An interview with Outtakes Founder, Esther Ajose, by Emer O'Shea
Esther, a former colleague of Elizabeth and I, runs Outtakes (@outtakes_truthuncut) on Instagram. Outtakes is 'normalising those uncomfortable conversations'. Previous conversations include 'Allyship', 'Intersectionality', and 'Checking in'. A thoughtful, graceful force to be reckoned with, Esther is a cheerleader and inspiration to all, I count myself blessed to be part of her tribe. We had a conversation about conversations.
Esther, firstly, thank you for doing this. Let’s start bluntly - how has your 2020 been? It’s a pleasure to be part of this storytelling and life-affirming in a soft-landing way project. Ha! I feel like we’re all asking each other that every other week. It feels like a year of reckoning. As if the world got tired of how we treated it, and each other, and demanded retribution, both on a macro and a micro-level. It’s been a challenging year, more this year than ever, a year of growth that doesn’t feel linear or like growth at all. It’s been odds-defying, but also definitely a year of mirroring; mirroring back to me, mirroring back to us, what we’ve been giving out. You, in my opinion, are a master conversationalist. Has 2020 changed how you converse with people, for better or worse? I do believe that people meet you at the level of vulnerability you enter a conversation with, so any conversation worth its salt that I’ve had, that’s left fragments of itself with me, has been because the other person, has shown up, fully too. I think 2020 has put a laser focus on the way I talk to myself. I’m at once softer with myself, and simultaneously more impatient about staying in dialogues that may not serve me. That, naturally, has coloured the conversations I’m having with others. This is because of all the things that have occurred (still occurring) in 2020; the pandemic, lockdown, the re-ignition of BLM dialogue due to the horrifying deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the political landscape, the US election…. I mean, whew, 2020 has been a trip. But on the other hand, it’s opened up an arena of conversations that are honest, raw, and unrelenting of gives and takes. So, yes. The way I converse with people has evolved. Whether it’s through Friday cocktails over Zoom, Instagram lives and cultivating an online collective tribe that is engaged and hungry for on-going impact-driven conversations, or one-on-one social distancing walks in the park, the conversations have, like trees planted by the river, blossomed into what’s necessary and sprouting good fruits. As for how I hope this translates for the future? In moments of disaster and crises, where life proves itself to be surprising, there has been an energising movement, where the conversations we are having demand that it should be outside of ourselves, more than our own stories alone. Even in that question “Hey what’s up, any news?" because you just don’t know what and where you will find the person you’re talking to emotionally. There is a way disaster throws people into the present, and gives them a supersaturated sense of immediacy, that also includes a deep sense of connection. It’s as though, in some violent gift, we’ve been given an awakening where we are deeply in the present and can let go of the past and the future and our personal narratives in some ways. We have this shared experience with everyone around us and can now find what is a direct connection with people. And that, I think, I hope, is what should define how we carry the learnings of this year into the conversations of the future signs or symbols.
If you had to describe ‘Outtakes’ to a complete stranger in 5 words. Go! Conversation Menu for Open Humans What was your biggest surprise moment from ‘Outtakes’? Honestly, the engagement, the tribe, the connectedness. I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps nothing at all. I’m not the engine that drives Outtakes, nor, really is it even the guests. It's those conversations that are happening in the comments section. How the tribe feeds into us and us into them. Ensuring that whilst the conversation may start on outtakes, facilitated by two people, it never really ends there. And what I miss most whilst Outtakes is on a season break, is the variety, buoyancy, rich, and nuanced conversations in the comment section. Also, how much people look forward to it. I’ve been getting strongly worded (but encouraging) emails asking when we’re picking up for the next season of Outtakes. Do you have plans to continue Outtakes in the future? Yes! OMG…..even if I didn’t, the people have spoken. We’re trying to ensure that the conversations continue to resonate, and have an impact. It’s been a tough year…so that’s impacted our timelines somewhat, but we’ll definitely be back, sooner, rather than later. Can we expect more Outtakes soon? We’re actually planning a roundtable of sort like this in the future with all the guests returning!
Quick Fire Questions
1. If you had to describe ‘Outtakes’ to a complete stranger in 5 words. Go! Conversation Menu for Open Humans 2. In a post-COVID-19 world, you can invite 5 people to take part in a special ‘Outtakes’ reunion. Who? I’d have everybody in the comment section….and my mum. Because that’s where the party is at. 3. What would you serve? Wine, obviously, and for the culture, plantain, and meat pie.
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