Saturday, December 12, 2015

Louisa Johnson and Reggie 'N' Bollie in the X Factor 2015 final, Ché Chesterman out plus 6 things we've learned


Isabel Mohan on all the talking points from the X Factor 2015 semi-final








6 things we learned on Saturday

1) Rita Ora can sing

Wow! Rita Ora has been a somewhat irritating presence during much of X Factor, but, during her duet with Louisa Johnson, she showed why she's here - she can literally, literally, literally sing.
Jennifer Hudson's And I'm Telling You is a song that's been done to death on shows like these, but their version was quite something, and screamed "winner".

2) They blatantly blew the budget on Rod

Ben Haenow singing with Leona Lewis? Fleur East teaming up with Little Mix? Sure, these performances were all absolutely fine to watch, but it was all a little bit too, well, X Factor, no?
Funnily enough, though, the arguably most high-profile booking of the night - Rod Stewart, who duetted with Ché Chesterman - was the most forgettable. And when Rod performed alone towards the end of show while the votes were being totted up, he looked and sounded hopelessly dated. X Factor isn't cool, but it's cooler than Rod. Is he the reason Ché didn't make it any further?
We do have Adele and Coldplay to send us to sleep look forward to tomorrow, of course.

3) It was the boink that did it for Reggie 'N' Bollie

So, Rita Ora can sing - but Craig David can rap. The UK garage star delighted many a noughties yoot by joining Reggie 'N' Bollie on stage to perform his most well known (and most mocked...) song Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta). He was the perfect fit for Reggie 'N' Bollie... even though Craig was kind of acting like they weren't there.

4) Ché had runner-up written all over him

Ché Chesterman had one of the strongest voices in the competition but he just wasn't charismatic enough to go further. Still, X Factor runners-up often have a habit of doing pretty well... One Direction, JLS, OLLY FLIPPING MURS.
X Factor losers all say "this won't be the last you see of me!" but in Ché's case, we hope it's true. We also think he doesn't need to be quite as middle of the road as X Factor have forced him to be. Stay away from Rod and you'll be fine, Ché.

5) Simon Cowell was on good form

We enjoy Simon Cowell's strange turns of phrase, and he pulled out a good one tonight, telling Reggie 'N' Bollie that their first, characteristically bonkers performance was "like having a strawberry and liver milkshake".
We also liked it when he came on stage with some Stormtroopers. Apparently there's a new Star Wars film, who knew?

6) Olly Murs thought everything was "amazing"

We lost count of how many times Olly declared various things "amazing" when really the only amazing thing was that he's been allowed to present the show at all. It's not that we don't want him to be happy, but it was yet another example of what an uninspiring presenting pair he and Caroline Flack (in yet another little black dress) have been throughout .
X Factor might be back next year, but we highly doubt they will be.

As it happened

The second act through to tomorrow night is...

Reggie 'N' Bollie! Yeessssssssss!
So, it's goodbye Ché. He was great but he wasn't FUN. We needed fun to offset Louisa's lovely but teary earnestness.

The first act through to tomorrow night is...

Louisa Johnson! Well, duh.

Finally! It's time for the result

Who will go home tonight and who will make it through to tomorrow night's final-final? We're about to find out. Don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly don't mess up Olly.

Time to make a cuppa - Rod Stewart's providing some hold music

Sure, Rod Stewart seems like a fun guy, but his performance feels decidedly naff. Still, someone has to provide some filler while they tot up the votes...

Someone messed up - and it wasn't Olly Murs!

Someone in the production suite just pressed the wrong button (maybe they're playing our drinking game too?) and it was all a bit awkward. Luckily no winners - or losers - were prematurely revealed though, just the wrong highlights footage.
Now some more X Factor old-timers are performing - Little Mix and Fleur East - and they're not wearing many clothes.
It's not long now until we find out who's come third. Please let it be Ché, we haven't had enough Reggie 'N' Bollie yet.

Louisa and Rita are singing an X Factor favourite

X Factor wannabes love singing Jennifer Hudson's And I'm Telling You. It's the perfect opportunity for aspiring warblers to show off their tonsils.
We already know that Louisa can sing live, but it turns out Rita Ora's pretty good too. And this song doesn't haven't the word "literally" in it so it's pretty bearable.
Oh. Her post-song speech does though. "I'm literally... I'm literally about to start crying".
Still, that felt like a winning performance.


Reggie 'N' Bollie have got more than one showbiz pal

They've started their duet with Fuse ODG (ask your nephew), but now here comes Craig David, who's mainly performing as if they're not there, to be honest.
Craig's actually pretty good, but we're that age... which means we're as embarrassing as Caroline Flack who just giggled "I love you by the way!" while interviewing him, seemingly adding the crucial Reggie 'N' Bollie voting information as an afterthought.



"Ladies and gentlemen... MISTER ROD STEWART!"

Has Ché dreamed of saying those words all his life? He does look genuinely quite chuffed to be performing The First Cut Is The Deepest with Rod, who's probably mainly here to audition Louisa Johnson as his next wife.
It's not especially good, but then these duets rarely are. "We only rehearsed this afternoon once," says Rod by way of explanation. Even Olly Murs neglected to call it amazing.

Time for some X Factor alumni

Leona Lewis, the most successful X Factor winner to date and Ben Haenow, who the jury's still out on, are performing together. Leona looks pretty mortified about the whole thing, to be honest, and appears to have got some glitter stuck in her hair while she was putting her Christmas deccies up. Ben looks handsome, but we've been dabbling with the Olly Murs "amazing" drinking game so you can't trust us.
Caroline Flack is shouting even more than usual on account of being two feet shorter than both of them. They should have just got Olly to do the interview, he could've told them how amazing they were.

Louisa Johnson's R Kelly cover is next up

Louisa's battle bus is wedged into her Essex cul-de-sac in a way which we're sure contravenes parking regulations.
She's gone back to her old school, which she only left about three minutes ago. And it's a primary school.
Her first big performance of the night is R Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly. Her voice sounds a touch more strained than usual, but she has been ill. The people in charge of these things have gone for an ethereal vibe, as they often do with Louisa, who would totally get the role of Angel Gabriel in the school nativity if things don't work out with this whole pop dream.
"I think you're an angel," says Simon. "An angel who's just come to Wembley and sang the roof off."
"It was really astonishing," adds Nick Grimshaw.
Rita Ora just said "literally" so many times that we can no longer hear other words.

Reggie 'N' Bollie are next to perform

In the absence of a direct road link to the duo's native Ghana, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's dragged them to Newcastle in the battle bus. Wonder if she used it as an opportunity to drop some Christmas pressies at her mam's.
Oh, now they're going to Farnborough, which is where they live with their cute children. Farnborough has never seen so much excitement.
For the first proper performance of the night, they're doing a mash-up of the Spice Girls' Spice Up Your Life and The Outhere Brothers' Boom Boom. Dancehall, dubstep, reggae, pop... it's fair to say they're shoving musical genres into our souls faster than we'll be shoving pigs in blankets into our gobs at the Telegraph Christmas drinks next week.
"It was like having a strawberry and liver milkshake," says Simon Cowell, in scenes reminscent of his "It's like eating a sandwich while swimming" remark from approx 2009.
"That was a bit cruise ship for me," says Rita Ora, who's clearly never been on a cruise ship.

Ché's first proper performance: Valerie

Ah, Valerie, the karaoke favourite that everyone can manage. Ché's performing it pretty effortlessly, with a chaotic 50s diner stage set that looks like something Louis Walsh dreamed up.
The judges are about to say nice things.
Oh, no they're not, Simon Cowell called him "the underdog" and "a bag of nerves".

Like buses? You'll love this

X Factor need to get their money's worth from those massive "battle buses" they've hired to ferry the finalists around all week. So, naturally, Ché's pre-performance VT is total bus porn. Ché goes to his old school, Ché goes to the Royal Albert Hall and, later tonight when he most likely comes third, it can take him home to Essex. Nick Grimshaw won't join him for that ride, he'll be out boozing with Rita Ora.

X Factor drinking game for grown-ups

Have a sip of your wine every time Olly Murs says "amazing" and you'll be blissfully comatose by 9pm.

So far, this is surprisingly faff-free

Already, the first live performance is underway - and it's Ché Chesterman doing Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight. The general chaos of Wembley means he's not as vocally on point as usual, but it doesn't matter - the judges never say anything negative at the final.
Louisa Johnson is next, strutting through the arena belting out Christina Aguilera's Fighter. Will the acts be performing proper versions of these songs or just these mini-versions?
Reggie 'N' Bollie are last to enter the arena, rapping their way through Jump, by Kriss Kross. Their white and gold outfits (or are they blue and black? Vintage spring 2015 joke right there) are pretty slick.

The judges just quietly slipped in

Cheryl had a red carpet, Rita was on a throne with some semi-nude men and Simon had actual Stormtroopers. Nick Grimshaw actually did quietly slip in, so we have nothing to say about that.
"It's definitely going to be the most amazing weekend of music," says Olly Murs, wrongly.

Simon's had a busy week, then

While his three fellow judges have spent the week tirelessly campaigning for their acts to win (OK, they've posted a few emoji-laden tweets), Simon Cowell, who has no acts left in the competition, has had plenty of time on his hands. Which we're pleased about, because otherwise we we'd miss out on pictures like this.

More X Factor news:

One Direction will play live for the last time before they split

Five years since they formed on X Factor, One Direction will be returning to the show that brought them all together, for a performance at tomorrow night's final. It's a fitting goodbye, before the boys take a well-deserved break in 2016. Singer Niall Horan has already been tweeting about his excitement.

Rita Ora's home is burgled

The poor X Factor judges. First we found out that Simon Cowell's house was burgled, now we discover Rita Ora has suffered the same fate. And possible by the same gang of thieves. Read more about it here.

Simon Cowell feels like the cat that got the cream

Simon Cowell says Adele agreeing to perform during the X Factor final is "the best news I've had all year".
Cowell said: "It took me a while to make up my mind whether we really wanted her or not ... are you kidding? When we got the news and I had to keep quiet last weekend! This is the best news I've had all year. She is absolutely going to cap off what I hope is going to be an amazing weekend, and actually it's really the best of British."
Simon Cowell  Photo: Rex Features

Reggie N Bollie: A case study of persistence for Ghanaian musicians


The first in history Ghana’s high-flying music pair, Reggie N Bollie, who have gained instant world recognition due to their great performance at the UK X Factor reality show, is truly a case study for Ghanaian musicians to undertake.

Reggie 31 and Bollie 29 both hail from Ghana but have been living in the UK with their families for the past five years.

They are not strangers to the music industry in Ghana , since they made strides in the early 2000’s with hit songs. Reggie released three songs in 2006 titled 'Virgin', 'For Sale' and 'Adoma' whiles in 2004, Bollie also had a hit with his song called 'You May Kiss The Bride'.

With almost a dead music career and without hope for some years after relocating to the States to switch career, Reggie N Bollie have found their feet in the reality show



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Due to their undying love and spirit for music, they have worked hard to move on to the final stage of the competition; not only that but have won the admiration of the judges and fans worldwide.

They now have huge followers on social media as well, 98.4k of Instagram, 66k on twitter and more than 41 thousand people on facebook. “…Whenever you think of giving up on life, just remember us”, a touching message they sent to their loved fans in one of their posts. A message that proves despite all the challenges they persisted to reach this far.

Probably they could have quit many times but they didn't and because he didn't quit, today they are being loved by all for their undying spirit.

But don't forget, other acts have also made it, the likes of Rocky Dawuni, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, Samini and many others.

Not only should musicians but their success story is one of a good examples for all especially the youth to emulate.

All the best Reggie N Bollie in your finals today.

Watch their Semi-final stage performance below: 

Union condemns killing of Nigerian housewife in South Africa

640x426xsouth-african-mob-justice.jpg.pagespeed.ic.8D5GfEM6IeNigeria Union in South Africa has condemned the killing of a 34 year old housewife, Mrs Christiana Onyeka, by unknown gunmen on Dec. 3.
Onyeka, a mother of four and native of Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra, was killed in her husband`s office in Midrand, near Johannesburg.
Mr Ikechukwu Ayene, the President of the union, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Midrand, South Africa, on Saturday that it had reported the incident to the South African police and Nigerian mission.
“The unjust killing of Nigerians in South Africa is becoming alarming.
“We are worried that after reporting such killings to the police, we do not get the desired results. Most cases of Nigerian victims of murder are either abandoned or inconclusive,“ he said.
Anyene said that the situation had become so bad because more women were getting killed.
“ Nigerian communities in South Africa are devastated by this gruesome murder. Mrs Oyeka was a hard working housewife, dedicated to the success of her husband`s business and welfare of Nigerians in South Africa,“ he said.
Mrs Uzor Ekesi, the President, Nigerian Women Association, South Africa, decried the killing of Onyeka by unknown gunmen.
“ The killing came to us as a big shock. We are scared and confused because women are now being killed.
She said that Onyeka was an active and dedicated member of the association.
A patron of the association, Mrs Grace Aniegboka said that Nigerian women had embarked on a seven day fasting and prayer session to seek divine intervention on the incident.
“ Our reaction has been that of shock and disbelief. We pray God not to allow this incident or killing of Nigerians happen again,“ she said.
Christiana`s husband, Chief Onyekachi Onyeka, also the President of Anambra State Associations in South Africa, said he was still in shock and could not speak.

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Posted by UtahCountySocialMediaConsultant on Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sakawa boy goes crazy

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The timely intervention of the Odorkor District Police Command saved residents of Gbawe Zero, who were held hostage by a 20-year-old boy rumoured to be in the sakawa (internet fraud) business and living at the St Anthony's Estate.

Ali Mohammed, aka Don Sakawa Dollars Ali, the suspected 'sakawa' boy, was believed to have gone berserk, after allegedly defying orders of his cult.
He is said to be the owner of a $150,000 storey building located within the estate and also owns four vehicles.

Two persons got severely injured while another had his Mercedes Benz car damaged as a result of his action, before the police apprehended him yesterday.
Some residents say Ali Mohammed lives in the storey building with only his gateman.

. Mohammed bought the apart­ment two years ago and lived alone but was constantly visited by his friends who were his age mates and drove in posh cars from Accra New­town.
Two weeks ago, residents claimed, Mohammed started acting strangely and constantly chased his gateman out of the house.

"The other time we saw him, he was throwing his valuable items out­side the house and since none knew his family, no one could help," a woman said.
On Monday April 7, 2014, around 7:00 am, Ali Mohammed, it was alleged, nearly stabbed a resident with a knife.

In the early hours of yesterday, around 3:00 am, according to some of the residents, Mohammed was seen moving from house to house, order­ing residents to vacate their homes.

One of the neighbours had his head hit by Mohammed who was wielding a machete, having held his victim's family hostage for several hours. Another resident had both the front and the back windscreens of his Mercedes Bern damaged by the sus­pect in the process.
The Odorkor Police were called to the scene to save the rest of the vic­tims who had been trapped inside their homes by the suspect.

DSP Emmanuel Osei Agbogah, the Odorkor District Crime Officer, said it took the police several hours to apprehend the restless suspect.
"The man seemed to be mentally deranged and so the police had to act professionally to save the situation/' he disclosed.
He noted that Mohammed, upon seeing the police, quickly ran and hid himself in one of the rooms on the first floor of his storey building.
All doors to the house were locked but the police managed to convince the suspect to open the door, which he did, according to DSP Osei Agbogah.

Mohammed was immediately arrested and kept at the police station to be sent later to the psychiatric hos­pital for proper medical attention.
Meanwhile, when DAILY GUIDE contacted Baba, his gateman, he said Mohammed did not receive any rela­tives and was only visited by his friends from Accra Newtown.

"My boss started misbehaving strangely a week ago, but the situa­tion became worse last Monday when he attempted to stab a woman with a knife," the gateman said.
Baba, who claimed he did not know the kind of work his boss did, claimed he (Ali Mohammed) normal­ly left his apartment at 10:00 pm and returned after 3:00 am each day.
"Ever since I started working with him, he neither brought any woman into the house nor a relative," he revealed.


My 25 years as a prostitute


My 25 years as a prostitute
Brenda Myers-Powell was just a child when she became a prostitute in the early 1970s. Here she describes how she was pulled into working on the streets and why, three decades later, she devoted her life to making sure other girls don't fall into the same trap. Some people will find Brenda's account upsetting.
Right from the start life was handing me lemons, but I've always tried to make the best lemonade I can.
I grew up in the 1960s on the West Side of Chicago. My mother died when I was six months old. She was only 16 and I never learned what it was that she died from - my grandmother, who drank more than most, couldn't tell me later on. The official explanation is that it was "natural causes".
I don't believe that. Who dies at 16 from natural causes? I like to think that God was just ready for her. I heard stories that she was beautiful and had a great sense of humour. I know that's true because I have one also.
It was my grandmother that took care of me. And she wasn't a bad person - in fact she had a side to her that was so wonderful. She read to me, baked me stuff and cooked the best sweet potatoes. She just had this drinking problem. She would bring drinking partners home from the bar and after she got intoxicated and passed out these men would do things to me. It started when I was four or five years old and it became a regular occurrence. I'm certain my grandmother didn't know anything about it.
She worked as a domestic in the suburbs. It took her two hours to get to work and two hours to get home. So I was a latch-key kid - I wore a key around my neck and I would take myself to kindergarten and let myself back in at the end of the day. And the molesters knew about that, and they took advantage of it.
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I would watch women with big glamorous hair and sparkly dresses standing on the street outside our house. I had no idea what they were up to; I just thought they were shiny. As a little girl, all I ever wanted was to be shiny.
One day I asked my grandmother what the women were doing and she said, "Those women take their panties off and men give them money." And I remember saying to myself, "I'll probably do that" because men had already been taking my panties off.
To look back now, I dealt with it all amazingly well. Alone in that house, I had imaginary friends to keep me company that I would sing and dance around with - an imaginary Elvis Presley, an imaginary Diana Ross and the Supremes. I think that helped me deal with things. I was a really outgoing girl - I used to laugh a lot.
At the same time, I was afraid, always afraid. I didn't know if what was happening was my fault or not. I thought perhaps something was wrong with me. Even though I was a smart kid, I disconnected from school. Going into the 1970s, I became the kind of girl who didn't know how to say "no" - if the little boys in the community told me that they liked me or treated me nice, they could basically have their way with me.
By the time I was 14, I'd had two children with boys in the community, two baby girls. My grandmother started to say that I needed to bring in some money to pay for these kids, because there was no food in the house, we had nothing.
So, one evening - it was actually Good Friday - I went along to the corner of Division Street and Clark Street and stood in front of the Mark Twain hotel. I was wearing a two-piece dress costing $3.99, cheap plastic shoes, and some orange lipstick which I thought might make me look older.
I was 14 years old and I cried through everything. But I did it. I didn't like it, but the five men who dated me that night showed me what to do. They knew I was young and it was almost as if they were excited by it.
I made $400 but I didn't get a cab home that night. I went home by train and I gave most of that money to my grandmother, who didn't ask me where it came from.
The following weekend I returned to Division and Clark, and it seemed like my grandmother was happy when I brought the money home.
But the third time I went down there, a couple of guys pistol-whipped me and put me in the trunk of their car. They had approached me before because I was, as they called it, "unrepresented" on the street. All I knew was the light in the trunk of the car and then the faces of these two guys with their pistol. First they took me to a cornfield out in the middle of nowhere and raped me. Then they took me to a hotel room and locked me in the closet.
That's the kind of thing pimps will do to break a girl's spirits. They kept me in there for a long time. I was begging them to let me out because I was hungry, but they would only allow me out of the closet if I agreed to work for them.
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They pimped me for a while, six months or so. I wasn't able to go home. I tried to get away but they caught me, and when they caught me they hurt me so bad. Later on, I was trafficked by other men. The physical abuse was horrible, but the real abuse was the mental abuse - the things they would say that would just stick and which you could never get from under.
Pimps are very good at torture, they're very good at manipulation. Some of them will do things like wake you in the middle of the night with a gun to your head. Others will pretend that they value you, and you feel like, "I'm Cinderella, and here comes my Prince Charming". They seem so sweet and so charming and they tell you: "You just have to do this one thing for me and then you'll get to the good part." And you think, "My life has already been so hard, what's a little bit more?" But you never ever do get to the good part.
When people describe prostitution as being something that is glamorous, elegant, like in the story of Pretty Woman, well that doesn't come close to it. A prostitute might sleep with five strangers a day. Across a year, that's more than 1,800 men she's having sexual intercourse or oral sex with. These are not relationships, no-one's bringing me any flowers here, trust me on that. They're using my body like a toilet.
And the johns - the clients - are violent. I've been shot five times, stabbed 13 times. I don't know why those men attacked me, all I know is that society made it comfortable for them to do so. They brought their anger or mental illness or whatever it was and they decided to wreak havoc on a prostitute, knowing I couldn't go to the police and if I did I wouldn't be taken seriously.
I actually count myself very lucky. I knew some beautiful girls who were murdered out there on the streets.
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I prostituted for 14 or 15 years before I did any drugs. But after a while, after you've turned as many tricks as you can, after you've been strangled, after someone's put a knife to your throat or someone's put a pillow over your head, you need something to put a bit of courage in your system.
I was a prostitute for 25 years, and in all that time I never once saw a way out. But on 1 April 1997, when I was nearly 40 years old, a customer threw me out of his car. My dress got caught in the door and he dragged me six blocks along the ground, tearing all the skin off my face and the side of my body.
I went to the County Hospital in Chicago and they immediately took me to the emergency room. Because of the condition I was in, they called in a police officer, who looked me over and said: "Oh I know her. She's just a hooker. She probably beat some guy and took his money and got what she deserved." And I could hear the nurse laughing along with him. They pushed me out into the waiting room as if I wasn't worth anything, as if I didn't deserve the services of the emergency room after all.
And it was at that moment, while I was waiting for the next shift to start and for someone to attend to my injuries, that I began to think about everything that had happened in my life. Up until that point I had always had some idea of what to do, where to go, how to pick myself up again. Suddenly it was like I had run out of bright ideas. I remember looking up and saying to God, "These people don't care about me. Could you please help me?"
God worked real fast. A doctor came and took care of me and she asked me to go and see social services in the hospital. What I knew about social services was they were anything but social. But they gave me a bus pass to go to a place called Genesis House, which was run by an awesome Englishwoman named Edwina Gateley, who became a great hero and mentor for me. She helped me turn my life around.
It was a safe house, and I had everything that I needed there. I didn't have to worry about paying for clothes, food, getting a job. They told me to take my time and stay as long as I needed - and I stayed almost two years. My face healed, my soul healed. I got Brenda back.
Through Edwina Gateley, I learned the value of that deep connection that can occur between women, the circle of trust and love and support that a group of women can give one another.
Usually, when a woman gets out of prostitution, she doesn't want to talk about it. What man will accept her as a wife? What person will hire her in their employment? And to begin with, after I left Genesis House, that was me too. I just wanted to get a job, pay my taxes and be like everybody else.
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But I started to do some volunteering with sex workers and to help a university researcher with her fieldwork. After a while I realised that nobody was helping these young ladies. Nobody was going back and saying, "That's who I was, that's where I was. This is who I am now. You can change too, you can heal too."
So in 2008, together with Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, we founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation. A dreamcatcher is a Native American object that you hang near a child's cot. It is supposed to chase away children's nightmares. That's what we want to do - we want to chase away those bad dreams, those bad things that happen to young girls and women.
The recent documentary film Dreamcatcher, directed by Kim Longinotto, showed the work that we do. We meet up with women who are still working on the street and we tell them, "There is a way out, we're ready to help you when you're ready to be helped." We try to get through that brainwashing that says, "You're born to do this, there's nothing else for you."
I also run after-school clubs with young girls who are exactly like I was in the 1970s. I can tell as soon as I meet a girl if she is in danger, but there is no fixed pattern. You might have one girl who's quiet and introverted and doesn't make eye contact. Then there might be another who's loud and obnoxious and always getting in trouble. They're both suffering abuse at home but they're dealing with it in different ways - the only thing they have in common is that they are not going to talk about it. But in time they understand that I have been through what they're going through, and then they talk to me about it.
So far, we have 13 girls who have graduated from high school and are now in city colleges or have gotten full scholarships to go to other colleges. They came to us 11, 12, 13 years old, totally damaged. And now they're reaching for the stars.
Besides my outreach work, I attend conferences and contribute to academic work on prostitution. I've had people say to me, "Brenda, come and meet Professor so-and-so from such-and-such university. He's an expert on prostitution." And I look at him and I want to say: "Really? Where did you get your credentials? What do you really know about prostitution? The expert is standing in front of you."
I know I belong in that room but sometimes I have to let them know I belong there. And I think it's ridiculous that there are organisations that campaign against human trafficking, that do not employ a single person who has been trafficked.
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People say different things about prostitution. Some people think that it would actually help sex workers more if it were decriminalised. I think it's true to say that every woman has her own story. It may be OK for this girl, who is paying her way through law school, but not for this girl, who was molested as a child, who never knew she had another choice, who was just trying to get money to eat.
But let me ask you a question. How many people would you encourage to quit their jobs to become prostitutes? Would you say to any of your close friends or female relatives, "Hey, have you thought of this? I think this would be a really great move for you!"
And let me say this too. However the situation starts off for a girl, that's not how the situation will end up. It might look OK now, the girl in law school might say she only has high-end clients that come to her through an agency, that she doesn't work on the streets but arranges to meet people in hotel rooms, but the first time that someone hurts her, that's when she really sees her situation for what it is. You always get that crazy guy slipping through and he has three or four guys behind him, and they force their way into your room and gang rape you, and take your phone and all your money. And suddenly you have no means to make a living and you're beaten up too. That is the reality of prostitution.
Three years ago, I became the first woman in the state of Illinois to have her convictions for prostitution wiped from her record. It was after a new law was brought in, following lobbying from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, a group that seeks to shift the criminal burden away from the victims of sexual trafficking. Women who have been tortured, manipulated and brainwashed should be treated as survivors, not criminals.
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There are good women in this world and also bad women. There are bad men and also good men.
Following my time as a prostitute, I simply wasn't ready for another relationship. But after three years of healing and abstinence, I met an extraordinary man. I was very picky - he likes to joke that I asked him more questions than the parole board. He didn't judge me for any of the things that had happened before we met. When he looked at me he didn't even see those things - he says all he saw was a girl with a pretty smile that he wanted to be a part of his life. I sure wanted to be a part of his too. He supports me in everything I do, and we celebrated 10 years of marriage last year.
My daughters, who were raised by my aunt in the suburbs, grew up to be awesome young ladies. One is a doctor and one works in criminal justice. Now my husband and I have adopted my little nephew - and here I am, 58 years old, a football mum.
So I am here to tell you - there is life after so much damage, there is life after so much trauma. There is life after people have told you that you are nothing, that you are worthless and that you will never amount to anything. There is life - and I'm not just talking about a little bit of life. There is a lot of life.
Source: BBC

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