the outsider, I was very lucky to have started a kiss before going into the sort of more mainstream side of our industry, because KISS was a very unique place. It was incredibly diverse. And the whole purpose of that station at that time, because this was like a year after it become legal, right. About connecting the young people of London through the power of music.
So everybody was from everywhere, from different parts of the country, and it was celebrated. So I was very lucky to be in that environment, which was incredibly inclusive.
No one o'clock, in fact, was my first ever boss. I love Lone Aqab and Akhlaghi was both our bosses. Now she's wonderful.
She's a real she's a game changer for the BBC like you obsoleted. Absolutely love her. And then also I was around all of these great DJs like Tongji and Judge Giles and Trevor Nelson. And so to see people that were doing a job that I wanted to do, it just made it all the more possible because I knew people that were doing that job. And I think that is what was game changing for me.
So then when you moved into TV, I mean, there wasn't so much discussion at all around diversity or race in the workplace then.
So did you feel, you know, did you receive racism? Was that part of your story when you got into TV and broadcasting?
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, I was lucky at the sort of earlier part of my career because when I started doing sort of the more youth programs, then the whole point was you had sort of young cool people, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so that wasn't so much of an issue then. But then as I started growing in popularity and then I started getting the kind of the bigger shows, then got to that stage.
And, you know, in our industry, the sort of the Holy Grail for present and such as ourselves is the big Saturday night shiny floor TV show. And at that point, I would be in rooms where commissioners with more or less say they didn't think a black presenter could present one of those shows as much as they loved me and thought I was grey. And they wouldn't be explicit like that. But that is what was being implied. And so I kind of realised that I got to a stage where I probably couldn't go any further.
And, you know, the dream was to have the sort of the career like the Viña or whatever. But I realised that at that point wasn't an option for me. So it was like, well, what else can I do? And so that's how in a way, all the stuff that I'm doing now kind of came about out of necessity. But in the end, it turned out to be a good thing. But yeah, definitely. I mean, yeah, I think the.
There's so many awful boundaries that have existed within so many industries, but certainly, you know, we both know from the TV industry that that has been in place with racism, sexism, ageism, all the cliches absolutely horrifically unfair, all of it classism that makes it in their house.
And you and I have spoken about this class is the one that we don't talk about enough because it's one of those where it happens, but nobody addresses it. Nobody questions how in a minute, how come you have this kind of presenter and it's very clear what their success looks like and their trajectory is very clear. They go from this this is this is but anyone that is in any way different to that, the path isn't as linear. And I think that's why for me, with my job, I'm very focused on that as well, because that's the one that can go under the radar, particularly if you're talking about talent that's white.
So that's the one that can go under the radar where we're not looking at, OK, what is the background of this person and how are we over indexing on people that come from a very, very small section of society? If we're looking at the whole of Britain, we should be making sure that people from all backgrounds are getting the same kind of opportunities. So for me, class is very important as well.
I mean, all of it makes TV and the industry better, fuller, deeper, more exciting. Like it's Anina. We see this really heavily mimicked within politics. And, you know, that's something that you've been really active in, in understanding, you know, on a societal level, what's happening and how we're affected by politics. We that way inclined. As a kid, were you sort of always intrigued as to what was going on on a societal level?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, because of my experience in Ghana, I kind of I had no choice in that, you know, I was able to see and experience firsthand what goes wrong when sort of civil society unravels. So, yeah, I'll always but obviously now in my new role, I'm not allowed to be at all.
So I'm not really, really impartial. And you think that you say it is very I'm so scared, like on social media.
I'm like, I don't even like that because it it's so hard. It's so hard because so much of what you do I mean, I look at you and I don't know if this feels appropriate to you, but I certainly in this new chapter over the last ten years, I cloche you as an activist.
I have been up until now. Now, now, now it's different now. It's really about how we level the playing field. Yeah. And actually, I think the good thing is there's a role for everybody to play and I'm really clear about my role now. So even when people I go, why aren't you commenting on it? Well, that's not what I'm here to do. Yes. So, you know, so I don't feel pressure to do that.
I'd love to talk about, you know, I've read your brilliant books and in and diversify. I know there was a particular catalyst that happened when you'd moved to the States and you were working on certain TV shows out there. And there was a particular incident in Las Vegas that was so interesting to to hear you talk about. Could you fill in the Gap seven. So tell us about that moment.
Yes, of course. So I was filming in Vegas and there was a young guy who appeared on set who had a couple of tattoos. But in my mind then I made up that they were gang markings and goodness knows what else. And it was the strangest thing. I felt really uncomfortable around him and he could sense it as though he was going out of his way to seem non-threatening and amenable and helpful.
And it was so strange because in that moment I was able to really understand this issue from the other side as a as a as a black woman, as a working class woman.
I always looked looked at it as being on the receiving end as opposed to doing it myself. And I thought, oh, my God, that's what happens when you meet someone that you perceive is different yourself. There's like a disconnect that sets in and like a wall that goes up. And the weird thing is, it's not as if I was not used to men like him. I said I grew up on a council estate. I just wasn't used to men like him in that context.
And even though I had been campaigning for years that we needed to make our industry much more inclusive, blah, blah, blah, when the status quo was challenged, even I had to adjust. And so that for me was the catalyst for wanting to create a truly inclusive conversation around these uncomfortable issues, because so much of it is ingrained that we're not even aware of it.
And it was just lucky that in that moment I was able to catch myself. But think how many times I've done that without catching myself, particularly because I would have been one of those people giving myself. A sort of inclusive badge and, you know, I don't have any kind of unconscious bias, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, yeah, it was a very profound moment for me, definitely.
Yeah. I mean, game changing for you to also go on to write such important books on the subject matter.
It's so interesting when you have that that moment where just so much clicks and then that writing process becomes very easy because you know it you know you know what you need to write in your book, The Power of Privilege, which I have here, and which I read recently, talking on on this subject matter, that I learned a lot from it because your research is in both books is so thorough and and how you sort of collate stats and and write about things historically that have happened.
And I really enjoyed the moments of essay that came from anthropologist Nina Oblongs, because I naively was really unaware of the philosopher Immanuel Kant Zwerg in how in the seventeen hundreds he wrote these massively influential pieces around race and hierarchy and and how influential his, you know, impactful stuff around racial injustice was just eaten up by everybody like, oh yeah.
Well, just believe that now. Yeah. And that was kind of crazy to read. And it's obviously a very direct and acute way that white people became very comfortable with racial injustice.
I wonder if there's some other subtle ways that white people have become comfortable with racial injustice that perhaps we're not even aware of.
Yeah, and I think the thing with somebody like Immanuel Kant is there was lots of other brilliant work he had done.
So the reason why people accepted it from him was because he was one of the eminent thinkers of the day. So he had done so much great work. So when he came with this, why would you question it? Do you see what I mean? So it's also important to understand who the messenger was as to why he had such an impact.
And this was in the seventeen hundreds where people couldn't then go on Google and go check fact check this place. And he found this and just say, oh, that must be true. Must be true. And also I think we had limited travel, so it wasn't easy. Even people could travel one thing. And, you know, I've met someone from that background traveling. Yeah, it's really nice. Yeah, I know. I know.
So like, when you put it into context, you can see how this would have spread and settled very, very unfortunately. But I think, you know that some historic markers where we can see are there were these hugely influential voices or moments.
But in the modern world, you know, there there are so many subtle ways in which, you know, white people have become comfortable with that racial injustice.
Well, anything I don't know if I would use the word comfortable, Fern. I think in general, I think ignorant and I think and to sort of not defend, but to understand how that happens if the default is you, it's very hard to question that in that when you walk into a newsagent, people that look like you tend to be on the covers of most of the magazines would say up until now, obviously, that's changing when we talk about flesh coloured tights and plasters and blah, blah, the default is that so unless you're sort of actively challenging that, how would you know?
And so for me, I come from er from a place of completely getting understanding how we we are here to then say, actually, have you ever questioned this, have you ever thought of this and particularly now in the UK and America where mixed race children, one of the fastest growing populations in this country and in the US, we have levels of integration that we've never had before in history.
So therefore there are so many people who themselves may not have a lived experience of racism, but their children do, and people in the fact their family that they love do so. It's so important that you understand the subtle differences that that mean that their lived experience can be very different to their parents. And therefore, as a result, as a collective, we then decide to stop being aware of these things, to do things differently and in real, real subtle things is even just if we're going back to the curriculum, even just in school, if what you're learning is only one part of history and there were people in the class who whose legacy is a different part of that history, but it's never addressed, well, then we're not moving on now.
We we're not moving forward together. And so those are the things that I, I say to my white friends and family members that, you know, this is how this stuff plays out in reality and this is what we can all do to change it.
And also, there's a huge important. In kids being able to see themselves in society at high level positions, whether it's in politics, CEOs of companies, etc., can you talk to us about some of the positive steps that are working towards really good change in those ways?
Yeah, of course.
I think I think it's really important to make sure that we reach out to people from different backgrounds and that we sponsor and develop and nurture talent who perhaps would know that there are opportunities for them, but also I think are the flip side to that fun.
What's really important are leaders, role models. We also need executives and those with privilege and agency to show and demonstrate inclusive leadership, because I think that's also necessary. I think we need role models, both sides. We need role models of a new way of leading where you are, including people from all different walks of life because you understand the value of that. And so that is something that is just as important as diverse and underrepresented groups needing role models.
Yeah, it's sort of mentorship, isn't it?
I think mentors in the Western world are perhaps really underrated, you know, because we don't have that because we have these nuclear families now, rather than it being a community helping raise all the children or whatever, mentorship has been really kind of pushed to one side.
And I think, you know, that can help every young person out there have a very good mentor and adults.
We all need them. We all need them. And you know about your point about communities.
My goodness, Fern hasn't covid shown us how much we need that Saudi so need and, you know, multigenerational households, the sort of wisdom of having the elderly around all of that. I really believe that once we're out of this, that something is probably going to start changing and also just economically in that, you know, young people can't afford to live on their own anymore in the same way so many are now moving not just back in with their parents, but in with their grandparents.
Yeah, and actually there are benefits to that, too, so.
Oh, yeah, we need to reframe that rather than okoth I still living at home. Yeah. This is a lovely thing like this is we need to support each other right now and we need that connection more than, you know, going to parties and all the stuff that we think we miss. It's it's actually that connection with community and family. I think it's such a beautiful point, really. It really, really is.
I wanted to talk to you about mental health as well in varying ways. First of all, I kind of dipped into this in a tiny way, but you kind of really went for it. You moved to the States at one point in your career. My personal aims were I was like I was not planning to crack America, but I was like, this feels big and shiny because I was still on the trajectory of that must mean something. What was that to you?
What made you want to make that leap to the states and, you know, try your career out over there?
Yeah, well, I think it was necessity. Like I said, I think I'd gone as far as I could go here at that time and also to see your point of it being big and shiny.
And also, I think the thing with America, it's a strange thing with all of the problems they have, the American dream kind of is real in the sense that the extremes are possible in that, you know, you can have a Barack Obama and you can have a Donald Trump. It's it's a fascinating country, you know.
And so when I when I was really lucky, I mean I mean, my TV career did well enough, but it wasn't like I sort of set the world on fire in terms of telly.
But I was very lucky to get support to to launch a women's conference which took off quite quickly. And we had, like, unbelievable names involved. And I'm really behind us and we had no experience in that side of things. But back to the American dream, you had very powerful people willing to take a risk on us. And I think that what that did was it definitely gave me an extra layer of confidence that was absolutely vital for me in terms of coming back and being able to do some of the other stuff that I'm doing now.
I think if I hadn't lived in America for eight years, I don't think I would have had the confidence to do it now.
So interesting. Yeah, because, you know, you do need I think we've had a similar journey in a sense that you have to jump into the void at one point and not necessarily leave TV behind you. But to go right. I need to jump into the void because I want change and I need something different.
And I wonder how this sort of accumulation of years of work in TV affected you mentally. You know, were there detrimental things that you you now still mentally carry or things that you've had to work through because of working in that industry?
Well, I think, you know, that's why. I love the work you're doing, and I'm not just saying this, but it's such valuable work and one I mean, it is just so beautiful to see how successful it is and that how you've managed to sort of connect with the hearts of people on this issue and particularly young people who and especially in a society now where religion has been replaced.
We know we don't want traditional religion, but we know we need something. And what you're doing is is so important. And I think having that kind of those mindfulness tools for me is definitely what helped me through the difficult times in our industry in that I was able to have tools that would allow me to go inward as opposed to always seeking external validation, which is what our industry is about, our whole industry built on it.
And also, as you get older, all of these things are industry is about youth and it's about it's about everything that, you know, at some point is is ephemeral. Exactly.
It's going by my God. I so believe that having that was was absolutely crucial.
So I love what you are doing. And I really do believe and I'm not just saying this, but I think it's actually because of covid the amount of people that are going to I mean, you've got millions of people that have latched on to it, but I think it's going to grow exponentially.
We all need it.
We all need it. We will do it more than all the other stuff we think we need. Oh, my God. Without a doubt. I think we are slowly, probably too slowly realizing that, you know, buying new stuff isn't going to fill this hole of, you know, the pain and suffering that everybody's felt over the last 12 months, whether it's due to the conversation around race and how trigged people have been around all of the awful incidents of all people losing their jobs, losing their jobs, losing family members, being isolated with so much pain.
And I think the you know, we have to we have to turn inward. So I wonder what that looks like to you. Do you have any sort of daily rituals, practices or things that have got you through that? Oh, yes, I do.
I you know, I'm supposed to every morning. And when I don't, I notice the difference. You know, it's it becomes like working out, isn't it, when you notice the difference. So I meditate in the mornings. I like positive affirmations. So I'm really into affirmations. I like to say sort of positive quotes and read positive books. Obviously I love yours.
So thank you and I love you. So thank you. Thank you. Yeah. So for me, my morning ritual is about meditation. Usually the 20 minutes I like to wake up really early because I think that there's something that happens in the early hours of the morning in terms of connecting with source.
You know, for me, I believe in God. I believe in a higher power. Not everybody else does, but I do. And I think there's something about the sort of early hours of the morning of just having that clarity to connect with souls. And then, like I say, I do affirmations. And then I, I like to sort of eat light in the morning because I think it just, again, helps with that connection. And that really sets me up well for my day and allows me to stay grounded.
And I find when I haven't done that, like sometimes I'll be lazy and not do it for a week.
And I'm not sure why I was upset by this.
Why did you think?
I think affirmations are such a big one because I got into affirmations through Louise Hay's work.
I love her books, how to live, how to anybody.
And I started I mean, I've fallen out of practice. If this is so easy, like you said, you sort of get a bit lazy or complacent. You don't do it as much. But what I was doing, the Louise Hay affirmations, and you can pick specific ones that either relate to your physical body or that just ring true to your life.
They were like massive seismic changes with how others think. Yeah, and people go, no, I can't be an affirmation. Yes. And it's as simple as a positive phrase that you just say a lot.
You just because we're constantly saying negative phrases, there's everything is out there to make us feel bad about ourselves, particularly as women. Yeah, absolutely. You need to replace that with something else.
So I love affirmations.
I know that you had an incredibly tough time when your your late brother sadly passed away and you've talked beautifully about, you know, what came off, that you've been so honest about it and the anxiety that was around that time.
How did the anxiety manifest? What did it look like?
Well, I mean, you know, he didn't just pass away with suicide. And I think that when you're dealing with a loved one.
For whatever reason, decides they don't want to be here anymore. There are so many additional emotions that are added to the grief phase and stage, and you go through so many different layers. And and it's the funniest thing. You know, I experienced a depth of pain that I didn't think was possible. You know, there were days where I really didn't think I was going to make it like I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. And this is also particularly with the current climate where we know suicide levels are up.
We know that when we come out of this, come out the other side, the aftermath, that's when we're going to start really seeing the damage and the and the devastation that has been left behind because of covid. And so for me, it was a case of taking things literally fun, not one day at a time, like one minute at a time. Like it was just those micro moments of, OK, I got through that, OK?
What I got through that and and what people don't realize is this stuff is physical, like the kind of the anxiety. It's like a horrible sensation in the pit of your stomach. It's almost like someone is ripping out your heart and it's constant. It just doesn't go.
It's their day in, day out. And I've never been an addict. I'm really lucky I don't have an addictive personality. But my God, did I understand addiction after that? And so that's why, you know, I try to be kind to people because you never know what someone's dealing with, you know, and yeah, it's yeah, it's but what I will say is one day you wake up and you don't feel like that anymore. So for anybody going through a tough time, the thing to remember is it doesn't last forever.
There will come a day you feel better. And I never thought when I was in it that I would be feeling the way I feel now. I didn't think that would ever happen again, but. But it did. And it does.
Do you think that's purely a natural part of the natural process of grieving that? You know, I've talked to my husband about this because he lost his mom about 15 years ago and it was very out of the blue and not very nice circumstances. It was there was that shock element which you also experienced that shock on top of losing someone that you massively love. And I wonder if it is purely down to the natural process of grieving that you do come out the other side or if it also does take a mindset to start moving on with it.
You know, all there are certain things that you can do to help yourself not get stuck. So I think for so many people that have been through total shock, you know, massive patches of depression, really awful situations, you can get very stuck and very stuck in what those emotions feel like. And I'm stuck in the mindset of this won't end. Do you think that's purely the natural process to come out the other side?
No, I think it's a choice. I think you have to actively work at it because you could literally get stuck forever.
You have to choose. And I think one of the things that we don't do well enough in our society or at least in Western society, because, you know, there are a lot of traditional cultures that still do this is to teach children the miracle of life, the value of life.
My God, the fact that you're here, the fact that it took they said this, it is one in a million that it's you the fact that you breathe without having to even think about like what do you think of the miracle of the human body?
If we just focused on that alone, you couldn't be sitting there worrying about if you haven't got this, we haven't got that. You have this. This in itself is a miracle. So I think teaching kids that on a daily basis, like, wow, wow, you are. Wow. Yeah, yeah. Wow. That's such a real raise. Yeah. Yeah. Whoever you are you are. Wow. Wow.
And did you did you come back to that thought because of faith or just because you knew you had no other choice. It had to be.
I knew I had no other choice. I had no other choice. I mean, I knew I didn't want to be there forever. So then it had to be OK. What can I actively do to help me move through this process? But the thing that's also important to add to that is often we try we live in a society that makes it seem as if pain is a bad thing. Yeah. Pain of life, you might not go through something as extreme as what we're talking about here, but you're going to feel pain.
That's part of growth is part of life. And I think we also need to prepare people for that. Pain is good. We make it as if only feeling happy is positive, that that's only value in that it's something.
So I totally agree with you. I think that is such a good thing, again, for young people to to hear about is that there's so much value in all the other stuff, like, you know, it's not nice. None of us want to sit in grief and pain, but but it's part of life and it's essential. Whenever I've interviewed people, talk to people in my personal life about grief, there is this discomfort when moving through that process where there might be guilt that comes in for feeling good at some point.
And I wonder if you experienced that.
Yeah, I think I think that's even more profound and pronounced for parents. I mean, I think if you lose a child, there's a real guilt associated with that, that you survived and they didn't. I think that sometimes you have to realize you owe it to that person to go ahead with your life and find joy, that actually they wouldn't want you to be wallowing in pain. They would want you to be happy, particularly that love has been there.
So it's really important to appreciate the fact that you are still here, even if they're not. And actually, at some point we're all going to be here. So the time we're here, let's try and make that as enjoyable as we can. And I think even that means even in the in the dark moments. Making sure you've got the right perspective of the dark moments as well. Yeah, again, even if you can't quite see value in it, perhaps just knowing that it's utterly normal, because I think we've we've made feeling not good, not normal because social media promotes this fantasy of everything's amazing.
You know, I definitely try and give a good, authentic steer of my life online. But you can't always like you know, for instance, yesterday it snowed. It was really wonderful. We took the kids out having a wicked time throwing snowballs. Go in. My son had a huge meltdown.
Me and my husband were like, can we parent? Are we capable of this? Like, we were doubting ourselves and I didn't put that on Instagram. I put this behind Instagram. So we aren't necessarily showcasing our lives in the truest form, which is that pain is essential.
Pain will happen. We can go back to feeling good. But it's it's just it's all part of it. It's all part of that honesty.
Also, I think the other thing as well as we we live in a society where we encourage people to lie to themselves, lie to the people they love, that honesty is not valued. We say it is, but in reality it isn't. And I think sometimes that self honesty is so important as well as honesty with the people that you love.
And that also means when you're having a tough time admitting that, yeah, it's again, it's tough, but it's really it's essential to to speak out. June Sarpong, you are. Wow. That's what I'm going to say, right?
Oh, wow. Wow. I love talking to you. And I just I'm so in awe of of what you do in the work you're doing. And I can't wait to see what you do next, because it's just always it's always pleasantly surprising and just exciting. Well, you know, the feeling is completely mutual. And again, thank you so much for what you're doing, because the thing with the work that you do is you won't always see the effect.
But my goodness, as a country, we will feel it right now.
So try and do it.
Yeah. And it's and and it matters. So so thank you.
Well, I'm going to up my game because this year everybody's having the worst time. So I've got more, more work to do.
But it's very expensive to do that. We've got we and we need you as well. We need we need all the good vibes out there. But dude, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
It's been a bloody lovely talking to you. Likewise. Thank God.
As I said it and I'll say it again, June Sarpong, you are. Wow. A big thank you for your time, June, especially given how busy you are with the incredibly valuable work you're doing now. Look, next week's episode is a real good and I'm so fond of this episode. I reckon it's going to make you see someone you might think, you know, in a very different light as ever. Making sure you subscribe to the podcast is the way you guarantee to check in with future episodes on your final land as soon as they're available.
Thanks again to June. Warsaw, Poland. The We Do Natural Hair Care team for sponsoring this series. To the producers of this episode, Mikhaila and Annushka, take a rethink audio. And the most important thank you is to you.
I love you guys.