Photography Sanari Shaw
The Slumflower, whose real name is Chidera Eggerue, may have a babyface, but she is wise beyond her years. It’s rare to find a 23-year-old woman who is so unshakable in her conviction that she not only feels sure of herself and her decisions, but she can act as a crutch for other women her age. Described by Dazed as “this generation’s agony aunt”, The Slumflower’s author debut, What a Time to be Alone, has become this summer’s must-have book.
We meet in a cafe in South London, and I’m struck by how she walks in with such confidence as she sports an Adidas tracksuit. She has no makeup on other than vaseline on her eyelids, and laid, bronze hair. “I want to represent the multifaceted black woman. Sometimes you’ll see me with a huge afro and sometimes you will see me with a 24-inch silky wig,” she tells me. “I want to represent that being outspoken won’t stunt your success.” Throughout our conversation she traverses difficult topics like black masculinity and makes some points that some may disagree with, but never hesitates to answer difficult questions. She’s woke, but not preachy, and you find yourself hanging on to every word. “My current goal is, through this book, encouraging people to see themselves as a project as opposed to a dead-end,” she explains.
We then went on to talk books, boys, body image and how to truly comfortable in your own skin.
gal-dem: Why did you write What A Time to Be Alone?
The Slumflower: I wanted to provoke thought about solitude. We are sold romance and relationships as though they are the ultimate goal, but your own company with yourself is just as valuable. I was frustrated because angst is often portrayed as a teenage thing and once you get older you grow out of it but I found the older I got, the more unsettled I got with the way things are. Society pressures women, especially black women, to accept our conditioning but I’m constantly thinking about things until they make sense, or they make no sense.
How do we balance finding ourselves but also having a healthy relationship?
We tend to lean on people so much that finding yourself and relationship sound like a paradox but it isn’t. Both people must make a conscious effort to work on themselves, with their partner by their side encouraging them. You must see yourself as a complete person and cannot seek completion from your partner. Only when you learn how to silence your demons as opposed to looking for someone else to do it for you, will [you] find wholeness.
You talk about self-care a lot in the book, what is your self-care go-to?
I’m really big on skin and love the feeling of a clean moisturized face. I start with this amazing Kiehl’s cleanser, then I use an oil serum, then a moisturizer. It’s so satisfying and it keeps me away from my phone, which is the ultimate level of self-care. I put it on airplane mode and go to my mum’s room and I read a book. I’ll be so shocked at how much time as gone by, I look at my phone and I haven’t even missed anything.
You touch on friendship a lot in the book but one very important thing you speak about is the saviour complex, what causes this within people?
We tend to live vicariously through our friends especially in the context of fixing their problems. If you cannot fix your life, you have to fix something, and that tends to feel like enough. You find it’s not enough and resentment festers. We all are finding ways to run away from our feelings of not being enough. Some of us do it extravagantly and some of us do it quietly. It’s easier to find someone who adores you and respects you than it is to adore and respect yourself.
Publicly, could you be more empathic to black men?
In these conversations we must talk about power dynamics. Black men still still benefit off male privilege and hold more power than black women. I agree with black men having it tough, especially in the west, but as much as black men are broken, it’s black women’s responsibility to fix it so it comes back on us anyway. Yes black men deserve empathy, but black women deserve a break. Your girlfriend is not your therapist. If you need me, shout me, and I’m here to point you in the right direction and give you resources.
We all are finding ways to run away from our feelings of not being enough. It’s easier to find someone who adores you and respects you than it is to adore and respect yourself – The Slumflower
You discuss dealing with people’s perception of you in the book too – How do you personally manage to do that with such a large social media following?
I don’t live for the audience. I’m not the CEO of black people. If you don’t like what I have to say – mute or block me. Consume content elsewhere. I don’t even like to use the term ‘hater’. Most people are unhappy or genuinely want to teach me something. I’m also not here to be a brand for anybody. I will tell someone to suck their mum who needs to hear that and am happy empower as well. Pick-me’s are a whole other conversation and I do have issues with using the term ‘pick me’ because I wonder if I’m being self-righteous. I feel like they are resisting their own freedom to be aligned with the boys. What are you gaining? I’m here to emancipate you. I’m literally a sacrificial lamb here and you’re still mad at me. At what point do you stop knee jerking and start listening?
There are a lot of Igbo sayings in the book – What is your favourite?
When the rat follows the lizard out the rain it’s only the rat that gets wet. The message here is be weary of the influences that you let into your life. Be mindful of the choices that you make. Just because someone was able to get out of a situation doesn’t mean that you will. Be mindful of the life you choose to follow through other people. It’s very easy to get caught up with other people’s lifestyle and chaos.
What are your future goals?
I want to really dominate media through publishing and radio and podcasts. I’m currently working on a new podcast which is in its very early stages. It may take longer but it will be worth it.
What a Time to be Alone is out now.