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Nimco ali

The women’s activist downs cheesy dough balls from The Little One, gets dressed up at SK Vintage and would take over Africa House

Home is…

Primrose Hill. I live on my own.

Where do you go to let your hair down?

I used to hang out in The Conduit before it closed down. This city is really walkable, so I’ve been doing lots of walking and hanging around in parks with my friends.

Who is the most iconic Londoner in history?

My niece Sophia, she’s 10. I remember when she was about four, someone asked her the question: ‘Where are you from?’ To me it seemed like a question about her ethnicity, but she said, ‘I’m from North Acton but I was born in Hampstead.’ And I just thought that was an incredible thing.

Which shops do you rely on?

I’m in my mid-30s so at the moment I would say Cos and Jigsaw: they kind of say, ‘I am a grown-up,’ but I don’t feel old wearing their clothes. There is a really lovely place called The Little One, they do these amazing gluten-free cheese dough balls. My niece loves the Primrose Bakery and there is a lovely vintage shop in Kentish Town called SK Vintage. It has saved my life over the years when I have needed to find something to wear to an event.

What podcasts do you love at the moment?

One is called The C-Word, with Lena Dunham. It’s really good because it looks at women throughout history who have been called crazy and digs deep into their experiences. Also Guys We F***ed — I listened to the whole catalogue, I find it fascinating. In the bath I listen to Modern Love, the podcast of the column in The New York Times; I find it really interesting the way different people talk about love.

What would you do if you were Mayor for the day?

I would go and visit every single mother who has lost a son to knife crime. I find it staggering that we live in a city where young black men have to carry a different kind of burden from other people. I am [also] passionate about violence against women and girls, so I would spend the second part bringing women and the police in the city together to get a real understanding about what violence against women and girls looks like.

What makes someone
a Londoner?

I think a sense of acceptance. We are incredibly privileged to be in one of the most diverse and integrated cities in the world. London is a place where you can find somewhere that really represents you and where you can feel at home.

Best meal?

The best thing I’ve ever tasted is the tipsy cake at the Mandarin Oriental. Everyone who I’ve spoken to who’s had it has said the exact same thing.

What do you collect?

Memories and people. Having good friends and good people in your life is a fundamental thing and I’ve learnt that during Covid. I’m incredibly lucky to have a lot of those.

If you could buy any building in London and live there, which would it be?

A building in Holborn called Africa House. I’d love to use that to reinterpret the conversation around Africa. I would fill that place with a different narrative from the one we have at the moment.

What are you up to at the moment for work?

Running The Five Foundation, which is working to end FGM by 2030. The biggest obstacle is trying to deal with the racism within the international development space to shift the narrative around Africa.

Your biggest extravagance?

I think food. We are spoiled in London with incredible food from all over the world and I think that’s what I spend most of my money on. It’s worth it.