being comfortable in our own skin
Coming to a place of confidence is like finally getting rid of the training wheels on your pink barbie bike! It's risky, exciting and about freakin time! There are no guarantees that it's going to be easy everyday and that you will never fall off a bike again (trust me, it still happens) but riding fearlessly will always beat riding through life on training wheels! I wish I can pinpoint when exactly I woke up and felt confident, but it's honestly something that naturally grows on you, if you work on it everyday. Through affirmations, facing every fear head on, letting go of what no longer serves me (which included social media accounts and almost all my hair); I have come to a place where I'm confident in who I am, what I say, what I decide and where I belong. This post is exciting because this is my first family related post that actively involves my sisters. I have three brilliant younger sisters and we decided to have a conversation about confidence and beauty as young black women.
What's your favourite foods?
Neema (18): Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Nutella, Poptarts, Doritos
Mapendo (15): Pizza, any sweets, Chocolate
Deborah (13): Mike and Ike's, Fries and literally whatever
What's your fave hobby?
Neema: I'm very passionate about writing music and playing the piano.
Mapendo: I guess I like playing volleyball, reading, drawing and using my wise time to make TikToks.
Deborah: My favourite hobbies are playing volleyball, doing gymnastics and watching Netflix.
What's one word that your sisters would mostly describe you as?
What does being black mean to you?
Neema: Being black to me means that I am different in a good way and I am proud of who I am and I have learned to love it, period.
Mapendo: Being black to me means standing out in many ways and in many different environments whether I want to or not.
Deborah: Being black is something that has always just been natural.
Have you ever felt insecure/ashamed about your body?
Neema: Yes, I have felt insecure about my body. In grade 8 till grade 11 I went through a period of feeling different I tried to be like everyone else till I found a group of friends that accept me for who I am.
Mapendo: I am an overall confident person but you're not going to feel confident all the time, there will be moments where you pick apart your outfit/look and not always feel 100%.
Deborah: No, stuff just happens but it doesn't affect the way I look at my body. I don't really focus on it.
What is the hardest part about being in your skin?
Neema: The hardest part of being in our skin is being discriminatined against because of the way we look. Also, being disrespected by people who give themselves permission to touch my hair and say certain things.
Mapendo: Being pushed around, talked down to and underestimated in a school setting. Having to work harder to meet the expectations assumed by non-people of colour. People trying to push me to a tipping point on purpose just to get a reaction. Not being able to wear a headwrap at school and having it being compared to a white kid coming in with a baseball cap.
Deborah: The most annoying thing would have to be going to school/gymnastics and not being able to completely relate to others and be myself.
When did you come to love yourself and truly be yourself?
Neema: I'm still growing everyday and not everyday is going to be easy but right now I love myself, I love who I am, I love my body and I've learned to love my voice and use it.
Mapendo: It was about the middle of last year when I was in grade 9. In 8th grade I was surronded by everyone I knew then everyone transferred so then I just started to vibe with it and started to be like ummm. So I decided that I was going to do me.
Deborah: Still working on it.
What was the main reason you went natural (or didn't)? How does it make you feel?
Neema: When I was younger my hair was super long. Then it got to a point where it hurt so much for my mom to brush it everyday. So, when I was around 8 years old, my mom decided to cut my hair, like c-u-t my hair off! I went to school the next day looking different then ever and it took me time to love it the way it was. That was the only time I cut my hair really short and went natural. Then I was back to putting relaxer in my hair every time I took my box braids out. I went through a season where no one ever saw my natural hair. Having straight thin hair was easier to handle then my thick bouncy curls. Years later, seeing my sisters go fully natural (via the big chop) inspired me to stop using chemicals in my hair and to love it! Now I embrace my natural curls and enjoy doing twist outs!
Mapendo: When I was younger I would search up hairstyle tutorials and it was hard to find videos featuring black women. And when I did find them, their hair would be long and lucious and I would skip these videos assuming that these women were mixed. So in my head what they were doing with their hair was so different to what I thought my hair could do with mine (plus my hair was always relaxed and I didn't know how to manage natural hair). Later on I stubbled upon videos of people who cut their hair to go natural and I learned that black hair can also be long, curly and actually be manageable if I just took care of it. So that's what I did, I cut my hair so I can start taking care of it and get it to the place I wanted. I'm really happy that I did it so I can start this natural hair journey!
Deborah: I didn't go natural because I love having my long hair. It takes less time for me to do my hair in the morning and it's better for me in personal ways.
Who empowers you? What album empowers you?
Neema: The people that empower me are Yara Shahidi, Willow Smith, Chloe and Halle, Lovie Simone Oppong, Zendaya, Rihanna, Amandla Stenberg and more. I have many albums that inspire me in numerous ways. These albums open my mind and after listening to the songs within the albums, it inspires me to write more music. The following albums are gold: Blonde by Frank Ocean, A Seat At The Table by Solange, The Kids Are Alright by Chloe X Halle and Ardipithecus by Willow Smith.
Mapendo: I think I empower myself. Yes that's kinda weird to say but everyday I grow and try my best to do better and that's something people underestimate. They never take the time to try and better themselves. So I'm very proud of myself for that. And I don't really have a specific album that empowers me because I listen to way too much music, but I like artists like Solange, SZA and alot of other black artist make empowering songs for black woman.
Deborah: The people that empower me are Zendaya, Storm Reid, Ryley Isaac, Navia Robinson, China Mcclain, and Sofia Wylie.
What would you tell your younger self if you could speak to her right now?
Neema: I would tell my younger self to not overthink things and to learn to love yourself.
Mapendo: I would like to tell her that she can hang out with whoever she wants to hang out with.
Deborah: I would tell my younger self to be truthful to herself.
What's one thing you want people around you to understand about you?
Neema: I want people to understand that I'm constantly evolving. Everyday I try my best to learn something new and to gain knowledge. I am not the same person I was yesterday or a week ago.
Mapendo: Don't look at me in the eyes.
Deborah: To not act different around me.
When do you feel the prettiest?
Neema: When I do my brows and they be on fleek.
Mapendo: I feel pretty when I giggle, when I sing and when it's golden hour.
Deborah: I feel the prettiest when I'm wearing hoodies.
How does the intersection of race and womanhood impact you?
Neema: Being black and a woman in this generation has made me want to work harder and follow higher education and to do what most are not doing.
Mapendo: Woman are already put below and now because of our race we are considered as insignificant. So we are now inferior when it comes to our rights and the beauty standard.
Deborah: Being black and a girl impacts my life because most people think that girls can't accomplish many things but since I'm a black girl people often assume that I know twice as less. Which is not true!
How do you destress after a long or difficult day?
Neema: After a difficult day, I listen to music. Music is life. I know that sounds cheesy but, music is my life. There's always a song that I will connect to. Whether it's a happy or sad song, I can relate to it. Also, I paint what I feel or I take a nap to recharge myself.
Mapendo: Take a nap.
Deborah: After a difficult day, I usually go on Netflix to distract myself from what's going on.
Why is it important to have accurate portrayals of black women/women of colour in the media?
Neema: It's important to have accurate portrayals of black women within the media so that we as black women can do things that we are told we can't do. Also, it is important to feature women of all shades including women of darker shades to avoid colourism in all industries.
Mapendo: Because it doesn't reflect on real experiences and real women.
Deborah: Because it shows that black woman can do so much more then what people see. And that we are the original possessors of black culture that is now water-downed, copied by non-black women and served as something new and trendy.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Neema: Sisterhood to me means having eachother's backs, loving one another and wanting the best for eachother.
Mapendo: Sisterhood to me means a group of women who understand eachother and that relate to one another.
Deborah: Being a sister means to always look up to each other because we most likely went through the same situations throughout life.
What is your aspiration in this life?
Neema: To share my voice with the world. To release albums, collab with my fave artists and tour the world.
Mapendo: My aspiration in life is to be happy and to make a lot of money!
Deborah: My aspiration in life is to meet Bratayley (The LeBlanc Family).
What's one characteristics you hope older you will possess?
Neema: Organization and time management.
Mapendo: I want older me to be wiser.
Deborah: That older me will be able to save money and live better.
Who's your biggest childhood crush?
Neema: Zac Efron.
Mapendo: Nick Jonas.
Deborah: Justin Bieber.
Finally, who's your favourite Marvel movie character?
Neema: King T'Challa from Black Panther #wakandaforever ✊🏾
Mapendo: Loki, Black Widow, Bucky/Winter Soldier and StarLord.
Deborah: Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spiderman.
With February being the month of love, family and Black History Month, I wanted to take the time to write a meaningful post that encompasses all three occasions. My sisters and I had an interesting and informative talk about our experiences as we continue to grow up to be more and more comfortable in our skin. Race and gender can for sure impact the way one sees themselves and negative perception of one's self hinders us from accessing our happiest, most successful, truest selves. Although this blog focuses more on mental health, hence more internal challenges, it is also important to considered how one's visible disability, sexuality, race, gender and income can impact your mental health. I am blessed with three sisters who I wish nothing but peace of mind, strength, resilience, success, positive energy and people that accept and respect how overly comfortable we are in our skin!!!
Love you girls to the Congo and back,