If you read our 2018 must-read list you will know that Slay in Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené is literally a bible, written for this generation’s black women.
A guide to life for women of colour, it’s manifestation of every silver lining you could think of, from your personal life to your professional life, beauty, representation, money, education and health, these two have it covered. We were lucky enough to catch up with Yomi and Elizabeth, to tell us a bit more about how the idea came about, the publishing process and their experiences as black women in the UK.
Melan Mag: Hey both, great to meet you! Tell us a bit about your heritage and what you do?
Yomi: I am a journalist and I’m Nigerian-British. Both of my parents are Nigerian. I used to work at Channel 4 News and prior to that founded a website called Birthday Magazine which was aimed at young, black teenagers in the UK. I wanted it to be there to provide representations because at the time (2012) there was nothing around in terms of young black women and it was always important to me.
Elizabeth: I’m a Marketing Manager at HSBC and I graduated from Warwick in 2013 in Politics. I’ve done a couple of internships at the banks and really enjoyed marketing in a corporate space. I’m black British-Nigerian as well!
MM: You’re both obviously professional women. Why did you feel compelled to produce Slay In Your Lane?
Y: Thank you. When we first were discussing the idea, it was all just getting ourselves into the work environment. I think we both just started our first jobs, but Elizabeth has the story of how it developed.
E: Yes, so I was in my first permanent job, I was so excited and I really wanted to make the most of it. I’m someone who reads a lot of self-help books and books or articles about how to get ahead. There were things that I was experiencing in a very corporate, white and male-dominated environment that I just didn’t know how to navigate, and even when I did turn to some of the books such as Lean In and Girlboss, they were great but they only went so far, they only spoke to me so far. So, at a lunch time in Canary Wharf, I called up Yomi, my best friend, and it was an off-the-cuff conversation, just being like “oh my god, I wish you could write a book, that speaks to me as a young, 20-something black girl navigating the workplace, please write this.”
It came from an idea about work, to something bigger that we focused on different areas of a black woman’s life. Health, representation, education, dating were really important subjects so between ourselves and that conversation, we started to work together to produce this book.
MM: Why did you choose Slay in Your Lane specifically as the title?
Y: While the idea was in discussion one day, Elizabeth randomly sent me a picture of Solange Knowles at New York Fashion Week and captioned it “Slay In Your Lane” as if to say “doesn’t she look amazing.” I knew then that was the title of our book. Ever since then, we never looked back. I think we were given it by God.
E: Obviously, Solange Knowles looks amazing all the time, but I think it meant more than just what she looked like. She’s Beyoncé’s sister, she’s always been in the shadows of being Beyoncé’s younger sister, and she has really, in the last couple of years, come into her own. I think that’s how I thought about the black female British experience. I think for all of us.
MM: Fantastic we love that! So, if you can explain, what is the purpose of the book and how do you envisage it will actually help women?
Y: The purpose of the book is to inspire young, black British women. Being able to read the stories about successful, black British women, understand where they’ve come from is really important and they’re all from different backgrounds as well. We’ve got a lawyer, a space scientist… We wanted to really show that black women, as much as we are great entertainers, but we can also run businesses, we are also entrepreneurs. So, it’s just to show the breadth of those role models, the role models that we do have in this country and not look to the US as we often do. So, that was one of the most important things as well.
E: It’s also an advisory book. We always say you can’t slay your way out of systematic oppression unfortunately, and of institutional racism, but armed with the right knowledge and the right advice, you can make a really good job at something and make something of yourself. When you look at the women, a lot of whom are a lot older than us, they were coming up during the times where it was even more difficult than it is now.
MM: It sounds like you’ve got some really amazing women involved in the project. Who is the most inspiring person that you got to interview as part of the book?
E: Karen Blackett, chairman of Mediacom, just because I work in Marketing. When I first entered the industry, she was someone I couldn’t believe had that role as a black woman, and I was so fascinated by her. So, I always looked up to her from the start of my 20’s when I realised who she was, and I went more into her story. I thought, “wow, she’s just a normal, black girl who’s from Reading who’s been able to just do amazing.” She has written the foreword for the book as well.
Y: I’d probably say between two, but I think Malorie Blackman. I feel like she is someone who has massively shaped literature and education. Not just for black children in the UK but also of white children in the UK, of children of any colour in the UK. The Noughts & Crosses series was just completely ground-breaking, and was able to educate and teach young people about racism and race and inequality in such a subtle and memorable way. Also, she was Children’s Laureate and has an OBE. She really is the most down-to-earth and funny person, and that in itself is inspiring.
MM: So, what’s it like to write and publish a book? What’s the process been like?
Y: It was quicker than expected. Elizabeth came up with the idea in 2015 and we got our agent by the end of 2015. By mid-2016, we finished our pitch. We had full-time jobs and everything so it was really hectic because we really didn’t know much about publishing. We had a really brilliant agent who guided us through with it. We were completely blown away by the interest and just really didn’t expect it, especially because it’s such a niche book. It was really unapologetically, I hate to use that phrase, unapologetically black, but it really was. massively unapologetically black. “The Black Girl Bible” subtitle was to let everyone know that it’s a book about black women, for black women, by black women. Like it was very clear, and that didn’t stop people from being interested in it and shying away from it.
MM: And when will we get to read it?!
E: This July. All our effort at the moment is being put into this book, but you never know, there could be a sequel too.