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So hard to say goodbye

GOOD TIMES: Jasmine with Mariah Carey

I ALWAYS knew this day would come but just expected it years ago. After sharing weekly musings, info, rants and banter with thousands of you nationally and internationally for over 15 years, these will be my final words.

It's time to bid you a fond farewell, as this is my final column for The Voice. It’s been an absolute privilege and an honour to be allowed to sound off on this page without compromise since 1999, but an exciting adventure beckons and life moves on.

All of which explains, at least in part, the bittersweet sentiments I feel in leaving this space today. A column is, bar none, the best journalism job in the industry. Being a part of the biggest UK brand that gives a voice to the black community and beyond; having a regular space and the freedom to shre my thoughts and experiences in a publication as sophisticated, dedicated, and passionate as The Voice is not to be underestimated.


GIRL POWER: With the member of Destiny's Child

This column has been one of the richest privileges of my professional life, and for that, I want to thank you.
Occasionally, people have sneeringly questioned why I would write for the paper, to which I would defend it to my back teeth. Other times people would become angry that I, “not a real black woman” would be allowed the entitlement. Being an ethnic refugee with parental blood hailing from Kenya, India and further beyond, I’ve never really been accepted by any culture as part of theirs.

But as I always note, the black community welcomes everyone and embraced me as a kid growing up in the streets of Southall and Harlesden. You are warm, inviting, non-judgmental and for that adoption and taking me in your arms, I thank you.

I’ve treasured the tips that arrive from all quarters: the community, music stars, actors, athletes, managers, TV execs, politicians, record labels, friends, foes, the lot! I’ve treasured the people who have invited me into their homes, lives and minds weekly (or had me forced upon them).


HIP-HOP ROYALTY: Jas keeps it casual with rapper Jay Z

I’ve treasured the opportunity to occasionally help change peoples lives by speaking openly and honestly about topics and issues that we often find taboo, but most of all I’ve treasured starting conversations and giving a voice to those who might not otherwise have it, and helping to push talent wherever I can.

Because of print deadlines, I typically write a week before a column appears in the paper. Thus, I have to consider on Thursday what might still be of interest by next week. One is, therefore, nearly always late to the game, but usually due to my privileged access to people and places, I’ve still had an exclusive for the paper.

Over the years the banter between entertainment editors and myself has been merciless. From my first column editors Tricia Liverpool and Lee Pinkerton to current column editor AKA ‘the boss’ Davina – who wants 800 words per column and often had to slap my wrists when I tried to push it to over 1,000 (the problem is, I have way too much to say) – it’s been a fantastic experience.


MODEL BEHAVIOUR: Here she poses with supermodel Naomi Campbell and tennis champ Venus Williams

My column flows from my fingers as they skip joyfully across the keyboard. Years ago my style was abrasive. I was brought up around the “your mama” era so it came as second nature. Readers loved and hated me. The editors always reassured me that this was a good thing. “Only worry if no one says anything,” they’d say.

When I hit a nerve and many readers write in to say they laugh and/or agree with me, these are the best responses. You have to have a thick skin to be a columnist. You will always get people vex by not including enough info, generalising, offending, etc. You must have the attitude of DMX and Rocky rolled into one to act like you don’t care, even when you do.

Any regrets? I realised a few years into the column that I was giving readers the wrong impression about my job. Even though 95 per cent was hard graft and 5 per cent fabulous, some readers assumed I started the day in hair and make up, brunched with Beyoncé, lunched with Usher and dined with Damage.

I didn’t talk about the hours researching, transcribing and editing, as surely no one wanted to hear about that side. In this way, I often felt guilty for impressing upon many youth that a music and media industry was all glam. My one regret is that I should’ve kept it real from the start.


UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Jasmine with rapper Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg)

As for my best moments, they come when you’ve changed the game for whatever reason. What I'll miss most is all of you who wrote to me over the years. I still have stacks of your emails filled with kind words; e-mails I can't bring myself to discard just yet.

Students and prisoners were the ones that hit me hardest emotionally. Thousands of students have communicated with me via this column, been brought into my places of employment for work experience and subsequently made their own careers alongside me. One prisoner wrote: “We only read The Voice to check in on Jasmines Juice, it makes us smile.”

I was granted an opportunity to offer comments and report on events from around the world from L.A to Uganda; events as big as the BAFTAs and as small as the local community function.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to have this space to chat with you every week. I'll miss it terribly and I'll miss you.

Remember: work hard, play harder!

To stay abreast of Jasmine’s Juice you can follow her at www.jasminedotiwala.co.uk
On Twitter: @jasminedotiwala
Also via Huffington Post: www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jasmine-dotiwala

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* The Voice would like to say many thanks to Jasmine Dotiwala for her contribution to the paper over the last 15 years. Jasmine, your hard work and dedication is much appreciated. Thank you!

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