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Femme Feature: Susan Dale

Posted by Jaclyn Shaw on

This week’s Femme Feature is Susan Dale (@TheNomadicLondoner). A born and bred south Londoner, Susan is a proud outsider, happiest in solitude, and a woman who rejects societal norms. She is the incredibly talented photographer behind the HaluHalo (@halu_halo) project - a visually striking photography project that explores mixed race identity in all forms. Susan is a passionate traveller, capturing the sweet moments of travel that make us all dream of distant borders and foreign languages through photography and word. 

Susan’s art captures the beauty and diversity of our world. From the HaluHalo project to photography women’s rights protests, to capturing the essence of our love for travel. We loveeeee this babe’s work and we are so excited to shine the spotlight on her! Meet Susan!

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What do you do?

My name is Susan Dale. I'm a born and bred South Londoner. I'm a proud outsider. I'm the Council Estate kid who went to a posh Private Girls' School. I'm the mixed-race girl who never belonged. I'm the only child who's happiest in solitude. I'm the woman who rejects societal norms. I've lived a life creating my own space and as I've gotten older - listening to my intuition has led me to connections I truly treasure and enabled me to explore creatively what's important to me - and has culminated in me starting HaluHalo.

What is HaluHalo? How did it start?

HaluHalo is an online platform I created 3 years ago which through photography, stories and filmed group discussions celebrates and explores the realities of being mixed-race today. It was born out of frustration that I couldn't find anything that resonated with my experiences. I had gone through 30 years seeing more and more mixed race people on the streets and on TV and in adverts etc...but there was usually one type of mixed race person shown and there was nothing which expressed the internal issues one often contends with. So I decided to create a space that I wish had existed when I was younger, struggling with my identity. The portraits show the diversity within the mixed-race community and the stories highlight that there is no single narrative on how to BE mixed race.

How would you love to see this grow and expand in the future? What is your ultimate dream?

When I started HaluHalo there was no plan - all I knew was that this was a labour of love that I wanted to reach mixed race people and let them know that how they feel or what they experience as a mixed race person is valid. That they aren't alone. And that I wanted to empower people to claim their identity - so much of what we experience is other people telling us how THEY think we SHOULD identify - when really they need to shut up and listen!

Reading all the messages I receive from people that follow HaluHalo and those that have been involved in sharing their stories it has been truly heartening to hear how important this platform is for them. It has helped encourage some to embark on their own identity journeys or helped others to delve deeper. It's initiated important conversations with family members and partners. How ever I can reach every single person in the world that needs to go on that journey - I'll pursue every possibility.

What has been your biggest challenge in bringing this to life? What has it taught you in the process?

My word! There's been quite a few! Haha! Working on HaluHalo by myself, on top of having a full-time job has been tough and it's shown me the importance of creating boundaries and sometimes stepping back for some needed self-care to help sustain me and keep me going.

The first year of HaluHalo, constantly creating content, self-funding it all and not gaining much traction was a challenging period. But sometimes perseverance and serendipity collide at the right moment. I had gotten to a stage where I was wondering if I should continue with the platform and literally two weeks before I was thinking of calling it quits HaluHalo was featured in a national news outlet and it blew up. The reach we gained was incredible. Within 24 hours of that article going out, I was receiving messages of support from Kenya, Canada, and Germany. It was an amazing sign to me that this project resonated with so many people and gave me that surge of energy and determination to keep on.

I've also approached media outlets to try and spread awareness of the stories shared on the platform and been rejected - most disappointedly by ones that supposedly are focused on stories of women of colour. I am by nature a sensitive person and so rejection cuts deep for me but this process of the mainstream refusing to spotlight mixed race stories just emboldened me to make sure this space was here for those that need it.

What has been the most surprising thing you have learned through creating HaluHalo?

That it has been received so positively by mono-racial people. I didn't create the platform for them in mind but it's a wonderful offshoot that people are educating themselves (especially those in interracial relationships) and have told me that HaluHalo has genuinely made them challenge their conditioning and preconceptions about mixed race people and their experiences. I think telling stories is the most effective way of opening people's minds and I'm so happy that HaluHalo is playing a small part in that.

Who is your biggest source of inspiration?

There are two amazing women that I admire  - who inspire me for the same qualities - namely being authentic and unapologetic. Firstly is Solange - the absolute QUEEN! She not only really knows herself but she refuses to make herself more palatable or accessible to the public. Her creative vision is so strong and I love how involved she is on every level and goes off on tangents that people don't expect (such as collaborating with IKEA). She's a true Boss lady.

The other woman that inspires me endlessly is my Auntie Ruth. She went down her own path of music (which if you know African parents will know that that was not an easy path to walk down!), her passion has never dimmed, she's constantly curious (she has a habit of having deep meaningful conversations with strangers on public transport - which as a Londoner makes me very anxious - but she comes away learning something about a person's culture, even some new words in a language she's unfamiliar with and my embarrassment subsides when I see how happy she leaves each person - proud that they can share something they care about/ or that even someone wanted to know more about them) and she never diminishes her thoughts or feelings regardless of how they may be received. If I live to be half the woman she is I'll be made.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? The superpower I wish I could possess is the ability to make others speak the truth. Life would be so much simpler if people actually said what they meant.

What is your favourite quote? 'If you can't let it go, then let it be.' - my yoga teacher always ends the class with this phrase. Simple but my word it hits deep every time.

Check out Susan’s incredible work on Instagram at @thenomadiclondoner and @halu_halo.


BIG Love,

The GirlTribe Crew

P.S. Know a Goddess up to amazing things in this world? We want to know about her too! Email us about her inspiring work at inspire@thegirltribe.com

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