Raw, unfiltered, and vulnerable are the words I used to describe a poem that made me want to close the web page on my laptop. The poem spoke to my soul, and I would have done myself an injustice if I had closed the page on this striking piece.
The poet that struck an unplayed chord within me goes by the name of ‘LionHeart’.
That particular poem, titled Pretty Hurts was performed on the legendary Def Jam poetry circuit in Los Angeles and LionHeart has several other thought-provoking videos on YouTube showcasing his hard-hitting style. LionHeart has just completed his first book ‘The Mute’s Rebellion’ which will be released this year. He is also one of the founders of ‘SubjectivityUK’ a live talk show event where the audience gets interactive on various topics ranging from sex, relationships, politics, finances, religion and much more in-depth topics about humanity.
Pretty hurts places a mirror in front of you without your consent. It forces you to ask and answer questions about yourself, especially the parts you may struggle to confront.
“I had a conversation with my friend about insecurities and my friend told me I shouldn’t write about this topic.”
To be frank, the behaviour and attitudes of an insecure person are negative and can be detrimental to themselves as well as people they are around. This made it a difficult poem for LionHeart to perform because he had to conquer the insecurities that he had been plagued with.
“I did not want to come across as jealous, however, at that time those were the feelings that arose from within and I wanted to get out of that negative mental space.”
“A lot of people will listen to Pretty Hurts and think – ‘it is not about me.’” There was a period of LionHeart’s life where he struggled with his appearance and identity. I found it extremely refreshing to hear a man express that they once felt insecure about the way they look; conversations of this nature is something I have rarely experienced.
“I woke up one day and thought I did not fit in standards that society has set. I started to think negatively about myself; I was self-conscious and constantly questioned my appearance and asked why I didn’t look like the “norm”
This poem was not solely directed at beauty ideals; LionHeart’s goal was to speak out for himself as well as others who feel insecure and negative about who they are. Society (we as humans) has created ideals that we feel that we have to live up to. Society has expertly looked negatively towards those who don’t match these ideals, whether it be in having a popular career, a large social media following, financial wealth or trendy clothes. It comes as no surprise that mental health issues are on the rise according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Before LionHeart came to fruition, there was Rhael Cape, who was a young boy with aspirations to become a rapper. “I have been writing since I was 12. I would just write to understand myself.” As he grew older Rhael decided to pursue a career in architecture and attained a degree at University of East London. Rhael often found himself daydreaming in lectures; scribbling away in his notepads about thoughts and expressions that occupied his mind. “When I was at university, I was unknowingly writing poetry.” Rhael gradually realised becoming an architect was not his calling, and as life continued he explored possibilities outside the university walls.
“One day at my friend’s house, we randomly found videos online of Def Jam’s Poetry and we thought this poetry stuff was so cool. My friend told me about a poetry event in Central London. I wrote a poem that same night and went to the show the following month to perform. I got a standing ovation and from that moment, I knew this what I wanted to do.”
The confidence to perform in large crowds would have come natural to a younger Rhael but it took a major paradigm shift for Rhael to get in front of that stage and embody LionHeart. “When I was a child, I was an outgoing wildflower; social, funny, and charismatic.” Growing up, events and situations can shape who you are, especially if they were negative. Children can say the cruellest of things; we have all been there. “I started to summarise and categorise certain experiences which resulted in me developing self-defence mechanisms to help me survive. One of my defence mechanism was to stop speaking aloud.”
As an early teen, Rhael began to withdraw into himself, he was no longer the outgoing wildflower. “I went through so many mental challenges to change and become the person I am today.” He developed selective mutism, which is an anxiety disorder where a person who is normally capable of speech does not speak in specific situations or to specific people.
“I remember reading a quote by Mark Twain – It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Once Rhael read this quote he adopted it as his mantra. It served as confirmation that he should not speak. “The silence kept on manifesting in my head. I didn’t connect with my friends, parents and siblings – my silence was like mould, once I placed it in the right environment, it just kept on spreading.”
The Mute’s Rebellion
The process of writing his first book ‘The Mute’s Rebellion, for the past two years has made LionHeart deeply reflect from within and breakdown how selective mutism affected him. The more the ink flowed onto the paper, he realised how he could use his story to help others who feel alone. This is not a self-help book but an honest account of a man who let his negative interpretations of events shape his thoughts and attitudes and a journey to regain control of himself. “Through this book I want people to understand how important interpretations of life experiences can affect the way you live. I want readers to reflect and think about their experiences, and how it makes them feel and realise they have the control to address them.”
LionHeart is a strong believer of what the mind believes to be true, is the only thing that matters. As a young child, he created a lot of truths that were detrimental to his well-being and self-confidence. LionHeart laughed as he retold how he used to feel as a young 18-year-old, “I used to be so nervous when approaching women. I would come up with all these reasons in my head, to why she would say no. When I got to university, I decided to change my mentality, rather than tell myself I do not stand a chance with her, I would at least put myself in a situation for women to say no, so I knew it was a NO for sure.”
The journey to self-belief and true love for self is never ending and LionHeart is honest that he still has insecurities (not to the magnitude in his teenage years) that he is currently working on.
LionHeart’s aim is to positively touch many lives as possible with his work as a poet and with this book he is bound to impact the many.
“I have invested a lot of energy into this book, endless research, sleepless nights, a non-existent social life, which has even resulted in me losing friends. The Mute’s Rebellion is bigger than me. I write for those with walls for windows.”
Click here to follow LionHeart on Twitter – @LionHeartfelt and Instagram -www.instagram.com/lionheartfelt/
You can also visit www.subjectivityuk.com to keep up to date for their next events.
Subject – LionHeart
Writer and Photographer – Kofi Dwaah Jr