By age 13, Amelia Fergusson was a seasoned liar who tricked her Caribbean school friends into thinking this London rude gyal was having lots of sex.
In actual fact, as an insecure young girl, she just sought comfort in humour, and was terrified of intimacy. As a 32-year-old mother, she still is.
Back in London, by her early twenties she was comatose under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine, and depressed. She had survived domestic violence and was on a downwards spiral only fate could have determined would not end in death.
At 24, she launched a high class escorting agency, spending all her profits on booze and had conned people out of thousands of pounds. These are just a few in a series of fuck-ups catalogued in Pretty Girls Can’t Write – an autobiography of comedic drama, candid FYI’s and retrospection.
“I just wanted to get everything off my chest. Some of the things I’d forgotten about and you also forget why you act a certain way later on in life. It’s through writing it down I realised I hadn’t yet processed that information,” she explained.
Although the book took a month to pen down, the copy was abandoned in a box with scriptwriter Amelia’s other drafts – “I purged and felt much better. I wasn’t ready to publish it and then began worrying about other people, and what if a guy I’m dating reads it!”
Fast-forward more than a year later, Amelia was ready to have others learn from her catastrophic mistakes, mentored by humour in what I can confidently say is a book every reader will see themselves in.
The book covers your teenage years to late twenties. What’s so important about this period, particularly in a girl’s life?
I’ll start by saying this – I’m so glad I’m above 30! Now I’ve come out of those ten years, especially with my drinking and everything else involved with it, I just really know who I am. In your teens and twenties, you’re still trying to decide and set boundaries and keep your self-esteem up. It’s also very easy when you’re not so aware of who you are to get swept away by relationships and have guys affect your self-worth, then it’s a downwards spiral. So for me, those ten years were quite a revelation [laughs]. I feel those are the years you should be learning about yourself and then in your thirties, you become a bit more settled and responsible.
Is this the kind of book you would’ve liked to read back then?
Definitely but I don’t think I would’ve learnt from it. However, I would liked to have known other people were going through the same stuff.
Often people go through life blaming others and feeling like a victim because of whatever has happened to them. Do you believe everything in your life happened for a reason?
My tattoo, I don’t know if you can see it? [I couldn’t on the Skype camera] says ‘Maktub’ which means ‘Whatever happens, happens for a reason’ and that is me all over. Also when I started going to Kabbalah, I was taught in every obstacle you need to look for the light. What is this challenge being sent to you to learn from?
It’s a sore subject but the situation you went through with ‘John’ aged 17 – I wondered if you’d ever gotten closure from him, or an explanation? Later in the book, you say you’d spoken to him – what was that interaction like?
It was weird. He got in touch and apologised and I did let it go only because I grew up with him and saw he’d changed. As a young teenager, he was such a talented musician and would be the opening act for artists like Beenie Man when they came to St Vincent. He went from that downhill towards drugs and gangs. Then about five or six years ago, he was murdered. He’d sent me a message over Facebook just before he died saying he’d been trying to get in touch which really affected me…I’m a big believer in karma. Even if you do change your life, something will happen. But I did forgive him.
Taking your experiences with alcoholism, what do you feel people don’t understand about alcohol abuse from the outside looking in?
I have friends who are very aware of drug abuse but when I say I have an alcohol problem, they can’t put the two together. They can understand a cocaine addict but not an alcoholic. Or if they do understand an alcoholic, it’s those they see sitting on a park bench. But these are people who weren’t there when I was locked in my house for days on end and when I did finally emerge, I’d be me again. The days I had to show up for work, I’d show up, but even though I was there – my mind was foggy, I had constant sweats – I wasn’t my normal self. People also don’t understand a lot of young people have an alcohol addiction. Most people just assume it’s only older men who drink their cans of lager in the park.
So is it really an all or nothing situation for a person with alcohol dependency?
Oh definitely. I know a lady who was sober for 27 or 37 years. She had some issues going on and wasn’t going to AA as much. Then she went back out and within a month had a heart attack, she started drinking so much. Now she’s been back in AA for two years but literally it goes back immediately – there’s no sense of moderating it at all.
What were people’s reactions to the book especially your parents – have they read it?
Oh, God no. Actually my mum keeps asking for the name of the book and I haven’t told her! It’s funny because when I was partying a lot and doing drugs, there were times she’d call me and because of the time difference between here and the Caribbean where they live, it’d be about midnight and I’d already be off my head. I’d say, ‘Mum, I can’t talk right now, I’m doing coke!’ – that’s the relationship I have with my mum. She knows how crazy I can be, but I’ve never really spoken with her seriously about things like what went on with my son’s father. I don’t think she knows how much of an effect it’s had on me.
Would you prefer her not to read it? And what about your dad?
My dad? God, no, he’d probably have a heart attack! My parents are very aware of how I am, but there are certain things I don’t feel they need to know. They know I’m naughty [laughs]. Not all my friends have read it yet but the ones who have, found it funny. People who don’t know me at all have said they really appreciate the honesty and the humour. I just wanted everyone to laugh.
The wisdom in the book starts early on but you were really eager for it not to be taken as a guide on how to live your life – why?
I didn’t want anyone to think I’m this self-help person because I’m far from it. I just wanted to share what I’ve learnt because it’s worked for me, and if you’re going through the same experiences, maybe try doing it this way.
Besides Pretty Girls Can’t Write, you have a period drama currently in production [set 15 years after slavery in the Caribbean] – what else are you working on?
I have another script for a period drama and a short film I should be filming next year. I’ve been writing, writing, writing, keeping myself busy and out of trouble. People think I’m so boring now because I’m either at home writing or reading, but they don’t understand I need to do this! I can’t be out and about – it would just all go wrong [laughs].
Find Amelia on Instagram or encouraging other writers with the Pretty Girls Can’t Write podcast coming soon to iTunes.
To buy a copy of the book, click here.