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Khaya's Journey Back into Creativity

Khaya is the creator of Femme Fatale Gals, and as fierce and confident as she might appear nowadays, it hasn't always been that way. Here is her story about how she overcame fear.

Find Khaya on Instagram (@khaya.j)

My journey back into creativity has been an interesting one. For the past few years or so, I have suffered with a condition that affects many of us; man or woman, old or young, rich or poor. This condition does not discriminate. This condition is called Fear. For a long time, I lived as a passenger in my own life; Fear in the front seat. Fear advised me that I should not create anything unless it was capable of being perfect. I obliged. Fear stopped me from University, from relationships and opportunities. Fear always convinced me that by holding myself back; by waiting for the perfect and most plausible circumstances, I would somehow be safer and happier. That I was protecting myself. But of course, that is bullshit. All fear has done for me is assist me in wasting precious time. Fear has not made me happier; it has made me self loath. It made me bitter and envious of other peoples success. It gave me the worst self worth and obliterated my confidence. It made me feel like a loser – like I would never be able to amount to anything in life.

“I grew tired of fearing life. I just wanted to live.”

Fear, however, only has as much power over you as you allow it to. I can't pin point the moment that this clicked for me, but after a while, I grew tired of watching everyone else live their best and most creative lives. I grew tired of fearing life. I just wanted to live. I wanted to write, and feel. Because being numb to everything – good and bad, is not thrilling. I wanted to be in the moment again! And so I started saying yes. I pushed fear into the passengers seat (much to it's dismay) and turned the radio up to drown out it's shrill attacks. When saying yes to life, and driving for myself, fear would often become angry, and tell me cruel and hurtful things. It would feed me doubt, and criticism. But I kept driving anyway. I turned the radio up louder. I realised that fear wasn't going anywhere. Fear will always be with us. It is a natural, human instinct – it is there to protect us from bears and murderers and spiders. But there are times when we have to insist that we know better. We have to be a little fearless. Because I have learnt that the most worth while and exciting moments in my life, have been the times where I did something that fear protested against. Where I did the things that I had initial doubts about to begin with.


Last year I went and volunteered at an independent festival in the middle of nowhere, on my own, for 8 days. I was terrified. None of my friends were able to come with me, but I really wanted to go. I wanted to make art in the woods and dance in overalls. I didn't want to go on my own, but I knew that if I didn't, I would miss out on an amazing opportunity. So I simply went, with my tent (which I was terrified about putting up on my own), and my pink vanity box and rucksack. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I went on my own and left with so many memories, love, glitter and friends for life. Taylor, one of the angels that I met there is now running this blog with me. If Taylor had listened to fear, and I had listened to fear, chances are that Femme Fatale may not be a thing today. It turned out that nearly all of the volunteers also came alone; which allowed us all to be more open and willing to get to know each other. My journey with fear was still not over after Aespia, however. I was still deeply depressed when I came home, and unfulfilled. I knew I had a lot of creative ideas I wanted to pursuit; and now my fuel had been fired – but my self belief was sketchy. I had been signed off from work due to my mental health, I was put on medication and back into counselling, and found myself sat in my room all day, every day, wondering what my purpose in life was, and how I was going to find my feet again. I knew that my passion had always been in writing, but after dropping out of college after many anxiety, fear fuelled episodes, fear and I had ruled off university as an absolute NO go. Far too dangerous. But now that I was making more decisions for myself, I knew that I still wanted to study at a higher level. So I began looking into my options. I looked at distance learning courses, online courses; Open University. I found a course for Creative Writing BA HONS that allowed me to apply for student finance like a regular student, have a tutor and have up to 12 years to work for my degree. I didn't even give fear the time of day, and immediately applied before I could talk myself out of it. Now I have been studying for 4 months, and it has given me so much direction and purpose!

Suddenly I was finding the courage to do things I had always wanted to do but never had found the confidence to do.


This new year, I was determined to be alive again, and really participate in life. 2017 for me had been so difficult, and I had spent the majority of it in my own private hell, wishing my life away. I took the start of 2018 as an opportunity to set myself some new goals; to live and feel and love. And so far I have had a magical year. I have been being kind to myself, and practising self love again. I have been being patient. Encouraging myself to do things. I realised that a lot of emphasis in life is on being successful. Perfectionism. And a lot of us develop a crippling fear of this success, which actually makes us under perform and stop creating, and living all together. So I have been forgetting about success. My aim is not to be successful – of course, I would like to be successful, but I have changed my definition of success. My first and most important goal is to just do. Write something, whether it be bad or good. Write it anyway, because it fills my soul with joy. Sing with my friends, just because. Make a film that nobody watches. Do my work whether it's a masterpiece or not. Through just starting – and completing, you'll find that your work eventually improves. Your skills develop. You're giving yourself something to work with.


This leads me to Femme Fatale, an idea that I had been harbouring since February of last year. I was listening to The Velvet Underground and Nico vinyl in my bedroom, when the song began playing. It struck me. I got up and danced with my arms above my head, and pictured a whole movie to the song. It was all about female empowerment. I immediately told my friends about it, and we began planning the video. We even began filming it, but life got in the way, and then fear got in the way, and I put the idea to bed. But for the rest of the year I still tried to imitate my Femme Fatale idea. Lots of my friends knew me for Femme Fatale, and we hadn't even done anything yet. One of my friends and I even made plans to get it tattooed on ourselves. After aespia, I came back to my Femme Fatale idea and decided to plan an event instead. A female empowerment event, with speakers and art work and inspiring conversation. I quickly let that idea go when fear got the best of me again, and I fell into depression. But now, in 2018, the idea came back to me. This time more demanding and urgent than ever. I went to my cousins event that he started in Leeds, and was so inspired that he had pulled it off... that he just, well, did it! He had an idea and saw it through, and it was great! It was a success. And then I began reflecting on all the other creatives around me; who were my age, who all were doing stuff. And I thought, the only difference between them and I, is that they are doing it! And so that was it – I decided I would do it. I rang Taylor and told her that we were doing it, and she agreed. And then I rang Alice and told her we were doing it, and she also agreed. And here were are. We are doing it! I have never had motivation and determination like this, ever. It really feels like a community; like something big is happening.


My idea that had lived within the darkest parts of me for over a year emerged, and I did not let fear stop it. I birthed it, and watered it. I respected my idea, gave it hope and did not put it down. And here we are. Of course, along this journey, there have been times where I have thought; Khaya, what on earth are you doing? You are not at all qualified for this. You are way out of your depth. I have sent my friend Jack many panicky messages, having seen the instant success of the movement. But in these times I have remembered that my goal is simply to create, and not to be fundamentally successful. I am not shaming my ideas. I am honouring them. I am taking my time, asking for help and continuing to show up; and that in itself is a success for me. And I am so happy! I am feeling more empowered than I ever have before.

I love my fear. It is not it's fault that it is so afraid. Society has conditioned it to be that way. But just as I would not let a child drive a car, I will not let fear drive my car any longer. It can sit in the back seat. Fear and I are on much better terms now. He is much less cruel, and instead concerned. I speak to him kindly and reassure him that everything is going to be fine. And I have found that when fear is most fearful, it is usually an indication that something magical and new is going to happen. Something great is in formation; which means I should absolutely run towards it. Fear no longer navigates my life. I do.

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