Young people are changing the world by challenging stereotypes, changing the status quo and reframing how we identify. This month's guest blog is a powerful article from a young graduate who shares her narrative around individuality and identity.
Gen Z are changing the world and brands need to keep up with the change or risk being left behind. In Uchenna's story, she says she wishes: “to draw more attention to / build an authentic narrative of a black voice, which we need to see more in fiction.”
Our identity is defined through our individuality. We should embrace our uniqueness - it's what draws people in and makes them want to learn more about us. And by doing so, we're breaking down stereotypes and barriers.
There are 4 main things which represent me:
1. My hair
Solange sings “Don’t touch my hair” - this resonates with me and here's why...
My natural hair is a thick, kinky, coily mass of afro. If you know me, then you know my hair is usually in braids; so when people see me with my natural hair, there are a load of comments such as: 'Wow, that looks cool!', 'Is that your real hair?' and 'It looks so soft!'.
These all lead to the dreaded question: 'Can I touch it?'
The problem isn't the question, it’s when people touch before I've even had a chance to answer. There have been times during secondary school when I have had my natural hair out and during one French class I felt something in my hair. As I reached out and felt my puff, I realised the girl behind me had put a pencil in it. She continued to put pencils/pens in my hair even though I told her to stop.
Back then, I was even quieter than I am now. So, when I was telling her to stop, it wasn’t a firm no - and I laughed it off. Looking back, I wish I was more confident in standing up for myself and more vocal about things that effected my.
My hair is part of my pride and shapes my identity. My different styles of hair and range of colours used is a way of expression and love for being unique and different. Growing up in a predominantly Asian area didn’t make me cower, but instead made me more inclined to embrace my individuality.
2. My name
My name is Uchenna. The correct pronunciation being oo-chenn-a. However, when someone asks me what name is I pronounce it as u-chenn-a. Now I'm older and more aware of the things in the world, I understand that I do this for the benefit of the person who asks, so that they don’t struggle to say my name correctly.
Nowadays I introduce myself with my nickname: Uchay. The only times I do pronounce it right is when a fellow Nigerian/African asks, as I know they would say it correctly and recognise the name.
This is a habit I’m learning to stop, because even though it’s a minor difference in pronunciation, the name holds great meaning. Uchenna means God’s Will, and mispronouncing it in a way deflects from that.
3. My personality
There is the ongoing stereotype of black women being loud and aggressive. Yes, we can be lively and energetic, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But, if I’m talking about myself then it’s the total opposite. I'm an introvert. I’ve always been quiet and shy but as I’ve grown older (especially during sixth form and this first year of uni), my confidence has grown and I have become more comfortable within social settings.
Some say: 'you’re so quiet for a black girl'. These sort of views annoy me as it shouldn’t be surprising. I want to be viewed as a human, not as a racial stereotype. I have asked friends what they would describe me as. One said I am 'a goth with colour', the other said I am 'an alien spy who is assimilating with the human race'.
4. My race
I haven’t experienced much racial discrimination in my life. But one experience does stand out - I was very young, in primary school, and one girl said she didn’t want to be my friend because I was black. It upset me a little, but I didn’t let it affect me.
I am proud of my blackness, which is rich with culture/tradition and I portray it through my dress sense and mannerisms.
All these experiences have helped me to grow and mould my character. I would never compromise my morals or beliefs for anyone’s satisfaction because without difference there would never be a chance to learn.
- We love sharing the stories from our young panel members. Uchenna is a English with Creative Writing graduate (currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing and the Writing Industries). This is the latest article in our guest blog series written by members of our OpinionPanel Community. In the series you can hear Gen Z's stories, opinions and experiences written in their own words and on the topics that matter most to them.
eBook: Unlikely Couplings
Enjoyed this blog? Check out our eBook: Unlikely Couplings: Brand Collaborations that Gen Z Love, which has more details about how young people identify and why brand partnerships offer opportunities to connect with their different forms of expression.
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