Books Interviews

London Shah feels compelled to tell stories: an interview with the author of Journey to the Heart of the Abyss

London Shah has been dreaming about a submerged world for years.

The British Muslim author, who is of Pashtun ethnicity, said in an email interview that she specifically dreamed of a submerged Britain. Not that she wants the current world to be flooded; just that it’s an image that has hovered near her for much of her life.

And now London’s sophomore novel, Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, the second in a duology about a 16-year-old submersible racer named Leyla who goes on an epic adventure to save her father and discover the secrets the government is hiding, is about to release. It’s set, fittingly, in an underwater version of Great Britain.

“The setting came first, long before any characters,” Shah said. “I cannot recall a time when I did not fantasize about our world carrying on beneath the surface of the seas. I imagined a submerged world as aesthetically close to our current one as possible, and nothing too hard sci-fi.”

Shah was mesmerized by the idea of a realistic underwater world, not one populated by mermaids but one where humans could watch present-day sea creatures — a huge whale, maybe an octopus — living their lives right outside our spheres of existence.

The first book in the duology, The Light at the Bottom of the World, was published in 2019 and the closing book publishes on Nov. 16, 2021. 

“Every feeling and thought I had ever held about what life might be like living deep underwater, I have explored in these books,” Shah said. “All the wonder and magic, all the constant, suffocating perils, and of course all the endless possibilities! I explore them all. I have lived with this fantasy forever, and I am excited beyond words to finally share it with everyone.”

Shah said that growing up she loved studying English, writing fiction for assignments and telling stories, but that she never considered that “author” could be a viable career option. 

“As a South Asian Muslim, back then I never believed writing was even an option for people like me,” Shah explained. “I have always loved creating with words but was never exposed to the idea of doing anything with that passion. Nobody I knew was a writer, and I knew exactly nothing about the publishing industry.”

Despite this, Shah said she is filled with ideas, which compel her to write. She has a vivid imagination and has been envisioning different worlds and stories since at least kindergarten. As much as creating new worlds to play in can be difficult, Shah said she loves doing it.

Worldbuilding is intoxicating,” she said. “It is a lot of hard work, but watching your very own creation come to life—this whole other reality!—makes all the challenges worthwhile. It is exhilarating.”

She is motivated to write as well to tell the stories of characters of color. As a woman of color herself, Shah said she loves to fill her stories with main characters whose backgrounds and ethnicities reflect real-world people who do not often get to see themselves in the pages of their favorite books.

“To provide representation for those who have rarely seen themselves in the pages of a book, rarely experienced those like themselves going off on epic adventures and leading amazing quests, is the best motivator,” Shah said.

And in fact, because she writes for teens, Shah indicated that their reactions also propel her forward and motivate her. Her first book was a Battle of the Books selection and she’s been blown away by the reception among teens and students.

Another demographic who’ve embraced her book? German readers.

The book has been translated to German and published by Loewe Verlag, and Shah said she has loved seeing the book’s reception in that country.

“Its reception has been heartening and affirmative, and readers in Germany have been so enthusiastic and positive and lovely,” she said.

In order to write Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, Shah said she planned the book out scene-by-scene. Famously among writers, the second book in anyone’s career is notorious for how difficult it can be to write. Shah said she worked to overcome this slump by planning the whole book and by focusing on her craft, including by reading.

In fact, Shah believes so much in the power of reading to a writer’s craft that it’s what she recommends to aspiring writers.

“Expose yourselves to the art of storytelling whenever and however you can,” she said. “Recognize the things you feel most passionate about and that way if you are ever stuck for ideas, you will already have a rich source of details to pick from. Using and exploring what we feel an intense connection with ensures the story remains exciting to us, and has plenty of heart.”

In addition to Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, which is an anticipated conclusion to a fantastical debut, Shah recommended several other books she’s loved.

Currently, Shah is reading The Silver Tracks, which is book four in the Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke. She described it as, “remarkable.” In addition, she recommended Ciannon Smart’s summer debut Witches Steeped in Gold, saying, “It is different and fierce, and I loved it. Smart’s worldbuilding is to die for; it is rich and original, and you completely lose yourself in its ferocious heart,” and adding that book is a “thrilling, unpredictable read.”

Finally, Shah recommended the entire Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. “Despite the heavy themes throughout, there is a tenderness to the narrative I have rarely encountered elsewhere in fiction,” Shah said. “The result is an enthralling experience. I barely took any breaks between the books, hardly breathed for fear of being rudely dragged out of that mesmerizing world. The next instalment in the series is my most anticipated book.”

Shah can be found online or on Instagram, and Journey to the Heart of the Abyss releases on Nov. 16, 2021.

Up and Coming Music Pop Culture Interviews

A conversation with ‘Wooly and The Uke’ on ‘Home’, music and being creatures of emotion

Janat Sohailbetter known by her moniker “Wooly & The Uke”-  describes herself as “someone who intentionally and subconsciously focuses on human fragility and this loop we’re all stuck in; a self-critique on it all.”

The Berlin-based Pakistani musician and audiovisual artist, known for her hauntingly beautiful vocals and deeply introspective lyrics, just released her latest single “Home” from her upcoming EP “These Days”. The single, she says, is dedicated to those who carry “multiple homes inside of them” and in particular focuses on the grief that resides within all of us.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in front of a blue light with glitter over her face. Source: Shazam]
She described her songwriting process, her growth since releasing her first single “Circus” in 2017, and her thoughts on art and emotions with us on Instagram Live.

The Tempest: Musicians usually try to break through the Pop and Rock genres, but not many go for Indie because of how selective it is. What were the challenges you faced trying to break through the Indie music scene, especially in Pakistan?

Wooly: It’s difficult for all of us to know what we want because we are constantly surrounded by so many different media and so many people put forth so much work that gets so much spotlight, so it’s so hard to know if is what I want to worth it…  Many people have told me that the music I make is too artsy for them to understand. It feels really good to make such music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.

Not many people want to listen about ‘the death of this world’ and other such existential themes while driving around in their car *laughs*. I’m still learning to find that balance between what I want and making it easy enough for others to understand by communicating it well enough.

“It feels really good to make such (artsy) music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.”

The Tempest: You released Circus back in 2017, and now you’re releasing a new E.P. with the lead single already out. Do you feel that progression and change in yourself compared to then?

Wooly: I think there’s been a massive change because when I release “Circus,” I didn’t trust in my own vision and trusted what I thought others needed. While I’m still happy with it (Circus), from then to now there’s been a massive journey of discovering and trusting myself and my own vision as well. It’s a challenge we face in our society when we are conditioned so much to be humble and grounded and compliant.

I’ve also explored different kinds of music and I’m in the process of breaking out of this bias/binary and opening myself to all these other kinds of genres… There’s so much happening in the spectrum and so much other music coming out, and there’s so much to learn out of all of that; what I could implement in my own music. Experiences such as travelling and getting to collaborate with other people from all over the world change your vision a lot too.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke sitting on concrete stairs, wearing a floral suit and playing the ukulele. Source:]
The Tempest: Let’s talk about “Home,” your lead single from the E.P. “These Days.” You described it as an ode to those who carry grief like home inside of themselves and those who carry multiple homes inside of them. What was the process behind its creation?

Wooly: The past two years living abroad taught me that it doesn’t matter how comfortable you get somewhere, there’s always an urgency to start another chapter; a spiralling identity crisis because of where we come from and always feeling like an ‘other’ in this society. That, and constantly having to prove yourself are these two categories from which I view it all from the surface.

But if you look at the subcategories of yourself, and go deeper, there’s so much more going on in there! Your own unique talents, your personal beliefs, your identity and so many other layers make you you. And usually, when you’re unable to accept these parts of yourself, you question how other people will accept you. So you condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions; these different personas are different shelters which we can call home. One that’s very different from the one we have physically.

“You condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions.”

The lyrics start with “Mother, brother…” because I feel like these are two figures are the most important in life. You always feel guilty for not doing, listening or being enough for your mother and you’re scared of losing her; a mystical figure in your life. Brother is a binary male figure to who you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to. All of this while carrying yourself and trying to breathe through it all is what it’s all going for.

The Tempest: This was your directorial debut too. How did that feel?

Wooly: The words “directorial debut” also took a lot of confidence to write and adopt. But it was important to me as well. There’s always a beginning for everything, and if you have a vision for it, it’s important to go with that. I’m also in the process for it to be clear that it didn’t come across as a big-budget production with any fancy special effects, because my priority was to get that raw emotion out.

When I was writing the idea for ‘Home’, I was just sitting at night and visualised the whole thing;  all I could see was the figure in the black shelter/shroud sitting like a creature. The idea was that when we’re all going through something, especially grief, we turn into this lump or creature without realising it. We’re all creatures of emotion and it’s hard for me to see us as anything other than that. We’re constantly trying to shed things, take things, others trying to force them on or off you. I tried to portray that moment of isolation and rejection in the video.

“We’re all creatures of emotion and its hard for me to see us as anything other than that.”

The Tempest: Normally you put your own interpretations of your music in description boxes. How open are you to other interpretations, if they’ve been conveyed to you?

Wooly: It’s interesting, especially since a lot of interpretations for ‘Home’ had religious contexts to them. I feel like all art is metaphorical and it’s okay to have your own interpretations of things because it matters to you and what you think and experience. There were religious concerns that even I had with ‘Home’ because I thought about how people would mistake the cloth as a burqa, and breaking out of it would be taken as breaking out of oppression (which it isn’t, at all). Other interpretations were similar to what I had so I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing *laughs*

The Tempest: You have three other songs in your E.P. “These Days”. Will they be similar to Home, or different or somewhere in between?

The idea behind the E.P. is to have it flow like a narrative; like Pink Floyd and how their albums felt like a story progressing with a beginning and an end. Home is the intro, and the next song “Same as You” is about a very taboo topic in our society – how difficult it is to love other people who may be misunderstood in our society or not accepted. “These Days’ is an interpretation of my own thoughts of what these days have been like. Life has always been kind of shit *laughs* even if it has its good things.

I’m also in the works of releasing a pop song, in collaboration with Zahra Paracha and the really talented pianist Maham Riaz from Nescafe Basement, that I’m very excited about too!

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in a green shirt, with the sunlight on her face. Source: Soundcloud]
The Tempest: What can we expect from Wooly & The Uke in the future?

Wooly: Music is definitely going to continue. I’m in Pakistan for the next few months and I’m very open to collaborating with people now. I got a really nice idea from someone for a little musicians’ retreat which I’m excited about. I’m also in the process of setting up a small audio-visual production house, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time; combining all my interests into one thing. And of course, making more obscure shit with everybody else *laughs.* I just really want to end the year with my brain splattered everywhere into what I create.

The Tempest: Like a Jackson Pollock painting, all splattered over the canvas?

Wooly: That’s a really good comparison, yes.

The Tempest: Out of my own curiosity: where did the ukulele come from?

Wooly: I got the ukulele around the time of Nescafe Basement, and I love it because it’s very portable and I can play it anywhere. It’s a sneaky little instrument and I can take it everywhere.

“These Days” will be releasing soon, as an audio experience. She will be returning to Europe in a few months and will be performing more then. In the meantime, you can check out our full interview with Wooly and the Uke on our Instagram account!


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Editor's Picks Books Interviews

Victoria Aveyard talks about her newest fantasy “Realm Breaker”

The ever-popular Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard debuted in 2015, taking the world by storm with a fascinating premise – a world that’s divided across genetic lines, where power and oppression stem from families that grow cushy because of their supernatural abilities, only to have their worlds turned upside down when the ‘have-nots’ realize a unique power of their own. The series is officially being adapted into a TV show, and Victoria Aveyard has taken another step into the genre of high fantasy with her newest release, Realm Breaker, which we reviewed here.

Author Victoria Aveyard sat down for an exclusive interview with The Tempest, where she talked about her latest release, her story-writing process, and her thoughts on the future of fantasy.

If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why? And if you could be a member of any Guild from Realm Breaker, which would you choose and why?

 Obviously, I would love to be some kind of immortal, but I know in my heart I would realistically be a hobbit. Or, some townsperson who is not involved in any of the adventures at all. As for Realm Breaker, I always play as an assassin in RPG games, so I suppose I would have to go with the Amhara Guild. Even if they’re incredibly intense. I probably wouldn’t survive the training, honestly. 

Are there any challenges you faced when writing this book – with regards to world-building or otherwise?

 My biggest challenge with worldbuilding is when to stop and rein myself in. You only have so much motivation when starting a new story, and I don’t want to waste it all on backstory and research. At a certain point, I have to switch over to drafting and just get the story itself started. Otherwise, a big challenge with Realm Breaker was deciding which piece of the story required which point of view. Which perspective and which character will be most interesting to an audience, and which one services the story best? It’s certainly a fun challenge, to filter each plot point through a different lens. 

When writing a story of this caliber, do you follow a set plan, or do you start off with characters in particular situations, and let the story tell itself?

I’m really into story structure, and I always use the 3-act, 8-sequence [structure] to outline. I usually know my Act 1 and 3 really well, with Act 2 being where I flounder, but also where the story and characters really grow. 

The spindles were an interesting point, similar to the portals in Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Was his work an influence in your writing, or even in your literary tastes?

I’ve actually never read those. I was more inspired by The Elder Scrolls video game, Oblivion, which featured portals opening in a fantasy world that the player had to fight and close. 

What’s your writing process look like – a typical day in your work?

I’m lucky enough that this is my full-time job and I work best when I treat it that way. I try to keep office hours from 10 am-5 pm, with a break for lunch, and I almost never work on the weekends. This helps me stay in a routine and really keep my momentum going, especially when I’m drafting.

Did you plan for the companions to come together (like a fellowship) or was that where the story took you?

I always planned for Realm Breaker to be a Lord of the Rings meets Guardians of the Galaxy kind of story, so the team element was central to the idea. I loved throwing together these misfits and criminals who don’t like each other, don’t care about doing the right thing, but have to save the world to save their own behinds. 

What do you think the future of the genre will look like – whether there’ll be more works that are set in medieval eras?

I don’t think the medieval era is going away any time soon, but I think an expansion of exactly where that medieval era falls geographically is happening. There are some incredible fantasy works set in worlds inspired by that same time period, but outside the stereotypical Western European location. It’s fantastic to see!

If you could go back and edit or re-do a particular scene in something that you’ve already published, what would you change?

Oh, that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open. Every single creator can point to anything they’ve done and find the flaws. I could find something wrong on probably every page of every book I’ve written. 

 In Realm Breaker, what character did you create that surprised you the most for the decisions they made?

I knew Erida’s place in the plot and what her journey would be, but only when I was drafting did I realize she needed to be one of the POV characters. And that was a delightful surprise, to hear her voice and use her perspective to give a very, very different angle of the story. 

Queen Erida’s lust for power reminds me of Queen Cersei, and her drive to do what she must to conquer the realm. However, (slight spoilers), her betrayal to the Companions was surprising – was that something you planned for her or was that how the story moved, something you didn’t really foresee?

Definitely planned. All my big plot twists are planned out, and I think that allows me to really dig in, and trick the audience. I know what’s coming, so I know how to lure them in a way that they are either really surprised or really pleased they figured it out. 


Any favorite fantasy publications for authors with no credits looking to grow their audience? Tips to stand out with anthology/ezine/contests, for budding fantasy writers.

I’ve never had anything featured in an anthology or magazine or contest, so I’m definitely not the person to ask for advice! I am a huge fan of the Reddit forums, however, and I lurk on r/fantasy, r/imaginarymaps, r/worldbuilding, and r/fantasywriters. They have some amazing tips and tricks!

Want to know what we thought of the book? Check out my review of Realm Breaker. Support local bookstores and get Realm Breakeron Bookshop or Indiebound.

Looking for more book content? Follow our Bookstagram for international giveaways, exclusive excerpts, and more author interviews!

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K-pop Music Pop Culture

Mirani returns with her single “Daisy” and surprises fans with a new sound

Just as spring arrived this year, hip-hop artist Mirani gave fans a fresh single, “Daisy,” to mark the start of a new season in her career.

Though softer in sound and slower in pace than her previous singles, “Daisy” continues to showcase Mirani’s ability to pen thoughtful lyrics with roots deep in meaning and metaphor. Spring is often considered a welcome reprieve from the dark days of winter. While “Daisy” does capture this sentiment, Mirani’s lyrics also include moments in which she questions if she’s deserving of the relief spring can provide.

“Spring has been a complicated symbol for me to deal with, but I think I finally overcame this fear,” Mirani said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest.

Mirani noted she typically finds inspiration for her music in movies and TV dramas. “Writing down these emotions [felt by the characters] helps me come up with my song lyrics,” she shared. However, the emotional journey in “Daisy” is more personal. In fact, the lyrics explore a moment Mirani experienced while on the set for an advertisement. One of the staff presented her with a “beautiful flower,” which she felt she hadn’t earned yet since she had only just finished filming Show Me The Money 9.

“I felt really awkward about the situation. I found myself asking, from the force of habit, ‘Do I deserve this flower?’” Mirani recalled. “Then I realized I’m not really used to these good and ‘fragrant’ things yet, and I tried to express this thought in the song.”

For those of us trying to turn our dreams into a reality, Mirani’s experience is incredibly relatable. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome once we start to catch even a whiff of success. It’s also easy to compare ourselves to others, to be “jealous of the flowers blooming” and to wish “spring would hurry and pass.” But just like Mirani realizes in “Daisy,” it’s okay to acknowledge when our spring has come.

I asked Mirani if she had any words of encouragement for those of us pursuing our dreams, especially those who are following in her footsteps in the music industry. She said: “I know how hard it is to create something. I believe you are the best and doing just fine no matter what, so keep going. Rooting for you!”

While Mirani’s lyrics are personal to her experience, she wanted the music video to be applicable to anyone. She worked with the director to add more fun into each shot to keep viewers curious and leave the meaning up to interpretation.

“I wanted people to watch it again and see many different factors,” Mirani told me. “I think the outcome turned out great.”

“Daisy” also offered Mirani the opportunity to work with pH-1 again. “I think my voice matches great with pH-1’s voice tone, so I was excited to collaborate with [him] once again,” she said. The two first worked together on Show Me The Money 9, creating hits like “Achoo” and “VVS,” which both peaked in the top five of the Gaon Digital Chart. “VVS” also won Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2021 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. A month before her latest single dropped, Mirani signed with AREA, a new label by GroovyRoom in partnership with Jay Park’s H1GHER MUSIC—an exciting continuation of her work with the producer duo that she first started on Show Me The Money 9.

When I asked why she wanted to become an artist, Mirani revealed it was her brother who first introduced her to hip-hop music. She then went on to join a hip-hop circle in college, where she discovered her passion for performing. “I really enjoyed the first moment on the stage, and I decided to be a rapper since then.” Fast forward to April of 2020, Mirani debuted independently with her single “Detective,” joining a growing number of women hip-hop artists and rappers in South Korea.

“I know there aren’t that many recognized female rappers within the scene. And I’ve been deeply thinking about how I can also be part of those influential female rappers,” Mirani expressed to me.

One way Mirani is hoping to add to the genre is by experimenting with her own sound and lyrics. “I’m thinking of working on more diverse genres and themes,” she revealed. Whether this is a hint for a possible upcoming album or her music in general, she wouldn’t say. She did, however, confirm, “This is just the beginning for me.”

This might be just the beginning for Mirani, but with each single, she’s proven to be a fresh, new voice worth keeping an ear out for. Her catchy melodies and contemplative lyrics define her style as simply her own, with “Daisy” adding another layer. As she continues to play with her sound, I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

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The Internet Pop Culture Interviews

Shahana Jan on inclusivity and being unapologetically herself in content creation

There’s something about content that comes from a place no one but the creators themselves choose to reach into.

Sure, there are videos and Instagram posts all dedicated to jumping in out a new trend,  or speaking out on a hot topic that has taken over social medias by storm. But rarely do we ever think about whether the content genuinely resonates with the creators themselves. 

Did they really want to make that dalgona coffee because they like coffee or was it just for the number of likes? Is so-and-so influencer genuinely passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement or #MeToo or do they just want to be seen as woke – they get attention either way, right?

We had the opportunity to speak to the amazing Shahana Jan recently. She’s an actor, director from Islamabad, Pakistan and a badass content creator whose Instagram has well over 40k followers! Her videos, particularly on IGTV, are mostly comedic and quirky takes on feminism, Desi culture, and tidbits in the world of content creation itself.

Her latest video, “Being a Feminist”, is a hilarious depiction of a client undergoing an evaluation for being a ‘satanic feminist’ with the diagnostician over-enthusiastically suggesting ways to quell the client’s thinking. The video has amassed over 46k views.


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I was recently called a ‘feminist’ like it was a problem. So I thought I’d explore that.

A post shared by S H A H A N A J A N (@ofshahanajan) on

Oh, and did I mention she directed a music video for Walk The Moon’s song “We Are The Kids”? That’s right. She set the music video in Islamabad, showing the resilience of street children, with the theme being about hope and the future being at the hands of all our children regardless of where they hail from. A beautiful piece of work, if I do say so myself.

In our conversation, Shahana talked about how she creates her content based on what she loves personally and what she’s passionate about. However, she clarified that she doesn’t mean to bash content creators who don’t. That’s just how she rolls and her audience seems to love it.

“I don’t enjoy jumping on trends as a creator if the trend itself doesn’t personally speak to me or if I don’t resonate with it.”

“Smart creators will know exactly how to create the moment a trend hits and capitalize on that,” Shahana said. “Because the trend is the current Insta pulse, content created in that window of time will get seen which leads to reach, engagement, ultimately numbers. I get it and I respect people who do it well. But personally I don’t enjoy jumping on trends as a creator if the trend itself doesn’t personally speak to me or if I don’t resonate with it.”

During quarantine, many creators have switched the direction of their content to reflect what most people are looking for, but that’s not what Shahana wants to do:  “I could treat creating content around trends such as banana bread or dalgona coffee as a creative challenge for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon and staying relevant. But I feel that in the process of it, I’m losing out on the authenticity of creating.”

“I actually don’t care about banana bread. I could’ve used that moment (it was trending) to explore banana bread as a creative challenge, but I have to ask myself why.”

Not many influencers would be so brave. “Because I actually don’t care about banana bread. I have no personal associations or memories with it. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered it off a menu of delicacies. So we could argue that because banana bread was trending, I could’ve used that moment to explore banana bread as a creative challenge, but I have to ask myself why. I’m not that kind of creator. Not every trend represents me or speaks to me.”

[Image Description: Shahana Jan wearing a white dress, standing in front of a grey and white background] Source:


This authenticity is what really speaks to me. One of my personal favorites videos from Shahana is one called “Shaadi Ke Baad” (After Marriage), which shows a Desi girl asking her mother if she could do things that range from travelling and dying her hair to ending world hunger and exploring quantum physics; at each of which, her mother keeps responding “shaadi ke baad.” 

It’s something pretty much EVERY Desi girl (including myself) has been told when they ask to live a little freely. Something fuelled by a long-standing patriarchal mindset that might just take a while to undo completely.  

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At one point in the video, the girl asks her mother whether she can masturbate, at which the mother hilariously responds with another “Shaadi ke baad” while suppressing an embarrassed grimace.

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An Autobiography

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“I wondered if this was inappropriate, whether this might turn people off because of the view a lot of people have of female sexuality, I even gave it thought in terms of engagement ‘Maybe this won’t be shared as much, maybe this video won’t be shared as much’ And for a moment, I thought of removing the part. But then I reminded myself that what I create needs to represent who I am. I am sex positive. And I believe that female sexuality and desire needs to be normalized. We need to stop shaming ourselves for what is innately our right to explore.”

“What I create needs to represent who I am…and humour is one of the greatest ways to slide in some healthy commentary.”

This is what happened next: “Humour is one of the greatest ways to slide in some healthy commentary. So I exhaled and kept the part in the video. And much to my surprise and pleasure, the video did well regardless. Sure it wasn’t shared as much as other videos have been, and I did receive a handful of objections but ultimately it was worth it. And encouraging.”

Oh, it was definitely worth it!

Some of the objections Shahana mentioned included Desi people pointing out that her feminist content may seem fine to her as someone living in the States, but that she should “stop corrupting our women!”

Funnily enough, her content has been mostly described as “extremely relatable and completely honest” by womxn in particular. And I agree with that wholeheartedly.

Seeing as Shahana officially moved to the US at the age of 28, her being born and spending 20 years in Pakistan would have actually enabled her to observe how the patriarchal system in the country has worked. And her content is the perfect example of tackling it. However, she knows that while feminism only recently picked up pace in the country, it may be a while before major concrete change is made.

Meanwhile, all we should do is keep pushing until the wall eventually falls down. Through whatever way we can.

[Image Description: Shahana Jan in front of a dark background] Source: Facebook

Aside from her videos, Shahana has also created her own platform called “Bhainhood” (‘Sister’hood) that welcomes womxn from all over the world, of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and the like. Most importantly, it welcomes all kinds of content from them; poetry, illustrations, videos, music, articles and everything in between.“While other places might have a higher standard when it comes to quality control, for Bhainhood all we want is to share content that’s original and comes from a place of truth for the creator. While we skew comedic, we’re not limited in genre.”

All we want is to share content that’s original and comes from a place of truth for the creator…we want to share the experiences of what it is to be in this body. On our terms through what is authentically our own narrative.”

“We are most open to collaborating with other genders but for now, the driving creative force must come from what is essentially womxn energy and that includes transgender women and also the non-binary. We want to share the experiences of what it is to be in this body. On our terms through what is authentically our own narrative.”

As someone who believes in the importance of one’s own passion being present in their creation and creating an inclusive community just as much as we do, she was an absolute pleasure to speak to. Shahana is clearly a witty and wonderful force of nature and she’s sure to leave a lasting impression on you! 

People like her prove that while content that is created based on trends ensures more engagement and marketability, there is something inherently special when content comes from what you hold dear in your heart. It may be too much, too harsh or too unrefined for people, and it may not even receive as much love as it should, but it is a piece of you in all its glory.

Even if it touches the hearts of a few and makes them feel seen and understood, you’re doing it right.

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Career Now + Beyond

On a job hunt? Here’s how to ace your virtual interview and land that job

First impressions are daunting enough in real-life interactions, but when interviews go virtual, how do you leave a positive, long-lasting impression and get that job? When I first started my job hunt a couple of months back, this was the thought that kept running through my mind. I was nervous because an online interview meant I had a narrow slot of time to impress the interviewer. There was no time to warm up to each other as there usually would be if we walked through an office. in a virtual interview, we went straight into it. 

Now, having done my fair share of virtual interviews in the past months, I’ve gathered some tried-and-tested tricks to acing a virtual interview.

Ahead of the interview

1. Sketch a timeline of your professional experiences

A hiring manager or team member will always ask you to tell them about your previous experiences. What they’re looking for is a cohesive story. This timeline will be a handy visual reference for you to consult as you take your interviewer through your work experience so far.

2. Jot down some questions you have about the position or company

Often times, these will come up organically during your interview but it’s a good idea to have a few written down. It will show you as a person who takes the initiative to learn more about your prospective role and professional environment.

3. Test out your technical equipment

Make sure that your webcam and microphone are working so that they can properly see and hear you. Otherwise, they’ll miss out on the brilliant points you’re making. You look well-prepared and tech-savvy if you sort all of this beforehand.

4. Prepare a professional outfit

Just like you would for an in-person interview, you should dress formally for a virtual interview. Dressing professionally will also get you in the work-mindset and looking good will also boost your confidence! 

5. Choose your location wisely

Make sure you’re alone in a room where the door can be closed to limit distractions and interruptions. The background behind you can’t be too cluttered and be seated at a regular height to make it seem like you are sitting across from each other. Lighting is also really important. Ensure that isn’t too dark or bright. 

6. Turn off self-view

Sometimes, seeing yourself can make you obsessively adjust your hair or outfit which can come across as nerves and also be distracting. Most video-conference platforms allow you to do so in their settings.

During the virtual interview

1. Take your time introducing yourself

After sharing greetings, take as much time as you need to introduce yourself, within reason, of course. They are here to learn about you, so don’t feel rushed or feel that you have to save the best for last. 

2. Leave space for them to ask questions

It can get tricky to navigate a conversation online. While talking, be aware of the interviewer’s expression, do they seem like they want to ask a question or add a comment? If so, give them the space to do so. They’ll be thankful and appreciate how perceptive you are.  

3. Maintain eye contact

One of the most important (and easily achieved) points! This is usually a no-brainer but in virtual interviews, as you can imagine, it can be confusing. Looking at the center of your screen is always a good bet. Keep the window full screen to fend off distractions.

Don’t look around your screen, be clicking around, or typing as this makes you seem distracted and uninterested. If you want to take notes, use a notebook and let them know that you are paying attention but just jotting things down. If there are multiple interviewers, then make sure you address them all when you speak and pay attention to who is speaking. 

3. Be aware of your body language

Sit up straight and smile. Remember that’s the easiest way to show that you are paying attention (and can hear what is being said to you) is by nodding your head. Verbal signs of agreement or understanding can also put your interviewers at ease. 

4. Be yourself

What you have to your advantage is that you are in a familiar, comfortable space. That should put you at ease and remind you to be authentic. Let the conversation flow naturally, and don’t try to memorize “smart” things to say as it can feel inauthentic. You got this!

5. Remember that there are things that are out of your control

At the end of the day, if your internet lags or if something is not working right on their end, this does not reflect poorly on you. They’ll appreciate your patience and willingness to persevere regardless. 

After the virtual interview, don’t forget to follow up in the next few days to thank them for their time.

With these tricks up your sleeves, you are ready for any virtual interview scenario. Keep putting yourself out there and pretty soon you’ll find yourself exactly where you want to be.

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
The Tempest Reading Challenge Book Club Books Pop Culture Interviews

The ultimate 2020 romance, “What I Like About You,” is debut author Marisa Kanter’s first masterpiece

Marisa Kanter’s debut young adult novel, What I Like About You, is the heartfelt, funny, and romantic tale of a friendship between two people that begins online — and what happens when they meet in person, but only one of them knows it.

To celebrate, we’re giving away a copy of What I Like About You — enter the sweepstakes here. And be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Marisa and our own editor, Ellen, this Thursday, June 18. 

The tagline, Can a love triangle have only two people in it?, is a spot-on description of the main conflict of the book, which becomes almost a comedy of errors as Halle and Nash, the main character and her online-friend-turned-real-life-one, navigate the stormy waters of their relationship. 

In addition to the focus on romance and comedy — as this is a rom-com — the novel is about book blogging. In the book, Halle is the teenager behind “One True Pastry,” a blog in which she writes reviews of books and pairs them with cupcake recipes. Meanwhile, Nash is also present in the online book world. 

“But I wondered, how would I have reacted if I had met one of my internet friends as a teen?”

Every page of What I Like About You is saturated with a passion for everything bookish, which, as it turns out, was intentional — Kanter herself was a teen blogger and wanted to pay homage to the online friendships she made (she says many of her closest friends were forged online) and the blogging community-at-large.

“As an adult, meeting these internet friends in person has always been a wonderful and validating experience,” Kanter said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest. “But I wondered, how would I have reacted if I had met one of my internet friends as a teen? I wanted to explore this tension between the personas we craft online versus who we are in real life.”

When she was a teen blogger, Kanter said, the blogosphere looks a little different: Twitter wasn’t around as much, and most bloggers were on Blogspot. 

“Today’s book bloggers and bookstagrammers are truly content creators,” she added. “I believe bloggers add so much value to publishing and I really wanted to write a book that shouts out all of the hard work that goes into running and maintaining a blog.

Another aspect of the book that was important to Kanter was that she represented Halle and Nash — both Jewish, like the author herself, as “Jewish teens that were simply existing in the context of their rom-com problems—something I would’ve loved to see as a teen.”

For Kanter, writing is a form of communication that has always been easier than speaking. And she said she loves losing herself in a world she created.

“Outside of the career of it all, writing is the closest thing I have to create magic (when it’s working!),” she said. “Storytelling is fun, first and foremost, and it is certainly not always fun but the moments when everything clicks into place make the hard parts worth it.”

Speaking of fun, Kanter said she decided to “savor” every part of the publication journey for her debut novel — everything from the stress of hard revisions, to the elation of holding ARCs (advanced review copies) and finished hardcovers for the first time.

“Also, I have readers!” she added. “Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising, as that is kind of the point, but that still blows my mind. My readers have been so incredible, I’m so thankful that people have found my book and are connecting with it.”

On the flip side of that, Kanter’s book came out in April — shortly after social distancing orders were put in place due to the coronavirus. Like many other authors, her debut day turned out far different than expected. There was no going to the bookstore to see the book of publication day; no launch at a local bookstore; definitely no physical tour. 


“Well, debuting during a global pandemic definitely threw me through a loop—and I certainly went through all of the stages of grief realizing that my debut experience wasn’t going to be what I had planned—both in terms of the mental preparation that goes into debuting and the actual publicity plans and events that were lined up,” Kanter said.

“Debuting your novel during a global pandemic definitely threw me through a loop.”

“Every virtual event I have been a part of has been a blast and I’ve been so grateful to every platform that has hosted me and for the love What I Like About You has received during my quarantine debut,” she added.

Kanter’s second YA rom-com is slated for release in 2021 and, she said, is a love letter to theater. “I cannot wait until I can share more!” she said of the book.

If you pick up What I Like About You and love it, you may be interested in a few other books the author recommends. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is out now and is “an utterly charming and empowering romcom about teens canvassing for a local election,” according to Kanter.

In addition, she recommended Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, which hits bookstores on July 14, 2020, saying it “is the academic rivals to lovers rom-com that dreams are made of.”

Editor's Picks Music Pop Culture Interviews

Myoa Sobamowo on quitting her day job, the music industry, and her upcoming “Beautiful Journey”

Many times in life people daydream about quitting their day job to following their dreams.

Singer/songwriter Myoa Sobamowo did just that, and taking that leap of faith has led her to places she never thought she would be before. Born the first of three siblings in Nigeria and brought up in England, she moved to the United States in 2007 and studied Accounting and Finance to follow in the footsteps of her father.

But she always had a love of making music.

“I’ve always loved singing, I wrote my first song when I was 9,” Myoa said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest. “I remember my music teacher, I would take piano lessons with him and one day I told him I had a song and he said ‘well come play it for me’, so I played it and he told me it was really good and he told me to never stop writing music and playing, and that really encouraged me that he could see that and, even though he’s in heaven somewhere, I’m always remembering that.”

Even though she got her Master’s degree and a chartered accountancy certification and got a really good job offer after graduating, she knew her heart always lay in music and she wanted to come to Hollywood to get a music education.

“It’s a big step, to fly to another country where I didn’t know anybody, no family, no friends, but I just felt I had to take it seriously, cause I started to believe in myself like ‘this is what I wanted to do’ and once I got into music school I was like ‘oh yes I’m not turning back’, so I got my degree in vocal performance production and that’s it. Been doing that properly since 2007.”

image description: a black and white picture of Myoa with only her lips showing a peach color she is wearing a white top and hugging a guitar
[image description: a black and white picture of Myoa with only her lips showing a peach color she is wearing a white top and hugging a guitar] via LAFAMOS
Initially, Myoa was thinking about going along the lines of gospel music but then realized that her type of music came more from a personal level, songs about relationships and expressionism, so she decided to stick to writing songs that are soulful and come straight from the heart.

“When I’m writing my music, it starts with me, so if you listen to most of my songs, they start with me like what I’m feeling. And I realize that most of the time the songs, they’re not meant for just women or just this age group, they’re just songs about what I’ve been through in my personal life, so I really think that anyone who is a lover of good melody and good lyrics can relate to my songs. I know it’s very broad, but it starts with me.”

Her new song “You” is the perfect example of this kind of personal expressionism, where she talks about toxic relationships in all its forms and breaking through the chain of such relationships in a way that everybody can relate to.

“And it wasn’t just about lovers because it had to do with my journey with music, it had to do with me speaking with other people about what they’ve been through in friendship, with some people’s family. You need to really figure who you are and as long as you stay in a toxic situation, it makes you go away from who you are.”

Myoa looks back on all the people who have been a source of encouragement for her throughout her musical journey, starting first and foremost with her family, who supported her even when she left a stable well-paying job and went to music school. And then people who have believed in her, from family to friends, her current boyfriend, her manager, and the team she’s working with.

“I have a really small team and those people really believe in me. For instance, like LAFAMOS, they would not do this if they do not believe in me you know, and then all the people that have been coming to my shows how can I forget them.? I remember when I first started I was only singing to 10 people, I had constant people who were always coming to my shows In Houston and even when I was in LA, they have really supported me there are some people that would come to every show when I performed.”

Myoa’s love for making music stems from more than just the need to be famous, but a desire to be heard and have her music reach people. “My love for music is I just want it to be long-lasting so it’s not even about being famous, I just want my music to reach people and let them really feel the depths of what I am feeling and influence them. I mean this is what helps me even when I am going through something it’s just my music. I feel like, if you just think ‘I want to be famous’, you’re gonna have just one-hit wonders.” 

With her album Beautiful Journey released on September 13, available across all digital media platforms worldwide and available for download here, Myoa looks to the possibility of going on tour around next year and starting work on her next album in the near future.

“I’ve been preparing for this for years, my album that’s coming out, it’s a collection of songs that I’ve had for over ten years. Imagine, it will be my very first album out, called “Beautiful Journey.” I think you’re really going to enjoy the song “Star Power.”

The advice she wants to give people is: “This is what I’ve realized, you’re never too old to do anything, resources are never too small or too big for you to get your dreams done and you can never ever depend on what people have to say you have to have something bigger than that, whether it’s your faith, whether it’s your dream, something always has to push you.”

And with that, Myoa plans to keep chasing her dreams and let nothing stop her, because “the world needs to hear and feel something different from what they’re used to.”

Career Advice Life

May the odds be ever in your favor: what I learned from group interviews

Group interviews should be illegal. Okay, maybe that’s extreme, but they certainly are cruel and unusual. The application process sucks, no matter what it is you’re applying for, but group interviews are on a whole other level. I’ve luckily only been on a few, but those have been enough for a lifetime.

My first experiences with group interviews were while I was still in college. My freshman year, I applied to become part of the on-campus EMS at my university. In my second round group interview, my group and I had two minutes to choose four out of seven people to survive a hypothetical plane crash. We then stood in a line facing the panel of interviewers. My question: Who was the weakest link? I refused to answer– I found it cruel and not at all constructive. The interviewer said that I had to, so I said that I was the weakest. After the interview, several people in my group, still shaken from the experience thanked me for not throwing them under the bus. Some of those who thanked me were selected, while I was not.

The whole experience felt like some strange mix of a 1960’s psychology experiment and an early 2000s reality tv show. Interviews are already challenging for having to constantly monitor how you’re communicating with people you don’t know but want to impress. Fighting for talking time while controlling your tone and interacting with a whole group of people was substantially harder. I managed to stay true to myself and keep some perspective about the situation even when I was in it, which is definitely what I’d advise anyone going into that situation to do. Ultimately, I’m glad I didn’t get accepted and I don’t regret how I acted.

About six months after graduating from college, I had my first group interview in the real world. It was the first round interview for a junior editing position. I went in feeling good– the position was entry-level and I felt that my experience lined up pretty well with the job description. However, as my fellow interviewees showed up in the waiting room, I was one of the youngest in the group. The other applicants seemed over-qualified, with years of professional experience, much of it directly related to the open position. Their being in the same room as me seemed like a bad sign for the job market in my city, and I imagined how they must have felt to be in the same interview with someone as young and inexperienced as me.

I did well in the interview, which I know because I got a second interview and because I watched as other interviewees floundered. They didn’t look at others when they were speaking, or they spoke for far too long. I had prepared for the interview and wanted to do well, but seeing the others vying for the same position made me aware of how we could not all get what we wanted. In a competitive setting, like a group interview, it’s easy to see people as more or less than they are, holding all of the power or none at all, but regardless of power in that specific situation, they’re still only human.

The key to surviving a group interview is recognizing everyone’s humanity. Your fellow interviewees are not lions about to rip you to shreds– they’re nervous and earnest and just doing their best. You are not just an applicant or a curriculum vitae, you are a whole person and will continue to be regardless of the outcome of any interview.

Career Advice Life

The emotional rollercoaster of applying for jobs

I distinctly remember being in my junior year of college and seeing people older than me start to struggle through the job application process. I, a fool, thought to myself, “That won’t be me. I’ll be qualified and apply for a bunch of jobs and definitely be employed when I graduate.” Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out that way. The past year and a half I’ve applied to jobs on and off, which is completely draining in ways I never expected.

In the US, there’s the idea, both implicitly and explicitly, that you are defined by your career. Productivity as a national value is pervasive throughout our culture, with an emphasis on doing rather than being. It can be found in the disdain for the people who cannot be “productive members of society,” the failure to acknowledge that they have value beyond what they do.

When getting to know new people, one of the first things we ask is what they do. It is the most vital piece of information about someone after their name, the door to their overall character. Children are asked from a young age, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It conflates doing with being. They learn to answer teacher or doctor or ballerina (if they’re a girl). If a career is an answer to being, then a lack of career means that you are not.

With these values pushing for attention in the back of one’s mind, the already grueling application process takes on a larger than life meaning.  Being an applicant is a vulnerable position. You lay it all out and ask someone to take a chance on you, though it’s not nearly as fun as the song by ABBA.

In a cover letter, you have less than a page to declare who you are as a person and why you should be considered for the role. It is an absurd task. For me, it’s probably the hardest part. I have an easy time writing the first sentence or two, usually with some anecdote to introduce myself in a way that isn’t completely dry. The rest of the cover letter, where I actually have to sell myself, is an uphill battle.

My cycle is as follows: I find a job I am genuinely excited about and believe I would be a strong candidate for. I feel confident and excited. I begin to fill out the application and arrive at the cover letter, at which point my confidence plummets. I proofread my cover letter and recover a sliver of my lost confidence. I submit the application, don’t hear back, and then dejectedly apply to jobs that seem perfectly adequate.

No matter what parts of the process you specifically struggle with, from looking to applying to interviewing, job searching is draining. Part of what makes it so hard, in addition to proving our worth through career, is the idea that it is a completely merit-based system when it has so much to do with connections and luck. I have one friend who applied for a job for which she was well-qualified and didn’t hear back at all. A year later she applied again backed by powerful connections and was offered the job less than a month after applying.

There’s so much you can’t control when applying to a job: what positions are open, who’s reading your application, what mood that person is in. But you can actively work on how you think about it. You can put space between who you are and what you do. You can take stock of what’s good in your life as it is. You can recognize that the outcomes of your applications are not a reflection of your character and worth. No matter where in the process you are, know that you’re not alone.

Lookbook Interviews

Rochelle Brock is celebrating fat-positivity through her photography

Based in the bustling city of New York, Rochelle Brock is an inspiring body-positive photographer who has been voted as ‘Most Likely to  Photograph a Movement in 2018’ by PAPER magazine. Like any other photographer, Rochelle had initially started off by taking photographs of things that she liked at the mere age of sixteen. With time, she found that she preferred taking photographs of people; especially black and bigger people like her. Being a woman who wanted to be a voice for under-represented people around her, she decided to dedicate her photography to body-positivity. As people had motivated her towards self-acceptance on the internet, she wanted to do the same for other people too! Here’s what she had to say in an interview with The Tempest:

The Tempest: Personally, what does body-positivity mean to you?

Rochelle Brock: I would say that body positivity just means being comfortable in the skin that you’re born with and embracing that as well. Taking your time, learning from experiences and gradually being confident in your body and making sure other people know that you’re comfortable in your skin as well.

What was the process of finding body acceptance and body confidence like for you?

I feel like it wasn’t something that happened overnight, rather, it’s been a journey. I’ve always been a bigger person since I was a child so there were definitely a lot of ups and downs. Initially, I wasn’t confident in my body, however, I didn’t always feel unconfident in my body either. It’s actually difficult to explain, there were always phases where I sometimes was truly happy in my body and times when I was not. I’d say people on the internet have also been an inspiration, following people on social media platforms that have been through the same process of self-acceptance have indirectly helped me a lot as well.

So you’ve been taking photographs for about six years now and you’re absolutely great at it! From your experience, what does it take for a photograph to be expressive and to reach out to the hearts of the viewers?

Oh I think that all depends on what vibe or message I’m going for. Fortunately, the people I usually work with are very expressive in general and wear themselves well so I think I’m just capturing that. I try my best to capture people without giving them robotic instructions, simply capturing the real moment as it is. That way the model’s own unique personality and style shines through the photograph giving a personal touch, Also, I love color so that’s one way to expect good photographs as well.

You mentioned that initially you didn’t start out as a body positive photographer but gradually found your direction. For other photographers out there, how does one find their sense of style or direction when it comes to photography?

I think the best way to do that is to just keep shooting. I always knew that I wanted to do some sort of fashion or portraiture because I love photographing people and I think that it expanded into wanting to photograph all different types of people especially more plus sized people. Since then, that’s just been something that I love to do because it’s also a need for photographers to know how to shoot bigger bodies.

So I definitely think to find something that is significant to you and just keeps working at it. If fashion is something you love, try and take more fashion related photos in a creative or different manner than usual. Similarly, if you’re into food photography, take photos of delicious foods and don’t hesitate to experiment and have fun with it. It’s also important to find something that is not really being represented in the communities around you and give a voice to those people using your art.

Considering your entire career so far, has there been a specific photograph that is memorable or deeply connected to you? It doesn’t have to be limited to your work only, could be another artist as well.

I think it’s easy for me to answer that about the recent shoots that I’ve done. There is one that I took for Refinery 29’s stock photography series called ‘Black Girl Beauty’, it was from ‘Black Girl Dreaming’. It’s a photo of a 13-year-old girl who was just so full of life on set. She was joyful and she kept dancing! I have one side portrait of her and she’s just glancing with her chin up and she was so incredibly happy and confident. It’s one of my favorite photos because we don’t really see a lot of photos of little black girls just being happy and being themselves.