Thursday 28 October 2021

Focus on Aja Barber - Author and Activist



I have always really liked no nonsense people and this is one of the reasons I really like Aja. She is straight talking and upfront. She is also open, warm and very lovely. Being an advocate for planetary change is not an easy job yet she does it brilliantly. Her one rule is that you be cool and polite and that is a good rule in my eyes. So, grab a cuppa this is a great chat.



D: I normally start with where you grew up, I know you've been talking about this quite a lot recently, so I'm just got to kick in there, Aja where did you grow up?


A: I'm from Reston Virginia which is a small town outside of Washington DC. My family roots: my mother comes from Alabama and my dad comes from Pennsylvania. However, I recently found out that his people came from a plantation in Front Royal Virginia which isn't that far from where we live. So I would say Virginia is in my blood in this weird way.


D: Do you have siblings?


A: I do, I have two sisters. I'm a middle child.


D: I have sisters as well I have three, I'm the eldest.


A: My dad came from a family of all boys and I think that he's had a completely unique experience that he didn't think he was going to have parenting. My sisters are badass, so I think he's sort of like, OK. My sisters are, in their own right, both doing really well in their fields, so I think that my dad is sort of like hum (a positive sound). I remember reading the title of a book saying, unsuccessful men have girls. It's ridiculous, it doesn't even like take into account that there are plenty of unsuccessful men that exist on the planet who only have sons. I have two sisters and I think there are amazing. Also growing up people would say to Dad ‘Ooh 3 girls’ in a negative way, when actually it’s pretty badass.


D: Also what they were saying is disrespectful to women and girls.


A: Its disrespectful to women, yeah totally, I forgot what the title of the book was exactly but it was insinuating that if you're unsuccessful you'll have girls, but that's just the way of the world and patriarchy right?


D: Totally. I felt for my dad quite a lot of the times, he was an only child and he had four daughters. My mother was the youngest of seven and five of those were girls. He would come home from work and we'd be sitting in the front room with our friends, maybe watching a movie and crying passing the tissues. He would just walk in look at us and carry on.


A: Always outnumbered. I don't know that dad ever thought that he would have 3 girls but I think it's been good for him, (laughs)


D: I don't know if anybody is ever prepared for all girls or all boys.




D: At this point I would normally ask what your childhood influences were, to create the person you are today. But doing my research I could see that what you do is literally in your DNA, as the thread winding through your whole family. Social justice from your grandfather who was a civil rights organiser, your mother's financial guidance and from both your parents with the gift of travel.


A: Yes, so much of who I am is definitely impacted by the things I saw and in the role models I've had. My grandfather passed away a year before I was born so I never got to meet him but I have heard a lot about him, and am kind of a bit jealous of people that had grandads in their life because I know that, that's a really special bond. What were my other influences growing up? Enya, she was my favourite singer when I was nine and I just think she's so cool. I think for me there's always been…….a longing in this weird way to change things and I think it has to do with growing up in a country that doesn't necessarily want you. I feel very much like someone who's very rootless in a way, I don't feel particular strong attachments to the United states, because of the atrocities done to my people and others. I remember in school on International Day, all the kids would draw the flag of where their ancestors came from and I would literally pick a random flag in Africa as I had no idea. I thought, ‘wait a minute that's not fair, that's not fair’ and I think it was then I started to really question all of them. The more I uncovered America's history and the Pledge of Allegiance, I used to think this is weird, I don't really want to pledge to this country, I'm nine years old. I'm not going to war. This is weird. So I started to really question America's involvement in things in our history. I think when you start to really, really question these things, even as a young person you’ve got a bit of activism coming your way as an adult.


D: You just mentioned that you're not going to go to war for this country. Something that you said which really shocked me was that returning GI’s from the Second World War were not treated equally.


A: Black returning GI’s were not were not given - basically the GI bill was created so that any returning GI could get a down payment for a home or a loan for school. And for Black GI’s the red tape made it patently impossible to do so. What people don't realise is that it was policies like the GI bill that built the middle class of post war America. In the state of New jersey one in five homes was purchased through the GI bill. So it goes without saying that, that has given some people a very uneven advantage but everybody says, ‘oh get over the past’ but the past formulates what America looks like today. So there's no way that we could have peace and unity until people acknowledge the past and right the wrongs, because that is why America looks the way it does today. It's not because white people are better at making money or better at accruing wealth, it's because there has been systemic laws which put white people in a place where they are in a place of advantage over everyone else. I talk about inequality so that people can really start to understand. It's not like I hate white people. People are like ‘grrr, you people hate white people’ but anytime a black person says ‘hey do you wanna hear about this thing what this country did?  If I hated anyone I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in, doing the work that I do, as I spend most of my time talking to people.



D: And it's not just America it's a worldwide issue you know Britain has……


A: …..the Windrush generation, yes absolutely. In general when we unpick the histories of so many places at the top of the financial market what you'll find is the exploitation of countries that are extremely resource rich. That's been happening for a very long time. How do we build a world that we consider fair without the acknowledgement of that? Without thinking about how we make things better in the future? Right now because of climate emergency I think we as a world have a tremendous opportunity to rebuild and to unpick some of the wrongs of our past. I do feel however that some governments are setting things up, to do the same thing all over again. You've got an infrastructure that is crumbling, you need green energy, green solutions, and that's not going to come from the US alone. We are not going to be able to come up with these solutions alone. We are going to need materials. Where are the materials coming from? How do we treat the countries that have the things that we need?


D: I had a I had a conversation with that a taxi driver the other day who was from the Congo, he was driving an electric car and we were talking about electric cars and the fact that a lot of the mineral resource that is needed for the batteries for the cars is coming from there.


 A: And it is the same with iPhones. But the problem is, and I always get this in the conversations that I have about fast fashion people and others say, ‘how dare you say that. You have an iPhone’. My reply is ‘yes, but I don't buy three iPhones a month’. This is still something worth talking about but it's not at all comparable to the scale at which people are buying fast fashion.



D: When did fashion become important to you?


A: I came from a childhood of extreme frugality from my mom’s side and because of that I was very determined when I needed to have certain a thing. I realised at a young age that your sartorial choices could make an impact on your popularity and how other students treated you. I didn't have the things that put me in with the in crowd. So I became very obsessive about those things, and that led me to a true interest in the fashion industry. At first it was having the right material items to fit in with your peers, and those who are mean to you. And then it was oh, actually, I like learning about France, I like learning about designers, I like learning about creative directors, actually I really like fashion. So what came from a need to fit in through material possessions, became a lifelong interest. I would say, from my position as someone who never felt like they had the right clothes to fit in with their peers, that I was prime for the picking, for a fast fashion market. I was the perfect fast fashion consumer because I wanted all those things so that I could be accepted by people who were never going to be nice to me. I remember when fast fashion swept America, I remember seeing all of this happen subtly throughout my life. I was born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s. The 90s were the last decade where we had a bit of normalcy with the fashion calendar. Then I remember when some of the bigger brands from Europe started to enter the US market and brands that I really liked then, and who are not doing so well today, started speeding up their seasons to counterbalance some of the uber fast fashion from Europe. It happened very quickly, this is why I tell people I'm quite hopeful that perhaps we can pick this apart, because it has happened within our lifetimes maybe we can clampdown on it.


D: However this morning an email dropped into my inbox that was saying Primark are seeing growth again after lockdown. But they didn't degrowth during lockdown.


A: And that’s expected. The thing is the changes that I think need to happen aren't going to happen overnight. People aren’t going to lean into consumerism. What I want to do is unpick those behaviours for people, and to get people to think about, ‘why am I participating in the fashion industry in this way? Do I shop out of need? Do I shop out of want? What is that little voice that tells me that I should buy all the things? That I deserve it?’ As we get to the bigger issues in our society, I think we will start to really think about those and how they impact how we shop and buy. You get people really digging deeply into this topic. I always tell people, our generation is prime for fast fashion consumption, because we can't buy houses. It's one of those things that if you create a society where there are only a few milestones that only a few people can reach, then, of course we're gonna adopt a YOLO attitude. Climate emergency is one of those examples where, so many governments of the world should be paying attention yet have actually been complacent. So it’s no surprise we have a YOLO attitude towards everything. It makes us, what's the word I'm looking for? Despondent, I guess, indifferent towards creating that sort of change. So we are in some ways in a perfect position to feed the type of consumers that just buy and buy and buy things because the world is heating up. Then you can't cover some of your basic needs, because we created a world where you can't do that, and so it makes a lot of sense to me. So I'm all about picking apart those actions and getting people to really understand why they choose to engage in things that way. 



D: I do love your frank and honest no-nonsense approach, to cut through and get right to the heart of these things, your voice is amazing for this.


A: I made it that for myself because here's the thing, as a fast fashion consumer I began to be someone who liked to make things. That’s when I realised ‘oh I made a dress and it's almost wearable and it took me 10 hours to create’. It took a lot of time for me to make this dress, how is it that this store is selling a design, that is way more complicated for $10?  I don't understand, I don't get it. How did this person survive if they made $0.50 an hour to do this? So in the back of my head I had to ignore the things that made common sense to me. I think I needed a wakeup call in the form of a slap in the face. And so I try and try and provide that for other people (laughs).


D: What do you think your slap in the face was?


A: One year I added up bunch of receipts for a store I used to frequent. At the time I was earning, by Virginia State standards, poverty wages. There have been times where my employment has been an extremely low income. I have been through many recessions since I graduated. Moved back into my parents’ basement several times, throughout my adult life. Always a proud moment…... So it had been one of those years, where my income was pretty low. I added up the receipts that I had spent at one store and I was looking at myself thinking ‘I gave how much of my money to a billionaire?’ It was a substantial portion of my earnings that I had been unwittingly giving away in little piecemeal shopping. You know, going, I deserve this, 50 bucks here, 100 bucks there. Do that a couple of times a month and you will have easily spent, well over whatever you even think you were spending. That's what happens. There were a couple of years where I added up what I had spent it was several $1,000 and I'm looking at these brands and thinking, ‘well, this is owned by a billionaire who doesn't even pay people a fair wage, there is no way they can guarantee it’. And you know, I wanted to kick my own ass, I was pretty mad with myself about that, but I needed to actually really see those numbers in front of me and keep track of those receipts in order to really get a handle on my own spending. The thing with fast fashion is that low price, always makes you think, ‘oh it's nothing’ we think it's harmless in regards to the garment, we think it's a harmless treat. You think that it doesn't have an impact on the planet. But in actuality that $5 t-shirt accounts for a lot of different things.



D: Also from a young age, your mum was teaching you that consumption was a trap.


A: I remember when the fast fashion stores came over here my mom was like ‘I'm not shopping here that clothing’s really cheaply made’ and that's another thing, people love to go ‘oh poor people don't want to shop well’. But my mum grew up pretty economically disadvantaged. I think middle class people do this thing where they want to participate in the system, and everyone pretends that they are some sort of fighter for the poor when it comes to talking about why the system should exist. But in actuality many people that are economically disadvantage might not even want to buy that cheap clothing. Maybe they want the quality stuff too and they know that it's not quality. So I would say don't put this on poor people.


D: I couldn't agree more I also grew up the same way my grandmother helped my parents as far as clothing for us was concerned. We grew up with a Primark in the centre of our town. We never shopped there as the clothing was not good, it was not quality, they would save, and they would buy us good garments that would last and could be passed down. I really only wore other clothes at the weekend, we I spent most of the week in our school uniforms.


A: There were several times my mom told me I was wasting my money on crap and boy is she smug today (laughs). Oh, she is so like ‘I'm not gonna say I was right, but it's nice that you finally know I was right’ (laughs).


D: Yeah, it takes a while to get to get to the point where you're happy with your mother being right.


A: You know what, it's insufferable, but I just have to acknowledge it and get on with life (laughs). 



D: Something you have said is that it requires a lot of dollars and pounds from the middle classes……..


A:….to make a billionaire!’ So this is something I learned when researching my book. I looked at the wealth breakdowns of America, the middle-class person that screams ‘you're being really classist by critiquing the systems that oppress half the world’, needs to realise that America is a country that consumes most of the fast fashion on the planet right now. China consumes more, because of their population. America consumes more per person generally, and so, America is the country I wanted to look at. What I found is that America is broken up into a bunch of class systems, you have the poor and the working poor people. People who are at the absolute bottom of society. These are people around the poverty line, and they account for minus 1% of America’s wealth, they are not positioned as political or economic decision makers at all. They are scapegoated as a burden. So how can poor people be responsible for this system? The next class up you have, is the working class, which controls 3% of the total net wealth in America and they too are not positioned as political or economic decision makers. Then the next class up is middle class. Everybody is talking about how the poor people shop and that's why we have these systems. I want people to explain to me how can these two groups create multiple billionaires at the top of these brands? That's why I think it's absolute bullsh*t when people say its classist to critique the system of fast fashion because ‘what about poor people’? I know plenty of people throughout the whole economic spectrum and there are a lot of poor people that think the fast fashion system sucks, so let's not scapegoat poor people and recognise that it takes a lot of middle class money, to keep this system extremely profitable. As someone who was once on a low income, I think it's very important to make the distinction that I was never poor, I always had resources, I always had certain securities that other people simply don't have. I always had the option of moving back in my parents’ basement, wasn't fun, didn't make me poor. Economically I would have liked to have done better in my 20s but, regardless of that matter I was never poor. That’s something that I really breakdown in my book.



D: Fast fashion has a lot to answer for in showing us how we treat people in the global South. The pandemic that we're living through at the moment has really highlighted it again. It’s shown us how badly we treat the people who make our clothes. Rana Plaza was one of those examples that was held up to the to the world showing us how women and garment workers are being treated. And again, now with cancelled orders.


A: Even before Rana Plaza. This is the thing, we have a very short memory for the oppression of others in the global South. As a kid I remember learning what sweatshop labour was when I was 12. A TV host had been making a clothing collection for Walmart and someone had gone undercover in the factory her clothing was produced in and saw that there was child sweatshop labour happening. That was all over the news for months. How did we forget about that?


D: Was that in America?


A: Yes it was in America, a woman called Kathy Lee Gifford who used to host Good Morning America. A big show. I think that she was very much appalled by it, I felt very sorry for her being in that position, because I think she was one of those people who were, you know, she had agreed to do this line, but she hadn't been hands on enough to the point that she actually understood what was really happening. So it caught her quite off guard. For weeks everybody was talking about sweatshop labour in America, how did we become so OK with it? So it wasn't even Rana Plaza that had happened. But I think that because, once again we are facing so many different things, I do think that people have a tendency to just tune outThere was a building back collapsed in Miami recently yet, there was very little news coverage on it and I feel, and I'm not trying to be a tin foil hat wearer, but I feel like the media refuses to cover things that are connected to the climate emergency. Scientists have been warning the city of Miami for years that things like this will start to happen. I feel there's a deliberate avoidance of talking about these things in our society.


D: News channels in the UK the BBC and ITV news are putting out the same, exactly the same news side by side. We're not getting a varied worldview.


A: It's a shame really when you can't depend on the news to show you the news.


D: The government here are talking about changing Channel 4 so that it goes into private hands which would mean you get some multi-millionaire running and deciding what we hear instead of being publicly owed.


A: Monopolies aren't good for our society and that's the same for fashion. That’s what I tell people, and that is what we are up against. I think, particularly with the fashion industry people just do not understand how these decisions impact all of us. How it impacts the climate, how it impacts the global South, how it impacts governments of the world, and I think if you can really break it down to people in a way that they can start to get it, that you can get them to make some changes in their life. I get messages everyday saying that and that makes me feel extremely fulfilled, because one thing I know for certain is that the fashion landscape which I was participating in did not make me feel fulfilled at all. It made me feel grim.


D: What do you think needs to be put in place to make the changes that we need to see?


A: We need regulation for the industry and we need to unpick consumerism within our society. We need to educate children about clothing and consumerism not just because of all the issues I talk about, but because consumerism is pervasive to children it gets in at a young age. I felt like I was left out because I didn't have the right clothing. I remember going back into school after Christmas, oh my god, so many of those kids would be like I got this and that. I remember hating my peers during that time period. I would make up things that I hadn't received, because it was a game of 1 upping. So why not beat them at their own game and lie about all the things you had received (laughs). Without really knowing it, I've always been someone who really hated the way consumerism and materialism becomes pervasive in our society. I remember when the first iPhone came out, I was living in New York City. I was someone who actually avoided having a smartphone for many years, I was the last person in my family to get a smartphone. Why? because I could sense that there was something sinister about it, but also because I worked in the TV industry and I think that people are largely very abusive of other people’s time in the entertainment industry. So what I wanted to do is limit people's access to me. I did not want to be the type of person who was on email 24/7. I wanted to be a person who had working hours. Now today, I am someone who is on email 24/7 but I'm my own boss, so I have my working hours. But as someone who worked in the TV industry, people would be like ‘why didn't you answer that email I sent you at midnight your time?’ So in order to limit that, I refused to get a smartphone which was great for a while.


D: I worked in advertising for a while and it was the same thing.


A: I had a brick phone for years it was wonderful.


D: Now they are putting Wi-Fi everywhere and in the tube.


A: Yes, so you can never turn off. 


D: That used to be a place of peace and quiet, me time.


A: So I was very late adopter to this technology, part of it was for boundaries, part of it was because I felt that there was something kind of sinister going on there. I remember people lining up to get the first iPhone and thinking what a bunch of schmucks. Why would you want to be tethered to your phone constantly? That is what that item is going to do for you. It is going to tether you to the online world in a way which you probably won't enjoy sometimes, but you won't even notice. And then it's going to take over all elements of your social life. So I could see the direction things were headed in. Now, there comes a point where you can't really fight it anymore if you want to participate in society. Gotta get the phone. So yes, today I have a phone, but I held off for the longest time.


D: With the phone it's like falling into a rabbit hole, if you open social media and start to scroll, suddenly half an hour is gone.


A: That's exactly what happens, it happens all the time. I try and have a no phone in the bedroom policy. I don't always have that because we don't want alarm clock, so if I need to wake up for something then I do have my phone on my bed side table. But, I also catch myself doing that, one minute you look and it's midnight, the next time you look it's 2:00AM and you're like ‘oh God what have I done’. So yeah it's pervasive, I've always known that and you know I try and limit it, but yeah, it is a very pervasive thing.  I remember definitely feeling like a freak show though for not having an iPhone. People would say ‘ohh you cannot afford one?’ ‘No, I don't actually want one.’ Then, they would be like ‘what sort of weirdo are you?’ Which is also a weird thing that our society does.


D: I worry about little children sitting in prams because, even when the phones weren't around a book wasn't handed over in the same way.


A: I feel for parents, because I can see how easy it would be, to hand over the phone and to have peace and quiet for a few minutes to enjoy a coffee with a friend. But I will try, if I'm lucky enough to have kids, to limit that if I can. But that’s easy to say before you become a parent and then find it's completely different than you had envisioned.



D: Something that you have said is that ‘we're not talking about race and class enough in our society and by doing that were hindering the conversations that we need to have to tackle the issues’.

A: Absolutely I think that until America and Britain acknowledge their true and real history we can't actually move forward. It would be like if you had two brothers, and one of them stole money from the other and built an empire and then said, why can't we just forget about this and be friends? Let's just start from the beginning. That's essentially what the world looks like. We just need to get over the past and move forward. But that's not how it works. If your sibling stole money from you and built an empire you would say OK, yes let's start from the beginning. Now give me all that money back, so that things are fair and equitable.

D: Now’s the time to uplift everybody, starting with paying people properly.

A: Yes we have this opportunity to really reset. That's how I choose to look at the climate emergency. Maybe I choose to look at it because it's terrifying and scary and I have to look at the things that could be hopeful about it. I think that we have been given an opportunity to unpick some of these things and I can see that the governments of the world are not trying to have that conversation but they need to. Even with the fossil fuel industry, did you see the news about Exxon? Every government of the world should be trying to move their seat farther away from Exxon right now. I feel they are going to ignore what's been revealed. How their lobbyists were basically saying ‘we target politicians to pay, to vote in our favour’ that's essentially what was being said. This, is something that people like you and I have always suspected, and it was just confirmed on video. I feel like we as a society are pretty saddened to see that it's only a niche group of people drawing attention to this and saying ‘everyone you need to pay attention to this’. I would like to see our entire society outraged at Exxon right now.

D: Absolutely. My husband has been working for years on sustainable energy programmes. A lot of times he’s been hitting his head against a brick wall, getting to a certain point and then all, the goal posts will change. Governments in different countries and here, would say okay we've given this enough money now. We are reducing our help with tariffs et cetera. Then we find out that they are propping up oil and gas. Smacks of greenwashing to me.

A: People also don't really realise that the fossil fuel industry keeps fast fashion afloat. So many, of the materials that are in fast fashion are fossil made. Most people still have no idea that polyester comes from oil and that it will often never biodegrade. It is in everything by design. The fossil fuel industries have been behind this massive push to get Poly fibres into all of our clothing. I think when people start to really understand these things, that things will change. However I still don't think that the word is out there, and that polyester comes from oil and is essentially plastic clothing. I know this because it was something I didn't know about until I was an adult.  


D: Well of course and this whole area that we're looking at works perfectly well, for extraction, and exploitation of the people and the planet.


A: Yes, but people don't see it that way when you're making shiny things that make them feel brighter, happier more attractive, and more accepted by society. Our society has done this conversation a massive disservice through patriarchy, by painting the fashion and beauty industries as frivolous, silly things. Instead of businesses that are responsible for billions of jobs and billions of dollars and world economies. We've always done this thing where we negate the fashion and beauty industry, and the arts in general as frivolous and silly because our society does that. Because of the patriarchy it's very easy to negate the impact of these industries.


D: An impact that is felt mostly by women.


A: Yes. 


D: Historically it was women here in the UK and America that were the first garment workers. Then when wages rose, the work started to offshore to the global south so it reverberates all around the world, Vietnam, India, Pakistan Ethiopia.


A: The thing about the fashion industry is that it never improves, it just moves to another country were its easier to exploit people. That's something else that I've seen throughout my lifetime. I remember starting to see made in China on everything and then it moved to made in India, then Bangladesh and Vietnam. I've seen this happen within my life span. I've seen how the fashion industry moves to the global South in search of the cheapest labour. But I didn't recognise that this is what was happening until I started to do this work.


D: That's exactly what was happening. I remember the conversations about all of the unemployment the moving away of the business was creating here. What is going to happen to all the people and factories and the machines here? It leaves a wake of destruction everywhere it goes, and it takes the economy away from each country and the women who work in it as it does so.


 A: I always tell people if we fight for ourselves, we can fight for others as well. But the problem is I think, in many ways we've given up that fight. To sort of leap back to my own history, both of my parents are from cities and places, or have lived in cities and places that are now economic ghost towns. My dad grew up mostly in Pennsylvania later on California and he's lived in St Thomas for many years. But, York Pennsylvania used to be a thriving hub. Pottstown Pennsylvania, they all used to make things, Caterpillar bulldozers I think, Harley Davidsons. Pottstown was known as a place that makes pots, because my grandmother worked there. They used to create things in that part of the world. Now things are not created there, and the economic ripple can be seen in the poverty and the drug use in the area. My mother is from Mobile Alabama, which is a massive shipping port that used to be so thriving, when mom was a child. Now, no, and you can see this all over America, these two cities these places I've talked about are not the exception to the rule but the norm. But the American worker doesn't see how these things have negatively impacted them, because certain politicians love to get you to believe that it's really the immigrant that has taken your job.


D: Always the other.


A: Always the other. When they can turn you against each other, they can control you. There is never a real or honest conversation about, if you don't like people on benefits, you should actually really hate Walmart, because Walmart is one of the biggest employers in America second is Amazon, who are also just like and Walmart. Walmart does not pay most of its workforce a living wage. Which means the vast majority of those employees are on some sort of benefit or governmental assistance. Meanwhile Walmart continues to turn a massive profit for years and years and years, because it doesn't pay a living wage. Which means the American taxpayer is subsidising the Walmart worker, while the Waltons remain one of the richest families in the world. That’s who you should be mad at.


D: I couldn't agree more it's the same here.


A: Walmart used to own Asda in the UK too. If America is a country of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps but the biggest employer in America doesn't actually pay a living wage in most states, how are you gonna pull yourself up by your bootstraps how can that happen?


D: It can't happen. They have so many tax breaks, and the tax payer is paying for those and subsidising business. If they were paying taxes properly to the government to everybody……


A:…… and paying their employees fairly. They probably wouldn't be billionaires. They'd still be rich beyond belief though with more money than you could spend in 3 generations time or a lifetime on earth. There are businesses out there that you can talk about, who do, do things differently. I know that there's a business in Seattle Washington I think, a Tech guy, who decided that he was gonna pay everyone in his company 70K and he wasn't going to make much more than that. This is a company that is not only economically thriving, but the output that you get out of people that are paid fairly and treated fairly is much different. I saw this even when I worked in the entertainment industry. The jobs that I worked on where people were respectful and kind to each other and you didn't have to nickel and dime over your pay check were the happiest shows. They were the shows where people were the most creative, the funniest. I would say really worked as a team, because people are happier when they are treated nicely.


D: Of course, and all of this goes back into the economy, so the economy can grow in a fair and just way.


D: You have just finished writing your book. (Aja’s book 'Consumed' is now available to buy at all good booksellers or click here for links go get a copy, it’s a great read, easy to understand and be able to get your head around all this info.)


A: I would say, for now, I'm never writing a book again (laughs). I am not writing a non-fiction book again, as writing non-fiction is a lot of work.


D: Can you tell us anything about it?


A: Everything I've talked about in this interview. It's basically been a complete taster, I talk about my history, I talk about wealth, I talk about why we buy, if you if you've enjoyed this interview you will like my book. Because this is basically a brief taster of what you're gonna get.


Can I also say I'm super nervous? So many people are saying ‘I'm really excited for your book’. And I'm terrified. I just watched the series Halston, and Halston used to say ‘reviews don't matter’. I basically say that mantra to myself everyday. Just in case, I’ve tasked my partner with reading my reviews for me. I've said, ‘don't tell me how mean they are, just tell me if somebody really hates me so I can avoid them’ (laughs).


D: But you have this on a daily basis, you are constantly putting out fires with people.


A: It's one thing when it's a person on Instagram, it’s other thing when it's maybe a publication you respect who isn't really digging where you are going. But I'm sure it will be fine. There is something that is slightly terrifying about the world having something in their hands that you've written, and people writing you reviews that are cutting, (laughs).


D: The thing is that we all have to start telling these stories, we all have to. If you don't put it out there, it's not out there, so people won't be able to pick it up and read it.


A: It's putting yourself out there in a different way which is slightly terrifying to me.


D: I understand, and of course putting it into book form means it can pass from person to person. And maybe into the hands of somebody who maybe doesn't have access to you on social media.


A: That's what I love about books and that's why I never stopped buying books. I remember when E readers came out and everybody said ‘oh everybody should get an E reader’ and I was once again being technology adverse. I get the purpose of E readers, I think going on holiday it is great as you can pack a bunch of books into one slim item. But in general, nothing beats the feeling of a book, nothing beats a bookstore, nothing beats the smell of a book, nothing beats having a book that you’ve read that has really impacted you and giving it to a friend and saying you must read this. You don't get that with an E reader, even though I totally understand the purpose of E readers. I do tell people get it in, no matter how you can, if it's an E reader if it's an audio book, I tell people all the time, reading an audio book is still reading. And for materials that I consider a bit more dense or challenging, I totally will get it on audio book, because sometimes I find it very hard to read things on the page, if it's information heavy. There is nothing wrong with that, there's no shame. Get the reading in any way you can folks.


D: Absolutely I love books too even when it is really dense and heavy so you can underline you can mark that this is somewhere you want to go back to. Books you can re-read and love.


A: I also get different editions of books that I love, if I travel, (that seems so far away, travelling to other places). When I travel and I go to other countries and they've a copy of a book that I really enjoyed and it has a different cover, I like buying those too.


D: So what do you think drives you?


A: Wanting to make the world better place for my niece Avery and my nephew Liam. They deserve to have a childhood where they don't have to worry about this stuff. I'm sure that these concepts kind of negate them, but even as a child I worried. I remember I got this book when I was ten called 50 things children can do to save the planet. I did not know until that moment that the planet was in peril. It was a bit of a shock for me. They talked about this thing called the greenhouse effect that has sort of disappeared from the radar. For a minute everybody was talking about it. Then it was like ‘I’ll just go back to living life’ so now, we are in full out climate emergency. That is what the greenhouse effect has become. So there is this desire for me to safeguard this world for the next generation, because it's not fair. It's not fair, it’s not fair, that the previous generation created an economic system where so many of us can't survive and have the things we need.  I want people to have the things that they need. I want everybody to have a life where they don't have to worry about medical bills. To be able to buy a house one day, because putting down roots is important. I want people to have what they need, and we currently have a system where very few people have what they need and it's not fair. So that's what drives me. 


You can see more of Aja’s work by following these links here and here






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