We continue to ask minds that fascinate us, the all important question: Who Lives In Your Head, and today Jendella Benson answers.
What makes Jendella Benson special is the impact that she has had on the media landscape for Black British girls and women. Her work at Media Diversified, MTV UK, Christian Today and now Black Ballad, has been a commitment to telling impactful stories and making space for others to do the same.
So, we couldn’t but reach out and ask her “Who Lives In Your Head” because, of course, her mind would prove to be a wonderland.
1.) Who was the person who first connected you with the possibility of creating in the way that you do?
Reading Half of a Yellow Sun was a turning point for me. Before that, the stories that I most intimately connected with seemed to be an underground world. They weren’t recognised in the mainstream and you couldn’t walk into WH Smith or Waterstones and see them sitting on the shelf in plain view. Seeing people on the tube reading a book with the very African name ‘Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’ splashed across the front really presented new possibilities for me.
2.) What are the sounds that fill your head space?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray BLK. It feels like she writes the soundtrack to our lives.
3.) Is there an artist(s) or creative(s) whose work you think perfectly charts your relationship with the world?
Not perfectly. There are different artists or creatives that I go because they speak to specific sides of me, but Lina Iris Viktor is someone whose work I think that I emotionally live within.
4.) Do you believe in the muse? If so, whose life would you like to/have liked to explore further and bring to life through your work?
I believe that we can be our greatest muses. Nothing I create is strictly biographical but I’m realising more and more, what I do is often an exploration of different experiences or parts of my psyche.
5.) What is your relationship with cinema and what cinematographic contribution do you recommend that everyone would watch and why?
To be honest, cinema is the lens through which I view everything, even my own life! Rocks is an important contribution to cinema that everyone should have seen by now. It is another marker of possibility, a beautiful coming of age story about girlhood and friendship. It is tender without being patronising or trite; it’s real without trying too hard, proof that we can tell our stories on our terms for ourselves.
6.) When you are happy, where do you like to go?
Usually it’s an art gallery but given the P-word, I go to YouTube and watch music videos directed by Meji Alabi. The clean and graphic visuals really accentuate my happiness.
7.) What piece of art speaks to your joy?
Lakwena is an artist whose work consistently speaks to my joy. It’s hard to choose just one piece of hers but if I had to it would be the basketball courts she designed for a juvenile detention centre in Arkansas. The boldness of joy in the midst of life’s bleak realities is something I value.
8.) Who right now is creating in a way that leaves you in awe and why?
Akwaeke Emezi (officially) landed in the literary game in 2018 and since then they have not stopped. They are creating in a way that we’ve always been told isn’t possible and so, seeing them have such a firm handle on their career and their desires as a creator is awe-inspiring and liberating.
9.) What stories do you think we are not telling enough of?
I personally want to see more everyday stories of Black British life. By attempting to prove that we are worthy of attention, I think it’s easy to resort to the spectacular and exceptional, but I think that we are the most enchanting and beautiful in the simplest and most relaxed moments.
10.) Who from the past do you think we must all consume?
I can’t even really fathom her as someone from “the past” as her passing feels so recent, but the interviews and essays of Toni Morrison are pure gold in my opinion.
Jendella is Head of Editorial at Black Ballad – the award-winning digital platform for Black British women – and her debut novel, Hope & Glory, will be released in 2022 by Trapeze Books in the UK and William Morrow in the US and is available to pre-order now. She is also the host of the podcast Black Ballad Presents: The Survival Guide.