The utter joy of being Camila Batmanghelidjh

Camila Batmanghelidjh founded Kids Company in 1996; they provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children. Kids Company services reach 14,000 children across London, including the most deprived and at risk, who not only negotiate significant challenges in their family homes, but also face immense threat within their neighbourhoods. Kids Company provide a safe, caring family environment where support is tailored to the needs of each individual. Their services and support empower children who have experienced enormous challenges to lead positive and fulfilling lives. Despite great difficulties, the children they work with are hugely courageous and embrace the support on offer.

In 2007 Kids Company was awarded the Liberty and JUSTICE Human Rights Award. In 2010 they were selected as a ‘Child Poverty Champion’ by the End Child Poverty project for their success in enabling children to achieve their full potential.

Do you have a treasured piece of clothing you have kept hold of for a special reason?

I love my turban because it makes me a muslim, a sikh, a beach bum, a nut-case and a hippie, altogether funky fresh, a walking fruitcake: proud to be me.

Can you tell us the story behind this item?

I needed a crown but I wasn’t a princess. I wanted to keep something private in a public space. I needed to be on duty, but not exposed. I didn’t want to war with hair colourings, straighteners and curlers, or let hairdressers loose on my hair, so I made a beehive, sheltered my thoughts and behaved like a fat queen.

How do you feel when you wear this?

Like a fat queen! Missing her African tribe, her Arabian camels, her snake in the basket, but utterly overjoyed at daily carrying a fabric fruitbowl on my head.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Give up normalizing even earlier.

Which woman is of most inspiration to you?

I admire the children I work with more than anyone.

What is the last book you read/exhibition you saw?

I don’t need to: being inside my head is an utter joy daily – and it saves me a train fare, and the use of NHS reading glasses.

Please tell us an interesting or fun tip!

If you have no money, go to an expensive hotel, dress up posh, have a great tea with scones, sandwiches and clotted cream; then, with panache, give them a room number and walk out. (Before anyone thinks I am a criminal: I am into addressing poverty by any means possible.)

Stephanie Barker

Image Courtesy of Camila Batmanghelidjh

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