My first piece of 2020 is out now: ‘It’s time to overhaul homogeneous company culture in the creative industry – and here’s how’
The piece was commissioned by It’s Nice That to the co-founders of the trailblazing POCC network, who then asked me to write it on behalf of our collective.
My deadline coincided with the General Election, and my editor sent me this note when she received the first draft:
“This piece was the best thing to come back to, thank you so much. I loved reading it, it reads so powerfully while being thoughtful too. I feel very honoured that we will be publishing this piece.” Aww, thanks Ms Editor.
In 2019, I finally found platforms which are happy to pay me for writing and speaking about the topics that mean the most to me: sexuality, representation, diversity and inclusion.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself – I get to deliver the most wonderfully comprehensive sex ed workshop in schools around the country, and chat about intimacy and pleasure for the paying public at events.
I’m so lucky, right.
But what most people don’t know… is that I lost my job at a big advertising agency when they announced a round of redundancies in early 2019. And that this news came only a couple of months after I had experienced a work-related nervous breakdown, was signed off sick for a short while and returned back to my desk pumped full of anti-anxiety medication.
Although my work situation was far less than ideal, my salary for that role was pretty decent, which meant that I could self-fund the entire Kayleigh Daniels Dated project (and pay all contributors in-line with professional rates). I’d also worked hard on producing a video to front a crowdfunding campaign to help with some of the project costs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to propel us to reach our target. So, losing my regular pay packet was a real blow as I’d intended to complete Season 1 in mid-2019 and begin thinking big.
With dwindling capital, I had to hold off on publishing fresh content and try to grow our audience organically. I launched the monthly email newsletter in May and at the time of writing this we’re now just about to hit the 500 subscribers mark, which is great (Sign-up here). We’ve also had almost 50,000 visitors to the site from 133 different countries
Of course, having time out of the regular 9–5 grind meant that I could explore other creative avenues. I was able to spend days and days showing off in front of the cameras for an upcoming documentary, without worrying about another, more important, ‘real’ job.
“Then, unexpectedly, my primary lover binned me.”
I was also able to start my shadowing and training sessions with the Sexual Health Education Facilitators at Sexplain, immediately after I received an invitation to join the team. And I could volunteer a fair amount of time for grassroots community interest group Decolonising Contraception. I would never have guessed just how affirming it is to know that the somewhat unorthodox ways in which I express my sexuality can be harnessed for such positivity.
If you’re a PSHE teacher or a parent who’d like better sex ed for your kids, get in touch with the Sexplain directors. We’re all DBS-checked and approved to be around children and vulnerable people of all ages. And if you’re a healthcare professional who’d like some insight into some of the reasons for the huge sexual and reproductive health disparities experienced by Black and People of Colour in the UK, get in touch with our network to book a workshop.
So, there I was with all this time on my hands. Summer in the city was hot and sticky, but merriment was made larking around in the park with other ‘funemployed’ peeps (and their dogs) during the day – which then turned into late-night soirées – without ever having to do any clock-watching.
Then, unexpectedly, my primary lover binned me.
In the immediate aftermath, I made many, many questionable choices and my life become a mirror-image of some of the more sordid aspects of Kayleigh’s fictional world. First came the Hot Academic, then the Retired Academic. DILF #1 (separated), DILF #2 (divorced). Generic Bar Guy #1, Generic Bar Guy #2, Generic Bar Guy #3 and his pal… at the same time…
But, in my line of work, these kinds of experiences have their uses. Audio erotica start-up Dipsea contacted me to ask if I’d like to write a story for them. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable few days smashing out ‘Close Shave’, which sees my protagonist Jazz seduce her barber while getting her hair expertly razored. You can listen to the full nine-minute story – excellently rendered by professional VO actors with fully immersive sound production – via the Dipsea app. Link here: dipsea.app.link/p5NWn7IEZY
The weeks went by. I pitched some more of my writing ideas to publications I’d previously felt intimidated by. And got commissioned to write on FGM, pornography and sexuality for the likes of the Independent, Refinery29 and VICE.
Generic Bar Guy #3 and his pal… at the same time…
I finally landed a long-term freelance role, after having to move back in with my parents for a few weeks. The lease was up on my previous house and the lack of a regular job meant I couldn’t sign a contract on anywhere new yet. Luckily, when it came to moving back to London, I found myself a spot in one of the creative warehouse districts and settled in pretty quickly.
Absolute rollercoaster of a year.
But I really couldn’t have made it through unscathed without supportive friends, understanding family and those editors who gave me a chance – you all know who you are.
Do check out all my recent work. Top tip for the uninitiated – ease yourselves in via my journalism archive – almazohene.com/journalism – then have a poke around. Content Warning, the podcast episodes and audio story are definitely NSFW (headphones advised).
Commission and/or book me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Support Kayleigh Daniels Dated: www.paypal.com/kayleighddated
Here’s to 2020