Life Stories: Char Bailey - Life Coach, Creative Director Know Hope, Education Officer UK BlackPride
Char often calls other people joyous and happy. In fact, the same words can be applied to her. She radiates energy and is a force for good; all about bringing positive energy and kindness into our community. She is the founder of her Life Coaching business, is Creative Director for Know Hope and is Education Officer for UK Black Pride. I hope you enjoy her wisdom and words as much as I did, this was such a great conversation to have on a day when Char’s motivation helped pick me up. It’ll do the same for you!
29, cis gendered female, lesbian, mixed background (South Asian Punjabi and Caribbean Jamaican)
Life Right Now
So many great things are happening. I can’t say too much at the moment, but I’m working in partnership with Gay Times in creating content around mental health which will be shared later this year. I’m also hosting well-being sessions at Ella Fest (the biggest lesbian festival) in Spain later this year. Plus, I’m putting on an event with my partner (Helen Scott) with Gay Star News called Positive Influence which looks at how we better support one another as a community, gay people supporting lesbians, non-PoC supporting PoC and so forth. This will kick off on the 20th June and it’s going to be great!
I was very much a tomboy growing up; I wasn’t really interested in men and always felt fluid. I’d never put myself in a box and resisted labels. I remember being really attracted to Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (Angelina Jolie) and it was the combination of action and her version of femininity that stood out. In the words of Katy Perry ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’. I always felt more connection to the women in my life and hadn’t felt sexually attracted to men – so it fell into place after this experience.
Taking time to understand myself was key; to understand myself and how I wanted to live before anyone else could label me. Being queer looks different for each person. I always say ‘come in before you come out’ – look inside of you to create a strong sense of self; people will treat you as you allow them to.
My Family & Culture
As my parents are from different cultures, I’m quite lucky in how this played out for me. My Mum was disowned by her family for being in a long-term relationship and having a baby with a Black man.
I didn’t tell my Dad about my sexuality until I got engaged a couple of years ago (to someone who I’m not with now). I was worried as Caribbean culture is difficult to be gay in – we have songs that make derogatory comments about gay people. It doesn’t make it easy. I remember sending my Dad a text to tell him the news, and my hands were shaking. And his message back was ‘Congratulations. When can I meet her?’ I was stunned, and found out later my Dad’s youngest brother is gay. He was great then and is still great now – he loves me and celebrates me as I am.
Initially, my Mum was worried for me – in that this would affect the quality of my life and would I be OK. As with Indian culture, there was also shame and what people in the family would think. It was a difficult transition, but now, she’s great; in fact she’s incredible!
I was poorly when I was 16 which was a tough period in life, but I’m here and I got through it. With both my parents, they are just happy that I’m still here, healthy and happy in myself. I think this has contributed in large part to their acceptance and love for me today.
When I don’t understand something, I research it and I remember coming across Lady Phyll and UK Black Pride. I could see there were people like me out there and that being me, as I am, was OK. I also remember seeing Sugar Rush on Channel 4, and the central character was mixed race and a lesbian. Seeing these things helped me accept myself and become more comfortable with my identity.
We can have an expectation of how we want coming out to be, especially when it comes to the reactions of heterosexual people. For example, when you tell someone anything that’s significant, there can be an initial feeling of shock. It can take time to process that, so I’ve learnt that rather than expecting a reaction and immediate acceptance, we often have to work through this with our loved ones. Rather than expecting to say I’m gay and love/accept me as I am, it’s about having the necessary conversations where you can to stand up for yourself, but also bring your loved ones along with you.
I’m lucky that I’ve been raised in a home where we are encouraged to talk about things; approach things with understanding, kindness and balance rather than judgement and disrespect.
My identity has massively shaped my career choices. I was subject to the same career expectations as other Indians (Lawyer, Doctor or Accountant). I eventually ended up in Law School, and this played a big part in my Mum’s side of the family finally accepting me, because I’d achieved the done thing. However, working in Law changed me – I was great at my work, but misogyny was real and I felt excluded (from not being invited to the Summer Party to being placed in an office/room by myself when they were refurbishing the offices). When I was shouted at by a Senior Manager, I decided I’d had enough.
I’d already been training as a Life Coach and realised I needed to practice what I said to others. For a long time, I’d normalised this type of behaviour and not been able to see how I’d changed as person. But I realised my purpose was linked to leaving people better than you found them and in turn make the world a better place filled with kindness.
My previous work wasn’t fulfilling my purpose, but this change flipped my life completely for the better and reminded me my job doesn’t have to define me. I now have my Life Coaching business, I work as the Creative Director Know Hope and carry out influencer work with the Gay Times.
Separate to this, I work with Schools leading a programme called Positive Destinations which works to show young people different career paths and moving forward in their lives, as well as being the Education Officer for UK Black Pride. I’m also working on furthering a movement I began called Spiritually Logical which will be followed up with a book and is something I began when I was ill and helped me use spirituality in a practical way.
Love, Dating & Relationships
I’m in a relationship with Helen – in fact I posted a picture of us kissing today on Insta. I’m not sure if we share too many photos of us kissing? (Answer: There is never enough kissing, so keep sharing!). I spent a lot of time learning to love myself and learning from my previous relationships. My mindset in a relationship is how are you showing up to be a gift to that person? Make it the best thing you can be and share yourself fully.
Helen and I met last summer (we were engaged to other people at the time). Those relationships ended amicably a while back, and during that time Helen and I became each other’s best friends and supported each other. Our energy has always been in sync (the words Char uses is the same level of ‘woo-woo’ which I love 😉). We’d initially set each other up on dates or introduce each other to people, but in February this year we went on our first date and the rest is history. The best way to describe how we are together is ‘cheerleader vibes’ – we fully support and champion each other. We share the same values but are very different as personalities – I refer to us as roots and wings, I keep us grounded and Helen knows how to lift us – she is just happiness in a person. We’ve been lucky to work together and created a YouTube channel to inspire others, which has racked up c. 1000 subscribers already. We’ve recently shot the Pride collection for River Island which will be launched in a couple of weeks.
For our progress, it’s all about PoC being more visible (those that can). There is a lot to be said for safe spaces in our community too, as we carry a lot of trauma in our community. Hurt people tend to hurt other people so safe spaces provide a place for engagement and an opportunity to educate one another by taking the time to learn/listen. Being part of UK Black Pride has played a big part in understanding my identity, specifically as both Indian and Black. Given where I grew up (in a working class, BNP area), I’ve reconnected with my heritage through yoga to understanding carnival and owning the intersections of my identity. Working with UK Black Pride has meant I’ve spent more time with people of colour and listening to them, as well as being in spaces and feeling comfortable in places where colourism previously affected me.
Through my work, I’ve understood that a lot of the hurt comes from not being understood. If I can be visible and make myself available, then my belief is that it creates a ripple effect for other people to do the same. I’m grateful in that I’m blessed and lucky, coupled with the intelligence, experience and desire to be able to help other people.
Shiva Raichandani (non-binary performer and activist), Lady Phyll (Founder, UK Black Pride and Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust), Kayza Rose (Co-Director BlackOut London) who is like a mother/mentor/sister and taught me about my blackness and Campbell X – they are a non-binary trans man who directed movies such as Different for Girls and Stud Life.
Words of Wisdom
The answers are within you. Think about who can you talk to and who can support you? As PoC, we can be so oppressed that we don’t ask ourselves or trust ourselves – which stems from needing to love ourselves more. Have that conversation with yourself; come in and then come out.
Don’t be scared to fail. You will fail and fail and fail; but failure in itself is great feedback. It helps us learn how not to do things and is evidence that you’re trying at life. So, don’t be afraid to take the risk - dive in and do it.
If you wouldn’t say it to another person, don’t say it to yourself. We can get stuck in negative self-talk e.g. that was ridiculous, you’re stupid, etc. which I wouldn’t say to someone else, so why would I say those things to myself. Talk to yourself in a kinder way. We often disregard ourselves but the simple key is loving yourself.
Our time was up! Char was on a schedule and the next appointment was with Helen who was waiting for her to watch some Ru Paul’s Drag Race together (with Doritos!). Really excited to see some of the great work Char will be sharing in the coming months, especially the work around positive mental health.
She currently has some openings for new coaching clients; you can contact her directly here to find out more. And she has an amazing Instagram feed, which you can follow here for all the motivation you need in your life! 💜