If you’ve ever browsed the South African interwebs, you have certainly come across Neema Nouse of NouseLifestyle. Having built an incredibly popular blog, Neema is known for her unique approach to women’s issues, poetic form and innate sense of style. As someone with a large following on online media, we spoke to Neema about the impact social media has on South African women today and how poetry and reading have influenced her persona…
Current title/company: Student, University of the Witwatersrand; Tastemaker, TastemakersAfrica.com; Editor, NouséLifestyle
Educational background: Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand
Current city: Johannesburg
Neema, thousands of young women across the country love your use of words, the creativity and authenticity of your blog and how you express your vulnerability online. Tell us about the journey you took to establishing your blog, NouseLifestyle (http://nouselifestyle.tumblr.com)?
I was entering a new phase of my life when I began my blog away from the North, where I was born and raised, and into an environment of creativity and cultural affluence. I needed a platform to showcase this and hence the birth of NouseLifestyle. I wanted to document and share with whomever had the desire to listen to every poet, every bosa nova or neo soul song and every artist whom I met. So Nouselifestyle served and continues to be a visual recollection of my life.
Although being on a public platform my blog was always a very personal means of escapism for me. So the fact that people enjoyed it was incredible but my intention has never been to go viral.
The advent of online expression has seen the internet being treated as the main source of young people’s news and current affairs. Our generation uses Blogs, Tumblrs, Social Media and imagery to form an opinion. As someone with a large following on all the above platforms, have you ever felt a responsibility to act as a voice for young women in South Africa?
Not so much a voice for young women in SA as much as a voice for that one young woman in SA who finds herself in a world where she is disinterested in most of the things everybody else seems to be interested in. She owns who she is, takes delight in her individuality and sees the value in it. I like that woman. I can relate to her. So I act as a voice for her. But you are absolutely right; the internet has become a main source of information for young people today because of its instantaneousness and easy accessibility. So in knowing this, one does become very conscious about the type of information and the kind of message one is sending out to those whose minds are still being moulded by everything that they read online. It would be irresponsible not to.
When you look at the large impact online media has on our society, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing women today in this regard?
Identifying our true selves in all of this, I believe, has been the biggest challenge. So what women tend to do is change who they are in order to fit the mould or the standard set by online media. So essentially, in a broad sense, women have lost their innate identity. We have become clones of each other and I see this everyday on social media or even walking through campus.
The challenge then becomes trying to regain ones lost identity. I could give examples but I won’t because the reality is that none of this is our fault. Most women aren’t even aware of the effect that online media has had on them; they think they’re making independent decisions and are liberated through their responses to online ideologies when in actual fact their choices are being made within the confines of a set of options presented to them by online media.
How do you think we as women can use the platforms and modern resources we have available to us, to make a positive contribution to the society at large?
As women we can make a positive contribution to society at large through our shared voices. Through mediums such as social media our voices reach far and wide places – places we would ordinarily not know exist and places that are far removed from our reality. Our existence and daily experiences as woman are in fact shared globally – we’ve seen this on countless occasions, most recently in Kenya and Nigeria with the plight of woman and the girl child.
On a lighter note, tell us about your majestic use of words – what factors have contributed towards your love for reading and writing?
Poets and writers like Alysia Harris, Andrea Gibson and Arundhati Roy are the reason for my love for words. I mean, the power that poetry has in its ability to put into words exactly what you feel really resonated deeply with me, especially when one was younger and didn’t have the diction to define what love is or loneliness. And then being on tumblr and reading lines like “I would kiss you in the middle of the ocean during a lightning storm because I’d rather be left for dead than left to wonder what thunder sounds like”, describing what it is to wilfully risk everything all for the chance to be whole with someone, made my world that much more lush. And really, that’s where it all began.
Your blog, NouseLifestyle, transcends a variety of subjects – from fashion and hair care to self-image, self-awareness and love. Where do you hope to take your blog in future?
As with any journey I don’t know what the future holds but I hope to evolve with my blog. Really, it’s a personal journey that I’m discovering as I go along.
You are incredibly poetic and this certainly resonates in your work online. Are you satisfied creatively?
Thank you so much. There is so much that I have yet to discover and be inspired by so I don’t think it’s possible to be creatively satisfied.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m in my final year and I intend on doing Honors next year so I’m on campus everyday from about 8am to 1pm. I also have a few projects I’m working on in preparation for 2015 so the rest of my day consists of me on my computer or iPhone sending and receiving emails and orchestrating meetings. Passion drives my online work so I only blog on days when I’m inspired to do so. So on days when I’ve discovered something new or something beautiful that I’d like to share or if there’s a Him in my life who isn’t acting right, then I’ll blog.
As a blogger, writer and creative, what have been your biggest challenges and how were you able to overcome them?
Living up to the standard I set for myself of being the first, the best or the only which I overcame when I realized that simply by being yourself you become all three.
Advice for aspiring writers?
I don’t think I’m in a position to give aspiring writers any advice being that I’m one myself. But something someone told me was that staying true to your individual style of writing is what’s going to give you longevity. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by others but staying true to your own ‘writer’s voice’ and being honest in your writing will make you relatable and pretty much guarantee success.
Morning or night? Night. At around 2am when no one is up and I have a few hours to myself in complete stillness.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? Bonnie Parker (of the original Bonnie and Clyde). I would ask her what it felt like to love a man the way she did. And if she had a daughter, would she have warned her against a love that deep. I would order a Thai green curry.
I wish I knew how to: Sing.
African women are… now understanding the power behind what it means to be an African woman.
South Africa is… not all it’s perceived to be. It’s more.
Worst money mistake… Having not started making my own sooner.
Best investment… The time I took this year to define myself – not based on societal norms.
Motivation in 3 words… You got this.