Embarking on a new chapter in her life, former entertainment editor at The Voice newspaper, Davina Hamilton, has just written her first children’s book that imparts a very special message of empowerment and self-belief for the younger generation.

Her book, Riley Can Be Anything, is loosely based on her three-year-old son (she also has a daughter who’s four). She talks to us about her previous career, what her book is about and why she wants to encourage young children to have an ‘I Can’ attitude.

Can you give us a quick overview of your career so far? 
In addition to The Voice, [where she worked from 2002-2016], I’ve written for many other publications including Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Echoes magazine. Primarily, my writing has focused on arts, music, culture and lifestyle.

Riley can be anything: A children’s book with an essential message

What were some of your highlights at The Voice
I had a truly unforgettable time interviewing a range of stars in numerous settings. I interviewed reggae legend Beres Hammond while helping him to haul his luggage to Kings Cross station; I went for a run – twice – with fitness guru Mr Motivator; made cocktails with rap collective D12; had huge laughs with soul stars Chaka Khan and Randy Crawford… too many memories to recall. One of my most recent highlights – which actually came to fruition after I left The Voice – was the success of a long-running campaign I kick-started, which urged the BBC to bring back The Real McCoy. The campaign started back in 2012 and in March of this year, the BBC announced that they would re-release the much-loved series via BBC Store. I was immensely pleased and proud when I got the news.

Why did you leave? 
Fourteen years is a long time to stay with a company! I started working there at the age of 19 so I did a lot of growing up in my time there. Once I reached my 30s, particularly after having my two children, my priorities changed, so last year, I decided it was time for me to move on to pastures new.

Riley can be anything: A children’s book with an essential message

Why did you want to write such a book?

I wanted to write a story that my children would enjoy and that would also inspire young readers. Additionally, I wanted to create a book that featured a black child as the main character, as I believe it’s important for black children to be able to see reflections of themselves in the books they read and in society at large.

How long did it take you to write? 
About a week or two. I was still at The Voice at the time, so finding time to write, between working and looking after my children was challenging.

Is Riley based on anyone? 
Yes, my son, whose name is Riley. However, I made my character Riley a couple of years older than my son.

How important is the ‘can be anything’ message to our youth? 
Very important. About a month ago, my husband and I took our children to an indoor play centre. My daughter wanted to go on a big slide but said she was scared. She kept approaching the slide and I told her she could do it, but she retreated several times. I didn’t want to force her, but I could see she desperately wanted to have a go. I said to her, ‘You don’t have to go on it if you don’t want to, but I know you can do it.’ Eventually, she braved the stairs and whizzed gleefully down the slide. I could see how happy she was once she’d done it and then there was no stopping her! Confidence and self-belief can make all the difference to how we approach the situations and opportunities we encounter. To instil those traits in our children from early on will set them up them up with an ‘I can’ mentality and that’s a wonderful thing.

Many stats put young black boys at the bottom of the table when it comes to hurdles stacked against them to being successful. What are your thoughts on that? 
It’s depressing but not surprising, as black boys often tend to face the brunt of society’s injustices. Whether it’s the disproportionate number of black males being stopped and searched by police, or the fact that, as an ITN News London investigation found this year, black boys in London are nearly three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the London average, black boys don’t always get a fair deal in society. But this shouldn’t stop our boys from embracing the ‘I can’ mentality. The temptation is there to fall into a ‘woe is me’ state of mind when it seems that the odds are stacked against you. But hard work and perseverance is, in my opinion, a far better option than giving up.

Riley can be anything: A children’s book with an essential message

How can people buy your book? 
It’s available in physical and digital formats via numerous outlets, including Amazon, Waterstones online, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, and my website www.davinahamilton.com

What are you working on next?
My next book is titled Riley Knows He Can and will hopefully be released by the end of the year.

What do you read for pleasure?
I tend to read a lot of articles. Parenting-related features, articles relating to race and culture, and quirky lifestyle features are among the articles I enjoy.

How do you relax? 
Exercise, strange as it sounds, helps to relax me. Not so much the exercise, but the feeling of bliss once the workout is complete! Again, reading good articles helps me to relax, as well as watching Corrie or Emmerdale… don’t judge me – they’re good programmes!

What’s your favourite dish?
Stew chicken, curried prawns, a nice bit of steamed fish… I love so many foods, I can’t pick a favourite!

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