Jilliana Ranicar-Breese, 74, is a radio presenter, writer, poet and hosts a Spoken Word Salon in Brighton on the first Tuesday of the month. Jilliana is a veritable one-woman hive of activity and role model for getting older brilliantly.
How old are you?
I am 74 [Capricorn] and reside in Brighton
What do you do?
A lot in this day and age of Social Media. I am the co-presenter and co-producer of a weekly Friday radio programme called ‘Your voice matters’ at Brighton and Hove Community Radio [BHCR]. I choose my guests carefully, brief them and also interview them separately for my own YouTube channel for my series ‘Jilliana in Brighton’.
I travel as much as I can, up to five months of the year, studying the country, culture and language as a project before I leave. At my destination, I interview people in English, French, Italian or Spanish for my YouTube channel or do Vox Pops. I go to markets and am passionate about fashion, food, music and photography. I am also a senior reviewer for TripAdvisor so I am constantly making notes and taking photographs of food, hotels and restaurants as well as ‘Faces and Places’.
Last year I began my monthly Spoken Word Salon [Jilliana’s Spoken Word Salon] in Hove and created more work for myself!
I fervently write my vignettes and narrative poems when I have time between writing daily to friends and e-friends, sending photographs and texts all over the world to people I have met or people who I will meet. There is not a day when I am not writing something to someone, if not to myself! I cannot live without the power of the word!
Tell us what it’s like to be 74?
I am proud to be a mature 74 knowing that I don’t look my age nor, thankfully, act my age. I had to make the decision when I turned 70 that I would not hide my age if and when asked. The only thing that irritates me, when meeting new people, is if they ask me straight off, if I have grandchildren!
What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?
A good question. I did not have life experience nor worldwide cultural knowledge. I only spoke Italian at 25 in 1969 and had not experienced life in Paris which became my cultural education. Nor was I a writer. I didn’t have an identity either. I was not a property owner so at 25 I was a free spirit. I had no proper career and no goals. In fact I was an enthusiastic travel agent at Global Tours (Number 3 in the UK) in Oxford Street planning my journey to Brazil in 1970 which would influence my life forever lured by the Bossa Nova and the beautiful sound of the Brazilian Portuguese language – music in itself to my ears.
What about sex?
Well, what about sex? That’s like opening a can of worms. A bit of a joke for me as I used to deal in ‘Erotica’ prints and postcards in Paris and London in the late 70s and recently have interviewed at least 5 Sexperts for my ‘Jilliana in Brighton’ series on Sex Education. An education never given to me in the 60s by my pharmacy owner Mother when I was growing up in Liverpool.
After betrayal by my husband in 2006 and two events in 2013, men do not figure in my life. I am not gay but frankly prefer the company of women to men. I find woman more honest, open and willing to share their experiences and stories. Women don’t play games, men do – in my book!
How free do you feel?
I have freedom of choice now that I have no husband to ‘control’ my behaviour. 25 years of restricted behaviour! I am also free of being in business and earning money, meeting deadlines and being polite to clients and colleagues who, at times, I could not express myself freely to.
What are you proud of?
Proud that from being a technophobic about 7 years ago, I have mastered basic Social Media and am not afraid to ask for help. Never stop learning, I say.
I am proud of becoming a radio broadcaster.
I am proud of winning the award for best co-presenter and co-producer of 2017.
I am proud of winning the Rotary Club of Brighton and Hove award for Community Services Award in December 2018.
I am proud being the MC at my own Salon.
I am proud at my Page Spoken Word reading of my vignettes and poems to an audience.
I am proud I can make an audience laugh.
I am proud I can interview people and get them to reveal stories that they never thought they could tell.
I am proud that I created an international business in the antique collectibles world with the investment of £200 in Paris in 1977.
I am proud that I founded and created Retrograph Archive in the mid 1980s that was under offer to Duke’s University, Hartman Collection for seven years before I was told they did not have the funds to buy it. They wanted me to donate it! Proud I was ahead of my time. Finally my Nostalgia Archive went to another museum in London. 2,000 of my images ended up in the Mary Evans photo library in London and I receive no income. A tragic story not ready to be revealed involving betrayal.
I am proud that I did the fire-walk despite having a fear of fire. Mind over matter. I am unstoppable.
I am proud that I am confident without being conceited.
Proud I became a radio journalist and broadcaster
Proud I became a narrative poet
Proud I found my Voice to express my thoughts and life experience
Proud I was invited to perform my vignettes and poetry in Paris, Chaniá, Kalkan and Fethiye.
Proud that people consider my writing inspirational.
Proud I speak several languages.
Proud that I started to travel at the age of 22 and despite getting into hot water, learned to manage my life through my mistakes.
Proud that I became a world traveller without fear of the unknown. I opened the door to Europe and further afield.
Proud that I survived a serious ‘Breakdown/breakthrough’ and rose from the ashes of my former life.
Proud that I became a better individual with a greater understanding of others, less fortunate then myself.
Proud that I became less selfish despite being an only child in a silent home
Proud that I am a sincere good friend to my close friends.
Proud that I have let go of the betrayal in my life.
Proud that people consider ME inspirational.
Proud of my Jewish cultural heritage
Proud that I am an honest person. What you see is what you get.
Proud to be a Liver Bird.
Proud that I founded Retrograph Archive and its photo library.
Proud that I became an Archivist and a Picture Researcher/Visual Consultant.
Proud that I created and styled non-digital ‘RetroMontages’ in the late 80s that were published in the UK, Munich and New York.
Proud to be the Mentor to my adopted Cuban ‘daughter’ Ingrid.
Proud I became ‘Sultana Jilliana’ and created my own original Sultana fashion style.
What keeps you inspired?
Meeting positive people from all walks of life who have a story to tell and teach me something. Everyone has a story to tell. That’s the jigsaw of life.
Seeing beautiful clothes on lovely beings.
Seeing beautiful colourful flowers and trees or seeing exotic photographs of animals and nature that people kindly send me through social media.
When are you happiest?
Watching good classical movies from the 40s, watching American chat shows or comedy shows on YouTube, listening to world music, listening to piano and violin classical music, selecting music for the radio show, being with tropical plants and flowers in a lovely garden or walking in botanical gardens, being with dogs and cats, especially with Neko, my adorable cat who I have written about.
I am happy when I am on holiday or in the company of my best friend and Soul Sister, British of Jamaican heritage, Pauline Weir who is inspirational. We inspire and appreciate each other. I am happy when I am writing and inspired by my own creativity. Frankly, I enjoy my own company.
Where does your creativity go?
Today my creativity goes into my appearance. I live for colour, which uplifts my spirit. Colour combinations and textiles and textures are essential for me. A daily dose of colour keeps the doctor away!
My creative release is more importantly through my writing. I cannot live without being creative and expressing myself through the Spoken Word. I am forever telling my true stories and have now found a platform and an audience globally. Spread the Word I say. Write what you say and say what you mean’.
Are you still dreaming?
I believe if you wish hard enough for something, it will manifest. I rarely remember my dreams. I am a realist. I don’t dream. I know Walt Disney said ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ but my whole life has been synchronicity and Happenstance. I never planned my life, it just happened. A door opens and I walk through it.
What’s your philosophy of living?
Live abundantly for the moment. No one knows when our time is going to be up! Speak your truth. Be a good, kind and generous friend to your friends and surprise others not in your life from time to time.
Be a mentor to others less fortunate than yourself. Share your life knowledge with others. Take an interest in your health, mental well-being and physical well-being. I repeat. Be generous and share. We came into this world alone with nothing and we will depart from this world alone with nothing. We only ‘borrow’ possessions. In fact, we need very little in life. But in later life we need a comfortable bed, a pet and friends we can confide in. A sense of humour is essential even turning a tragedy into comedy. I speak from experience. In a way I must thank my dear departed husband for his betrayal and mental abuse, otherwise I would not have become the woman I am today.
I do not think about death. I live for the moment. Carpe Diem. My funeral will be a celebration of my life. I hate it when people say ‘What WAS your name? ‘ I usually growl and say ‘I’m not dead yet!’
What was a recent outrageous action of yours?
I had always planned to age disgracefully like my dear departed late ex-husband did with the inevitable consequences, which caused my breakdown/breakthrough. Now I have changed my mind because people can get hurt through selfishness and cruelty.
Last action was 2013 in Berlin! I was dared to do something and took up the challenge. But was it really outrageous? Umm. But what IS outrageous? We all have different ideas according to background, culture and age. Now that I am a public figure in the Brighton and Hove community, I have my reputation to consider. After all, I AM Sultana Jilliana!
Jilliana’s Spoken Word Salon is on the first Tuesday of the month in Hove. www.jilliana.com