Category Archives: Interviews

London Spotter: Raj Stevenson

Blogger London Spotter, also known as Raj Stevenson, is a full-time student who in his spare time blogs about the latest aviation events and describes himself as: “an airlines for nightmare”.

“My dream and what I’m working towards, is making London Spotter my full-time job.” Raj’s humble days of plane spotting from the perimeter fence of London Gatwick Airport has led to him attending aircraft deliveries with Qatar Airways, events held by Airbus and the opportunity to meet industry wide names such as Sam Chui and Brian Kelly.

This teen critic of the aircraft industry accidentally stumbled across the path of writing about aviation claiming that he only started plane spotting when his best friend was on holiday, and was interested to see his flight’s progress. First by tracking his friend’s flight on a website called FlightRadar24, and then by visiting Gatwick Airport which was near his home.

“When I was 15 years old, I actually didn’t know much about aviation”. Stevenson used a website called Flight Radar 24, a free website which shows the responders of all commercial flights, to track the progress of his friend’s flight. From there on, Stevenson’s career in aviation “took off”.

Stevenson’s Instagram following has grown exponentially in the last year, and he now has a following of over 40,000 followers. His YouTube following too is substantial, with a following of almost 3,000 subscribers (Videos from Raj Stevenson’s channel is his sole property, all credits belong to Raj Stevenson and his channel London Spotter).

Stevenson provides advice concerning top tips when flying, how to find the best flight and hotel deals, and loopholes behind avoiding nuisance costs in the industry.

In light of infamous and recent incidents in aviation I asked Raj what he thought of aircraft safety in 2019. “It always will be a very safe way to travel, I’ve never been scared to fly, and if you look at the statistics it is safe.”

Raj seemed unfettered by the crash of identical aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, one which crashed of the coast of Sumatra and the second shortly after take from Addis Ababa.

“You could say flying became safe when those to aircraft crashed.”

Raj’s Instagram page is a prime example of the work and all the achievements he has experienced. Though as a full-time student, he found providing the time and expenses of managing invitations to further aviation events and releases difficult to accept.

During of 2018, Raj extensively travelled much of Asia and the Middle East, and hopes to enjoy further travels this year. A perfect place to keep on track with Raj’s ventures is on Instagram: londonspotter.

“It’s not like the movies”- Andrew: An ex undercover officer

Andrew Gregory, 54, never imagined that when he went to the Job Centre at 18 straight after he finished his A-levels, that he would end up in a career as an undercover officer culminating in him becoming a Covert Operation Manager. His journey began at Dover docks, where for a few years he worked as a customs officer dealing with passengers at the port. This was until one day, one of his fellow colleges mentioned that there was currently work available in the investigation unit. Andrew was raised in a council estate in Kent, and as government grants did not exist at this time, university was never an option for him. As he excelled at school, he was determined to ensure that his background and financial situation would not hold him back from a satisfactory and lucrative career.

Andrew worked within an investigation team that focused on criminal organisations that were smuggling cocaine into the UK. This was an interesting and high profile field of work, because at this time cocaine and particularly crack cocaine were fairly new forms of drugs that were attracting press attention.

After 10 years of working within the investigation team, he then stumbled into undercover work where he spent the next 18 years of his career. His job entailed him travelling abroad and becoming the character of a lorry driver. His job was to meet with informers and sometimes collect drugs off individuals. He would then proceed to bring the drugs back to the UK, in order for him and his team to arrest the organisations arranging the importations and supplying the drugs to the public.

“My most interesting job was probably the one that lasted for five years. I started the job and saw it through to the end. We infiltrated an organisation who we thought were trying to smuggle four tons of cocaine into England, but it ended up being into Spain. They handed us four tons of cocaine thinking we were working for them.”

 

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Andrew whilst undercover, had to always be on his toes. One little slip up could have blown his cover and ruined a whole investigation. He built up a character that he believed in, and was similar to his actual life to ensure that every operation ran smoothly and that no mistakes were made. His character was that of a single lorry driver. Once his home life changed and his daughter was born, his character and real-life circumstances diverged. This wasn’t an issue but it just meant that Andrew had to be extra careful whilst undercover. Within his field of work, Andrew was always being watched as criminals live on the edge. They are sharp and look at the little things such as what he wore, what he ate, and particularly how he talked.

Andrew faced many struggles and hurdles throughout his 18 years within undercover work.  He has often stated that one of the surprising aspects of his job, was that when he was working alongside criminals for long periods of time he found himself growing fond of them and their company. Whilst being involved in this certain job, Andrew had to ensure that his emotions and personal opinion did not get in the way of the operations and its main objectives.

“When it comes to crimes such as smuggling and robbery the people that do them can be anybody. I believe that it all just depends on who you hang around with and what path you chose to take.”

 “I did a job in Liverpool and I was undercover as a lorry driver. I had to live up there for a month. Whilst I was there I had to go to the pub for drinks with the bad guys and watch them take drugs in front of me.”

 The job wasn’t all fast cars, expensive dinners and travelling, even though these were just some of the amazing perks. Due to Andrew spending 18 years working as an undercover officer, it caused a strain on him personally. He would spend long durations of time away from home, and once he started a family this caused his work to become more and more stressful. He could spend weeks within his character and then have to go home and change back into himself. This caused his personality to considerably change due to the sharp transition he would have to face on a regular basis.

“Spending sometimes weeks with criminals would change my character. I became less of a nice person and unfortunately, you don’t get much help or support in this line of work. I definitely did it for too long.”

 Andrew was lucky when it came to his career. He fell on his feet, believed in what he did, and never had to worry about there being a dull day in the office. However, it’s not like the movies, it’s an intense, overwhelming and 24/7 job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Put your heart first”-Interview with Giovanni Rossi

Giovanni Rossi has been a long time family friend.

I remember when I was a child, the long talks after dinner that my dad used to entertain with this man; that used to appear out of nowhere with his wife, to then disappear for months or years. And whenever Giovanni was around, I remember him always with an enormous smile; discussing and recounting what to me sounded like weird stories about realities far from earth. It was strange to a young me, but never boring.

Giovanni is a tall and elegant man in his 60s that comes from Città di Castello, a small and pitoresque town in Umbria, Italy; where he spent his life working as a specialist breast-cancer surgeon. Happily married to his beloved Emanuela, long time partner; Giovanni is a man of great down-to-earth sensitivity and genuinity, with an enormous passion for travel that took him around the world.

Last time I saw him it was very long ago (at least eight years, if I’m not wrong), so it’s been a pleasant experience seeing him again.

As I ask him my first questions, he politely answers speaking with a very pronounced accent typical of that area of Italy; and with a comforting, firm, and loud (but pleasant) tone.

As he moves his basalt curly hair; he start to recounts the story of how his life Changed.

Back in 2009/2010 Giovanni was coming back form Ngorongoro after a holiday, when he found himself wating 5 hours in Addis Abeba airport. As he waited, he noticed <a tall and slim man with a huge cross necklace on his chest>, and randomly started a conversation with him. It turns out that the man was a victim of the Rwandan War of 1994, in which he lost his family. Found life in faith, and became the bishop of a small town called Kobgai.

The man was adopted by an Italian couple in his childhood, and therefore he was able to speak Italian fluently. Giovanni <[…]ended up speaking with him all night long>; curious of the stories about the difference that humanitarian help makes in small and remote realities in Africa.

After the conversation with the man, Giovanni decided to keep in touch with the bishop that later on invited him to visit one of his “missions”.

“I think care was a family thing[…]”

said Giovanni laying gently his hands on the table as he explains how he started to realise his vocation.

As he speaks, his stiff surgeon hands swing “italianically” through words and memories; looking nimble and mechanical (nearly robotic) in the old-flow of their movement: consumed, but not exhausted.

“My aunt was a very important figure in my life, and I always respected her devotion to God and the others” he said tenderly speaking about the role that as nun, his aunt had in hospitals; meanwhile a tobacco-brown tuft of his black moustaches bounces fiery up and down with his words, just were once smoke used to ascend.

After a year in planning, in 2011 (supported money of his own pocket, and by two members of “Figlie Della Misericordia” convent) Giovanni finally started his first “test” humanitarian mission to Kizibere, a small town lost in Tanzania, accompanied by Emanuela and the bishop which he met, that invited them a year before.

As he speaks of his arrival and Kizibere, I notice a sligh loss of momentum in the so far tone of his voice; like a sudden change of light of when clouds pass in front of the sun.

“You only feel lost, Luca. Not because there is nothing around you; or because night arrives in the span of ten minutes, no. Not even because of the precarious conditions of life around you, no. You feel lost because you see the extreme good in people; living a “normal” routine in conditions that you know, deep down into you; that you wouldn’t be able to accept. […] It feels unreal, and the only questions that bounced violently in my head : How? What can I do? What the f’’’ is life, if I’m only a teardrop in an ocean? […] It’s been 9 very stressful days, and thanks to what I’ve seen, and to the immense support and joy of Emanuela that something here, and here (pointing his head and then his heart) clicked. I learnt to put my heart first, Luca.”

In 2012 Giovanni finally bought a construction terrain dedicated to the building of small infrastructures to bring minimal life support to the inhabitants Kizibere, bringing work and small progressions.

Since then, Giovanni has spent over 3,5 years in total in African territory, dedicating himself to medicine, faith and labour; and I’ll just say that he spent the majority of his earnings in this.

Today thanks to Giovanni’s initiative, in Kizibere there are now infrastructures hosting intructional, religious, and working-related activities to guarantee a better future and better probabilities to the future generations.

As he leaves, he confesses with petrol where blood should run; that he still takes <good care>of his loved bright-yellow Jaguar E Cabrio; and that next time I’m in Italy, <I should visit him for a ride>.

Katy Bellotte: “organized chaos” turned influencer

“I was a mess, I wasn’t ready…”

Picking at her freshly painted maroon colored nail beds and staring that the white oak floors, YouTuber and Instagram influencer, Katy Bellotte, looked back on her journey from a life full of “organized chaos” to promotional boxes of Free People and Glossier at her New York City flat’s doorstep.

Accrediting her success to not being afraid to produce hard and clear content that hurts, Bellotte has grown a fanbase of 469, 387 Youtube subscribers, 159,000 Instagram followers, and the second leading podcast on Spotify for Lifestyle and Health. As a result, she has become a frequently sought after fashion, skincare, and beauty ambassador and is friendly with several celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Jenna Mourey.

Nevertheless, the road to becoming an influencer is a rocky one, and Katy’s journey is no exception. With millions of individuals fighting their way into the social media fashion and beauty scene, just how difficult is it to actually make it.

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Perhaps Bellotte’s strongest motivation came from her desire to fulfill an unsatisfied market. “…I decided that I wanted to become for others what I wanted for myself.”

Born and raised in the small, bayside town of Annapolis, Maryland, Bellotte always felt slightly out of space. “Back in my early teens, I was brutally bullied. The way that I looked, acted and talked caused me to be ridiculed. It was a tough time for me and I really wish that there would have been I’d an older girl who I could have sought advice from.”

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With her Youtube algorithm showing that most of Bellotte’s viewers being slightly younger than her age, 23, she sees herself as one of the “big sisters” of Youtube. “It has always been my goal to act as a beacon of hope for girls who have gone through similar situations and are just looking for guidance and a helping hand.”

Despite her tripod of textbooks from her previous degree at Elon University, Bellotte has still managed to make a name for herself because of the passion that she has for her hobby. “When you’re 14, you’re constantly searching for ways to label yourself and the only clear label that I could find that suited me and I enjoyed was a videographer.”

With a folder entitled, “Katy’s Creations” on her old Envy HP laptop, Katy decided to start her journey to becoming a Youtuber. Within this folder sat her first video ever uploaded: a eye makeup tutorial with one eyeshadow brush and one eyeshadow. “I remember thinking, ‘gosh, I really just want to put these somewhere, I want for other people to see them.’ I really found my worth in making videos. I loved it. I would wake up in the morning and be like, “where’s my camera?” and I am still kinda like that honestly. From there it has blossomed into something I don’t even have the words to describe”

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When in doubt, throw some avocado on it! 🥑 I’m whipping up my favorite dish of the moment, the ‘Mean Greens’ recipe from @NancyAndersonFit ’s 10 Day Detox. I’m getting all prepped and ready for the official kick off with her 10 day detox community on Monday June 18! Join us and lets get ready for summer together 👯‍♀️👏🏼 • Not only will this plan have you seeing changes quickly but it will also help you have more energy, improve your skin, health, gut and hormones in just a few days. Her results from last month are so legit- can’t wait to see how we do! To download the plan and learn more head to her page @nancyandersonfit – use the code ‘katy20’ for $20 off! #letsdothis #partner

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In spite of her popularity on social media, Katy undeterred by the numbers and fully intents on keeping her hobby and career as separate entities. “I think that as soon as you make something that you love your complete job, you start to love it less.”

Despite her strong belief, Bellotte she’s no end to her content creating anytime soon. With a New York City apartment, a social media editing job at L’Oreal, and her evergrowing life experiences, she can only see herself continue to grow. “In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘people of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.’ Being open and public about the things that others don’t dare to speak up about is how I’ve gotten where I am and how I’ll keep climbing.”

As a chip of her maroon nail polish fell to the ground, she looked up, “I wasn’t ready, but then again, when will you ever be? Dare to be different. Create for yourself. Work with what you have and go with the flow. You might be more ready than you think.”

“Everyday is an Adventure of Surrender”

Jo Nava moved to London from Denmark with her family 3 years ago. Since then, she has made her space on the corner of Tottenham court road, where she wows passers-by with her new style of busking. Using a loop machine and her laptop she is able to create new unique songs you usually only hear on the radio right in front of you. With this she plays her own music only, introducing us to a mixture of song and rap with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings and lift your soul as she inspires you to live a positive lifestyle.

 

 

 

Meet Naima Ali, the editor hoping to inspire Muslim women through SAKINA magazine.

How many magazines for Muslim women that have gone mainstream do we know? Not enough. I spoke to the editor of SAKINA magazine, Naima Ali, who stated that growing up with magazines like Vogue, ELLE and Seventeen- “you, yourself, feel as if you don’t belong because you’re not represented on those platforms”. Therefore the creation of SAKINA Magazine was in hopes to give young Muslim women more of a platform for expression, a place to discuss their personal issues and inner thoughts.

SAKINA Magazine spring issue.

Naima Ali grew up in London, England and now resides in Malmö, Sweden. She’s a student studying international relations at Malmö University. Naima and her fellow editors started from scratch and came up with a vision. The creation of SAKINA magazine is a way of taking a proactive approach in what they believe it. Instead of dwelling on the past and questioning why mainstream magazines don’t feature Muslim women, they decided to create their own space for Muslim women. SAKINA is a word derived from the Quran and means “spirit of tranquility” and peace. With a compelling word like that as the name of the magazine, it invokes readers to understand what the concept of the magazine it.

Naima Ali holding up SAKINA Magazine.

The creation of the first issue took a lot of time and planning. Naima insisted that the magazine should be published differently from others. So instead of using a website or a blog, the group launched their magazine on a site called “ISSUU”. This is a interactive platform where you can upload magazines and flip through the pages as if it was a hard copy- exposing yourself to online communities. Anyone can access it. Naima describes the experience- “we thought that was really cool but it did take a lot planning, In-design and Photoshop. But regardless it was a fun experience. We would obviously want to try other things instead of limiting our issues to online.”

For the editors of the magazine, starting it from scratch not only meant needing skills required for different softwares but deeply thinking about what content to include. Therefore there was trials and tribulations to overcome in order to have a successful first issue. Learning the rudiments of a magazine meant understanding your audience and what they would like to read. Naima explained to me over the phone that the team wanted to make sure “it wasn’t a religious magazine” instead saying that “we wanted to give our viewpoints on various topics from a Islamic perspective”. That includes dividing the magazines into five categories: beauty, lifestyle: mental health, entertainment: arts and culture, fashion as well as interviewing influential people. Therefore the basis of the magazine is valued by what their consumers want to read.

Naima says that her and her team think to themselves “if we had the magazine growing up, what would we want it to include?” So that’s how they determine the content of the magazine. By touching upon topics that young Muslim women would want to know about so they can look at it and say “yes this is me, and i need this”. Overall it is important to “take inspiration from our audience and craft something that is as realistic as possible”. Currently the magazine only has one issue but the team said they would like to have a theme behind each issue in the future. Already drawing upon new ideas.

I asked Naima what makes SAKINA different from other upcoming magazines on the market. She replied that the main difference is that it is “entirely for Muslim women and we are sticking to a specific age group: 18 to 25”. As well as the demographic being for young women, Naima stressed on the importance of giving more representation to Muslim women of colour, especially black Muslim women. Saying “that is not to exclude anybody else, but we know in the media black Muslim women get the least amount of coverage”. This is essential as the magazine gives the readers a voice. Naima describes SAKINA magazine for their audience as a “safe space”, adding on that it’s “something that can make Muslim women feel like they belong considering most of the time they don’t feel included in society”. That being so, SAKINA is something that can “unite us all”.

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Happy muslim women’s day💕 photo: @ikramianism

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So what’s the next mission for the team behind the magazine? Personally for Naima, she writes in the mental health column and her goal is help their readers speak out about issues – “I want them to know that if they feel like they can’t get the help they need because of stigmas in their community, here in SAKINA we know what you’re going through, we understand so don’t hesitate to reach out to us”. For the magazine as a whole, the main goal is to continue making Muslim women feel great about themselves. So instead of feeling like young girls/women have to pick out a bigger mainstream magazines, they can pick out SAKINA instead and see that it caters towards them.


Becoming a blogger: Scarlett Dixon on making the jump from journalism to blogging

Scarlett Dixon is a 25-year-old blogger from London, who is perhaps better known online as ‘Scarlett London’. As the epitome of ‘Instagram goals’, Scarlett boasts over 70,000 followers on the platform, along with over 13,000 subscribers on YouTube, but it’s really her blog that kick-started her career.

Scarlett set up her blog in 2011, as an aspiring journalist looking for somewhere to showcase her work for future job opportunities but it wasn’t until she’d graduated university (with a First-Class Honours degree) and began interning at women’s magazines that she realised her blog could be more than just a hobby. ‘Magazines were going through a transitional period and there was a general unease about the future of them. It wasn’t the most pleasant environment to start working in and it definitely steered me towards my blog’, she says.

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Take a walk on the wild side 🐯 A couple of months ago, I would have deleted these pictures and immediately felt deflated. My eyes would have been drawn instantly to my hips (an area I’ve always felt conscious of) and I wouldn’t have been able to admire the animal print jacket, the way my hair looked or the fact there was the most adorable little green car behind me! We all have our individual insecurities and the things that immediately draw our attention when picking apart photos of ourselves. It can be even more all consuming when your job revolves around taking & posting photos of yourself 🙈 I honestly don’t really know what has changed in the last few months other than that I’ve learned to appreciate all of the individual parts that make me, me! We all have little things that we (ourselves) notice daily, but no-body else does. So the next time you walk past the mirror or see a photo of yourself, I dare you to look at yourself with fresh eyes. Don’t immediately glance at the usual places. Admire everything that makes you, you! You are beautiful, strong, magical, mighty and smart! ❤️ loving yourself is seen as a narcissist quality, but we carry so much love in our hearts – you have to give a little to yourself sometimes! Photo by @lauraslittlelocket

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Having made the jump to blogging as her full-time career in 2017, Scarlett considers blogging to be ‘more of a lifestyle career than a traditional job, as you share lots of parts of your life as part of your blog – so the lines are pretty blurred in terms of ‘switching off’. A difficulty for Scarlett is her work/life balance – working for herself, it’s common that she feels guilty if she’s not doing something constantly, despite having frequent manically busy periods.

There’s no typical 9 to 5 day for Scarlett. Her career involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work – ‘Usually you’re working with brands (as your clients) who have a set brief to follow for each campaign. You have to put together a creative idea, essentially pitch it to them – and ensure it’s still on brief but fits with your audience. Then we plan shoots, find locations, edit et cetera. It’s all very varied and can be very busy and manic’.

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Q: if you had a looking glass that could see into your future, would you want to know what it had in store for you? 🌸 My A: probably not. I think that some of the best things in life are surprises and embracing change and the unexpected is all part of growing older and more wise. I do think sometimes we have to trust that things will all work out how they are supposed to. I guess if you looked at your future, it wouldn’t make much sense to you in the present. We will only be able to see the joined dots looking back, not forward. What do you think? Would you want to know your future if you could? Ps: I’m not in NYC (I wish) but these are a few pictures from my trip a year and a half ago that I never shared! 🌸🙈

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Being a lifestyle blogger, Scarlett’s online content is heavily focussed around fashion, beauty and travel, amongst other topics – but she doesn’t feel pressured to keep up the image that she portrays online. In fact, her online style is typically what she would wear in her every day, offline life – ‘when I’m out and about with friends/family – I tend to wear the same kind of stuff I’m pictured in on my Instagram. The only difference is that I might not have my hair extensions in. I’ve always been a very low maintenance kind of person’, she says.

But things haven’t necessarily been easy in Scarlett’s blogging career – ‘I think dealing with online vitriol is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with’. Within the last year, Scarlett has come under fire by online trolls who criticised her Instagram for being ‘fake’ – one tweet turned into criticism on a mass scale, through newspapers and national TV. As someone who describes herself as ‘a pretty sensitive person naturally’, Scarlett says ‘It was such a tough time, because thousands of people who have never met you are attacking your character and making wild, defamatory assumptions about you. I’ve pretty much read everything I possibly could about myself and feel I have a much thicker skin.’

The biggest lesson she’s learnt? ‘Just to go for it. There’s no time like the present and the best way to learn is through experimenting with different things. My blog didn’t start out looking like it did now – and no-one expects you to be perfect either. Don’t try and emulate anyone else, offer something unique and different. Think about what you are offering to your readers. You are your niche, so let everything that makes you you shine’.

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[Gift] The saying ‘when you wait for a bus and they all come along at once’ basically sums up this series of photos. Fun challenge for your Monday morning – how many London buses can you spot? Typically they all pop along when I’m trying to take a picture – I also had a fluorescent yellow road sweeper in the background on one image, so I very badly edited him and his truck out. I hope everyone has a wonderful Monday! ❤️😘 Disclaimer: the bag, shoes and trousers I am wearing in this image have all been gifted by Dorothy Perkins, who I am proud to work with on paid content from time to time. However this post has not been paid for, I just adore their clothes – and this handbag, which comes on all of my adventures with me! The scarf and coat are from Boohoo, who do kindly gift me items of clothing each month.

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So, what’s next? For one, she’s publishing a book in April – ‘it’s very exciting and has been in the pipeline for a little while now. I blog a lot about taboo subjects – such as chronic illness and digestive health, so all I can say is that it’s linked to that! Watch this space’. And that’s something she hopes to carry on with – writing is and has always been Scarlett’s main passion and she hopes to publish a fiction book in the future. If her current work is anything to go by, it’s certainly something to look forward to but, for now, you can find her work at scarlettlondon.com.

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