AS EVER A busy week!. To the BBC for the merger of the Cultural Diversity Network and Creative Disabilities Network , ten to the GQ Awards where a very stunning looking Leona Lewis wowed the ballroom, before I headed to the 50th birthday party for clothes designer Roland Mouret.
Before all of that I was invited by OHTV to be part of their live debate show REAL TALK which is like Question Time but without a live audience in the studio-their viewers call in throughout the show. I had also featured I their line up of BLACK WOMEN IN MEDIA recently and whilst I am not visually what you expect to see when you talk about a black woman I am a woman of colour. I had mentioned this concern to the shows producers when first asked to be part of the line up and they assured me they considered me a black woman. My father’s side of the family and ancestry are all from Kenya and so I consider myself half African with African roots. A few online haters- funnily enough the same ones as usual- had a problem with this. I can see their point. But I also know that if in front of the KKK I would be seen as black as any other woman in the line up. I’ve shown more support to the ethnic community as a whole throughout my career and don’t ask for credit-but I wont justify my ethnicity to anyone that doesn’t know better It’s okay though; I do my job and let the haters do theirs. Haters have always loved me and I embrace them as they help me persevere against ignorance.
For OHTV’s REAL TALK show I was asked to be a part of the guest speakers as their theme that week was role models and I have very strong views on this subject. Show presenter Trish Adudu kept us all in line as we passionately debated back and fort.
My fellow panellists were American singing legend Kim Mazelle, 100 black men’s Michael Peters and 21-year-old Olympic 100m hopeful Tremayne Gilling.
I know that for many young people music stars and celebs are role models but I think that role models often start closer to home. If a young person see’s the local bad boy on the street running around with the flash car. Flash clothing, cute lady and wads of cash and the young person doesn’t have a parental figures attention and other options, clearly the bad boys lifestyle will be attractive and whilst the parents eye is off the ball, the bad boy swoops in and engages with the youth. Its not rocket science. If MTV Base and play station are babysitting your children because you’re too busy to encourage them to join a library or take advantage of the multitude of free activities that do exist in your local borough-then don’t be surprised when at the age of 6 your daughter writhing around dancing sexily and your son is desensitised to shooting, driving wildly and criminal activity which video games like grand theft auto encourage. Furthermore don’t imagine all youth that are bad are young black males. This is a media stereotype that mainstream press love to fixate upon. It’s a story as old as slavery where they are comfortable to keep black men in the box labelled ‘’sexual, exotic, violent, savage like stud’’. It’s the reason many press and media focus upon 50 Cent’s ‘’gangsta rap’’ side or describe an act like lethal b as a violent rapper as he has a hit song titled POW. Actually even an act like 50 does much philanthropic work but do the press ever want to talk about that? Hell no. I have a theory that media are afraid of articulate black people. I have proof to back this up. In all my years as an MTV reporter and producer, every time an act like Lauryn Hill or Mary J Bilge would appear for an interview, my colleagues would run to me concerned about their aggression or awkward behaviour.
There was never any aggression or awkward behaviour-these ladies were simply serious, articulate and wouldn’t put up with a journalist asking wishy-washy crap about their booty etc. Similarly acts like Akala that are smarter than most of us scare media to the bone. Many of them don’t know what to make of him and how to handle an intellectual, well-studied, positive black male so they’d rather avoid him. People talk about the fact that there aren’t any good young black male role models. What? Have you heard of actor, director and writer BAFTA AWARD WINNER Noel Clarke? How about Hollywood embraced UK actor, director, writer Aml Ameen? What about artist to Royal command for Prince Charles Phillip Butah?
Phillip hails from the areas of Forest Gate and Canning Town. At the age of 3 he started drawing. His teacher told his mum that he was a “gifted child” and Philip would help his class mates draw in class. A few years later when Philip was 15, for Prince Charles 50th birthday the PRINCES TRUST had a competition for young artists. Philips School teacher told him about the competition so Philip drew a self-portrait. After that he was invited to the palace for a reception and got to speak to the prince himself although he was (and still is) very shy so his mum did most of the talking LOL.
He continued to do art and Studied Fine Art it at Uni and Central St Martins. Years later and now in his late teens Philip took the bull by the horns and wrote a letter to prince Charles office asking if he could draw prince Charles. He explained to me that he likes drawing the people that have impacted his life. Can you believe there was no reply? For a very long time. At all. And then he heard back a year later!!!. The office called and gave him dates that he should make himself available for his 6 dates with royalty. So by royal request prince Charles sat for Philip between 2008-2009
Each session was 45 minutes to an hour long. Philip told me reminiscing about the usual protocol before coming into personal contact with the prince. Once cleared by security and inside his actual house the royal butler checks Philips bags and coats in before he enters the room. Philip calmly sets up his materials. The butler asks if he’d like a drink. Then you apparently wait. Prince Charles secretary briefs Philip. You must ‘’Call him “your Royal Highness” the first time you meet and then after that you call him “sir”’’ . Fascinating! At every first meeting you are required to bow/nod. Philip told me after that it was always casual and fun with ‘’the usual small talk. How are you? Etc. Then he sits. Then you sit. And we would talk throughout the session. About family. The country. When the session is done there’s a bit more small talk and then good bye’’. Philip told me he once asked Prince Charles if with all the thousands of people that he meets it all becomes a blur?. Charles replied “yes but some people do stand out” and Philip thought ‘’I hope I’m one of them!’’ . with all the portraits of prince Charles that Philips drawn, prince Charles has one in his collection and Philip has the rest. Philip added ‘’prince Charles has always taken an interest in my career and my studio situation’’.
As if that wasn’t enough great synergy, Philip also kept in touch with the organizers of the Princes trust art competition, which he entered at the age of 15 and their son who was a similar age to himself. Over the years Philip and their son stayed friends and promised to support each other in their big ambitious plans of making it big. That friend was to become chart topper Ed Sheeran. Which is why when Ed’s album which is out this week comes out-the image of Ed’s face that has been drawn is by…. you guessed it…Philip Butah! Apparently once when they were both hanging out together at Philips house he drew Ed and both agreed if Ed ever got famous then Philip would do his album cover.
Talk about making your own luck! Philip told me ‘’Ed’s always been focused and ambitious’. Ed used to say to Philip “Philip Butah plus Ed Sheeran equals music plus art. ”
Philips enjoyed his time making Ed’s album cover so much he wants to stay connected to the music scene although he also has a lot of private clients and footballers. It takes 3 days averagely for a Philip Butah portrait. Priced from 1500 upwards which pays for his labour, cost of materials, travelling and framing. This Philip tells me has been dream job. He would also love to draw a lot of the grime acts as they’re so interesting. Especially Wiley and Tinie Tempah. Because he reveals to me ‘’Mostly due to what they’ve accomplished and what they mean to me…I’d love to have a Grime artists exhibition’’. I have no doubt that he will. Follow your dreams son. Onwards and upwards!