Women of Style & Substance: Saskia Bewley

Feature image: Saskia, captured by yours truly on the iconic steps of the Palais des Festivals, home to the Cannes Film Festival

 

We first met back in the autumn of 2010 and our years of friendship since have been so rich in discovery.

A commonality in both our lives is that we are ethnically mixed and it has allowed us to share so many conversations about the beauty, frustration and issues of identity (many of which come from external sources) that are part of the territory in embodying the hilarious and ambiguous tick-box on the form marked”mixed other”. This has taken formal contexts e.g. being interviewed on mixed race identity as part of her Masters in Intercultural Communication for Business and the Professions (yes she’s a modest genius) and attempting to give insight into diversity within the fashion industry for her thesis based around Indian Vogue, to wine-fuelled heart-to-hearts on my bedroom floor.

 

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Plum foolin’ in Cannes

 

Saskia is insanely intelligent, stoically perceptive and profoundly gifted at providing the right word at the right time. She is one of those rare people who speaks directly to your soul (even across continents via Skype) and has delivered me moments of profundity and as she would say, great synchronicity (those connecting the dots, everything interconnects on so many levels ones). Over the years we have somehow developed an unspoken tradition of gifting each other with the words of great men and women in the form of poetry, books and the occasional handwritten quote. Our conversations and shared love of literature always leave me thinking in new ways, challenged and motivated to act accordingly. This interview was no exception!

 

SS: What did you last Google? 

SB: Hand in Hand for Syria’s Aleppo Emergency appeal: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/AleppoAppeal [Ed note: Please do donate to this worthy cause if you can, it is often difficult to know if you are investing your money in the right places or organisations, but you can rest assured that this appeal provides direct aid where it is needed].

 

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.

[…]

Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

~ Maya Angelou, ‘When Great Trees Fall’ (shared with me by Saskia)

 

SS: Name one app you love that we might not know about: 

SB: I recently downloaded Insight Timer – Guided Meditations. It’s great for timing meditation sessions and there are some really nice guided options as well. I am pretty hopeless at being mindful so this is good discipline for me. Also, it sounds ridiculous but I often hold my breath without realising it, especially when I’m concentrating on a task, so the app is helping me to be more conscious of my breathing. Overall I’m just trying to be more present. And also not pass out!

 

SS: What is your happy place?

SB: My grandmother’s kitchen. One of my earliest memories is being sat on the kitchen floor whilst my grandmother cooked. She would give me and my brother mini rolling pins and boards so we could “help” make chapatis. She never seemed to mind that ours were any shape but round! And she would always make sure she ate ours first. I suppose ultimately my happy place is wherever stomachs are full and hearts are fuller. [ I couldn’t agree more, Amen!]

 

ss-this-is-how-you-lose-her

 

SS: What book are you currently reading or did you most recently finish? Would you recommend it?

SB: I recently finished ‘This is How You Lose Her’ by Junot Díaz. It’s a collection of interlinked short stories, predominantly centred around a recurring protagonist called Yunior. The prose is really raw. It’s really interesting as an insight into Dominican American culture, the immigrant story, masculinity and infidelity. In a way I found it quite alienating, and as a woman it left me feeling a little empty afterwards. I think that was kind of the beauty of reading it though. Not all stories are for you so to speak and these challenged me.

 

SS: Who embodies style with substance for you?

SB: Zadie Smith. I think she has an incredible mind. And she carries herself with a humility, authenticity and grace which I find really captivating.

zadie-smith-ss
Author Zadie Smith

 

SS: What is one lesson that you’ve learnt this year?

SB: To pay attention to my mental and physical health – that compassion starts with the self. Something I think I’ve known intellectually for a while but am only just beginning to understand emotionally.

 

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Beauty in her natural habitat, surrounded by books in Paris’ Shakespeare and Company (a must-visit if you’re in the city!)

 

SS: Do you have a favourite podcast? 

SB: I’m a podcast noob! Sporadic listener at best. Very open to recommendations though! If my earphones are in I am usually listening to whichever musician I am currently obsessing over. [Ed note: we both agree Drake is a poet]
SS: The first thing I do when I wake up is:

SB: Check the news on my phone. A lot can happen while you’re sleeping! Particularly in 2016 it seems…It often puts me in a strange headspace but Im trying really hard to replace feelings of despair with hope and feelings of helplessness with purpose and action.

 

SS: What is your guilty pleasure?

SB: Playing the same song over and over until I’m sick to death of it! [Ed note: So glad this is not just me!]

 

SS: If you could travel the world in a day, what pitstops would make and why?

SB: There are a few places that are ancestral homes for me and a few loved ones who I don’t get to see as often as I would like, so I suppose I would go and find all the places and all the people that feel like home.

 

SS: Any final words of wisdom?

SB: I’m going to defer to the wisest of the wise on this one – Maya Angelou – “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’


I can’t thank Saskia enough for sharing these words and tools of wisdom! Who cannot love a girl who enjoys a little too much wine and dancing as much as she does geeking out? A woman after my own heart, inspiring us to close out 2016 replacing “feelings of despair with hope and feelings of helplessness with purpose and action.” Yes!

 

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