For World Teachers’ Day, Complexd Woman presents aspiring British/Punjabi teacher Bipan Lally, pursuing her teaching credentials in California.

Name: Bipan Lally
Age: 26
Place of birth: Luton, United Kingdom
Current residence: Davis, California, USA 

Although I’m a proud British woman, I am also a proud Punjabi, Indian. I grew up in Luton during a time when gangs, drugs and crime were on the rise. Schools in the area weren’t that great, but my parents pushed us to succeed. During the summer holidays, my brothers and I were not allowed to turn on the TV until we had written a full A4 page of our own story. My dad would ensure it was written in our best handwriting and my mum would make us go to the public library and pick out two books a week. At the time it was hard to appreciate the value of what they were trying to teach us. Both of my parents were born and raised in India, until they moved to the UK in the late 70s. They didn’t speak English back then and they never finished school, ‘what could they possible teach us’, I used to think. Looking back, words can’t describe how grateful I am.

I am currently studying for my teaching credential and joint masters at the University of California Davis. As a part of my placement for my masters, I am teaching at Pioneer High School, Woodland California. The school is underachieving and has been for many years, but I chose it because I want to make a difference in the lives of young people studying there. I teach Chemistry and Biology and I love what I do. My students are like my kids and nothing feels better than seeing the look of hope on their faces every day.

I’ve always wanted to travel to the USA for my masters because I knew I’d learn something new. I stayed in London for my undergraduate degree and although I loved every minute of it, I needed a change. The culture in the USA is more family orientated and religious to some extent. In the area I live people are extremely kind – almost to the point where you question their motives before realising that being nice is normal. The way of life in California is much more mellow and easy-going and I feel people have the ‘work-to-live’ mentality compared to ‘live-to-work’ ethic in the UK.

My style is conservative by day and casual by night. My simple and conventional style is a message to my students that what you wear today will be useless tomorrow, but what you learned and achieved will be priceless. That’s not to say you can’t dress fashionably. Kids are extremely perceptive, if you look like you just rolled out of bed their motivation disintegrates.  My philosophy in the classroom is to teach much more than the curriculum. I think it’s my role as a teacher to show my students how to behave professionally in all aspects of their life by being professional in the classroom.

One of my best friends recently made a joke about my incurable travel bug. I love to experience new cultures and see more than just the beaches and tourist hot spots. I need to live, breathe and be immersed in the country’s culture. To be able to be afforded the freedom to travel worldwide and not take advantage of it saddens me, especially when considering how beautiful our world is.

I love that as a woman we were created to carry the world, giving birth to its inhabitants. The best piece of advice I can give to another woman is never let ‘cultural norms’ or self doubt get in the way of fulfilling your dreams. Use your head to make career decisions your heart to love and your soul for family. Travel and love as often as you can. We learn the most about ourselves when we’re plunged into new beginnings and even moments of despair. I’m looking forward to telling my children and grandchildren all my wonderful travel stories and that even as a woman there is no limits.

I am a Complexd woman because during my struggles and fall backs I’ve never given up. I became ill with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 13 and suffered horrendously for many years, but I never let it define me. I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for 4 years after graduating so I can be where I am today. When the tunnel looks gloomy somewhere a soft light is shining. As much as I wanted to give up from exhaustion I kept on going.

Follow Bipan @bipanlally

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I am delighted to introduce our guest blogger Sophie Rae. Complexd Woman Sophie was featured in the 2nd Anniversary issue (page 50-55). Here, she writes about how her career as a food writer/stylist blossomed and gives us her top three restaurant recommendations to trail for London Restaurant Festival, which kicked off yesterday.  


By Sophie Rae


I’d like to think that over the years, my tastes have refined, my palette matured and all in all my stomach understands the appropriate portion that a lady should eat. Well, I can vouch for everything but the latter.

Allow me to explain. I eat for my job. Not in a ‘I can’t stop stress munching my way through a pack of cheesy Doritos’ kind of eating; I HAVE to eat for my job. As a recipe tester and food writer, it’s the only way.

About 2 years ago, I found myself in London with no job, no money and no plan. Cue stress. So I began to cook. Cue muffintops. And whilst eating my way into an oblivious culinary cocoon, my career was inadvertently blossoming. One tedious evening, as I lamented next to our oven pining for a raspberry soufflé to rise faster, I decided what I wanted to do for a living. ‘Install ovens’ I hear you cry? Well not exactly.

Fast forward 2 years later, imagine some tears, a lot of grit, hard work and the occasional sprinkle of just plain luck and you have me. As a freelancer, I flit my way through the publishing world with all the grace of a hippo to write, cook and talk about food. Seems ridiculous really doesn’t it? But there it is. I eat for a living.

I test recipes for national editorials, twice, sometimes three times until they’re perfect, so that readers simply can’t complain if their dinner party was a complete shambles, because (and allow me to be modest here) the food will not have been the problem.

If you’re feeding a lot of guests, try the ‘one pot wonder’. Take chicken thighs, diced chorizo, peppers, courgettes, red onions, garlic; drizzle in oil and throw everything in a roasting pan. Roast for an hour. Serve with rocket salad and a mountain of crusty bread to mop up the spicy paprika juices. An all round favourite and most importantly so simple and stress free, because if the host is flapping around the kitchen, the guests will too. And unless you’re all Michelin star chefs, too many cooks in a kitchen, ends in tears. Or worse, a fire.

It seems that my love affair with food had been gently simmering through my adolescence, bubbling away ever so quietly until it knew it could be served. In hindsight, it should have been obvious. My school lunch box was always filled with random savoury experiments (brie and grape cracker anyone?) and I never did ever cotton on to the whole McDonald’s craze through my teenage years (it’s just not a burger unless it has 80% meat content). So perhaps in university when student loans pinged into our bank accounts and I’d rather visit the artisan deli instead of the pub, I really should have paid more attention. Or the look of childish glee on my face, every time mum served us spaghetti bolognese, which to this day is still my favourite meal. My tip? Get good quality mince, cook it a day in advance for the flavours to deepen and if your mouth doesn’t resemble smeared red lipstick then you simply haven’t eaten it properly. This is not date food, this is home comforts; and at home, we allow ourselves to slurp.

I’m hardly what you call a domestic goddess; laundry gets left to the last minute, I have only a quaint familiarity with our hoover and from time to time the dishwasher leaves a distinct whiff, informing me that I’ve been overusing the garlic again. Yet I think in some way, as long as you can feed yourself and loved ones a variety of vibrant, healthy meals, filled with fresh and tasty flavours with, of course, the odd devilishly naughty treat thrown in for good sugar measure, you’re already winning the battle of the ready meals. With all the fantastic produce on our doorstep, there really is no excuse for bad food anymore.

Taking a masterclass with British celebrity chef and restauranteur Marco Pierre White 

However if the idea of cooking is still too much to bear, then your in luck because from the 1st-15th October, this glorious city plays host to London Restaurant Festival. In a spectacular celebration of eating out, a plethora of eateries are serving tantalizing menus, to get people’s taste buds tingling again and I have a fair few favourites.

  • Head to Sherlocks Bar & Grill in the Park Plaza for the most succulent of charred chicken. (108 Baker Street, W1U 6LJ)

  • Try the Oxo Tower for it’s elegant brasserie with breathtaking views of the city and a formidable wine list with over 800 bottles to chose from across the globe. (Southbank, SE1 9PH)

  • Because we Brits can’t pass by a good curry, book a table at the sought after Michelin Star Tamarind in Mayfair, for it’s fragrant aromas, sugar and spice and all things nice. Be warned, the rose petal martinis are highly addictive. (20 Queen Street, W1J 5PR)

Ranging from £10pp to £40pp set menus, it’s a wonderful fortnight offering the chance to dine at the most exclusive of restaurants for a fraction of the normal price. So get eating!

Follow Sophie @muffintops88

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October is the month to increase awareness about Breast Cancer and according to statistics published by the Breast Cancer Care organization, this October around 4,000 people will receive the devastating news they have breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death for women and nearly 12,000 people die from invasive breast cancer in the UK every year. These unsettling statistics are published each year and although there are campaigns and messages urging women to self-check, there is still a sense of immortality among many young women.

When I came across a series of topless portraits of women in recovery, I knew it would be the strongest visual message to ‘raise awareness and inspire action’. New Zealand based photographer Damien Nikora’s aim was to produce emotive portraits that would support women living with breast cancer and inspire their partners, families and friends.

Violet Lawrence and her husband who are featured in the portrait above with photographer Damien Nikora and his wife, Whakarongotai, and their children, Nazareth and Opal at the Portraits of Strength Exhibition Opening.

As one woman photographed by Damien puts it, ‘I am not an exhibitionist by nature, but breast cancer is regrettably so common now, I think it’s important to cross that last frontier’.

View more portraits here

Read the full interview in Complexd on page 70-75 here 

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Endangered Bodies is a global campaign that challenges the culture that teaches women to hate their bodies. Complexd attended the launch of the Endangered Species Summit held in London last year, while the body positive message was also being spread in New York, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Melbourne.

Female led charities, non-profit organisations, specialist and governmental representatives were invited to discuss their individual concerns. But the interview that really made me sit up and listen and eventually led to a feature in the magazine was that of writer, editor and activist Sharon Haywood.

It’s one of those speeches that really awakens your concerns about what’s going on in other parts of the world. Watch the full speech filmed by documentary filmmaker Elena Rossini.

Read the full article on page 44-47 here

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I never get tired of celebrating the goals set and achieved by women featured in Complexd magazine. In our the Beauty + Body issue last year we featured our first live interview coined ‘Complexd Couch’ with Natasha Devon from Body Gossip.  Filmed at home on her couch, she gave an honest and open interview about her experiences with her body, overcoming Bulimia and learning to love her curves. (Watch video here)

 buy book here

Body Gossip is a campaign, which allows people to share and explore their issues about body image. I was pleased to hear from Natasha that Body Gossip recently launched their first paperback book, featuring 300 body image stories written by people of all ages, races, shapes and sizes across the UK.

I love these T-shirts worn at their book launch earlier this month and I can’t wait to read the intimate stories of people brave enough to share their thoughts about their bodies.

You can also take part and share your thoughts, opinions and stories relating to body image on their website

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