Scarlett Curtis is a purple-haired blogger with a huge heart. Her parents, Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Love Actually, co-founder of Comic Relief, the list goes on) and Emma Freud, writer, activist and director of Red Nose Day, need no introduction. The apple has clearly not fallen far from the tree in Scarlett, whose sweet, child-like voice belies a politically engaged and highly articulate woman; a passionate activist with such infectious energy that I find myself immediately posting about periods on my Instagram after our interview. I love her from the off.
In the Curtis-Freud house, ‘activism and charity are like a religion’ and Scarlett has been dancing in charity dance-athons since before she could walk. But activism too, is symptomatic of her generation, so-called ‘Gen Z’. Growing up in an internet age, they’re said to be hyper aware of the political climate, more socially conscious, driven and hard-working than us millennials. Scarlett tells me she is more likely to be invited to a protest than a party, and I can believe it.
Writing, like activism, comes completely naturally to Scarlett who began blogging aged 14 when an operation on her back went wrong and she found herself in a wheelchair for two years. Her TeenGranny blog (so-called because it focused on baking cupcakes, knitting and other ‘Granny’ hobbies) gave structure to her days and provided a vital outlet.Crippling physical pain was followed by several years of crippling anxiety and depression, something she’s been very open about in her writing. ‘I used to feel ashamed of my feelings, but when I started to put them out into the world I realized that there were a lot of other people out there who could relate.’
Scarlett shares with the ease of the social media generation. We talk about keeping a diary and I wonder whether the Instagram grid is the modern-day version, a space to chart significant moments as well as daily banalities. Scarlett agrees, ‘when you feel sad it can be easy to think that nothing’s ever been good and nothing will be good again. When I scroll down through my pictures I am reminded of good things and that’s helpful.’
In her final year at NYU, Scarlett spends most of her time at The Wing, New York’s cult workspace for women. But, in just over a week she’ll be returning home for Christmas, via the Period Protest in London first, of course.
Scarlet Curtis New York Q&A
Does New York feel like home?
After three years, yes it does. It’s taken time but I love it here. It’s intense and smelly and overwhelming but it’s incredible too.
What have you learnt as a New York student?
A killer work ethic. Everyone works so hard in New York, there’s the sense that you can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it.
What could British women learn from New Yorkers?
American women are ambitious and unashamed about it. They advocate for themselves as they would for their best friend. Insecurity is one of the biggest opponents to the feminist movement. I think British women have a hard time achieving that confidence – but I think ultimately you have to just make a decision and do it. Be proud, be confident, be ambitious. It’s a responsibility to yourself and to other women.
What is the build up to Christmas like in New York?
For me it’s surprisingly un-Christmassy here. I mean sure, they’ve got the commercial angle covered. But no one lives with family here, a lot of people live in an isolated way.
Do you miss the UK then?
I’ve become a sort of British obsessive. When I come out of the airport I want to scream with happiness. Corner shops! Tesco! My dog! My cat! I miss English pubs and tea. Most of all I miss my family.
How do you combat homesickness?
I call my parents a lot. There have been times that they’ve banned me from calling. I have a joke with my Dad, at the end of a call I’ll always say ‘ok, talk to you later!’ and he replies ‘talk to you tomorrow!’
So where will you be spending Christmas?
Back in the UK. As a family we are Christmas fanatics. We spend it in a tiny village in Suffolk. Everyone jumps into the sea on Christmas morning and it’s bloody freezing. Then we race back home, desperate for the first hot bath or shower.
What’s on your Christmas list?
This is an annoying answer but I’d like a ‘present’ from the Help Refugees 'Choose Love' pop up in Soho. This Christmas you can go and buy a blanket, gloves, bootes etc and then those items are send straight to refugee camps. How amazing is that?
The whole nation watches Love Actually at Christmas. Do you watch it as a family?
Yes we do. But we’ve made a collective decision that Elf is a better film. Sorry Dad.
Scarlett Curtis’ Gen Z column is in the ST Style magazine each Sunday. March with her on 20 December and sign the Free Periods Petition here. For more visit scarlettcurtis.com and follow her on instagram and twitter.
Words by Daisy Allsup. The Iris Letter December 2017.