Here is what South Africa would be like if the Mandela Effect was real

Have you heard of the Mandela Effect? This outlandish phenomenon is characterized by having clear memories of a historical event that never actually happened. The term was officially coined by Fiona Broome, a self-proclaimed “paranormal consultant.” It’s inspired by her false memory of anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela, dying in the 1980s.

Of course, we all know that Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, actually died in 2013. We all know that he died after fighting for freedom for decades and after serving as the first president of the Democratic Republic of South Africa.  However, I can’t help but wonder how South African history might have played out if Mandela did actually die while in prison.

I’ll start out by diving into Broome’s false recollection of Mandela’s death. According to her Mandela Effect theory, Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. This resulted in international media coverage of his death and the funeral proceedings. Broome even recalls a widowed Winnie Mandela giving a broadcasted speech at her late husband’s funeral. She admits that all of this certainly never happened, but she wonders why she has such clear memories of these false historical narratives.

In light of her misremembrances, Broome launched the Mandela Effect website to find out how many other people also recalled Mandela’s funeral in the late 20th century. She claims that hundreds of people in several countries could remember strikingly similar details of the funeral coverage. However, none of them could explain the coincidence.

Nevertheless, if Mandela did die in the 1980s, I believe South Africa would have faced years of unprecedented violence in the form of a civil war. Mandela spent most of the late ’80s and ’90s advocating for a peaceful transition into democracy. He recognized the building frustration among the Black population, but he knew that a full-blown war would cause more harm than good.

And by then, unrest was at a boiling point; apartheid had been around since 1948, a “hierarchy of privilege [that] enforced oppression according to skin color, with whites, Indians, Coloreds, and Blacks in descending ranking.” If Mandela wasn’t there to address these frustrations and push for peaceful negotiations, who knows what choices the apartheid government would have made?

By that time, Prime Minister P.W. Botha had realized the strength of united Black resistance. His best bet was to reform apartheid policies in a desperate attempt to make the socio-political climate look less unstable to the international community. He also aimed to diffuse widespread dissatisfaction among the Black population of the country. At the end of the day, Botha did more harm than good with his reforms. The Black majority was still being oppressed and Mandela had to be alive to facilitate the peace negotiations of the 1990s. None of the other apartheid activists had established cooperative relationships with the government that was as promising as Mandela’s.

South Africa’s last apartheid prime minister, F.W. de Klerk, released Mandela from prison in 1990. At this stage, South Africa was a violent, dangerous, and heavily armed place. The entire population was on the edge of an all-out race war. If Mandela had died in the ’80s, a mourning Black population would not hold back from fighting this war to the best of their ability. Delusional white South Africans would cling to apartheid segregationist policies while Black youth became more radicalized. A recipe for war.

Fortunately, Mandela was there to bridge this divide in a way that not many people could. He convinced the white minority that there would be room for them in the new, reformed South Africa. And trust me, there’s still plenty of room. On the other hand, he had to encourage an enraged Black population to be patient; South Africa’s transition into democracy was slow and complex. But Mandela’s kindness and captivating personality allowed him to sew the differences of South Africa’s people together. Thank goodness he lived past the 1980s!

It’s not uncommon for people to forget certain aspects of the past or to misinterpret them over time. Nevertheless, it’s strange for mass groups of people to believe that a past event occurred when it didn’t. These unusual remembrances gave rise to Fiona Broome’s Mandela Effect theory, and boy am I glad that it’s just a theory. As a first-generation Black South African, I believe the country still has a long way to go, but there is no doubt that Mandela played a critical role in leading us to democracy in 1994 and ending governmental, systemic oppression.


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Why I’m definitely breaking ‘white wedding’ traditions if I get married

Millions of young women grow up with a specific image in their heads of a perfect wedding. Bring on the gorgeous white dress, an over-the-top wedding venue, and an adorable three-year-old flower girl that has no idea what’s going on. It’s the typical white wedding that you see in those tear-jerking rom-coms. But believe it or not, white weddings are not the only way to celebrate a new marriage.

Princess Philippa of Great Britain was the first bride in recorded history to wear a white wedding dress in 1406. From that point onwards, the idea of a white wedding was born and it warped our understanding of weddings for generations to come. A white wedding entails groomsmen, bridesmaids, father-daughter dances, and everything in between.

But as a career-driven, Zambian-South African woman, I plan on doing things a little differently if I do happen to get married one day. I want my wedding to align with my identity and there’s no way I’m letting outdated wedding practices hold me back.

I have a vivid childhood memory of my two over-enthusiastic aunties telling me that one day I’ll have an official white wedding and a kitchen party, the traditional Zambian pre-wedding or bridal shower. The name kitchen party originates from the guests bringing gifts and money for the bride-to-be’s new kitchen. However, it refers to a more general celebration of the wedding these days.

Nine-year-old me was baffled by the thought of getting married and a pre-wedding sounded exhausting, even at that age.

At the time, I had no idea what my aunties were talking about when they mentioned a kitchen party. But as I grew older, it made a lot more sense. I realized that white weddings have unfortunately become the blueprint for women across the world, regardless of their cultural background. We often have to find ways of merging our cultural identity with the ways of the Western world.

However, my white wedding can be just as traditional as my Zambian kitchen party. I’ll have the kitchen party because I want to respect my elders and I’m proud of my Zambian roots. However, I honestly don’t feel the need to distinguish between the two. I’ve seen plenty of weddings that followed typical western traditions while celebrating the cultural heritage of each partner. That’s what I hope to achieve. 

I’m also sold on the idea of having a bridal party made up of people I love, regardless of their gender. It simply doesn’t make sense for me to exclude some of my dearest friends based on their gender. Let’s normalize bridesmaids who are men and groomsmen who are women. And while we’re at it, let’s abolish the terms bridesmaids and groomsmen altogether. The terms are exclusionary and they don’t align with the vision for my potential wedding anyway.

Personally, I’ve decided to call my entire wedding party “my entourage”. It sounds cooler and it’ll be far more exciting to choose wedding outfits for a non-binary group of people. 

The formalities of a white wedding aren’t that appealing to me either. Zambian kitchen parties are colorful, high-energy events and I would love for my wedding ceremony to have the same energy. Why should guests wait until the reception to start having fun? The wedding ceremony can be short and sweet so we can get to the main event, the reception.

Most importantly, I want to make it clear that I’m open to a fruitful life that doesn’t involve a wedding or marriage. My main goal is to open up a conversation around weddings and how you can do whatever you want. Weddings are a celebration of love, and they don’t have to be white-washed, exclusionary or outdated. 

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Street Style Style Lookbook

You don’t need to wear name-brand clothes to have a great sense of style

Autumn has just begun in my beautiful home city, Johannesburg.

And I’ve found myself frantically scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, desperate for some seasonal fashion inspiration.

However, all my social media feeds have completely missed the mark – at least, in my eyes. All I see are influencers wearing Gucci, Dior, and loads of name-brand clothes that are way out of my budget. With that being said, I have three main reasons why I’m on a quest to level up my sense of style without splurging on branded clothing.

1. Everyone is wearing name-brand clothing, so it’s kind of…basic.

[Image description: A GIF of Moira Rose from Netflix's Schitt's Creek wearing a fluffy black hat, black jersey and white skirt. The text at the bottom of the GIF says "THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE'S WEARING." via Giphy
[Image description: A GIF of Moira Rose from Netflix’s ‘Schitt’s Creek’ wearing a fluffy black hat, black jersey, and a cream white skirt. The white text at the bottom of the GIF says “IS THIS WHAT EVERYONE’S WEARING?” via Giphy
Streetwear fashion brands have completely taken over, especially for hype beasts. In case you were wondering, a ‘hype beast’ is someone who devoutly wears hyped-up fashion brands with the intent of impressing others. Brands like Nike, Off-White, and Supreme have wormed their way into mainstream culture largely because of the “hype beast effect.” Everyone feels the need to wear branded clothing and it’s making their sense of style trendy, but totally unoriginal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean pair of Nike Air Force 1s. But I think you can develop a unique fashion sense if you give big brands a rest. Consider thrifting, making your own clothes, or finding smaller clothing brands that cater to your style preferences.

2. Name-brand clothes are expensive!

Image description: A man checks the price tag of a brown and white winter jacket.] via Giphy
Image description: A man checks the price tag of a brown and white winter jacket.] via Giphy

We can all agree that name-brand clothes are more expensive than department store clothes and low-end fast fashion brands. However, I’m not advocating for cheap fast fashion because it’s unsustainable and incredibly generic. The UN confirmed the fast fashion industry is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions as of 2019.

So instead of delving into fast fashion, you can support local clothing brands that put more care into their production process. Perhaps you’ll end up paying the same price as you would for a name-brand item, and that’s okay. At least it will be a unique fashion piece purchased from a small business in need of support. I found that buying clothes from local brands has already helped me level up my fashion game, and the people around me have noticed too.

3. Branded clothes don’t make you feel better about yourself

Rachel Green from the show friends sitting on a couch and wiping her tears with a white wedding dress.
[Image description: Rachel Green from the show Friends sitting on a couch and wiping her tears with a white wedding dress.] via Giphy
For the longest time, I thought buying new name-brand pieces would make me feel better about myself. If the pretty girls on Instagram are wearing cute Nike leggings, then surely I’ll feel pretty if I wear them too. Right? Realistically, that’s not the case. I feel the best about myself when I genuinely like my outfit and it’s an expression of my personal style.

The key takeaway here is that you can be trendy by developing your own personal style and sticking to a budget that’s reasonable for you. Name-brand clothes are awesome and you’re welcome to buy them. But don’t let society pressure you into thinking branded clothing is the only way to put together a killer outfit. 

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Editor's Picks Street Style Style History of Fashion Fashion Lookbook

The little-known yet weirdly fascinating history of leggings

Leggings have a far more interesting history than one would expect. Most of us think of leggings as a staple fashion trend that popped up out of nowhere in the ’80s.

Surprisingly, leggings date back to the 14th century and have weaved their way through various fashion trends and controversial clothing debates.

Of course, they’ve changed drastically over the years, but one thing holds true from decade to decade.

Leggings are generally tight-fitting and allow for unmatched comfort and mobility. I would argue that their only contenders are a good pair of comfy sweatpants.

1950s: The debut of modern leggings

[Image description: Drawing of women wearing shirts, leggings and pumps, 1955, featured in Butterick Pattern Book.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: Drawing of women wearing shirts, leggings and pumps, 1955, featured in Butterick Pattern Book.] via Wikimedia Commons

Leggings as we know them today, first came onto the scene in the 1950s.

Famous actresses in the 50s and 60s started wearing leggings as part of their everyday outfits. Italian actress, Sophia Loren, was photographed dancing in an elegant pair of black leggings in 1955.

Soon after, actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Ann-Margaret wore similar outfits. At the time, leggings weren’t made of stretchy spandex or cotton.
In fact, most people would consider 50s leggings really tight pants by today’s standards.

1960s: The invention of spandex and the start of a leggings revolution

[Image description: Two women pose for a fashion photoshoot, 1963.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: Two women pose for a fashion photoshoot, 1963.] via Wikimedia Commons
In 1958, a renowned chemist by the name of Joseph Shivers invented lycra, otherwise known as spandex. This allowed leggings to evolve into the slim-fit stretchy pants that we know and love.

From this point onwards, fashion designers started to explore the possibilities of wearing leggings with pants or pairing them with dresses and skirts.

1970s: Leggings take over the fashion industry

[Image Description: Sandy Olsson from Grease (1978) wearing a black body suit and jacket with a cigarette in her mouth.] via Paramount Pictures
[Image Description: Sandy Olsson from Grease (1978) wearing a black bodysuit and jacket with a cigarette in her mouth.] via Paramount Pictures
Olivia Newton-John wore a smoldering tight black outfit for her role as Sandy Olssen in the film Grease (1978), and nobody could deny the impact of leggings since then.

Shiny, high-waisted pants became the norm as plenty of young women tried to replicate this iconic look.

1980s: Madonna and Jane Fonda make it impossible to forget about leggings

Madonna wearing a black dress and bright blue leggings, 1984] via 'Like a Virgin' official music video
Madonna wearing a black dress and bright blue leggings, 1984] via ‘Like a Virgin’ official music video

Almost every Madonna outfit in the 80s includes a pair of cool and colorful leggings.

Given that Madonna is one of the most influential pop stars in history, it’s no surprise that leggings became even more popular in the 1980s.

The Madonna craze was also coupled with the technicolor outfits and the aerobics fad that took the 80s by storm. Jane Fonda in tight leggings, a bodysuit, and leg warmers also became the symbol of 80s aesthetics.

1990s: Leggings continue to pop off

Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski from 'Saved by the Bell' stretching] via Alice S. Hall, NBCU Photo Bank
[Image description: Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski from ‘Saved by the Bell’ stretching] via Alice S. Hall, NBCU Photo Bank
80s and 90s leggings are pretty much the same energy.

The key difference is that 90s leggings are a little less shiny. Cotton leggings became more common and we should be eternally grateful for the arrival of these more breathable leggings.

Actress Tiffani Thiessen, better known as Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell (1989 – 1993), went on to define a generation in various outfits paired with cotton leggings.

2000s: The controversy begins

[Image description: Miley Cyrus walking in a parking lot] via Instagram
[Image description: Miley Cyrus walking in a parking lot] via Instagram
In the early 2000s, leggings suddenly lost their novelty and nobody can pinpoint exactly why.

It didn’t take long for the garment to lose its status as acceptable pants to wear in public. And if you did decide to wear leggings, it was usually under a dress or skirt.

The “leggings are not pants” movement gained momentum as the boomer generation decided they no longer liked the thought of women showing off their bodies in a tight pair of pants.

Nevertheless, the likes of Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins continued to wear leggings and paved the way for a major comeback.

2010s: Athleisure brings leggings back from the dead

A woman wearing an olive green sports bra and leggings with black trainers.] via Unsplash
[A woman wearing an olive green sports bra and leggings with black trainers.] via Unsplash

Athleisure is clothing that is made for athletic activities and everyday outfits.

It didn’t take long for leggings to solidify their relevance when athleisure became more prominent in the 2010s. Once again, it was socially acceptable to wear a hoodie, leggings, and sneakers out in public.

However, even in the 2010s, a group of nay-sayers made a conscious effort to rebuke the tight-fitting pants.

In 2015, Christian blogger Veronica Partridge went on Good Morning America to speak about how she removed “lustful” leggings from her closet as part of a change in her sense of style. But no amount of TV interviews could stop fashion retailers from re-stocking leggings like never before.

2020s: Life remains legging-clad, and the world is better for it

As an avid wearer of leggings, I can confirm that they’re one of the most versatile and comfortable pieces in my closet.

For this reason, I’m not ready to let go of my countless pairs of black leggings. They’re still a fashion staple in 2020 and I couldn’t be happier.

Above all else, leggings symbolize the moments that popular fashion went against the grain and created out-of-the-box outfits that defined each generation.

That’s reason enough for me.

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Style Fashion Lookbook

11 looks from the 2021 Grammys that will take your breath away

The 63rd annual Grammy Awards was one of the most highly anticipated awards shows of all time. It’s amazing to see our favorite celebrities take their Grammy outfits to the next level every year.

For some people, it’s all about the awards, and I totally get that. I’ve spent months praying that Kaytranada and Harry Styles would come out on top. On the other hand, I think it’s worthwhile to dive into some of the best outfits of the night. These jaw-dropping looks need to be seen!

1. Dua Lipa in Atelier Versace

[Image description: Dua Lipa posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
[Image description: Dua Lipa posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
Honestly, Dua Lipa can do no wrong. If the entire awards show was just Dua walking up and down the red carpet in this gorgeous sparkly dress, I wouldn’t even be mad. The butterfly detail on the front makes it playful and cute too. It’s like the adult version of your favorite childhood fairy costume (in the best way possible).

2. Jhené Aiko in Monsoori

Jhene Aiko posting on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Jhene Aiko posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
Thank goodness Jhené Aiko graced us with this unbelievable Monsoori look — I’ll never forget this. Bahraini designer, Shaima Al Mansoori, is definitely one to watch in the next few years. The designer also created a wonderful red carpet Grammys look for Bebe Rhexa back in 2019.

3. Harry Styles in Gucci

Harry Styles performing ‘Watermelon Sugar’ at the Grammy Awards 2021.
[Image description: Harry Styles performing ‘Watermelon Sugar’ at the Grammy Awards 2021.] via Instagram
Harry Styles is no stranger to a killer Gucci outfit and a feathery scarf. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch him push the boundaries of fashion while taking risks in the music world. Let’s just say it paid off.

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4. Chloe and Halle Bailey in Louis Vuitton

Chloe and Halle Bailey wearing their Louis Vuitton outfits for the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Chloe and Halle Bailey wearing their Louis Vuitton outfits for the Grammys 2021. ] via Instagram
Obviously, Chloe and Halle Bailey looked sensational in their elegant Louis Vuitton outfits. The two sisters never disappoint. I personally loved the slit in Chloe’s full-length dress, it added a great dimension to the dress.

5. Taylor Swift in Oscar de la Renta

Taylor Swift posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Taylor Swift poses on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
Most people wouldn’t go crazy for a dress that looks like a bunch of flowers stitched together. However, I think Taylor Swift really nailed it with this one. The dress is true to her easy-going, wholesome personality.

6. Chika in Nike

Chika posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Chika poses on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
Chika has been on my radar since I discovered her hit song ‘INDUSTRY GAMES’ on Spotify. I knew that she was an incredible musician, and it turns out she’s a fashion icon too. This head-to-toe Nike outfit is perfect!

7. Bad Bunny in Burberry

Bad Bunny holding a sunflower and posing on the carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Bad Bunny holds a sunflower and poses on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021. ] via Instagram
I’m a sucker for a simple Grammys outfit with a statement piece. Burberry was a great choice for Bad Bunny. I’ll be honest, I’m not that familiar with his music, but I can appreciate a great outfit coupled with funky orange glasses and a cute little sunflower to hold.

8. Megan Thee Stallion in Dolce and Gabbana

Megan Thee Stallion poses on the Red Carpet at the Grammy Awards show 2021.
[Image description: Megan Thee Stallion poses on the Red Carpet at the Grammy Awards show 2021.] via Instagram
There is no denying that this burnt orange Dolce and Gabbana is everything and more. As one of this year’s Grammy performers and nominees, Megan had every right to wear such a stunning outfit.

9. Billie Eilish and FINNEAS in Gucci

FINNEAS and Billie Eilish posing on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: FINNEAS and Billie Eilish pose on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021. ] via Instagram
With a sibling like Billie Eilish, it’s difficult for FINNEAS to make show-stopping fashion statements on the red carpet. I can gladly say that the sibling duo killed it in pastel pink. I love how they were able to co-ordinate their outfits while expressing their personal style.

10. Phoebe Bridgers in Thom Browne

Phoebe Bridgers poses on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.
[Image description: Phoebe Bridgers poses on the red carpet at the Grammys 2021.] via Instagram
Anyone can wear a basic black dress to the Grammys and call it a day. However, only Phoebe Bridgers can rock a high-fashion skeleton dress and make it work. I’ll acknowledge that this outfit isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s kind of cool. The American singer-songwriter has always loved the skeleton aesthetic and this was the perfect chance to give it another go.

11. Trevor Noah in Gucci

Grammy Awards 2021 host, Trevor Noah, posing on the red carpet.
[Image description: Grammy Awards 2021 host, Trevor Noah, posing on the red carpet.] via Instagram
We can’t forget our host of the night, Trevor Noah. He opted for a sleek Gucci suit and the man couldn’t have made a better choice. As one of the major focal points of the Grammys, he was under pressure to look good – and he certainly delivered. This is a classic example of “less is more”.

It’s lovely to see that award shows like the Grammys can happen during the pandemic. Better yet, celebrities are still inspired to dress up, look good, and celebrate their talent. Congratulations to all the Grammy Award winners of 2021!

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Human trafficking is a global nightmare that must be addressed

In light of the ‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’ documentary released by Netflix in May 2020, along with hundreds of other human trafficking scandals, there’s rising concern about global human trafficking. We need to talk about this dire situation more urgently.

Hundreds of thousands of people are victims of human trafficking each year and the terrifying part is that it happens right under our noses. As a young woman, it’s frightening to think about the real possibility of leaving my home in the morning and never coming back.

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes on the planet because it is a grave violation of human rights. The crime involves forcibly trapping people through violence, coercion, or deception in order to exploit them for financial or personal gain. It occurs in many different forms, meaning victims may end up in sex trafficking, involuntary labor, organ harvesting, crime, war conflicts, and horrific modern slavery syndicates.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are 21 million victims of human trafficking globally.

It’s all fueled by capitalism, patriarchy and notions of power within our society. Those who have the least privilege are the most vulnerable because, unfortunately, they are also the most invisible. We currently have a unequal global structure where wealthy, white men are able to exploit the rest of the world. The exploited groups of people are inevitably more vulnerable to human trafficking as they’ll do pretty much anything to improve their lives and make a living.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry with no signs of slowing down. Traffickers use a variety of control tactics like physical and emotional abuse, isolation from friends and family, or making the victim ‘feel special’. They might also use their charm or deception tactics to gain the trust of a person they plan on kidnapping. The traffickers will make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their victims as a means of imposing control.

As a result, victims become trapped and even fear leaving the situation because of the power dynamics between them and their trafficker. Perhaps a child has been kidnapped by an adult, or a young woman has been kidnapped by an elder man. These factors alone make it far easier for the trafficker to maintain control over their victim as society grants those in power with more privileges.  

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a specific profile for human traffickers or their victims. These are people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, and can be identified in cities, suburbs, or rural areas. Nevertheless, women and children are still the most vulnerable. As reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), women and girls account for approximately 71% of victims and children make up almost one third.

It’s important to note that victims aren’t always trafficked across borders either. It can take place within a single country or community. Generally, people get entangled in human trafficking when they are living in poverty, facing discrimination, or runaways seeking a better life. On average, 1 in 3 runaways will end up in commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving their home. Human trafficking rings are often disguised as promising work opportunities and victims only realize the darker truths when it’s too late. However, many people are kidnapped in broad daylight while at shopping malls, airports or simply walking on the streets.

Some of the most common recruitment tactics associated with human trafficking that you should be aware of include:

  • Grooming victims online 
  • Luring victims through seduction and false promises of romance 
  • False or misleading job advertisements
  • Abduction or kidnapping from private and public spaces
  • Recruitment by former victims who often misrepresent the situation to victims
  • Selling family members/friends through illegal trade
  • Taking advantage of one’s religious or spiritual beliefs to trap them into a life of trafficking

In one scenario, I recall a flight attendant named Sheila Frederick who saved a teenage girl from human trafficking back in 2017. While performing her duties on a flight to San Francisco, Frederick noticed a forlorn teenage girl traveling with an older, well-dressed man. The pair seemed quite odd together and the man got defensive every time Frederick tried to speak to the girl directly.

She eventually signaled for the teenager to go to the plane’s bathroom and leave a note indicting if she needed help. Once it was confirmed that the teen was in danger, authorities were asked to retrieve the young girl from the aircraft as soon as it landed.

Another well-known case was Alicia Kozakiewicz’s abduction on January 1, 2002. She’s considered the first highly-publicized internet-related child abduction victim. Alicia was only 13 years old when a 38 year old internet predator spent about 6 months grooming her through an online chat room. He made her believe they were good friends by listening to all her problems, giving her useful advice and being as friendly and attentive as possible.

“I walked out the front door and found that the boogie man is real.” – Alicia Kozakiewicz, child abduction and sexual abuse survivor

On New Years Day in 2002, Alicia accepted an invitation to meet her “internet friend” in person, only a few blocks from her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  As soon as the predator saw Alicia, he forced her into his car and drove her to his home in Herndon, Virginia, where she was held captive in the basement for 4 days.

During her time in captivity, Alicia was chained by the neck and sexually assaulted while her torture was live-streamed online. Eventually, an online user who came across the livestream informed the FBI, and Alicia was saved from her captor. Honestly, it’s stories like this that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Cases like Alicia’s also highlight the role of the internet in human trafficking, sex trafficking and child abduction. The internet gives traffickers an enormous “playing field” to find and groom marginalized individuals. Sexual exploiters scour social media and online chat rooms, looking for young victims that are easy to groom.

For example, the online chat website, Omegle, has become a cause for concern as it makes it so easy for predators to connect with young children and even see them via a webcam. Recently, the website has gained popularity, especially since large YouTubers like James Charles are making videos where they use the website chat to strangers online. Unfortunately, this encourages their young, impressionable audiences to do the same and put themselves at risk.

Above all else, we cannot continue to pretend human trafficking doesn’t exist. One can start by looking out for human trafficking indicators at all times. For example, Sheila Fredrick noticed a distraught teen traveling under strange circumstances and felt the need to investigate further. Sometimes, we have to trust our instincts. Moreover, you should be hyper-alert of job opportunities that seem too good to be true and make odd requests like meeting for an interview at an unofficial address.

Although human trafficking isn’t a light-hearted conversation, you can always strive to raise awareness in your community and support anti-trafficking efforts. I personally make donations to the anti-human trafficking initiative run by the Salvation Army in South Africa. However, on a global scale, you can work with Stop The Traffik, Freedom Network USA, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, and many more.

It might feel impossible to completely immerse yourself in this cause. Activism fatigue is a reality that many of us face, especially in 2020 when it’s felt like the world is falling apart. Nevertheless, I challenge you to find out more about human trafficking and research the stats in your city or town. You might just be surprised at just how common the phenomenon really is. It only takes a matter of seconds for you entire life to change if you or someone you know is human trafficked.


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History Art History

I hadn’t fully realized how racist art history could be until I saw this Baroque painting

Before I dive into the problematic tales of my final-year high school dance, I should probably address a few of your burning questions. What on earth is Baroque and why should I care about it?

Baroque is a style of art, music, architecture, and dance that gained huge popularity in 17th century Europe. It originated in Italy and it’s characterized by rich colors, grandeur, and intricate details. Much like other styles of art, Baroque has a colonial history that overlooks diverse depictions of black people living in this era. For the most part, it’s a whitewashed style of art, however, it has taken on a new life in the last century.

Today, the term ‘African Baroque’ refers to colorful jewelry, garments and ornaments made with traditional African textiles. It marries the colorful grandeur of Baroque art with the craftsmanship and design choices of African art.

[Image description: Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Parc de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain. An example of Baroque architecture.] via Unsplash
[Image description: Man staring at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Parc de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain. An example of Baroque architecture.] via Unsplash
Nevertheless, it’s still questionable to try and link African identity to Baroque art and my high school dance was the perfect example. Back in 2014, the theme for my final-year high school dance was “African Baroque.” Bear in mind that this event is usually a fun and celebratory moment in most students’ lives and a light-hearted ‘fairy-tale’ theme would have sufficed. At the time, I had no idea what Baroque was and neither did any of my peers. The theme didn’t sit well with any of us, but the teachers had the final say and we just had to roll with it.

On the night of the dance, the table décor consisted of Baroque-style décor, African textile prints, flowers, a few other ‘African-style’ ornaments and afro combs. Yes, you did read that correctly. We did have afro combs as table decorations and for some reason the organizers thought this was a good idea. For context, I went to a wealthy private school in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa. In retrospect, I believe the whole event was a desperate attempt to promote diversity and Black culture at a predominantly white school and it missed the mark. Choosing to marry African themes with Baroque art was an arguably racist decision. And I’m here to tell you why.

In the past, depictions of African people in Baroque art were few and far between. It took ages for me to hunt down a Baroque painting on the internet that depicts a black person as the main focus. In light of this tiring research experience, I’m not going to pretend that slapping the word ‘African’ in front of ‘Baroque’ makes a meaningful difference. It’s still a deeply colonial art form.

[Image description: A Baroque-style painting by Annibale Carracci. It portrays an African woman wearing a red coral necklace, pearl earrings, and a black long-sleeve dress with a white lace collar.] Via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: A Baroque-style painting by Annibale Carracci. It portrays an African slave woman wearing a red coral necklace, pearl earrings, and a black long-sleeve dress with a white lace collar.] Via Wikimedia Commons
Nevertheless, after a few hours of solid internet research, I stumbled upon a rare Baroque portrait painted around 1585 by Italian artist Annibale Carracci. He’s considered one of the forefathers of the Baroque style of artwork and one of the most prolific painters of his generation. His painting portrays an elegantly dressed African slave woman wearing a red coral necklace, pearl earrings, and a black long-sleeve dress with a white lace collar. The identity of the woman is yet to be discovered, but her clothing reveals that she’s a product of modernity and colonial Europe.

[Image description: 'Portrait of an African man' painting by Jan Mostaert (circa 1525-1530). The man is wearing loose long-sleeve garment the early renaissance era. via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: ‘Portrait of an African man’ painting by Jan Mostaert (circa 1525-1530). The man is wearing loose long-sleeve garment from the early Renaissance era. via Wikimedia Commons
Similarly, Dutch painter Jan Jansz Mostaert’s Portrait of an African Man (circa 1525-1530) illustrates the presence of Black bodies within European life and the Baroque art scene. It’s a true rarity as it’s one of the only known portraits of a black individual from this period who wasn’t a slave. Due to the man’s attire, art historians believe the painting depicts a black nobleman who worked at a courthouse. Mostaert paid attention to detail and aimed to create detailed, realistic facial features, portraying the gentleman in an honored position, rather than a servant’s role.

Having a portrait taken was an exclusive practice usually reserved for wealthy white nobility or religious leaders. This means the sheer existence of this painting is groundbreaking as it depicts an upper-class black man from this era.

Unfortunately, not all depictions of black Africans in Baroque have the same energy as Mostaert’s. A 1688 Baroque painting by Benedetto Gennari depicts the notorious libertine Hortense Mancini (Duchesse de Mazarin) as Diana the Huntress.

Image description: Hortense Mancini as Diana the Huntress by Benedetto Gennari.] via
Image description: Hortense Mancini as Diana the Huntress by Benedetto Gennari.] via

Diana is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals in ancient Roman religion, the equivalent to the Greek Artemis. In the painting, Mancini is surrounded by Black slave children wearing collars and intermingling with her pet dogs. It’s a horrific depiction that explicitly equates Black children to animals.

To make matters worse, there are plenty of other Renaissance paintings that adopt this same tone, making it difficult to reference this body of work without acknowledging its dark truths.

Given the Baroque art movement’s problematic and racist history, the concept of ‘African Baroque’ is rather ironic. It certainly doesn’t seem fitting for a high school dance theme, even if it’s been adapted to incorporate modern African art.

Ultimately, we cannot overlook the entire historical context of any forms of art while paying tribute to them in the 21st century. Let’s be better.

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Media Watch The World

Here’s what you need to know about Eritrea, the pinnacle of censorship in north-eastern Africa

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom.


Have you heard of Eritrea? It’s a small East African country on the coast of the Red Sea. Not many people are up to date on the current events within this unique nation, and that’s most likely a result of its strict censorship laws.

According to a 2019 list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Eritrea is ranked the world’s most censored country. Yes, that is even more so than widely known censored countries like North Korea or China! The CPJ is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York City, with correspondents around the world.

Eritrea is ranked the world’s most censored country

The CPJ determines censorship rankings based on the following factors:

  • Restrictions of privately-owned or independent media
  • Defamation laws
  • Restrictions on the dissemination of false news
  • Internet and website access
  • Surveillance of journalists by authorities
  • License requirements for media
  • Targeted hacking

Evidently, there are many critical factors to consider when evaluating censorship in a country, most of which we take for granted in countries with press freedom laws. For this reason alone, Eritrea’s top ranking is a major cause for concern.

[Image description: President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, standing in front of a podium, 2002.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, standing in front of a podium, 2002.] via Wikimedia Commons
To understand the complete context of this worry, we need to rewind to September 18, 2001, when the Eritrean government shut down seven independent media outlets and imprisoned 10 journalists. They were punished for allegedly failing to comply with the country’s media licensing requirements. However, it’s widely believed that the decision was fueled by the end of the Eritrea-Ethiopia war in mid-2000. Although the war technically ended,  President Isaias Afwerki was on a mission to clamp down any political opposition and continue to fight Ethiopia for more border territories. This significant moment in history is known as “Black Tuesday” and it marks the beginning of a gruesome dictatorship in the country.

“Repressive governments use sophisticated digital censorship and surveillance alongside more traditional methods to silence independent media.” – CPJ

So, you might be wondering how Eritrea even got to this point. In the 1930s and ’40s, the country’s economy was stimulated by Italian colonial activity and the turbulent circumstances of World War II. After the war, the economy deflated and thousands of Eritreans were forced to start a new life in neighboring Ethiopia. By 1960, Ethiopia had annexed Eritrea, forcibly taking control of the country’s territories. This resulted in an armed struggle known as the Eritrean War of Independence, and it lasted almost 30 years. However, when tensions had seemingly calmed down and Eritrea gained independence in 1993, the two countries began fighting for control over a border town named Badme and other lucrative land. In 1998, another 20 years of violent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea emerged, leaving Eritrean media a propaganda-filled mess.

Given these circumstances, 400 000 Eritreans fled the country in the past few years, causing the diaspora population to grow. There’s also an expanding network of Eritrean activists living outside the country. They collaborate with radio stations, online platforms, phone hotlines and undercover sources inside the country. One of their main goals is to find ways to circulate accurate news in Eritrea without the government cracking down on the operation. Most Eritreans have not been fooled by Afwerki’s propaganda and hope for a better life. As reported by Vice News, one in every 10 migrants headed to Europe are from Eritrea. 

The CPJ confirmed that most journalists in Eritrea who were jailed in 2001 remain behind bars today. To make matters worse, the government still controls most broadcast outlets and foreign radio signals are jammed. There isn’t even the option of browsing the internet as the country has the lowest rate of cellphone and computer ownership in the world. According to the U.N. International Telecommunication Union, less than 1% of Eritrea’s 5 million citizens have the necessary devices to go online.

[Image description: A group of Ethiopian soldiers in Mogolo, Eritrea, 2008.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: A group of Ethiopian soldiers in Mogolo, Eritrea, 2008.] via Wikimedia Commons
As a result of the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict, many journalists fled the country after President Afwerki’s new policies, and few have spoken out about their experiences. In an interview with Financial Times, Afwerki made it clear that he thinks most journalists are “a threat to national security.” He also believes they aren’t very professional or honest about where they get their information from, thus distorting the truth. Ultimately, his intentions are to promote nationalism in Eritrea and prevent citizens from immigrating. He wants the media to reflect positively on his government, thus feeling the need to control it at all costs. Since 2012, it’s been compulsory for Eritrean journalists to attend military drills and guard government offices. Today, there are no independent media outlets in Eritrea and citizens can’t legally leave the country from ages 9-51 without official permission. This makes it nearly impossible to get accurate news about Eritrea unless you consult foreign media outlets that are working with insiders.

Another notable act of censorship in the country included the government shutting down social media before Eritrea’s independence day celebrations on May 24, 2019. Clearly, the government is aware that citizens don’t feel independent and they would express their true feelings on social media if given the opportunity.

In my opinion, censorship in Eritrea is horrifying, especially in the 21st century when information should be at our fingertips. Freedom of press plays a vital role in keeping citizens informed and holding authorities accountable. If it ceases to exist, basic human rights could be dangerously overlooked to the point of no return. Journalists have been detained and even perished under the hands of the Eritrean government and this ill practice must be put to an end. Unfortunately, there aren’t many platforms for Eritreans to speak of the political and media-related injustices in their country. However, as outsiders looking in, we can do our very best to speak out on the matter and create a level of awareness that could potentially change the future of Eritrea.

Organizations that are doing incredible work to help Eritrea include the Norwegian Refugee Council, The America Team for Displaced Eritreans, and the Eritrean Development Foundation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source a direct donation link to the grassroots campaign ‘Freedom Friday.‘  However, I highly encourage you to get involved and make donations where possible. 


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World News Media Watch Tech The World

Here’s why YouTube putting ads in non-monetized content is problematic

YouTube decided to update its Terms of Service on November 18, and things aren’t looking promising. The video streaming platform now has a ‘Right to Monetize’ (RTM) update that grants them the right to run ads on any video, including the ones that aren’t monetized. It might not seem like a big deal, especially since online advertising has become the norm for mega-corporations. However, there’s a catch.

YouTube monetization refers to the practice of companies paying youtubers and channels to place their ads in videos. Every time viewers watch an ad, the relevant party gets paid. According to the new update, however, YouTube will be pocketing all the ad revenue from videos that aren’t monetized. This means smaller channels on the rise won’t benefit from the new policies at all. The unwarranted ads will disrupt their videos, making it much more difficult to retain an audience and grow on the platform.

Prior to the amended Terms of Service, YouTubers could join the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) to earn money from video ads. The program was designed for dedicated creators with 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time in a 12-month period . On top of all that, you have to live in a region where the program is available and have an Google AdSense account.

So if creators have to jump over all these hurdles for their content to get monetized, how can YouTube have the audacity to monetize videos on their behalf? It is not just greedy and capitalistic, it also makes the existing program far less meaningful. Essentially, there will be ads on your videos whether you’re part of the program or not. There’s no way to avoid that repetitive Holiday sales ad for the third time in 2 hours.

On that same vein, MaStar Media, a youtuber with a relatively large following (3.5 million subscribers), expressed his concerns about the exploitation of small creators. He believes that youtubers put their blood, sweat, and tears into their content and unfortunately they can’t make a single cent until they qualify for the YPP.

More so, there are creators who actively reject ads based on principle and the Terms of Service update overrides these conscious decisions. For example, full episodes of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj get uploaded to the ‘Netflix is a Joke’ YouTube channel without being monetized. Bear in mind that these videos get millions of views and could generate a decent a mount of revenue if they were monetized. Nevertheless, choosing to eliminate ads allows viewers to freely access the videos and ensures the content isn’t influenced by advertiser ideals.

YouTube seems to have an ‘our platform, our rules’ mentality which gets them into trouble  time and time again. Naturally, many of the creators used their own YouTube channels and social media to express their concerns with the Terms of Service update. A creator with a firm stance on the matter is freelance creator and youtuber, Roberto Blake, a creator with over 490K subscribers. He made an incredible video that highlights just how problematic the new terms of service will be. Blake explained the situation by pointing out that, “as a content creator, you will not have control over you viewers’ experience. They could have non-skippable ads playing before your videos and that could frustrate them to the point of not continuing to even bother watching the video.”


More than anything, the amended Terms of Service comes across as a heartless cash-grab because YouTube already made a reported $5 billion exclusively in Q3 of 2020. That means the annual ad revenue for this year is going to be an unbelievable amount of money. In addition, the company has majorly benefited from the internet-driven, stay-at-home lifestyle of 2020. Although ad sales significantly fell in March, they’re still having one of their most profitable years yet.

On that note, I urge YouTube to focus on keeping their creators happy. Although more ad revenue is enticing to the company, they have to remember that the creators keep the platform afloat and should be able to reject advertising if it doesn’t align with their values. Ultimately, if the creators are unhappy, it manifests a hostile partnership that could jeopardize the future of YouTube for good.


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7 unconventional bachelorette party ideas for a guaranteed good time

A bachelorette party is the perfect opportunity to celebrate life before marriage and honor the future. Most movies and TV shows make it seem like bachelorette parties equate to boat loads of liquor, strippers and long, sleepless nights. While this might be the case for some people, there are plenty of ways to host a successful bachelorette party without compromising your promising future.

1. A peaceful camping trip

[Image description: a woman with a straw hat hanging from strings around her shoulders and staring at a waterfall.] via Unsplash
[Image description: a woman with a straw hat hanging from strings around her shoulders and staring at a waterfall.] via Unsplash
A camping trip isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a bachelorette party, but imagine how much fun it could be. Spend time with your closest friends in the great outdoors and disconnect from your busy life. Even if hanging out in the middle of a forest isn’t really your thing, you can still do a luxury glamping party. Invite your closest friends and get some fresh air and clarity before your wedding.

2. The ultimate pamper session

[Image description: a close up image of someone wearing pink gloves and filing another person's nails.] via Pexels
[Image description: a close-up image of someone wearing pink gloves and filing another person’s nails.] via Pexels
A bachelorette party in the form of a relaxing pamper session sounds like a dream. If you hire a nail technician, hairstylist and masseuse, nobody will dare to miss your bachelorette party. Kill two birds with one stone by hosting a fun gathering and getting a new set of nails at the same time. You’re welcome to serve a bit of wine while you’re at it.

3. Explore local tourist attractions

[Image description: women leaning out a window and taking a photo.] via Pexels
[Image description: women leaning out a window and taking a photo with her camera.] via Pexels
When’s the last time you visited the cool tourist attractions in your own city? We often feel the need to venture to new places in order to have meaningful life experiences. However, there’s likely to be a hidden gem in your own city if you do a fair amount of research. This bachelorette party idea is especially fun for married couples that plan on moving to a new city.

4. Host a murder mystery extravaganza

[Image description: a close up image of a person pinning a white piece of paper to a cluttered pin board.] via Unsplash
[Image description: a close up image of a person pinning a white piece of paper to a cluttered pin board.] via Unsplash
A murder mystery is among the most unconventional bachelorette party ideas of all time. It’s a bit of an odd choice, but it has the potential to be a wonderful experience. Murder mystery parties don’t happen every day and they encourage people to participate and get to know each other. It’s perfect for situations where the guests don’t know each other very well since they’ll have a mystery solve together.

5. A wholesome picnic

[Image description: group of six people seated outside drinking beverages.] via Unsplash
[Image description: a small group of people seated outside drinking beverages.] via Unsplash
Who doesn’t love a wholesome picnic with good people and quality snacks? If you’re having a springtime bachelorette party, you have to at least consider a picnic. Charcuterie boards, cute floor blankets and freshly made lemonade could create a wonderful atmosphere. If you’re not a fan of sitting on the floor, don’t hesitate to set up a gorgeous outdoor table for the event.

6. Get crafty and creative

[Image description: close up image of a person holding a paintbrush and painting a piece of paper with light blue paint.] via Unsplash
[Image description: close-up image of a person holding a paintbrush and painting a piece of paper with light blue paint.] via Unsplash
Dive into some pottery, painting, drawing, knitting, sculpting, scrapbooking or any other craft that tickles your fancy. There are plenty of fun activities that incorporate art and most people don’t get crafty very often, unless you have a friendship circle of creatives. The greatest benefit of an arts and craft themed bachelorette party is you’ll have lovely art pieces to remind you of the wonderful day.

7. Organize a dance class

[Image description: four women dancing in a studio looking at themselves in the mirror.] via Unsplash
[Image description: a group of women dancing in a studio looking at themselves in the mirror.] via Unsplash
There’s probably going to be plenty of dancing at the wedding, so why not help everyone prepare for the special day? The dance class doesn’t have to be too serious since the whole point is to let loose and fun. Nevertheless, there might be some secretly talented dancers among your guests.

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Fashion Lookbook

The dark truth behind polyester clothing and why you shouldn’t buy it

Almost all the clothes in your closet are made from polyester, one of the most popular textiles on the market. It’s become one of the go-to clothing fabrics because it’s cheap, durable and light-weight.  However, not many people know about the dark side of the polyester industry. It’s one the most destructive textiles on the planet.

Two British chemists, John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson, invented polyester in 1941.

I can’t ignore the fact most clothes are made of this versatile fabric and it would be super difficult to stop buying it altogether.  But there are plenty of reasons why polyester should be avoided to the best of your ability.

Polyester is a synthetic, man-made textile that’s usually derived from petroleum. It’s a non-biodegradable material that can be categorized as a plastic. Interestingly, it only rose to popularity in the 1970s when it was marketed as a “miracle fiber” that’s easy to clean and maintain. From this point onwards, polyester clothes were mass-produced like never before.

The mass production of 100% polyester clothing slowed down after consumers realized it’s not a comfortable clothing fabric. All those scratchy, lint-ball covered jerseys in your closet are most likely made of this low-quality material. The fabric isn’t very breathable either. It can leave you feeling sweaty and restricted if you wear it for too long. Ultimately, it’s not advisable for anyone with sensitive skin as it aggravates skin rashes, eczema and redness.

To make matters worse, polyester has had adverse effects on the environment. The production of polyester involves the use of harmful chemicals and carcinogens. As a result, the industry contributes to water and air pollution. If left untreated, it causes irreversible environmental damage. China, India, and other South-East Asian countries manufacture most of the world’s polyester. The environmental policies in these countries are more lenient than other regions of the world. This makes it possible for them to mass produce polyester without any consequences.

It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid polyester. However, you can make smarter choices. The label of a fabric  indicates what materials make up the product. Try to find items made of natural materials like cotton, silk, wool and cashmere. These high-quality materials are often more comfortable to wear and less harmful to the environment.

The US produced more than 1.28 million metric tons of polyester in 2019.

Once you start buying clothes made of natural fabrics , you’ll notice that most of your pieces last much longer. Modern polyesters can replicate the look and feel of real silk and wool, but they’re still blended with low-quality synthetic materials that you should steer clear of buying. However, blended fabrics are a better option than 100% polyesters. Generally, it’s better to buy a blended fabric item if you can’t find anything else.

If you’re an environmental activist and you want clothes to last longer than a year, avoid polyester. It might seem trivial at first, but making small changes like this could be highly beneficial in the long run. Your clothes won’t fade, gather lint-balls and make you feel uncomfortable. 

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History Historical Badasses

Ada Lovelace: the mathematical genius who pioneered computer programming in the 1800s

More times than I can count, women have been erased from the intricate details of human history. Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852), the visionary behind computer programming, is no exception. Her work had an unimaginable impact on society and technology. It would be an absolute shame to leave Lovelace’s story untold.

Augusta Ada Byron, later known as Ada Lovelace, was born in 1815 in London. Her parents were polar opposites, meaning childhood was overshadowed by deep tensions between her mother and father. On the one hand, we have Lord Byron, Ada’s pleasure-seeking father. The infamous poet was known for his moody temperament and multiple mistresses. To make matters worse, he had a daughter from a previous marriage whom he refused to acknowledge as his own. In a nutshell, Lord Byron was Ada’s deadbeat dad.

[Image description: oil painting portrait of 7-year-old Ada Lovelace.] via Wiki Commons
[Image description: oil painting portrait of 7-year-old Ada Lovelace.] via Wiki Commons

On the other hand, Ada’s hard-working mother, Anna Isabella Milbanke (Lady Byron), was a highly educated and religious woman. She committed her life to philosophy, mathematics, and God. When Ada was only a few weeks old, her father fled to Greece, leaving the family for good. From that point onwards, it was up to her mother to set Ada up for success. Lady Byron devised an intensive home-schooling program for Ada with the best tutors in the area. She believed that if her daughter mastered science and mathematics, she would never end up like her hedonistic father.

Meeting Charles Babbage

Ada was one of the most talented mathematicians of her time. By 17-years-old she’d met Charles Babbage (1791- 1871), a renowned academic and mathematician. He eventually became her mentor and helped her to enroll in an advanced mathematics program at the University of London. This was the start of a magical friendship that fostered Ada’s ever-growing passion for expanding her mind.

In 1843, Lovelace took on a ground-breaking project for her mentor. At the time, Ada had married William King, the Earl of Lovelace. He required his wife to accompany him during various aristocratic duties, but he still encouraged Ada to pursue her career with passion and vigor. This was an unprecedented level of support from any Victorian era husband – and we love to see it.

Babbage had written an academic article about the Analytical Engine. In his article, he theorized the possibility of the world’s first general-purpose computer. Unfortunately, the computer was never fully built due to a lack of funding. But under these circumstances, Ada was still responsible for translating Babbage’s article from French to English (yes, of course, we’re dealing with a bilingual queen). During the process of translation, she expanded on Babbage’s ideas, making them far more complex, creative and promising.

[Image description: part of the Analytical Engine made of wood and metal.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: Analytical Engine parts made of wood and metal.] via Wikimedia Commons
Although Lady Bryon did everything in her power to mold her daughter into a logical-thinking mathematician, Ada was still super creative. Out-of-the-box thinking was one of her most valuable traits – much like her father. It helped Ada to imagine the Analytical Engine processing letters and symbols through codes. In other terms, computer programming. That same year, 1843, Ada went on to write the first complex computer program in the history of technology.

The legacy of Ada Lovelace

Babbage never fully built the Analytical Engine. Nevertheless, it was the springboard for some trailblazing tech discoveries. With her mentor’s encouragement, Ada published her version of Babbage’s Analytical Engine theory. Recognition wasn’t her main concern, so she published the article using her initials, ‘AAL’.  The frustrating part is that the scientific community left her ideas untouched for over 100 years. Ada died of uterine cancer in 1852 and for a long time her ideas died with her.

It was only in 1950 that Baron Bowden (1910 -1989), an English scientist, republished Lovelace’s work. This was the starting point of a tech revolution. In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense named their newly developed computer language after Lovelace and called it “Ada”. As the code spread among more computer programmers and mathematicians, it became highly influential in the development of code for mobile phone networks, air traffic control, and satellites.

Lovelace’s legacy is so far-reaching that Zoe Philpott was inspired to create a one-women educational play about her in 2017. Philpott is an award-winning storyteller, tech guru and educator from London. Her theatrical production, Ada.Ada.Ada., shares Lovelace’s stories with new audiences in London every month. Philpott performs the entire show wearing a mechanical dress fitted with LED lights. The dress symbolizes Lovelace’s role in the history of computer programming and tech.

I hope that stories like Ada Lovelace’s get told more often as we progress into a future defined by powerful women. However, despite historical icons like her, women are still a minority in the world of tech. It’s for this reason and many more that I’m honored to share her story. I encourage young women from all walks of life to follow in her footsteps.

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