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Shakira Newton is a working class, mixed race and queer performer-writer from Portsmouth living in South London. Her critically acclaimed play Things I Can Laugh About Now had two runs at Brixton House Theatre in 2022, and was nominated for BEST FEMALE IN A PLAY & BEST PLAY PRODUCTION at the 2022 Black British Theatre Awards. Shakira co-runs Piece of Cake Productions – a creative collective that is dedicated to championing, and creating opportunities for Global Majority artists. The company is an associate company of National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and are Lead Artists at Bush Theatre. 

Opinion – Being a queer person of colour in the theatre industry, by Shakira Newton. 

Speaking on being both queer and black is something that should come easily to me as both demographics are truly entrenched in me. However, being mixed race and growing up in a predominantly white area, plus the fact that a large chunk of the “romance” I experienced in my early to mid 20’s was with cis-men, I have always felt a bit of an imposter in both camps.

To my white peers, I am very Black, and to my straight peers, I’m hella gay, but when I am with friends from either, or both, of these groups, I often feel incomplete. Not in a drastic, self-deprecating way, but more in a 85% loading way. I must state here that it is very rarely someone else’s words or behaviour that leads to me feeling ‘not enough’, it stems from, like with most things in life, the large amount of pressure and judgement that I put on myself.

Let me elaborate…

I grew up in a very working class, very white city and was raised by my white parent. I spent the first twenty-three years of my life trying my best to assimilate for safety. Between straightening my hair until breakage and decorating my bedroom walls with indie song lyrics and posters, I was “dating” (inverted commas because Netflix and chill is not a date, sis, love yourself more) any cis-man who would give me attention and/or eye contact for longer than five seconds. The bar was truly in hell. The term “daddy issues” sucks because it puts the blame on the child, not the useless dad, but whatever you want to call it – I was the poster child for it.

What’s interesting here is although I was pretending to be straight, I had been “doing bits” with girls from school at sleepovers for years before I had even kissed a boy. And whilst pretending to be white, there wasn’t a day that went by where someone didn’t remind me that I was not.

Reader, as you can already tell, growing up inside my brain was like doing a daily triathlon. There’s nothing I’d love to do more than hop in the TARDIS and go back and tell younger me how much easier life would be if she was just herself and found others like her to befriend, but she was just trying her best to get some semblance of acceptance; preferably from the ‘popular’ kids, even if that did mean she’d be the butt of everyone’s jokes and scapegoat for every argument within the group for 5 years.

When it came out (I say *IT* not *I* because I didn’t come out, that secret was shared on my behalf, non-consensually) that I was into V as well as P, I had a strange combination of relief and dread. On one hand, the thing I always knew I was going to have to eventually tell everyone about myself has finally been told, which felt akin to ripping a plaster off. On the other, I was now not only one of the very few people of Global Majority in the entire school, the loud mouth diva dramatic one, and the girl who was about three foot taller than her peers; I was also the lezzer. Being forced out the closet in my teens led to me climbing back in during my early adulthood.

I was young. I was excited to be in a new chapter of life. I was finally old enough to get in the pub using my own ID instead of my elder sisters, and for the first time in my life, I was getting a LOT of attention from the opposite sex. All of whom were either far too old or far too ugly to be talking to me, but when you’re someone who needs attention like plants need sunlight (as was younger Shak), you drink it up from wherever and whomever it comes. And in my early twenties, I was quenched by mediocre cis-het sex and romance. Cut to twenty-three years old, and I’m ready to dive head first into the puss…POSS-ibility of dating non-men. I was terrified by this notion, of course. I had spent almost my entire life modelling myself to be deemed desirable by white cis-het men and reading blogs and watching porn to ensure I was ‘loving’ them the way they wanted to be ‘loved’. Much like my Blackness, my Queerness had taken such a back seat for so long, that I had no idea who she was.

Don’t worry though, folks, this isn’t a completely tragic story (just mostly). It has somewhat of a happy ending. I am now pushing thirty (bear with me. The positives are coming). I am living in a multicultural city and have friends and lovers of all demographics *except tory voters*. And I am finally in a place where I can accept that I am not immersed in, nor a prototype for either the Black or Queer culture, but I am still very much a person of Black heritage, and still SO bloody gay, regardless. Being my own version of each of these categories makes me different, yes. But for the first time in my life, being different isn’t a scary thing. It’s not a hindrance. It’s my superpower.

Love to all the other not-quite-Black, not-quite-gay, not-quite-” beautiful”, not-quite-giving-a-sh*t babes out there. As long as you’re doing you, you’re doing great. I don’t know ya, but you’ve read this much of the complete wass I’ve typed here, so I bet you’re well cool. Let’s go for a drink? Mines a Jamesons and lemonade.


Socials: 

Instagram – @shakiraaashakiraaa @poc.prod

Twitter – @shakiranewton @poc_prod


 

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