Alicia Keys: The No Make-up Movement

She may not be the first and she won’t be the last but Alicia Keys has got social media in quite a spin. The ‘In Common’ singer has been pictured and filmed going about her superstar lifestyle, with performances and photo shoots a-boot, still as bare faced as when the media took wind back in May.


I want to proposition the opinions surrounding her freedom of choice as some appear to feel so strongly. Firstly I applaud Alicia Keys, as a house hold name around the world who has been in the music industry since 2001, it must have been either the easiest split second decision or something that she had thought about heavily. As a successful musician who would regularly be in hair and make up for music video’s, magazine shoots, award show performances and for generally going about her day to day showbiz lifestyle, it’s all a bit huh?!

Personally I don’t wear a heap of make-up, I’m happy to go naked to the gym or fluff some blusher over my cheeks and flick some eyeliner across my lids but recently I bought a basic contour kit (Barry M Chisel Cheeks Contour Creams £7.99.) Nothing quite to the scale of Kim Kardashian and other make up bloggers but after some time, I succumbed to joining the #ContourCulture. Maybe it’s not a big deal, after-all who doesn’t love an impulse buy when pay day has arrived?! Make-up consumption is different for all people and that’s something that Alicia Keys recently stressed, taking to twitter to say “Y’all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn’t mean I’m anti-makeup. Do you!” Her decision to go make-up free came after her fears of being snapped by paparazzi without her cosmetic disguise, it was then that she realised her thoughts were based too much on what other people thought of her. It’s refreshing to see this movement but it does make me bring up some of the differences of being a celebrity and being a non celeb. Using myself as an example- I’m happy to wear little, to no make- up but on certain occasions I feel it plausible to wear a little extra. Perhaps and more than likely this is due to what I’ve grown up viewing in the media but there’s certain places I’d feel uncomfortable not wearing a touch more blusher and some enhanced eyes. Situations including wedding’s, a date, an interview would make me feel anxious but why? In the example of a job interview, I would be concerned the interviewer would judge me as being lazy and disregarding how I came across. We’re taught that we should make an effort and for me, make- up is as much an exstention of making the effort, as it is to deliberating over my outfit of choice. I guess Alicia is right, I’m concerned about how others may judge me and I’ve disallowed myself to feel free from the shackles of tint, highlighter, mascara and lipstick.

I feel as if it’s an easier step for her to take as we’re all in agreement that she is one stunning woman, come make- up or no make-up. She’s generated a buzz and used her status but truthfully would anybody batter an eyelid (apart from prying eyes on Facebook maybe, if I turned up to my friend’s birthday party?) I know I’d get stern words from my besties but if I felt that strongly I think they would respect my decisions. I don’t think I’d get as much applause if I went about my day to day business BUT if I’m encouraged to do it then who’s business is it but mine? If I go to sleep at a friend’s and wake up in the morning, will they still recognise me? YES. Do I feel exposed going out in public make- up free? No, but once upon a time I did. This was a time when I believed my skin was terrible and I was generally unhappy about my appearance… fast forward a few years later and I’m at peace with my appearance, sure make-up wacks up my confidence points but around people I know and trust, I feel no shame in going au natural. I was tempted to do a #WhatHappenedWhen blog following a week of no slap but then I decided to hold off because I genuinely don’t feel as if the results would be too life shattering but watch this space because 5th September is the first day of my #NoMakeupMovement and with Bestival around the corner (glitter doesn’t count as make- up does it?) I just might try the revolution.

I expressed that it might be easier for Alicia Keys to bin make-up but then again, maybe its been just as difficult or harder. As a singer/ songwriter  who alongside her voice, has a package that fans expect to be polished and well executed, it could have gone terribly wrong, had it not been for a team that support her and fans that adore her. Magazines could have photo-shopped her and shows could have pulled her from their line-up and the fact that they haven’t shows that this movement is far more powerful than the haters on twitter could imagine.

Some of the extreme make-up that I see on Instagram and other social media channels worries me, because before and afters appear to show two completely different people, which to me is a short step away from cosmetic surgery. People may argue that I am speaking madness and that it’s just to enhance what they’ve already got but ask yourself, would a complete stranger recognise you on your second meeting without all the slap?

Alicia Keys isn’t issuing us to remove the foundation but if young and influenced people decide that less is more and inch by inch can learn to love their natural look, isn’t that a beautifully positive message?







What happened when…

I did my first BarreConcept ® Workout

Where: Unit 81, Barwell Business Park, Chessington KT9 2NY

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I’d never heard of the latest fitness craze to hit the UK until I began a course of workout classes locally in Chessington. My friend and I, both lovers of spin had been tipped that Barre Concept was the newest and amazingly effective way to tone, using Ballet moves, Pilates and Yoga. With celebrity fans that include Natalie Portman, Madonna and Kelly Osborne and having a dance background, I thought this was a class I could tackle with poise and elegance.

Taking to the side of the room to rest our hands against the wall, as if at the bars of a dance studio, we would complete a medley of ballet positions; pointing and flexing our feet, pulsing in plies and delivering a torrent of fondues (which has nothing to do with cheese or chocolate fountains.) The movements would be repeated continuously for around 30 seconds each, giving certain parts of the body just enough time to burn and for me personally, just enough time to cramp. As someone who used to regularly attend dance school, let me admit that ballet was not my forte, I’m less delicate and more robust and the cramps reminded me that ballet wasn’t me in all my dancing glory.


Just when my foot cramp was beginning make itself known and my hip began to feel less supple than my youthful mind would have me believe, we swapped sides so the controlled and balance attempted moves could be felt equally on the opposite limb. No pain, no gain after all and through gritted teeth, crazed eyes and an almost teary smile both sides were complete. What sounded like a class that would be as easy as pie, actually showed that strength and mind over matter was needed. As somebody that tends to lean towards classes with high cardio, I was surprised to break a sweat on my brow and top lip. I usually shy away from Yoga and Pilates classes as stretching is pretty much a myth for me… this was obvious when overly supple and softly spoken instructor Lesley instructed my friend and I to try to turn out from our hips a bit more (my hips have obviously been lying to me about how flexible I am.

The wall test (not an actual test but a personal one) was over and so we headed to the center to continue with light weights. I really enjoyed the weighted section and was pleased that Lesley advised me to use the 1.5lb instead of the 2.25lb… don’t run before you can walk Vanessa!! We would do an array of arm movements with extended leg poses and side stretches, whilst controlling our core. It’s been said that 8-10 weeks of the Barre Concept class will effectively tone, sculpt and lift your thighs, stomach, arms and bum, which is pretty much the key parts we’re always looking to improve.

The workouts are surprisingly but amusingly challenging and as much as I felt I could give up, I was enjoying the fact that the class was so different from anything I had ever done before.

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The second to last part of the class took place on the floor and was a little reminiscent of a legs, bums and tums class. It also took me back to the Contemporary dance classes I would partake in- with movements on the floor that would look really uncomfortable from the outside but truthfully were great to strengthen and stretch. Imagine lying on your back with legs extended to one side and your arms and head reaching to the over side, you can’t? Some of these floor moves were joyous and others screamed out from the core muscles.

One of the loveliest things about this class was that Lesley gave a variety of options for certain moves which meant that those with less physical experience, with possible injuries or even those deep into pregnancy could follow the workout.

So would I do it again? YES, knowing what to expect this time and both realising and accepting that I’ve not done ballet since I was a teenager, and that the last yoga class I signed up to was back in 2010, I won’t push myself to the extreme. This is a class where you won’t fall behind if you’re not going as fast as others. Sure my body burned a bit but if I’m going to have Michelle Obama arms in a few weeks and a slimmer stomach, then sign me up for the next class. Like any class, I feel I perform better when sections become a routine, so with more sessions and more limbering up, I look forward to transforming my torso and taming my cramping toes!

To find out more about the classes at Synergy 81, check out their website here:



What happened when…

I wore unofficially the most worn dress of carnival?


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I’m talking about the RIANA STRIPED SIDE SPLIT KNITTED MAXI DRESS available from Pretty Little Thing. You might recognise this Caribbean themed dress from our favourite Barbados singer, Rihanna, a replica from her video for track ‘Work.’

I almost aborted the decision to wear this dress purely for the fact that I realised everyone who had bought this dress (and it had been on sale since around June) would be wearing it at this years Notting Hill Carnival. You know how crappy a moment it is when you’re spotted wearing the same outfit, at the same place? There’s the ‘who wore it best?’ and then there’s the embarrassment and wanting the ground to swallow you up. Fortunately for me, this hasn’t happened for many years… that’s probably because I prefer a skirt and top combo; interchangeable for multiple looks rather than the one BUT there was something about this signature dress that brought out the “I couldn’t give a f*ck” attitude.

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Surprisingly, and call me drunk, I only remember spotting around a handful of like wised dressed ladies. There were no catty remarks and there were no sly looks (that I witnessed or took notice of anyways.) Instead myself and the ladies I encountered wearing my knitted yellow, red, green and black dress were some of the most complimentary, self worthy and vivacious women I could have met . Then there were the women who wanted to know where the dress was from, which meant me detailing that the dress was originally £25, then dropped to £12, where I had a code, which meant it only cost me £9… for those that want it ready for carnival 2017 or hope to wear it before summer ends, KEEP READING!!!

Riana Dress £10 @ Pretty Little Thing

VERDICT: So basically everyone was as pretty as a peach when I wore the PLT Rhiana dress to carnival, we probably should have met up and started up our own Pretty Little Thing carnival float. Alas this isn’t the last you’ll see of the unofficial carni dress, no no no you can look out for me at One Love Festival this weekend.


Vanessa x






Sweet Sugar Dumpin

Fancy your own slice of the Caribbean? Then Sugar Dumplin’s newest branch offering soul food and copious amounts of rum could be just the joint you’ve been looking for.

Tucked neatly inside Kingston-upon-Thames Rotunda complex, you’d find it difficult not to saunter inside with it’s eye catching neon lights, artistic street art and ear grabbing music from outside and within.

The insides of Sugar Dumplin were cosy yet spacious with beach like huts in the style of private booths and with steel pan-esque centre bar tables. Decorated with nods to Kingston Jamaica, singing legend Bob Marley, Caribbean delicatessens and bright, bold and summery colours, this felt like we’d landed on the isles of a dream holiday destination. What better way to feel like we’d begun a summer holiday, than to get stuck into the colourful array of rum, vodka and disaronno infused cocktails?

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Whilst the chefs got down to creating a selection of Sugar Dumplin eats we got started on the cocktails which some of you may be pleased to know come in the shape of a twice a day, 2-4-1 offer (12-7pm and 10pm-midnight.) We began with the Bob Marley £9.95- one of the stronger ones as suggested by Sugar Dumplin staff, decorated with Jamaican colours and doused with sweet and fruity mixed rum to make you go crazy. Although a long drink, it didn’t take us long to finish the drinkable treats and we particularly enjoyed the Wray & Nephews filled passionate fruit that had been flamed for added fire. We fitted in another cocktail before our food arrived, the ever popular and creamy Pina Colada £9.95- bursting with pineapple and coconut flavours… also available in a sharing size.

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The queen of condiments, I was pleased to see a selection of spicy hot sauces and a seriously severe tasting garlic sauce (there was steam escaping from my ears!) We were presented with 3 trays full of tantalisingly tasty food, with dishes that catered for those into spice and those not. My favourite had to be the curry goat; slow cooked and off the bone, mixed with pepper, potato and carrots, this was perfect teamed atop a side of rice and peas, which featured basmati rice, kidney beans, black eyed peas and spices. Although I’m used to eating this curry goat dish with the bones still included, the boneless dish would be perfect for those screamish about eating around bone.

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A popular dish these days, we couldn’t fault the sweet potato fries topped with nigella seeds and spring onions, matched with jerk chicken thighs and wings under sliced chillies and an optional side of hot sauce. Not one for hot and the super seasoned, then the buttermilk fried chicken (also available in burger form) wrapped inside a salad filled wrap, is just what those spice avoiding fusspots are after.

We loved getting to know staff members, some who really shone bright under the lights of Sugar Dumplin. Perfect host Amy, guided us through some more cocktails options- the sweet & sour disaronno Short Skirt, fruity and creamy Bahama Mama and refreshing signature drink being the grapefuit and rum flavoured Wray & Ting. Being almost slap bang in the middle of Kingson town, Sugar Dumplin is the perfect spot to take advantage of and when the mood strikes customers wanting to wined their hips are more than welcome. Friday and Saturday evening’s will be made inside Sugar Dumplin, as DJ’s take requests across reggae, ska and soca genres. If you can’t wait until the evening you could head to the food van in front of the Rotunda which will be serving small bowls for less than a fiver… that’s lunchtime sorted.

Let’s fast forward back to the main event, we’d sampled an atmosphere that meant we wanted to dance and sing whilst eating and drinking, we were heartedly filled to the brim but we couldn’t resist dessert, consisting of a drenched rum cake. Almost packing a punch more than the tropical cocktails, with lashings of white, dark and spiced rum (perfect for rum lovers and full time pirates,) we wondered how we could top the experience.

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Although we were sad not to spot good old fashioned mac & cheese on the menu, we are looking forward to trying more from this ever expanding chain, such as the veggie butternut squash and chickpea creole, saltfish patties, sweet dumplins, red slaw and plantain chips.

So if you’ve always wanted to sample Caribbean food but you’ve been too scared, then Sugar Dumplin is the perfect introduction… let Sugar Dumplin do all the hard work for you and after you’ve come in for food, you’ll find yourself sticking around for the vast collection of tropically smooth cocktails.

Follow @Sugar_Dumplin_ and visit the website

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One Love: Festivals to close summer

It seems ever more crucial that the world needs some peace and love right now; a large helping of humility and understanding to certify a harmonious planet for future generations to come. Celebrating music, culture, food and people is what we need to do and there will be no better place to get involved in this than at this year’s One Love Festival at Hainault Forest Country Park, Chigwell.  


Taking place from 2nd- 4th September and now in it’s ninth year, One Love is a festival for those who are in synch with the peaceful messages of Reggae legend Bob Marley, who promoted the philosophy of One Love. With an impressive final announcement of headliners including JUNIOR REID, BIG YOUTH, HALF PINT, TAPPA ZUKIE, KABAKA PYRAMID & JAH9, who join the ranks of hundreds of other international heavyweights, this years festival looks set to be one of their best. Each year the lineup grows but the mission never changes, with a community of like minded music fans wishing for a friendly, creative and chilled few days, this is an event for all ages.


The UK’s No.1 Reggae & Dub camping festival also has a transport first, riding the wave of tfl’s nighttube service which will allow ticket holders the opportunity to stay until closing and why would you want to go home early? Organisers have described the 3 day event as “a melting pot: a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, free trade and environmentally-friendly event. One of the most diverse and unique festivals in the UK.” So if like me you feel Notting Hill Carnival simply isn’t enough to celebrate Reggae Roots culture, or if you’ve always wanted to immerse yourself with the sound of the Caribbean, One Love Festival will be bringing that Jamaican flavour to the outskirts of London. Supplying festival attendees with authentic food, music veterans and up and coming musicians, alongside stalls that embody the rasta lifestyle.  


On the bill is dub pioneer and inventor Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who has graced the stages of Coachella, won a Grammy for ‘best reggae album’ and featured in Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time. Catch him alongside Max Romeo who had several hits with The Emotions and made his UK breakthrough with single ‘wet dream.’ Kabaka Pyramid and Jah9 will be cause for celebration, since catching the attention of roots fans over the past 3 years; with sell out performances, they are a force to be reckoned with and will ignite listeners with their radio-ready hits. With countless fans, their sets will be met with jubilation, just as Half Pint predicts for his own performance. The dancehall vocalist said of being invited to play at One Love Festival “it is such an honor to be asked to play, nothing will come close to the energy that Half Pint will deliver and the vibes that will be rocking through the festival when we hit the stage!” Quite the confident performer, Half Pint’s set will surely possess energy, exuberance and style, epitomising the feel of dancehall.  


The three day festival will welcome a mass of UK festival performance exclusives, including Saxon Sound Marquee, The Reggae Choir, Big Youth, The Congos and Battle of The Dubplates… just to name a few. But back to the festival’s headliners which comprise of Junior Reid, famed for ‘one blood’ and ‘this is why I’m hot,’ which some may recognise as it was sampled in US rap star Mims same titled track. Big Youth who you may remember covered Ray Charles ‘hit the road jack,’ is a reggae DJ catalyst, with an extensive catalogue of anthems that will cause nostalgia and hysteria as he co- headlines. He says of the pleasure “it’s pretty surreal and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Dan Wiltshire also commented: “This year really is a big one for One Love Festival. Seven headliners across three days – it’s a first for us and the UK Reggae scene.

The festival will be one to close summer in style and with so much love and loyalty from their fans travelling from across Europe and beyond, it’s apparent One Love has built up a festival that lends about a unique experience. Take from the weekend what you will; a chance to unwind, an opportunity to reminisce or to delve into a culture that embodies positivity, peace and love. Why not take advantage of the festival’s most in demand line up, the ever more transport catered location and its ever welcoming philosophy.


For more of the 2016 lineup:

Lee Scratch Perry / Junior Reid / Big Youth / Max Romeo / Half Pint / Kabaka Pyramid / Jah9 / The Congos / The Gladiators / I Kong / SisterNancy / Brinsley (Aswad) Forde / Natty / Bass Odyssey/ Sound System Meets Saxon Sound System (40th Anniversary Special) / Battle of the Dubplates – Coxsone Sound Vs Java Sound Vs Stereophonic Sound Vs Qualitex sound Vs Lord Gelly Sound Vs Love Express Sound Vs G.I. Roadshow Sound System Vs Mackabee Sound / Saxon Sound System Marquee / Dennis Bovell & Roger Robinson / Capital Letters / Macka B / King Addies Sound / Gaudi- Live Dub Show / / Mad Professor – Live Dub Show / The Underclass ft. Neville Staple / Prince Hammer and Dub Natty Sessions / Nucleus Roots / Jimmy London ft Black Roots / Gary Clail ft 2kings sound system / Chris Peckings & Ras Charmer / Dubateers / General Roots / The Reggae Choir / Digitaldubs Sound System / Twilight Circus / Fatman Sound Sound Meets Saxon Sound /King Lorenzo / I.R.I.E / Bunny Lee / Don Campbell / Disciples / Smith and Mighty / Mixmaster Morris/ Dan Wiltshire / Salutation Dub / Chris Dubflow / Babilondon / One Style MDV / Instrument of Jah / Direct Impact Sound System / Nick Manassah / Wendy Walker / Aurelia Dey / Ben Russell and the Charmers / The Downsetters / Josephine and The Artizans / Lion Star / Junior Dread / Robin Catto / Flying Muses / Konquerin Soundz / LPOJ Jahcub and the Chosenones / Michael St. George / Friction & The Roots Drivers / Paul Morgan and The Messengers / King Solomon / Yechidah / Genral Steppas ft R Zee Jackson / Poorman Dub / Roots Renegade / Dread Culture / Dub Doctor / Maitree Express / The Tribe / Jah Eyes / Lobster / Maximum Heights Band / Positive Vibes Crew / Ras Lando & The Internationals / Jeremiah Ferrar / The Mighty Dub Generators / Stop Press / Tree House Fire / Skipyard Rockers / Last Tree Squad Tony / Aleighcia Scott / Ras Pilot / CBlock / Nano Fish Dippers / Joe Angel & Pamodzi Band / Wadada / Dub Marta / Leanne and The Radix / The Stalks / Steel City Rhythm / Stig of the Dub / Jamie Irie

Day tickets start from £47.50, camping and weekend ticket deals are also available from

“When you experience ONE LOVE it is something not to be forgotten.” – Dan Wiltshire (Festival Director)

Strawberries & Creem Festival

Strawberries & Creem was a petite looking festival, one that was small in structure but huge in passion and personality. Arriving in Cambridge I had a good feeling about how the day would pan out, it seemed the whole city was jubilant and heading to Haggis Farm, on what had turned out to a marvellously sunny afternoon. On first inspection this festival had the appearance of a quaint and cute summer fayre, with bunting, giant strawberries and retro bicycles adorning the site but don’t get it twisted- Cambridge knew how to party.  As Jamz Supernova set up the energetic pace for the day, some ticket holders relaxed in hammocks, whilst VIP’s enjoyed rainbow coloured Alize cocktails, massages and Deliveroo goody bags. Tans were topped up at the Anchorage beach club with Ibiza & Croatia feels as people got funky to motown, soul and dance anthems, whilst over in the Strawberry tent garage, funky house and grime rang out from Freerange and Crazy Cousinz.


Going against the grain with a early 2pm slot, Kano mastered a run down of tracks from ‘made in the manor’ assembling mosh pits and creating pistol signs as he delivered ‘garage skank freestyle’ and ‘this is England.’ Man of the moment Kano also included hits from time ago before  Channel 1 slowed the tempo down with their mellow mix of reggae and dub ska. Keeping crowds irie before D Double E came about with his unmistakeable lyrical style.


Urban clothing brand TSCH kitted visitors out in snapbacks that made for a united look, it didn’t matter where you were from or how you were dressed, people were all in support of this majority university run day and it was interesting chatting to so many organisers of the event to see how far it had come in 3 years.


Memorable moments included performances from Nelly who quite simply owned the stage, as the field sang lyrics back to the international rapper, it was surreal that the US star was with his henchmen entourage, on a humble sized stage by the side of the motorway; surreal but astonishing and proud even for a townie who had come for the day to witness a catalogue of hits spanning 10 years.  


Chants lead the Euro match of England VS Russia, with a giant screen before a sea of England tops and S&C snapbacks, it couldn’t have been a more unified scene with a music background from Snakehips who had crowds in harmony as they sang along to ‘All my friends.’ Big Narstie worked his fans into a lather, whipping off his t shirt to cool himself down before dropping ‘when the bassline drops’ and new collaboration with duo producers Star.One.


MBE legend David Rodigan was probably an unexpected hit with many as one girl admitted to me she had no idea who he was but thought he was absolutely amazing! His ability to hypnotise audiences with his extensive archive of reggae, dancehall and ska, with shout outs to artist near and departed, alongside a music history lesson… there really isn’t another DJ like him. Compelling people to “give (me) a signal,” rewinding tracks that demanded it and just getting people to hop about without giving a f*ck, the next act had some following to do, especially as they were fashionably late.


Kurupt Fm commanded the stage with gusto, opening their set with champagne sprays, inviting the heavens to open but you don’t honestly think that deterred crowds from enjoying the last act of an incredibly lark about day, do you? Combining ukg, dancehall and grime, the sportswear clad geezers had everyone skanking in the rain to the sound like So Solid Crew, well into the car park as some attempted to make their way home. Another festival highlight, those in the know of their BBC 3 credentials relished the set as much as those who had no experienced of the ‘get out the way’ MC’s and DJ’s.  


In 2017 I can see Strawberries & Creem setting their sights on a bigger venue space, adding more tents, along with bus shuttle services to accompany their environmentally friendly cycle access. With bigger things to come, I look forward to coming back to the sleepy city for more music and mayhem.