Entertainment

The Slumflower: 'We Make Heroes Out Of Human Beings'

Blogger Chidera Eggerue walks VICE around Peckham to talk about her new book, 'What a Time to Be Alone'.
Nana Baah
London, United Kingdom
EB
photos by Emily Bowler
July 11, 2018, 10:28am

The Slumflower walks into a restaurant in Peckham wearing a rainbow-coloured two-piece, arms outstretched, ready for a hug. The 23-year-old, whose real name is Chidera Eggerue, beams, and I notice her ever-changing hair is today in multi-coloured pastel box braids, tied up on top of her head.

"I get described as eclectic a lot, and that's definitely influenced by living in Peckham," she says.

It's likely that The Slumflower has been retweeted onto your timeline at some point – or you might have even seen the movement she created: #SaggyBoobsMatter. Either way, Chidera's tweets and Instagram stories have earned her a special place in the ranks of social media personalities, as she offers advice on being a young woman, how to date and how to put yourself first.

Her debut book, What a Time to Be Alone: The Slumflower’s Guide to Why You Are Already Enough, is a continuation of this. Split into three main sections, the "self-help book without the pressure", as Chidera calls it, claims to help you in your young life, regardless of what stage you're at.

We picked Peckham – where she grew up – to meet because it's somewhere she feels comfortable offline. "There's a very large Nigerian community in Peckham," she says. "So for me it feels like I'm as close to home – which is Nigeria – as possible. I can't imagine living in an area where I don't have a sense of community."

The restaurant we're in, Wildflower, is in the newly-built creative workspace Peckham Levels, which was once a multi-storey car park next to the Peckhamplex cinema. "Gentrification is something that can't be avoided," says Chidera. "For my peace of mind I'm trying to find the positives in every little thing. This place wasn't being used at all, there are so many creative spaces and they prioritise people who live in the area. It has created jobs and opportunities for people. Also, it's given Peckham an extra exciting touch, which I think will only continue to grow over time."

As for the older, un-gentrified Peckham, Chidera has a few favourite spots. "In Peckham Rye Park there's a lake and swans. It's just so pretty," she says. "There's this whole lavender garden. I tend to go there and think and hide out."

All that thinking has got Chidera to where she is today, with teens looking to her socials for life advice. Unsurprisingly, she has recently begun to feel the pressure that comes with that.

"We're in a time where people are making heroes out of human beings. We're forgetting that human beings are subject to change, subject to growth and subject to being wrong," she explains. "When you idolise human beings you are actually dehumanising them without realising. You're removing the element of them that is flawed and saying to them, 'Your job is to provide me with nice feelings.'

"That's the difficult part about the internet, and that's what makes it really tough to be put in the position of being a hero. I never identify as anyone's hero. I try to be as flawed as possible and I allow myself to be wrong. My job is to be my own hero, and my only responsibility is myself. If people choose to utilise my life as an example for them, I'm happy for them to do so as long as they can apply their own experiences to it."

Chidera attributes her tenacity to her mother. Her new book is littered with Igbo idioms and proverbs, with English translations, that her Nigerian-born mother has been saying to her all of her life – for example, "He who is asking for the same haircut as John; does he have the same shaped head as John?"

For most people with African parents, these kind of sayings won't be unfamiliar – so much so that they might have just become part of the furniture. However, in her book, Chidera has revived them as useful nuggets of wisdom.

"I'm just a more refined version of [my mother]," Chidera explains. "I have access to all of these resources and education that gives me room to be more of a free-thinker. For me, what I adopt from her is her confidence and her boldness, her fearlessness when speaking her truth – and that is evident from the way I deliver my message in [What a Time to Be Alone]. I'm just straight to the point, and there's no fluff."

By that, Chidera means she made the conscious decision to have as little writing in the book as she could: "There's no point longing it out or surrounding it with loads of pretty nice words, when really I could just get straight to the point and allow it to sink in and apply to you in whatever way works."

"I just want you to open whichever page you open and the message will still resonate with you," she says. "For self-help, or any kind of help, to be effective you need to start with the stage that you're at, right?”

For Chidera, that stage wasn't too long ago: "The change really occurred when I was about 21," says the now 23-year-old. Two years ago, when The Slumflower was only a fashion blog, Chidera was part of a predominantly male collective, which consisted of photographers, videographers and musicians.

"I was the blogger/stylist, and I just felt very overlooked and spoken over," she says. "I was screaming into a void and no one was listening to me. As much as I tried and tried and tried, because I was a woman everything I said was seen as less valuable or less important. It wasn’t until I left, when I was about 22, that I realised I had a whole personality and a whole perspective and journey that I can use as a tool to put a message out there."

Considering her primary medium in communicating that message is social media, I ask why she decided now was the time to publish a book. "A book is so important because the message that I’m conveying is timeless. I don't want to rely on the internet," she says. "Social media platforms, as much as they're useful, they’re all susceptible to shutting down and losing value."

In the future, Chidera just wants to make the biggest positive impact she can. "I want to be in radio, creating factual documentaries on television, have a really fun, cool talk show and definitely release more books," she says.

She has already checked off many of these goals, of course, having fronted the BBC documentary, Too Young To Go Bald, and appearing on radio and television numerous times – but she's understandably keen to continue what she has set in motion. "I just want to create a long-term message," she says. "I don't want to be a fad."

‘What a Time to Be Alone’ is out on the 26th of July, on Quadrille.

@nanasbaah