What She Loves is a regular series where women we love reveal what *they* love. Here, writer and “romcomoisseur” Bolu Babalola – whose acclaimed new short story collection, Love In Colour, is out now – discusses her favourite things.
If you’ve ever spent any time on Twitter, you’ve probably come across Bolu Babalola. The London-based writer has been on the social media site since 2009, building up an audience of 66,600 followers for her sharp-eyed and extremely funny observations on pop culture and politics (sample tweet: “can u still be the Beyoncé of your craft when u love to wake up at 10:30am”).
Babalola sometimes meets people who think all she does is tweet, which she describes as “very, very, very fucking irritating”. In reality, her expansive online presence is just a snapshot of how prolific she is as a writer. She’s currently working on a novel and two television scripts, one for a BBC series and another for a TV pilot of her own creation, a “fun hangout comedy with a romcom at the centre”. She has also just released her debut book Love In Colour, an anthology of short stories inspired by ancient myths.
“People think that Twitter is my job – no!” Babalola says. “It really, really pisses me off because I work my ass off and always have worked my ass off. I am just very good at multitasking, so I tweet while working my ass off.”
In Love In Colour, Babalola takes myths, legends and folk tales and transforms them into modern-day romances. Her stories are smart and joyful, witty and heartbreaking, with Black, Chinese and Iranian protagonists. But these aren’t race-flipped versions of white, Western narratives: Babalola draws on Yoruba myth and religion, on folk tales told in Lesotho and Ghana, as well as the Ancient Greek myth of Eros and Psyche. “The point is, we don’t need to re-imagine known white stories with Black people and [people of colour],” she has said. “We have our own.”
Love In Colour has already won plaudits from other famous authors, including Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), David Nicholls (One Day, Us) and Meg Cabot, who wrote The Princess Diaries series. “These are authors who I admire so much for the warmth and the romance that they infuse into their work and their art, so for them to amplify me – it means the world,” she says. Receiving praise from Cabot was a particularly pinch-me moment. “That’s when it felt real. Like, shit, Meg Cabot who I adored growing up, who I still adore, loves the book… That’s the moment when it sunk in that I was – you know, I was proud of myself. I’ve actually done something that Meg Cabot enjoys.”
Below, Babalola shares her current favourite things with Stylist.
Circe by Madeline Miller
“I’m so glad I waited to read this until after I’d finished writing [Love In Colour], because I think I’d have been too intimidated to finish my book. It’s a retelling of the Greek myth Circe and it’s so beautifully and intelligently written, with so much empathy and warmth. It pays homage to the original story while also centring the woman and empowering her. I was just consumed. It’s a masterclass in storytelling.”
Revlon Pro Collection Salon One Step Hair Dryer & Styler
“I’m Black, so I literally have one million hair products, but this is my favourite thing. It’s a brush and hairdryer in one. Blowdrying my hair is normally such a nightmare, and this is a soft way to detangle while drying at the same time.”
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
“I’ve been using this for two years. It’s like an illuminator – I use the darkest shade, but it doesn’t need to match your tone completely. It makes you pop, like you’re lit from within. You can dab it under or on top of your foundation, on your cheekbones, under your brows or mix it with foundation. It’s perfect for a quick Hollywood makeover if you’re not very good with highlighter and you don’t want to faff. I just love the extra oomph it gives.”
Thirst Aid Kit
“This podcast is about enjoying the intellectual aspect of thirst: breaking down what really makes women tick. It’s so refreshing to hear Black women be unabashed about what turns them on in terms of personality, energy, mind, talent. They also discuss the sexual politics of desirability and have these little snippets of fan fiction based on their subjects, which are gloriously naughty. It’s taught me so much about how to capture romance in just a few words.
Maggi Stock Cubes
“When it comes to food, I’m a really good fixer-upper. Give me three ingredients or a fridge that’s struggling and I can make something. But the thing that always helps me is Maggi cubes. I’m Nigerian, and every Nigerian knows that Maggi cubes are a staple. I don’t even use salt, I just use Maggi, because it’s salt and seasoning in one. Any time you’re rustling something up, Maggi makes it taste like a gourmet meal, even if you’re severely lacking in ingredients.”
Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish™ Hot Cloth Cleanser
“I’ve been using it morning and evening and honestly, my skin is baby soft and so clear. It smells so good and feels really luxurious. I love it.”
Arket Seamless™ Yoga Bra
“I really like sports bras that can double as tops. That look is my shit. They’re comfortable, they look sexy on a night out, you can wear them at home… My favourite kind is Arket’s yoga bras. They’re such great quality and so versatile. Yes, you can wear them to the gym if you’re perverted like that, but I like to dress them up. That’s my thing.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Love In Colour: Mythical Tales From Around The World, Retold by Bolu Babalola (£16.99, Headline) is out now
Images: © Folaju Oyegbesan; courtesy of brands
Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.