Notes to my teenage self: Breis and Julie Adenuga

This article was first published in November 2020.

What advice would you give to your younger self if you could meet them now you’re a bit older and wiser? We asked this question to 12 super-talented performers and broadcasters who have all experienced direct or indirect racism.

In this series, they share their stories and talk about how they were judged as teenagers. Here we have Breis and Julie Adenuga telling us about what it was like growing up and how they deal with what they see in the news and on social media today.

We also spoke to psychotherapist, Kemi Omijeh, for some advice on what you can do to take care of yourself from a psychological perspective if you're affected by prejudice or racism. Look out for her tips further down the page.

Breis

Breis (pronounced Breeze) is a rapper who grew up in London and Lagos in Nigeria, and his style of music is a mixture of afrobeats, hip hop and jazz. Breis had a passion for music and words from a young age, but it wasn’t until he finished university that he realised he could have a career in the industry.

Education and learning is something that’s really important to Breis. He’s the author of an interactive rap book and also founded an organisation called Student of Life, where hip hop, rap and poetry are used to inspire schoolchildren and college students.

Present Breis on teenage Breis:

I think he walked around his estate like a ninja, so the wrong eyes wouldn’t see him.

Julie Adenuga

Julie Adenuga is a broadcaster who’s hosted radio shows on Rinse FM and the Apple radio station, Beats 1. She was born in London and comes from a creative family. Julie’s two older brothers are British grime artists, Skepta and Jme.

Julie's love of rap and grime saw her present a documentary about Skepta called, Greatness Only. She also hosts her own YouTube show called Julie’s Top 5, where Julie and a panel of special guests take part in a debate about the top five songs of some of their favourite music artists.

Present Julie on teenage Julie:

She tried to not ruffle any feathers, not step on anyone’s toes, not say a joke, not be who she was – because people always made her feel like that was the wrong thing

What can you do to take care of yourself if you're affected by racism?

We asked psychotherapist, Kemi Omijeh, to take a look at Breis and Julie's film and share her thoughts from a mental health perspective.

Kemi: There are times when you might feel like you stand out in a way that is not always positive. You don’t have a choice in this visibility, and this could be emotionally overwhelming. If you’re feeling increased alertness, you can be hyper-vigilant. On an ongoing and long-term basis, this is not good for your mental health.

Here are some things you can do to look after your mental health:

  • Be yourself – don’t change or shrink your personality in order to fit in or make yourself invisible. The truth is, a lot of people invest a lot of time and energy trying to fit in when it would be so much better if we were all simply ourselves. Be your true self, the world needs your qualities. Be sure to set yourself clear boundaries, and don’t sacrifice your mental health for others

  • Ensure you’re getting enough sleep – prioritising your sleep is prioritising your mental health. Don’t underestimate the impact of sleep on emotional wellbeing. We simply don’t function at our best or make the best judgments when we’re tired

  • Participate in things that bring you joy – you could do this by finding a hobby or exploring an interest. Try creating a project about something you’re really passionate about or excited by.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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