Chidera Eggerue is a 23-year-old writer from Peckham.
I was so keen to read her new book (it’s a collection of life advice called What a Time to Be Alone) that when I accidentally got it delivered to the wrong country, instead of waiting to be back in a more convenient area code, I just bought another one.
The cover design includes pink and orange side by side so we were off to a good start. The book (divided into three sections: You, Them and Us) is sprinkled with proverbs in bold graphic type, and the Londoner’s own illustrations.
She’s wise, wry and seems to have mastered the tricky art of being an intellectual-next door.
Here are some important things to love about Chidera Eggerue:
1) She lives the Independent Woman dream (and believes you can too)
What a Time to Be Alone is a bestseller for a reason.
The whole book champions the notion it’s from within, not without, that women can find strength to be miraculous. Chidera discusses toxic friendships, explains how to move on when the internet exists and encourages her readers to go for a solo Nando’s.
Crushing the idea that being alone is a form of failure, the book warns of the risks of relying too heavily on the charms and company of others rather than celebrating our own.
She added to her self-love CV by hosting a #BlockHimParty last Autumn where women got their nails done, drank Malibu, danced to No Scrubs and – crucially – ditched unavailable chaps from their social media accounts.
2) She’s a powerful black voice
Chidera Eggerue studied fashion and has said her blog, The Slumflower, began because what she saw online reflected a lifestyle she couldn’t relate to.
The sunset orange pages of What a Time to Be Alone are stamped with Igbo Nigerian phrases in hot pink capslock. They’re the kind of lessons Chidera’s mum would use while she was growing up.
From the chicken that doesn’t wee, to the coffin merchant, the eavesdropping basket and John’s new haircut, the book’s metaphors will speak to British women whose childhood scrapes were met with similar proverbs and give food for thought to those whose weren’t.
Chidera speaks frankly to her white readers about their privilege, and as I moved through the book it clicked that the bits I couldn’t relate to might be down to that very advantage. Is having a foghorn voice and poor self-awareness really the reason I’m rarely talked over in a crowd, or does my race play a sneaky role I’d never even noticed?
Well, yes. But I’m here for any book that elbows me sharply when I start to forget.
Apart from nailing some vital life lessons using folkloric metaphors (the rat that followed the lizard out into the rain is pure poetry) the Nigerian thread throughout the book brings it life and warmth.
3) She reminds us hair loss doesn’t matter and saggy boobs do.
One of The Slumflower’s most important feats of activism has been her hashtag: #SAGGYBOOBSMATTER.
With the pendulous glory of a low-hanging boob as its emblem, Chidera’s Saggy Boob movement highlights the million beautiful body types not invited to star in Calvin Klein campaigns, and – vitally – promotes the message that our physical form should take second place to our vibes and achievements.
Quite honestly, if you fancy some shiny new taters and have enough cash, live your truth and get some. I will applaud you and do some lingering stares at your buoyancy.
But it’s always interesting to wonder what kind of peace we would find – and how much money we could save – if we all felt a bit better about the crooked, asymmetrical and extremely bargainous body parts Richard Dawkins blessed us with.
Chidera has also filmed a documentary for CBBC’s Newsbeat about her traction alopecia called ‘Too Young to go Bald’ in which she explores hair loss in young adults.
Among interviews with YouTubers and rappers who’ve dealt with thinning hair, she traces her own journey; from learning her patchiness was permanent, to the liberation of setting her natual hair free to breathe.
Another string to Chidera’s body-image bow is her blog post about how a ‘Revenge Body’ hands the binoculars to external judges rather than truly treating the self.
With reminders that our boobs, hair and body shape aren’t our primary sources of value, Slumflower’s message on self image is one worth repeating in the mirror.
However show-stopping your wig and whatever camels and gold you spend on lip-fillers, do it for you. As she says in the book: ‘You are not here for anybody’s consumption or amusement.’
4) She’s the right kind of influencer
It’s uplifting to know that someone so insightful is out there having an impact in cyberspace.
It’s rare to see a 23-year-old ride the Instagram tidal wave of skinny teas, activated charcoal and hair-growth gummies like Patrick Swayze. But she’s doing it. Gimmick- and promo-free.
If I’m being completely honest, WATTBA didn’t quite live up to my wildest dreams.
I think I’d secretly been hoping for an autobiography, or at least longer, more detailed chapters, but engaging topics are dealt with lightning-quick.
Whole pages are set aside for bold statements like ‘Never give anyone a second chance to violate you’ and ‘Your victim mentality is making you stagnant’ which felt like the rougher edge of tough love. A tiny misprint or two made me cross with the publishers.
BUT! Without a doubt and with every zebra-zig-zagged page turned, I got the message loud and clear: Chidera Eggerue, also known as The Slumflower, has her shit together on a level I could only ever pretend to have achieved (unconvincingly) if I tried a lot harder on Instagram.
She’s taking back what’s hers: the right to be black and excellent, with her looks a mere side note.