Well, this week’s interview kicked off with one of Chioma’s heroes, the inimitable Zadie Smith, cooing over Chioma and congratulating her on her new role as head of editorial content at British Vogue. We spoke to Zadie on the heels of the release of her new novel, The Fraud.
Chioma asked Zadie for advice on how to navigate a move back to the UK after an extended stint as a New Yorker (Zadie and her family moved back to London several years ago; Chioma will very soon do the same!). Of course, we asked Zadie about her fabulous style, from her High Street staples paired with vintage jewelry, to the blood sport of Rachel Comey sample sales in New York City, to her unexpected family connection with JW Anderson. However, despite her fashion fluency, Zadie insists she still doesn’t understand the logistics of fashion week or the pageantry of fashion shows: “Two minutes and it’s over! I don’t understand it!”
The Fraud is Zadie’s first work of historical fiction. It’s set in London and Jamaica in the 1800s and explores how the sugar trade funded colonial Britain. Zadie’s mom is Jamaican and her dad was British, so it was also a bit of a personal exploration for her. The first half of the book centers on Eliza Touchet, a widowed housekeeper for her prolific, but not particularly talented, novelist cousin, the real-life William Ainsworth. It goes on to recount the famous historical trial of Roger Tickborn, a butcher claiming to be a shipwrecked aristocrat and heir to a Jamaican sugar fortune, who, despite ample evidence to the contrary, received widespread popular support, inviting parallels to Trumpism and American populism. However, for me, the book was most excitingly a novel about novelists and writing, so of course we also asked Zadie about her process, her first fictional character she remembers inventing as a child, and how she fills her time between novels (easily!). We also learned that Zadie is a Carrie stan for life—no new Sex and the City characters for her—that her signature red lipstick is from Nars, and that she hates shopping. If for no other reason, listen to this episode to hear me make a total fool of myself by saying “a dollop of Trollope” to Zadie Smith.