Write Here, Write Now: Anna Whittaker

Anna Whittaker

Anna Whittaker, the winner of the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) Top Scoop Award and proud journalist, is a passionate advocate for local news. Now a journalist at The Derby Telegraph, Anna pursued her writing talents and interests from when she was young to this day. With her own father being a journalist, it seems that journalistic talent runs in the family.

With the influences of her father growing up, Anna couldn’t see herself doing anything else, so pursuing journalism is what fuelled her choice to study journalism at University in Sheffield. Born and raised in Derby, meant that she has developed a network in the Midlands and began her journey with work experience at the Burton Mail.

With exposure to how a newsroom works and operates, Anna pursued the connections that she built with her work experience in order to keep her foot in the door. From covering different aspects of journalism to getting her first byline in print, Anna sought enjoyment in her time working for a newspaper. She brought this forward to her time studying at University and wrote freelance for her local paper back home, The Derby Telegraph. She found that her newsroom experience gave her the confidence to chase leads and leg up in comparison to those who hadn’t seen the live workings of a newspaper. By the time she graduated Anna was freelancing for The Derby Telegraph for “three days a week, despite technically living in Sheffield”.

Her pieces at the The Derby Telegraph is what propelled her to be considered for prestigious nationwide awards. From winning the NCTJ Top Scoop Award in 2017 to 30 to Watch Young Journalist Award in July 2020, Anna is a pure example of how local news can compete with the national papers.

Although Anna was a great example of a go getter journalist, she is very much still in a discovery mode. Her intrigue into investigative journalism is the report that got her noticed for her 30 to Watch Award. By investigating an illegal tooth whitening business, Anna dipped her toes in this world and is something she wants to consider more of in the future. Following her graduation, the contacts she had built within The Derby Telegraph urged her to apply for a reporter role and to her own surprise she got the job. The acceptance of this role has provided Anna with platforms that she thought she would have to wait for.

“It was a natural progression”

Anna revealed that work experience is key for young inspiring journalists. As her career was launched because of her networking and hard work during her work experience, she attributes her success to this. I for one am looking forward to seeing what Anna’s future holds.

Write Here Write Now: Keeks Reid

Keeks Reid

Beauty Guru, Editor and Writer Keeks Reid, honoured me with a conversation about her writing journey and story. Beaming about her self-designed living room, Keeks shared with me that writing is now her full time job – a dream for so many creatives! Rocking her lilac eyeliner, it was music to my ears, to know that this boss lady, was able to attribute her success to writing and hard work. From Intern to Digital Editor of Hairdressers Journal Magazine, Keeks has not only established herself in the magazine world, but doesn’t let herself stagnate.

Showing her writing passion from a very young age, Keeks Reid would “inhale Jacqueline Wilson books and write in a diary…as someone else”. Taking inspiration from the world around her, she has always had an imaginative foundation to write and create. This carried through to her future educational choices. With her schooling years providing diversity, Keeks never felt like a minority and carried this confidence with her through her developmental years and into the world of beauty journalism.

Graduating in English Literature with Creative Writing from The University of East London, Keeks took a very open approach to her education. Ensuring that she wasn’t narrowing her path too early on, Keeks took her family’s advice to pursue a degree that would allow her to mould to different career paths. This gave her the platform to call herself a creative and her extra-curricular involvements and work experience began to shape her as a magazine writer.

Following Graduation, Keeks went on to be Editorial Assistant for Black Hair Magazine followed by Acting Editor to cover a Maternity Leave. Following the return of the full time Editor, Keeks was cemented as Digital Editor, which at the time was a fairly new department. When Keeks first started in the magazine industry Digital “wasn’t as respected” as the Print Department. This meant that sometimes ideas for Digital were overlooked and not prioritised. Alongside her desire to provide experiences and information about black hair, this became a catalyst for Keeks reaching out to the Beauty Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Following an email to Cosmo, suggesting that there could be more accommodating material for different types of readers, was what gave Keeks the opportunity to show her writing portfolio. From this she produced informative beauty pieces about black haircare and beauty, which was the start of her journey as a freelancer.

Leaving Black Hair Magazine, opened up further opportunities for Keeks to write for platforms like Metro and Refinery. Having to also write “non sexy copy” for brands and companies allowed her skill set to continually expand as well as pay her bills. This expansion enabled her to “exercise that muscle” and write copy for websites as well as creatively writing. It was at this point in our conversation that I realised Keeks was extremely astute and aware of the ever-changing nature of the journalism and writing world and the need to keep your skills as a writer evolving often.

Like so many freelancers, Keeks felt an anxiety about not having a set income stream and learnt that completely freelancing was not a comfortable way to work for her personally. At the age of 25, Keeks admitted she “felt lost”. At this stage in her life she was lucky to have the option to live with family and understands that this was a luxury that not everyone might have. After applying to numerous jobs, she came across the vacancy for Digital Editor at Hairdressers Journal and had never felt so sure that a job was “for her”. Having had extensive experience with hair magazines and editorial responsibilities, meant that Keeks knew she was right for this. Having liaised with Ruth Hunsley (the editor at the time) before, allowed Keeks to get in contact directly and be considered for interview.

As a result of these interviews, Keeks was offered the position of Online Writer, not Editor, which was reasoned by her not having enough experience. After negotiating a better salary for herself, Keeks knew that she had the experience to be an editor. Admitting that she should have been more assertive and confident at the time, is now overseeing the whole of Digital after two promotions. Boss.

As Digital Editor, Keeks doesn’t close doors to writing opportunities that she knows she would enjoy. Creating content (and starting the Curl Up series on Instagram) for the Curl Talk Series for Cosmo, has been milestone moment for Keeks as she had complete creative control and “able to talk about Afro Hair on such a big platform”. Educating people about different hair types on a national level is no mean feat.

“Why do I know about how to recommend products to my friend with European hair, but they don’t about my hair type”

Keeks Reid, is an undeniable example that the proof is in the pudding. She has not only worked hard to get to where she is today, but has cemented that you can be nice whilst doing it. This is a key piece of advice that Keeks has enlightened me and other writers with. You have nothing to lose by just “being nice”.

Keeks says:
My best advice for upcoming writers is don’t limit yourself. The landscape of writing, media and journalism is ever-evolving and it looks completely different today to when I started my degree 10 years ago. Social media was really niche then and now I don’t go a day without checking it, so who knows what the next ten years will look like. It’s great to have a plan, but it’s also important to move and shift as the media does too. So go with the flow, take on new opportunities and stay abreast of new media! 

Wannabe Foodie #14: Mud, Tooting

Toot a Toot Tooting! What an amazing place, full of diversity, community, eateries, and home to some of the best brunch. Mud has become the pumping heart of many a freelancer, to those that simply fancy eggs benny with a twist. As the monosyllabic name suggests, Mud is to the point and gets you what you need…pronto.

Mud prides itself on its fantastic coffee and is what draws many people to come back again and again and again (ooohhhh I can smell the caffeine addcition from here). With Ozone supplying the goods, the double shotted wonders go to show that Mud isn’t here to play games. From the staple Long Black to their weekend ‘special drink’ you won’t be dissapointed.

📸 Perisha Kudhail

Tales of the bespoke coffee grind (as well the master of all hangovers) is what initially brought me through the doors of the cafe. I went for a latte (which is a mile off my now usual – long black with oat milk) coupled with the corn fritter stack and bacon. This more than hit the spot. With the chilli jam being made in the house, this beast of a brunch was the perfect way to keep me sustained through my Sunday and guide me into my blissful nap later in the day.

Alongside the sizeable portions and hard-hitting coffee, the staff were a delight. As a small family owned joint, the love is definitely one that is transferred to how the staff make their customers feel and I was no exception to that. From the hustle and bustle of weekend brunchers to the chilled vibes of the weekday, the staff are here for their customers and will indulge you in the delights of amazing conversation as well as fabulous coffee.

Check it out:

141 Mitcham Rd, Tooting, London SW17 9RU

In Conversation with: Manj Singh – Lionflex

Mancunian Manj Singh (AKA Lionflex) graced me for a conversation about his bodybuilding journey and how his determination allowed him to create a community and platform. After working a long day in his IT based role, Manj and I sat in the comforts of our homes for a chat just before his scheduled evening workout.

A young Manj was once 20 stone and comments from people around him is what fuelled his initial weight loss. He admitted that “it wasn’t the healthiest approach” and turned to a severe reduction on calories before he attended University in Manchester.

“I started to go to the gym, it was more of a sociable thing”

Following his regular gym visits, he began to educate himself in nutrition and saw his workouts as a form of self-improvement. This was the beginning of his fitness journey and building his body. As his body grew and got stronger so did Manj’s education and knowledge in fitness.

As I got more I wanted more, I wanted to see how far I could push myself”

As Manj’s body continued to grow and develop he noticed he was beginning to get some local attention, from other gym goers and his peers. As he began manipulating his calories and enhancing his regimen, he of course had to bring his lifestyle into his family home. Growing up in a South Asian household, Manj’s lifestyle was seemingly alien to the rest of his family. From weighing his food to intense meal preparation, it took time and explanation to his own family to understand what he was doing.

With his family working within the wedding industry, Manj often attended these events with his Father, prepared with his boxed meal. The initial reaction was one of misunderstanding, but as people began to recognise Manj from his content, it further cemented his lifestyle changes.

Lionflex became Manj’s brand as a means to unite him and other Sikh bodybuilders. With Youtube and Instagram being used to show progression and competitions, Lionflex is a means of breaking barriers and connecting people with the same mindset.

Manj’s full time job as a business analyst means that he has not only had to schedule his fitness around his job, but his mental balance too. In competition season, he was running on a calorie count of as low as 1500 calories and a body fat percentage in single digits.  He has learnt over time that self-care whilst competing is key.

“The longer I’ve been on this journey the more… I’ve balanced it”

Manj is very aware that Bodybuilding for now is his passion and love, and would love to engage with people and help improve their lives.  I asked Manj if the opportunity to pursue bodybuilding full time arose would he take it. The answer was without a doubt is yes.

“It’s my dream to open a gym”

The sport of bodybuilding is often thought to have a reputation for being solely about vanity. He disagreed with this. It was a way of showing resilience and building a community. With his own motivation wavering at times, it was his Mother, surviving cancer, that made him realise that he can do anything. Manj opened my eyes into realising everyone’s story is so different, even in extreme sports. His Mother was the first incentive for Manj to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

With Sikh bodybuilders being in the minority, Manj often felt different yet proud to wear his pagh (head covering) which is a way to identify as a Sikh. He expressed the importance of representation in the sport.

Wanting to encourage, motivate and inspire people to make steps into their own fitness journeys, Manj’s empathetic energy and determination has created a community to be proud of.

 “If little old fat me can do why can’t you?”

In Conversation With: Armana Rai

Londoner Armana Rai took her love for running and turned it into a platform to connect runners from all over. From marathons to daily running Armana sat in conversation with me about her athletics journey and shared how she evolved her hobby and went on to become an ambassador for Underarmour.

Upon discovering Armana’s social media platforms, it was seemingly apparent that she was a full-time runner and influencer, but in our chat I discovered she was actually a full time accountant. The ultimate side hustler, if you can call it that! Having studied Sports Management at the University of Loughborough, this young runner knew she needed athletics in her life, however, never found a sport she specifically wanted to specialise in. Following a year in industry at EY, during her study, Armana pursued the finance route and continued to nurture her running outside of that.

From the age of 16 Armana worked for her local athletics club in London and honed in on her love of sport, but her interest in sport wasn’t always there.  Armana’s Father was a professional Hockey player and competed internationally, but Armana’s talent for running wasn’t developed until her teenage years.  A 200m sports day race at the age of 10 is where her own running journey began.

“I didn’t think anything, I just ran…and I won by so far”

Going on to pursue cross country and long distance running throughout secondary school, Armana continued to better herself at University and mingled with the running community there.

“it was an amazing place to meet people and be”

Being at a top sports university was a very privileged platform for Armana, but she shined a light on the negatives that she discovered amongst the running community and clubs. Eating Disorders were rife amongst some of the runners in the clubs she was a part of whilst studying, so Armana decided to train solo for her university time. Her final year was when she went on to complete her first half marathon and since then has trained solo with the knowledge she has acquired from studying. In recent years, Armana has used an online coach to continue to develop her running style.

Prior to her online coaching, Armana found herself mixing within the fitness and influencer space and decided to post about her running as a way to meet like-minded people. This grew from regular running updates to brand partnerships, the most recent of which being Underarmour.

With her role in finance taking priority, Armana works around this to accommodate her social media platforms. Maintaining balance between this is something that Armana revealed she has had to navigate. From using annual leave at her full-time job to accommodate for trips with her brand sponsors, she has to decide which events to attend and what to prioritise.

“It’s like having a second job sometimes”

Not imagining the success that would have come from her social media interactions, Armana’s Instagram involvement led to her gracing the cover of Women’s Running magazine in August 2019. Becoming more and more prominent in the running world, it is clear that running is more than a hobby for Armana, it is a passion.  Having aided her through hard times in her life, Armana is an adamant believer that there is no such thing as a bad run.

“it’s giving me another focus outside of work”

Quarantine Creatives: Two Chickpeas in a Podcast

Two Chickpeas in a Podcast

Initially gracing me with the perfection that lies in Zoom Greenscreen, Natasha Beghi (25) and Nikkita Beghi (26) sat in conversation with me about their podcast, Two Chickpeas in a Podcast. This pair of London based sisters, decided to create an unfiltered platform for all things South Asian. Giving their listeners an insight into issues affecting their community, this bubbly pair cover a range of themes in their episodes.

Born and raised in Hounslow, London, both Natasha and Nikkita had first hand experiences with issues that they reflect on in their podcast. From their family favouring their brother in certain situations to balancing Western and Indian culture, it is no secret that there is indeed a lot to discuss. Both sisters went to the same school in London and then went on into further education at the same university. The ‘Chickpeas’ revealed to me that even in a multicultural schooling system, there was still a rejection of being considered too ethnic

“if you had food that was smelly from home… the worst thing you could be called is a freshie”

Nikkita is the eldest of the sisters, and pursued her degree in Media and Communication at Birmingham City University, a path which Natasha then mirrored. With only 15 months between them, Natasha has a relatability with her older sister. With the infamous ‘quarter life crisis’ which many young people face, the podcasters admitted they weren’t exempt from this and were questioning their lives and future.

Following graduation Nikkita Special Education needs teaching assistant and is now a coordinator for the council. Although her initial feelings about her role didn’t match her desire to be in the media industry, she has now found it fulfilling and rewarding to work with children in difficult situations. Natasha on the other hand went to travel America and found that travelling got her out of a low time in her life. She went on to then work in private childcare whilst in the USA. Upon her return, she began freelancing on the Sky UK news team and still works there now within Critical Broadcast.

With their own family experiences fuelling the reason the podcast began, it became an outlet for both of them. Covering topics that are personal and intertwined in South Asian culture, the podcast aim has become a relatable platform. As a listener myself, you wouldn’t be able to recognise that this lively pair are in the infancy of their podcasting journey.

“We’re trying to open conversation”

Taking inspiration from the likes of Mindy Kaling to other podcasters, this hilarious podcast is a great platform to start conversations. The goals for the podcast are to get into the nitty gritty about these issues I am fully here for it!

“There’s more than one way to be Indian!”

QUARANTINE CREATIVES: Hannah Austyn

With wellness being at the forefront of so many of our lives, Hannah Austyn has taken to her platform to share positivity and engage in conversations surrounding wellness. This young blogger sat down in conversation with me and shared her journey and goal to help others pursue their own journey into wellbeing. From the comfort of our homes in Quarantine it felt like we were catching up for a coffee in the sun.

22-year-old Austyn was born in London, then moved to Buckinghamshire and now Oxford where her journey into the blogging world blossomed. Having indulged in theatre and performance from a young age, attending Stagecoach ensured that Hannah was in London on a weekly basis and was a catalyst for her first full time job after school. Starting her part time job by running theatre clubs for children, Hannah also invested time in her own blog.

Fashion was the initial muse for Hannah’s writing and used her initiative to gain further experience. Completing a fashion retail course after leaving school at London Fashion Academy, Hannah wanted to go on to pursue fashion styling. Initially thinking this sector would be easier to break into than it was Hannah’s rejection is what fuelled her own blogging career.

“I did get quite a lot of rejection and I think that was a good thing now, because I was quite early in the process… it gave me the motivation and drive that I have now”

After a self-identified “organic” progression with her content platforms, a milestone in Hannah’s blogging journey was her attendance to her first London Fashion Week. Following a lot of “persistence” to designers and brands, she was able to attend shows and has been invited since then to write.

“So many opportunities…have come solely from sending a message on Instagram, we wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for Instagram!”

Whilst working her part time job, at the theatre, the young blogger approached the marketing team and asked if she could work for free in order to educate herself. Continuing her blog, Hannah’s voluntary work resulted in a paid assistant role on the marketing team. Coming to crossroads in her education and future, Hannah decided against university in order to continue in the marketing world.

“That was the best thing I did, doing the marketing for free”

After educating herself in a new skill set, Hannah advises anyone to try and pursue experience in any field they would like to grow in, and even if it means doing a few hours for free if you can. 

Hannah’s fashion blog continued to grow and she decided to finally move away from her job and focus solely on her content. During this time, Hannah has covered different fashion and brand events, as well as growing her network. Becoming a content creator meant that Hannah was able to create a YouTube channel and evolve her network.

Following a period of time of solely blogging, Hannah learnt her preferences lay in working and loved the routine of having full time job. Revealing that she enjoyed having something else outside of her blogging, she engaged herself back in the marketing world.

“I think that’s why I chose to do another job at the same time so that my blog could be purely authentic”

During lockdown Hannah has been organising Wellness Wednesday on her Instagram Live as well as working from home with her marketing job. Wellness Wednesday Live comes paired with conversations with wellness industry experts. From fitness to food and drink, Hannah gives further insight with her wellness led conversations.

“During self-isolation there’s been a lot of content around staying positive… and that resonates with me”

Speaking with Hannah was a prime example of how consistency is key and to pursue your passion.

“Now is the best time to do it!

Quarantine Creatives: James Sahota

James Sahota

Sitting down for a conversation with James Sahota allowed me to understand the true meaning of hard graft. From educating himself on the property market to ensuring he gets the most out of his lifestyle, James is not one to shy away from hard work. This Property Investor oozes entrepreneurial spirit whose attitude is reflected across his different content platforms and became more apparent as we spoke. Locked and loaded with his headphones and mic, I got the full VIP podcast set up that I have seen on his content videos.

Raised as a second generation Indian in the UK, James is a through and through Londoner. Completing A-levels in Design and Business, he gave himself the platform to go and study at University. Being averse to living at home during his educational years, James decide to further study up North, in Manchester. Admittedly he ended up getting up to “all sort of mischief” and frankly trouble. Fights caused by James led to arrest and being faced with a judge in court. Thankfully for him the case was thrown out and so marked a turning point in his life. Graduating with an undergraduate degree in Product Design, James went on to remain in the city to pursue a Masters Degree in Industrial Design in 2003.

Showcasing a talent in design proceeded a teaching opportunity for James upon his return to London. Although it was simply an avenue to earn a wage, James made his debut onto the property ladder because of this and began paying his first mortgage (as encouraged by his Mother).

“It was almost like entertainment; I was on the stage and the kids were my audience”

As a qualified teacher, it didn’t take James long to realise that teaching wasn’t his calling and after a couple of years walked out. Yes, “walked out”. After an annoyance with another staff member, James simply got up and left, accompanied with the applause of his students.

With 24 days until his next mortgage payment was due, James delivered the confidence that he would be able to resolve his circumstance in time. In came the saviour that was E-Bay. James took to selling small prints online which then became the catalyst for him to start his business in print. This satisfied his need to work for himself, which wasn’t an easy-going journey. Within the first 5 years of his print business, he took to supply teaching on the side in order to allow him to continue developing his own company.

After 10 years in print, and admitting that it had “somewhat failed”, this was an end of a chapter in James’ life, which was the gateway to his development in the property world. It was at this point that I realised James was not shy of making mistakes and used his experiences for lessons in the future. Educating himself in property, flipping houses, and educating himself constantly has led to his successes and developments today.

“You should only have a plan A”

James gave me an insight into his work ethic, which was rooted in streamline planning. Utilising Trello and joint calendars, James is now very strict with his time allocation – something he learnt from working in print. At this point I was sitting cross legged out of sight from the camera, and felt the same satisfaction you do when indulging in organisational content online.

“Try not to have more than three or four things on your to-do list”

Having solidified his experiences in property, James creates educational content also. Advertising a ticket for a property conference is what allowed James to meet Tej, his Partner in crime for The Property Duo Podcast. Tej is also a property developer and has developed a strong working relationship with James. The Property Duo, as well as James’ own podcast, The J2 Hub podcast is a platform, for all things property, led by James and his featured guests.

Personally, I do not gravitate towards jargon laced podcasts, which is why the love is there for the J2 Hub Podcast. It is not only a place where James shares the dos and don’ts of property, but you can hear the stories and journeys of his panel. The relatability of the podcast is something that has been cemented for me after my chat with him.

Quaratine Creatives: Dr Anna Najran

Dr Anna Najran is definitely a dentist that I would not be terrified of going to see. As we sat for our conversation, it was clear that this personable doctor takes interest in her patients and not just their teeth. As gorgeous Anna indulged me in her schedule for the day, it was already lined with webinars and conference calls. The life of this busy woman was laced in her thirst to perfect her craft within dentistry and learn more, but my conversation with Anna lay outside the realms of her very successful career. Alongside her thriving dentistry journey Anna has worked on some major lifestyle changes to better not only her health, but her mindset too.

Having grown up in Birmingham, Anna was a top -class student and her hard work resulted in her pursuing her dreams of becoming a dentist. Having graduated from the University of Leeds in 2016 (with a distinction), Anna is now qualified and continually growing.

Following her success in Dentistry, a trip to the Doctors became the catalyst for her healthcare and fitness journey. With the danger of suffering with high cholesterol and having lost someone close to a heart attack, Anna was snapped into her wellness exploration. Admitting to having tried many diets and fads in the past, she revealed that people had gotten used to her fluctuating weight. In 2018 she took her fitness and health into her own hands. By first beginning to monitor her food intake and educating herself in nutrients, she was focused and ready.

“I couldn’t run from one side of the airport to the other!”

Seeing how passionate Dr Anna was about her work, I could see how this would transfer to her health pilgrimage. By investing in a personal trainer, Anna rationalised this as a good thing rather than a waste of money and encourages people to do the same.

“The money that I’m going to spend on food and takeaways and just crap, I will invest in a Personal Trainer”

Starting her gym journey in January 2019, Anna cheekily admitted she had never really given exercise a proper go. After a full health assessment from her gym, she began training twice a week with her trainer and working on a set plan outside of that. As a clear optimist, it surprised me when Anna admitted she would compare herself to others at the gym.

“I just want to get myself healthy”

After the first two months of her lifestyle change, Anna had already lost 1.5 stones and restored her BMI to healthy and her cholesterol began returning back to normal. With the goal not being vanity, but her health, Anna’s mindset and approach was more sustainable than any diet she’d ever done before. Tracking her macros and nutrients at the start of her journey gave her the education she needed to now be more conscious of what she’s putting in her and now her family’s body.

“I don’t track anything anymore, but the first thing I do is get my veggies out”

Since being at her heaviest Anna has lost 4.5 stone and has never felt better. From her motivational mindset to her actions, she is now looking healthy and more importantly has changed her attitude towards food and lifestyle. It has become habitual and makes her feel good, and spreading positivity is at the forefront of her living. Lush.