From the Canberra press gallery to Triple J’s Breakfast show, Brooke Boney has had a varied media career. She finds inspiration in Beyoncé, poets who reflect on the experience of women of colour and her great-grandmother – who is still alive.
I am excited about using more natural products now. When I was younger I was pretty keen on brandnames and using products that had fancy-sounding stuff in it but now I am into more natural stuff. Coconut oil – I will just sprinkle that on everything: I’ll put it in my hair, I use it for food, I put it on my face, I put it in baths, I put it on my body. I’m sick of using aerosol deodorant; I’ve gone on to the pump-action ones that smell nice and fancy. The one I’m using now I think has coriander seed in it which sounds weird but it smells really nice when you put it on, like perfume.
My skin is a bit sensitive; it never used to be. I’ve got a perfume that is a roll-on jasmine oil and it smells incredible – I feel very grown up when I wear it now.
I’m excited about poetry, the emergence of people like Rupi Kaur and Warsan Shire has really got me excited. To have modern interpretations of coloured women’s experiences was a completely new thing for me when I came across this two women. We’re different from other women so often we are excluded from conversations around feminism despite the fact we are more likely to be raped and beaten and murdered. These women, the way they wrote, really spoke to me in a way that made me realise that our experiences are real and valid, the way they talk about the beauty of coloured women as well is incredible. It makes me think of all the women who have come before me, like my great-grandmother and my grandmother and my mother, who look different from the ideal picture of beauty is – from what you would see on television or in magazine ads – but their beauty is different, and even though it is different it is still very valid.
When Warsan wrote all of the poetry for Beyoncé’s Lemonade, that was when I first came across her and I ordered her book online. Rupi Kaur came up as a suggestion so I added that and ordered them both. I was completely blown away, even being a young brown woman, the modern experiences of dating and having your validity questioned, it has been incredible to discover them.
What’s nostalgia inducing
My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother have all used the same cheap supermarket moisturiser forever and all of them have the most incredible skin. My great-grandmother is still alive and she’s nearly 90 and she doesn’t have any wrinkles at all, it’s amazing. I use the same one but now I put a couple of drops of oil in it, it has jasmine and lemongrass and gooseberry – it just smells so good. I mix a few drops of that with the moisturiser and at nighttime I mix it with rosehip oil, half and half, and I put it all over my chest and all over my face. My mum when we were growing up always made sure we lathered ourselves in moisturiser before we went to school and put cream on our faces, so it’s a routine I’ve had since I was little. We start with a head start, not only do we have this brown skin – black don’t crack – we have this routine of moisturising all the time. Even just the smell of it, when I put it on, we all smell the same. When you get a hug from your nan or your mum and that’s what they smell like, it’s like a big warm hug every time I put it on.
When we were growing up Mum would read to us, she was a single mum and she had me when she was 19 and I don’t know whether she was kind of paranoid about having all this pressure on her for having kids so young or by herself or whatever, but she taught us how to read before we went to school. So we always read together, Mum would read to us, I could always read from when I was really young, and we read a lot of Dr Seuss. I always get sentimental about Dr Seuss books.
What I keep going back to
The book that I go back to is Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck (And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman) – it’s almost like a bible. Every time something difficult happens in my life or I’m going through something, I might just have a browse of that book again. It’s about vanity and it’s about beauty routines – it’s also about being independent. I love how nonchalant she is about falling in and out of love with people and places and jobs. It makes me feel that no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s this older woman who has all of this advice for you, all this practical stuff that makes it seem like it’s a blip in the radar when you’re having a shitty time.
Another one that I really loved was The God of Small Things; I read it when I was in India. I like when I travel to read about the place that I’m in – it enriches the experience. So I read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, it’s about an Indian family, caste systems, intergenerational trauma and societal pressures. It’s set in the south of India but I really feel it speaks to an Indigenous experience as well. When people don’t get what intergenerational trauma is, and they think it’s just a fancy psychological term, they should read this book because it really explains how trauma is passed down through generations and how toxic relationships can manifest and grow into relationships with children and grandchildren. I thought that was really amazing in the context of Aboriginal stuff. There is one particular passage:
The History House. With cool stone floors and dim walls and billowing ship-shaped shadows. Plump, translucent lizards lived behind old pictures, and waxy, crumbling ancestors with tough toe-nails and breath that smelled of yellow maps gossiped in sibilant, papery whispers. ‘But we can’t go in,’ Chacko explained, ‘because we’ve been locked out. And when we look in through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.’ ‘Marry our conquerors, is more like it,’ Ammu said drily, referring to Margaret Kochamma.”
It’s incredible, the way that those people have been locked out of their history and no one wants to tell them about it and how traumatising that is for them, and how that is passed down and creates difficulties with the grandchildren in the book.
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