Musings on Monday – The Cover

Dear readers,

I hope you have had enough time to digest the Gender Issue and enjoyed reading about each ComplexdWoman featured. I am so overcome by the response we’ve had so far, I’ve been grinning harder than my cheeks can handle. Mentioned briefly in my Editor’s Letter, I am extremely excited about my Editor’s Diary and thrilled to be writing my first post.  So here goes…

The Making of a Good Cover

I remember the day we received our first piece of angry reader mail, which read, ‘That cover is awful I expected better from ComplexdWoman magazine!’. That email was the turning point for our cover stories because what that angry reader expected was a retouched hyper-colour fashion/beauty shot like every other magazine. ComplexdWoman isn’t every other magazine so we needed to make that clear. The discovery of the ComplexdWoman cover made its début in the form of an explosion of ginger hair and freckles featuring the breathtaking Tarren Johnson in the Love Thy Woman issue . Our cover ethos became ‘raw and real’, words uttered from our very own cover girl Tarren. And, that’s what inspires us the women we feature.

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Our current cover girl Skype managed to inspire a whole issue. We created her cover story images in tribute to her African roots. We wanted to draw out a sense of nostalgia in her, which in turn unleashed an honest and open interview. Body Artists Stephanie and Krystal were responsible for the beautiful markings on Skye’s collar. Here is a snippet of the conversation I had with Stephanie about her art form.

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Me: It was great working with you on the cover story images. Watching you apply art to Skye’s body with such concentration and passion was fascinating to watch. You pay so much attention to detail, what inspired you to become a body artist?

Stephanie: Well, it all started as a hobby, just something I enjoyed doing on myself. I used to paint tattoos, tribal dots and various designs on my face and body and I received such an overwhelming response that I decided to pursue it professionally. I looked into what the makeup/ body industry lacked and started brainstorming ways I could offer something different. I found my inspiration in the wonders of the world and recently launched iindigo world offering a range of creative services.

“iindigo world’s is a team of young women, from different artistic backgrounds and cultures that share the same ethos. We believe life is magnificent and beauty is individual. We promote self-expression and creativity and steer away from conventionalism”

Me: What parts of the world do you get inspiration from?

Stephanie: So many parts of the world inspire my work, which is why I decided to split it into four categories that represent the iindigo brand. The first is iindigo nature, which draws inspiration from trees, plants and animals. The second is iindigo roots where all the work I do is inspired by culture and heritage, ranging from African tribal work to Asian pattern work. Then, there is iindigo allure, where the individual I am applying the art on inspires me. Lastly, there is iindigo fantasy, which embodies all my imaginations, dreams and ideas. With this theme I can be more theatrical, mythical and colourful.

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Me: Sounds interesting! You put a lot of thought into it. Now I can see why the process takes so long. How did you train your mind to have the patience to do this for hours?

Stephanie: Yes! Freehand work can take a minimum of two hours. If I’m doing photo-shoots or events I tend to use stencils that I design beforehand. This helps speed up the process and allows me to have an extra pair of hands while I do the freehand work.

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Me: I always say it’s never a chore if you love what you do.

Stephanie: I love everything about what I do! From the planning and prepping to being in my creative zone and applying the art. My favourite part is watching my canvas come to life. When the body art is on people almost transform. It’s such a big confidence booster and it has a feel good factor that makes people smile. If you can make someone smile in a day, then you have achieved something. In my line of work I do that a lot and that’s what I love the most!

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Photographs by Frederique Rapier 

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Portrait by Brian Rolfe 

Name:  Debbie van der Putten
Age: 27
Occupation: Model
Place of birth: Helmond, The Netherlands
Current residence: Helmond and London

I grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands called Helmond. I had a lovely childhood and to this day I am very close with my parents and sisters. Even though my sisters live a very different life to me – I can’t imagine life without them. I love to look after my sister’s kids. Spending time with friends and family is so valuable to me so I never let work and travel get in the way of quality time. Without my family I wouldn’t be who I am today so I try to find the balance between both worlds. In fact, we just enjoyed some sisterly time in New York and Vegas.


My life completely changed at the age of 19. My friends and I were travelling to Spain when our coach crashed in the South of France. Two people were killed and several badly injured. I lost my right arm in the crash, but I don’t look at it as a loss because I gained so much from that tragic accident. Life is what you make it and for me every day is a gift. Thanks to my disability I have had the chance to travel the world, work for amazing non-profit organisations and campaigns that inspire people.

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Portrait by Brian Rolfe

Like everything career there are pros and cons. A handful of companies see disabled models as professional models so it can be severely underpaid. There is this mentality that it’s OK to book disabled models for free because they are doing the disabled community a favor. To be frank, it angers me because I have bills to pay. I take what I do very seriously and would like to do it full-time.


I have been represented by specialist agencies like Models of Diversity because mainstream agencies still don’t think that models with a disability can sell to their clients. They give reasons like ‘we don’t want to give false hope’ and many more. I always wonder how they can justify their reason if they have never tried. I’m not the only one! There are many more beautiful models like Shaholly Ayers from Hawaii who get turned down all the time. But we refuse to give up!


I hope that soon we can see a better representation of society in advertising and popular consumer magazines and disable models signed to agencies that work with popular brands. Women come in all shapes and sizes. I believe beauty is in the depths of a woman’s eyes. The happiness that comes from within is what makes us alluring.

 Marc Sakro

Portrait by Marc Sakro 

I am a ComplexdWoman because my determination to make a change and the fact I turned my biggest loss (my arm), into my biggest win!


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The last couple of weeks have been exciting! To celebrate the departure of a dear friend who is moving to the tropics, I set myself the challenge of finding an authentic Caribbean atmosphere to host an island themed leaving party. With two options ticking the menu box, but nowhere near atmospheric, I decided to pop down to the launch party of Cottons Rhum Shack at Boxpark in Shoreditch, London to see if it was a potential hotspot.

Cottons – a chain of Caribbean restaurants around London are much milder than what I was met with on a miserably wet day in London. As soon as I found the little passage way that led to an open plan bar complete with thatched cabana’s named after islands, a Hawaiian garland was slung around my neck and I was invited to sample some of the 250 varieties of rum on offer.

The bar designed to emulate a humble wooden rum shack on a remote Caribbean beach was fully stocked. Sorrel Sling and Jamaican Mule,  familiar bevarages found across the West Indies were on offer, but I foolishly opted for the Killer Duppy (forgive an innocent soul seduced by the Caribbean colours in the drink). Before I had time to realise my legs gave way, they were stolen by a soca train led by Samba dancers donning wire bras and sequenced thongs, stomping to the beat of the steel pan and drum. I travelled from Trinidad and Tobago carnival to Rio de Janeiro without leaving the container roof of London’s Boxpark! Festive music was blazing, moreish Caribbean canapés circulating and the limbo pole was set up for the brave backs of those who dared to give it a go.

On my second visit I returned for dinner and tucked into a crispy crabmeat and scallop spring roll with a plum and papaya sauce for an island twist. For my main I chose the curried mutton, pressured cooked just right so it slid off the bone, served with rice ‘n’ peas decorated with Rasta colours. I couldn’t get enough of the very sweet tasting coleslaw and fried plantain that came as a side. The portions are definitely worth the money! The chef’s don’t scrimp on the starters so your left with no room and no need for dessert.

Everything about Cottons Rhum Shack is authentic and that includes the management. Bar manager Andre Laville keeps on top of everything, but does so with a very relaxed demeanor, the waiter steals a whine with you when he hears his favourite soca tune (that would happen in the Caribbean), the Chef’s hailing from Trinidad and Dominica cook traditionally so the food taste just like ‘mamas’ home cooking.

Owner of Cottons, Chris Singham said, ‘We are hoping to give Londoners a taste of what it’s like to sip a cool drink as the sun sets over the beach hut and the island party begins.’

Manager Andre who has worked for Cottons for five years and travels extensively throughout the Caribbean said the vibe was extremely important. ‘The look and feel of Cottons Boxpark was a collaboration between the designers, Chris and me. We paid attention to detail down to considering what pictures went on the wall to simple props and fixtures like displaying Caribbean food brands and seasoning on shelves.  It was important for people to come in and feel welcomed, which is why the actual bar was designed to look like a rum shack on a beach in the Caribbean and the restaurant like the inside of your grannies kitchen’. 

Cottons Rhum Shack had the perfect island formula for our smashing Caribbean fancy dress party and it’s the best place to bid farewell island style!

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The Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea will officially open to the public tomorrow. Celebrating 100 years of horticulture, visitors can expect to be wowed by the attention to detail of each exhibitor and weird and wonderful flora and fauna from around the world. We don’t want to give too much away yet, so in the meantime indulge in the suavely dressed flower loving fashionista’s and celebs spotted at the press day this morning.

Style Advisor and Presenter Trinny 

British Actress Sophie Okonedo

Absolutely Fabulous Actress Joanna Lumley

Academy Award Winning Actress Dame Helen Mirren

Photographed by Frederique Rapier 


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It’s the last week to see the Billie Holiday Story at the Charing Cross Theatre, a personal and musical biography of Billie Holiday’s life written and performed by British actress Nina Kristofferson.

A live band directed by Allan Rogers opened the one-woman show to an intimate crowd anticipating the appearance of Billie Holiday. In a charming costume that accentuated her womanly silhouette, Nina entered in darkness and found her cue under a spotlight, focused on her lips. As she sang the opening song I instantly noticed how she enunciated each word and pursed her lips at the end of each note. This is an actress who has studied Billie Holiday, her every move, her sense of style and her inner pain to deliver an emotional roller coaster of a performance.

One minute I was swaying and bobbing my head, the next saddened by scenes of destructive drug abuse and stories of prostitution and rape. I learnt a lot about Billie holiday during her monologues and admittedly I was so caught up in the late singers mesmerising voice, I’ve never delved into her turbulent past.

The audience remained inhibited for most of the performance even when the band played a foot-tapping instrumental. Nina managed to bring them to life when she walked through the isles and danced with a few male audience members. One man in particular either connected on a deeper level with Billie Holiday’s story or drank too much champagne. Whichever one it was, he made a right nuisance of himself by answering rhetorical questions and interrupting emotive monologues. When asked to leave, it resulted in punches being thrown. A very shocking experience for the modest British theatre goer, the auditorium snarled and booed at his disregard of theatre etiquette. But, Nina remained in character throughout the saga, returning the audience’s attention back to her with a convincing line - ‘Now that’s what it was like for me some nights’, she confessed unfazed by the incident. A loud applause followed and awakened an audience that was very unresponsive to start, and who were more willing to show their appreciation for Nina’s ability to command a stage.

I’m sure for Billie Holiday and Nina this is all in a night’s work and no two nights are ever the same. I caught up with Nina at the end of the performance to ask her how she prepared for her role, as Billie Holiday and here’s is what she had to say.

‘I love Jazz music and I do a lot of Jazz concerts performing songs from the likes of Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald … the list goes on. I’ve always sung songs by these women, but with Billie Holiday, it’s completely different, she was a woman who sang behind the beat, she has a drawl, she plays with the music in different ways expressing profound emotion. That’s what I wanted to pay tribute too while taking the audience on her journey’

 The Billie Holiday Story ends on Saturday 25th May. Buy tickets here

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