UK Talent Drain, Why are so many people from ‘diverse’ background leaving the UK for work further a field? Yolette who featured in our recent podcast tell us why (UK Talent Drain feature: starts around 5min 30 seconds in)…
When I first moved to the US, I for the first time felt that actually my skills had a value and that I was quite gifted, unlike in the UK where one’s confidence had eventually cracked after so many ‘polite’ refusals. I couldn’t take another print editor telling me that he wasn’t going to “pay a Rwandan journalist that much money” for an exclusive story and then send one of his reporters to unearth my leads.
I couldn’t take another TV editor telling me to consider wearing braces for the combination of my “beautiful big eyes, gap teeth and dimples would distract viewers” essentially reducing me to a mass of congenital deformed features, the same fateful birth defects that are highly celebrated in so many other parts of the world.
I also couldn’t take the dual exoticisation and morbid curiosity that followed whenever it became known that I was from Rwanda, as if not having a missing limb and not looking disheveled was a disappointment to whoever my interlocutor was, or when like at my J-school one of the lecturers used to take great pleasure in introducing like one would show a fleet of collection cars to their guests, the most exotic subjects of his classmates, and so he would parade down the classroom aisles and point a finger at Rwanda, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago all of us women.
A number of times I was offered an interview for an entry-level position in one of the newsrooms I had interned at, only to be left with the unpleasant sensation that it was never about giving me a chance rather that the interviewer wanted me to entertain them and satisfy their own curiosity about my life and work story.
Then I once managed to meet a CH4 manager who gave me an appointment; and I was so hungry for the opportunity that I showed up at the said day and time – just one calendar month early. To my immense embarrassment, I was left to beg his very kind PA to keep my secret and that I’d be back a month later. Yet nothing came out of this most pleasant meeting with the most pleasant channel manager.
I’m not even mentioning the number of times when editors had “forgotten” to have commissioned your work and not paid you for over 6 months, which inevitably leaves sour grapes.
In the US where the narrative is more of triumph over adversity, being from Rwanda does not stigmatise me and people in general don’t spend hours fantasising about it in hopes that I could entertain them, for business revolves around “what do you want” and “what do you have” and “how soon can you do it” whether you’re covered in pimples or tattoos and have purple, blue or no hair. Then the game of work begins. You just want to have your foot in the door then it’s up to you to show what you have in the belly.
This being said, I haven’t found a place with such a strong Black community than in the UK. It’s a British-Ugandan director who put me on the trail right after J-School, it’s an Indian-American who gave me my first internship at CNN; it’s British-Ghanaian film genius who to this day motivates me, it’s a British-Pakistani who gave me my first internship at Al Jazeera English, it’s a British-Tanzanian BBC Editor who still counts as one of my referees, and it’s a British-Bengali who edited my first film spotted by the TV Collective. I can’t even begin to count the immensely talented British-Nigerian colleagues who have my back always and who know they can count on me too. There really is no place on earth like the UK and my heart is filled with joy at how well it has integrated its wealth of talent and giving visibility to its Blacks.
@yolettanyange is a writer and a filmmaker. She speaks five languages and fluently navigates across relationships, cultures and events. Nyange has a gift for capturing and turning tensions into transitions. Her work sparks global conversations and bring people closer. Nyange’s consistency and creativity attract those who seek out high value services. Yoletta Nyange works and plays between Kochi, London and Miami.