Self-care Ritual: (B)reathe!

If there’s one thing so many of us take for granted, it’s our breaths. For me, I can’t think about breathing in the same way anymore: taking deep breaths during pregnancy-induced contractions has gotten me through 2 drug-free labors and the delivery of my babies.
For most of us, breathing is something we just do, without thought. We breathe without the realization that there is far more power and intention behind that simple action than we think. It’s amazing how God uses the seemingly simple things to achieve wonderful feats.

divalocity: Beautifully Captured by Jean Baptiste Soulliat: Model Grace BolPhoto Credit: Jean Baptiste Soulliat

When we take slow, deep breaths deliberately – instead of the shallow, quick breaths we usually take in this fast-paced world – especially during moments of tension, stress, or anxiety, it’s remarkable how different we feel. We instantly feel much better.
Taking deep breaths can lower blood pressure and make us feel less anxious. Ultimately, it relieves stress.
So, when you’re going through a moment of stress or anxiety, take a few minutes and just breathe – slowly and deliberately. Better yet, make it a practice to breathe slowly during non-stressful situations; that way, when you face stressful situations, you know exactly how to handle them.

{Image Credit: La Muse Noire}

Why Singer/Actress Brandy INSPIRES Me More Than Any Other Celebrity This Year

I have been a fan of Brandy for a very long time. As a singer-songwriter & vocalist, Brandy has been called the “Vocal Bible” by many (both fans and peers alike), because her vocal prowess is pure excellence. In addition to being one of the most powerful singers of her generation, she has broken through glass ceilings for brown-skinned young women and women of color in several ways.
Starring as the first ever black Cinderella, alongside the irreplaceable Whitney Houston, made many young brown-skinned girls feel seen and deserving of their own Prince Charming. Her amazing performance is still so incredibly fresh in my memory, from my years as a young girl, that I can still sing several songs from that production. In addition to her turn as Cinderella, she was the darling of so many families as Moesha in the sitcom, Moesha.

Brandy’s influence was so great that the toy giant, Mattel, was motivated to memorialize her through a Brandy doll in 1999. Astounded by the success of the dolls, Mattel created a staggering 4 more Brandy doll editions. They became some of the highest-selling toys for the company.
Life, however, is often a roller coaster ride – full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. After lower-than-anticipated album sales in 2004, tragedy really struck in 2006, when Brandy was involved in a vehicular line-up on a highway that claimed the life of a woman. Though investigations cleared Brandy of wrongdoing, the reality of the woman’s death and the surrounding circumstances plunged Brandy into a deep depression.

Fully recovered since, and back to creating music, and acting on the big & small screen (most notably playing Chardonnay Pitts on the Mara Akil-created The Game on BET), Brandy is now breaking new ground on Broadway as the iconic character “Roxie Hart” in Chicago. She recently sat down with the magazine, Uptown, for an incredibly inspiring interview.

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For me, the mark of a great interview is that it feels intimate, inspires, and challenges me. This interview did all that – so much that ever since I read this interview a few days ago, it has stayed with me and challenged me to live my life in a similar way. Here are some excerpts:

 

“Brandy, 36, relishes the current movement in her life because earlier this year she felt stagnant. The actress had wrapped filming in Atlanta for the ninth and final season of the popular BET series, The Game, where she was a fan favorite as the lovable, hood bartender turned football wife Chardonnay Pitts (for which she won a 2014 NAACP Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy). But once back in Los Angeles, Brandy began feeling anxious and unsure. She found herself questioning her future. Unfortunately, this feeling of insecurity was not new to her. After a parade of hit songs, multi-platinum albums, hit movies, a lucrative Covergirl contract and even a Mattel Brandy doll in the 90s, her career took an unfortunate turn in 2004. Her third album, Afrodisiac, a creative collaboration between her and super-producer Timbaland failed to catch fire. Then her life completely spiraled: while driving home on the evening of Dec. 30, 2006. Brandy’s Range Rover struck a car on L.A.’s 405 Freeway resulting in the death of the woman driving it. She was not charged for the crash, but she did reportedly pay settlements to the family of the deceased woman and other drivers. Because of the incident and the uncertainty of the situation, she was replaced by Sharon Osbourne for the second season of America’s Got Talent. After the accident, Brandy fell into a deep depression. “I was asking what have I done wrong and what am I not doing?” Brandy remembers. “When you are at that type of low, your whys come in a lot of different ways. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do anything. I really stopped dreaming.” When she began to experience similar feelings of doubt and symptoms of depression earlier this year, she knew something had to change. And those who know her well knew it too.

 

“I told her, ‘Bran, you just have to do the work,’” says Keisha Epps, wife of actor Omar Epps and a former member of 90s Bad Boy Records R&B group Total. She has known Brandy for nearly a decade and is one of her closest friends. “There is nothing to analyze. Just do the work.” Talking over the phone, Epps says Brandy repeated her advice out loud, and told her, “I am going to do the work,” and then hung up. The work included daily spiritual, mental and physical practices. “I made up my mind to be the best version of myself and I kept affirming every day that I’m getting ready for something,” Brandy recalls. “I did not know what it was, but I knew God had something for me that I’m getting ready for.” A few months after Brandy’s decision to move forward and focus, her agents called asking if she was interested in starring in Chicago.”

………..

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“The actress Tasha Smith is one of Brandy’s best friends and also her acting coach and she says that Brandy is more than a talented and successful entertainer. “I have seen Brandy on the verge of giving up because of her fears, insecurities and rejection,” says Smith, who was the one who convinced Brandy to take the role on The Game. “Sometimes we get in our own heads and make ourselves draw back and not move forward. She went through what every young woman goes through. How am I going to reinvent myself? How do I get to the point where people accept me where I am now? Brandy’s story is universal and it’s about overcoming, and about not giving up. If Brandy had given up, she would not be starring on Broadway right now. and she will not have a new television series on BET (in September she begins filming the sitcom Zoe Ever After starring as a newly-divorced single mom and cosmetics mogul looking for love).

“And I have seen her fight for her life,” continues Smith. “She is a warrior and she won’t quit. I feel her overall story is showing every woman that if you press pass the obstacle, you will see the miracle.””

 


Even though the philosophies shared by Brandy in this interview tie in with what I have always believed, there is something in it that just makes me believe even more implicitly. Reading this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, because I have been meditating on what it would be like to approach life and the things we want to achieve as a daily journey.
If I woke up each day, and focused only on who I needed to be and what I need to do on that day, the journey would definitely be far simpler and much more purposeful. What would it look like for me to wake up and decide that today, I want to be the best woman, wife, mother, entrepreneur, editor, sibling, daughter, etc.? What would it look like for me to let go of every other day in the future and focus on being the best, most godly version of who I should be just for today?
I am really challenged by the idea of doing the work daily in all aspects of our lives. Brandy shared that she does the work daily in the (1) physical (2) mental & (3) spiritual aspects of her life. She exercises daily & eats clean, healthy meals (physical); affirms herself daily & reportedly doesn’t watch much television, because she knows that “her mind is a garden” and is vigilant about what she allows in (mental/spiritual); and takes time to pray and meditate daily (spiritual).
I absolutely want to be committed to doing the work in every aspect of my life everyday.
(Make sure to read the full article at Uptown!)

Self-care Ritual: (A)ffirm Yourself

Let’s talk about the A to Zs of how we can really take care of ourselves – body, mind, and spirit, because we so often forget how to.

 

One of the most important ways we can care for ourselves is by being self-affirming.
Affirming ourselves means that we point out the positive and beautiful things in ourselves – even saying them out loud.
Before we start each day, let’s take some time to declare positive things about ourselves, even when they might be the opposite of how we truly feel.

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Start the day by looking in the mirror, and declaring,
“I love you!
You are beautiful.
You are confident.
You are purposeful.
You are joyful.
You are God’s masterpiece.
When God made you, He declared you perfect.
You can do all things through Christ, who gives you strength.
You will accomplish amazing things today.
You were made for miracles.”
Don’t forget to affirm yourself. You are so worth it! Your words create your universe in more ways than you know.

{Image via KellyRowland.com}

SPIRIT: What Have You Outgrown?

A few days ago, as I came into the living room, I heard some familiar voices. I looked up at the TV, and realized that my mom was watching a show I hadn’t watched in years and years, America’s Next Top Model. Now one of the most successfully exported shows on television, the show has been replicated in over 30 countries!!! Clearly, Tyra Banks put together a truly “bankable” production.
Television success aside, while watching the show, I quickly came to the realization that I have completely outgrown America’s Next Top Model, and shows of that kind. As I watched girls prance around in their best model poses and walks, I realized that that was not my definition of glamorous anymore – and it hasn’t been in a long time. As I heard girls being “critiqued” by Tyra, her fellow judges, and fashion designers, I realized that I have no stomach for that kind of talk anymore. As I listened to them tell one girl that she “should be taller”; tell another that she “doesn’t have the right body for their swimsuit campaign”; and tell yet another that her “look is boring”, I realized that I had outgrown it all.

I don’t operate in that kind of space anymore, and even watching things like that for fun just isn’t fun anymore. As a 28 year old woman, wife, mother, and purposeful world-changer, I’ve noticed that the journey God is taking me on has led me to shed a number of things I might have enjoyed in the past. Plus, as a genuine believer in the fact that God made every woman beautiful in her own uniqueness and purpose, I am now truly uncomfortable when I witness things that stand contrary to that belief – even if they are make-believe.
Watching that show yesterday reminded me of how much I am truly growing, and makes me excited about the tremendous growth that awaits in the future. Please understand that if you truly enjoy ANTM, that is perfectly fine. ;) God is taking you on your own journey, as He is taking me on mine, and that may mean that you and I have different priorities.
So, taking stock of where you are now, and what your thoughts are, my question is, What have you outgrown?  Are you thinking in the same way you’ve always thought, or are you truly moving forward in a healthy and transformational way?

SPIRIT: When You’re Certain Your Big Break SHOULD Have Happened By Now

If there’s one trait that connects us as human beings, it’s definitely impatience! We’ve always wanted to get our prize and treasure right! now!! And it’s only getting much much worse. We are truly the “microwave generation” – expecting to throw our meals into the machine, and receive a hot and ready meal in less than 10 minutes. From Instant Messaging to Instagramming, we’re always trying to get it all out right now.
Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way – even when we think it does. Forget all the conversations about overnight success and instant phenoms. There’s no such thing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen an old movie, and noticed that one of the people considered one of the “biggest movie stars in the world” has been grinding it out for ages & ages. I’ve noticed some of the current, “biggest” names as little more than extras in their early roles, or as child actors still finding their way, or simply making cameos.
The thing is that we’re often not interested in hearing about the behind-the-scenes stories, or the before-I-became-who-I-am-today stories. Somehow, it’s far more glamorous for us to hear the stories of what we consider “success” now. In our minds, we seem to assume that people just wake up and have a huge bounty waiting for them. Thankfully, life doesn’t work that way – and GOD certainly doesn’t work that way.
divalocity:Madisin Bradley for Martha Stewart Weddings Spring 2015Photo by Matthew Scrivens

Image via LaMuseNoire.tumblr.com; Shot by Madisin Bradley for Martha Stewart Weddings

It’s ironic to talk about being grateful or thankful about waiting, isn’t it? Like everyone else, I too have a timeline of expectations, dreams, and desires that I expect to have become a total reality by now. Like everyone else, I absolutely have moments of struggle in which I question God’s plans and ask Him why important things take so darn long! Yet, I keep learning & re-learning that, for real, He knows exactly what He is doing – much more than I ever could. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that God’s timing is always absolute perfection: it’s never too early & it’s never too late. Plus, He keeps us in the waiting room to teach us important lessons that we need for the journey forward, like: discipline & commitment; organization & timeliness; empathy & compassion; focus & single-mindedness; faith & conviction. These are lessons we could never ever learn if we didn’t have to wait, if we didn’t have to build on the foundations of what we have and where we are now.
So, when you’re certain your big break should have happened by now, just surrender. Let go of that timeline of expectation, and just know that your current assignment has 2 parts: trust Him completely; and be completely diligent in the work you are doing where you are. The rest … well, it will be ready exactly when it’s supposed to be – and not a second too late. :)

The Journey to Beautiful Series: Mammypi

The Journey to Beautiful Interview Series is a celebration of influential and inspiring African women across the globe. Its aim is to teach every woman to define beauty on her own terms, to live purposefully, to accept what makes her truly unique, and to fall in love with all of who she is.

 

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NAME:  Hilda Awambeng 
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Cameroon
LOCATION: London, UK  
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: One of the traits that always inspires me is relentlessness. When I come across a woman who is single-minded in her focus, and relentless in the pursuit of her goals, I sit up and pay attention. Hilda Awambeng, or Mammypi as she prefers to be called, is just such a woman. She pursues her goals, in spite of what others may consider obstacles or setbacks.
Coming from Cameroonian journalistic royalty (her family founded the country’s first English language newspaper, Cameroon Post), it is clear that media and entrepreneurship are in her blood. With her company, Mammypi, she has created a fashion blog, and an online shop for fashion, beauty, and luxury accessories with literally over tens of thousands of followers and customers – all from scratch!!!
If she doesn’t inspire you, I wonder who will.

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WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 
I am a little complex mixture. I was christened Hilda, but I prefer to be referred to as Mammypi. Mammypi was a childhood alias which I grew up to cherish as I was fondly called by friends and family. I am a fashion blogger and a digital influencer. I enjoy playing dress up and pairing outfits together to create different looks. My style is minimal, on-trend and thoughtfully accessorised. I enjoy online shopping, as it is easier to browse the online racks without walking up and down the store and still not finding what you want.
Fashion to me is a means of telling my story through my outfits. Styling myself draws me to a beautiful world where there is no pain. I am rubbish at makeup, but not really bothered about it as I am most happy in my own skin.
Fashion picked me. I never set out to be a fashionista. However, from a very early age, I can recall many of my close family and friends always spoke about my ease with style. Throughout university and into adulthood, it has been the same story. So, blending my media background and interest in style, I set out to set up Mammypi. Since I started the journey in 2012, I have never looked back. Mammypi is growing daily as the readership and popularity continues to spread. 
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?
I think my legs are off the meters. They are long and sleek.  However, I also get a good amount of compliments on my hair & fingers – but I never dwell on them. 

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“Fashion is a means of telling my story through my outfits. Styling myself draws me to a beautiful world where there is no pain. I am rubbish at makeup, but not really bothered about it as I am most happy in my own skin.”


WHAT NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?
Always putting others first, even when I have my own issues to deal with, is always very fulfilling to me. Sometimes, it is looked upon as a weakness, but I prefer to see it as a gift. 

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WHAT PHYSICAL AND NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS HAVE YOU MOST STRUGGLED TO ACCEPT? HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT STRUGGLE?   HOW?
I suffer sometimes from acne which could be very depressing. When I have very severe episodes of the condition, it steals away my joy – though I never let anyone see. It could be very hard to deal with a skin condition, especially when you have something like acne. People tend to judge you based on a condition that is beyond your control.  Because this is a hormonal issue and there is very little I can do as a person apart from seek clinical help, I  can only live my life and hope my dermatologist can figure out a long-term solution. This to me is a very minor issue compared to what others are facing in life.

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“It could be very hard to deal with a skin condition, especially when you have something like acne. People tend to judge you based on a condition that is beyond your control. I  can only live my life and hope my dermatologist can figure out a long-term solution. This to me is a very minor issue compared to what others are facing in life.


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HOW HAS YOUR FATHER INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF?
My father is my hero and one of the most intelligent and influential people in my life. He stretches my imagination each day and is the most honest and fun man in my life. My father has taught me to go out and make things happen. His motto is “Knowledge is power” & “I am who I am”.
I grew up hearing this from him all my life. He is a true believer in education and self-belief. If you don’t believe in yourself, there is no way  the next person can believe in you. And education to him is everything.  I am the person I am today, because of my dad’s voice in my head. I am not afraid of how the world perceives me, because I am who I am and I can only do my best. I am continuously looking for new ways to reinvent myself and inspire my fans, as there are many young girls in our communities who need someone to look up to.

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WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?
The loss of a loved one will break my heart. I fear nothing like saying goodbye to someone close to my heart. The fear of the unknown also threatens my existence. Knowing we currently live in a world of insecurities where we don’t really know the next person sitting next to us bothers me.   

“I am the person I am today, because of my dad’s voice in my head. I am not afraid of how the world perceives me, because I am who I am and I can only do my best.”


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WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?
My family gives me utter joy. I am blessed with four brothers, a sister, plus my lovely parents. My siblings are so supportive of everything I do and it is a real blessing to know I have such strong support network I can always count on. 
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
Apart from my academic qualifications, I am proud to say one of my most precious accomplishments is Mammypi. I made Mammypi happen with a bang. Working with a team of people I have never met, who are all based in India, has been a great accomplishment to me. Sometimes, it can be stressful, but with the quality of work I get and the very positive feedback from the public, I feel blessed to have laid the foundation of my legacy. 

 

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WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?
When there is joy in & peace in my heart, my beauty transcends boundaries.  
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VERSION OF “BEAUTIFUL”?
My definition of “beauty” is self-confidence. Someone who believes in themselves and can influence others. That, to me, is “Beautiful”. Beautiful is not the amount of make up or expensive fashion items we wear. It is perceiving your innermost being as beautiful, and relaying that in how you comport your self amongst others.  
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BEAUTIFUL, AS YOU’VE DEFINED IT?
Staying true to my beliefs and not trying to be someone else.   

“My definition of “beauty” is self-confidence. Beautiful is not the amount of make up or expensive fashion items we wear. It is perceiving your innermost being as beautiful.”


WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?
In pop culture, there is a catalogue of amazing women I always refer to when needed. Celebrities like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Taraji P.Henson, but most importantly my grand mum.  

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Stay updated with everything Mammypi. Follow her here:
Facebook: Mammypi & Fashion
Instagram: Mammypi
Twitter: @Mammypi
Website: www.mammypi.com

 Are you an inspiring & influential African woman interested in a “Journey to Beautiful” Feature? E-mail me for consideration: chioma dot onyewuchi at hotmail dot com with subject “Journey to Beautiful”.

Nigerian-Ghanaian Author Taiye Selasi Writes Book about “Loving Your Curls” for Dove Hair Care

In totally amazing news, Dove (the skin and hair care company & a subsidiary of Unilever) teamed up with Nigerian-Ghanaian author, Taiye Selasi, to create a book of poems encouraging girls and women to love their curls. Aptly titled Love Your Curls, the best-selling author of Ghana Must Go created the poems in the book, based on stories and messages from real-life women & girls with curly hair.
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Image via Jaipurliteraturefestival.org

 

As a woman of African descent with tightly coiled hair, Selasi stated that she could relate to the struggles of natural curlies, who had to learn to love their unique curly hair, in a world that glorifies straight strands. I love this Instagram post by her that beautifully sums up the journey she’s on.

In an interview with Essence, Taiye shared some details about her journey to learning and loving her natural hair:
“In those [college] years I learned to love, and above all, to care for my Afro. But it’s an ongoing journey. When I began writing this book of poems, I had occasion to revisit my relationship with my hair. Inspired by the real women who submitted their stories to Dove Hair, I decided to try something new. I cut my hair and began exploring new ways to wear my natural curls. In writing these poems, I was reminded not only that curly hair is beautiful—but, very poignantly, that beauty comes from within.”

Speaking on the poems she wrote for the book, she shared some of her favorite poems and the inspirations behind them.
“I love the poem “A Dance,” inspired by the simple experience of walking on a windy day. We curly-haired women can often feel at war with the elements (humidity especially!); it was delightful to think instead about Mother Nature’s special affection for curls. I also love the customizable poem, which I wrote my friends’ curly-haired daughters in mind. When I was young I loved reading, but so few books had characters who looked like me or had names like mine. The idea of hearing a poem with my own name would have thrilled me, and it’s an honor to be able to pass that joy on. “Dear Daughter,” like so many poems, was based on a real woman’s testimonial, submitted online. I love a multi-generational family beauty story (I write family sagas after all) and this woman’s celebration of her family’s curly lineage touched me deeply.”

Image via Elle.com; Photographed by Christopher Sturman

 

Watch Taiye talk about Love Your Curls and curly hair with Huffington Post Live here.
Download the free, customizable e-book here. The book is also available in hard copy upon request here.

I can’t state enough how amazing and much-needed a book like this is. For so many little girls, this will be the difference that teaches them that their curls are breathtakingly beautiful, which will lead them down the road to realizing just how perfect they are as God made them – beauty standards be damned!

ROMANTIC INSPIRATIONS: I’ll Never Forget Why I Love You

I’ve found that one of the reasons that marriage can get a bad rap, and be an object of fear for so many, is that people are afraid that marriage will become something incredibly monotonous & boring. Imagine the drudgery of seeing the same person all the time, they think. I’ll get so bored, they think – and they are right. Without effort (and let’s face it, every once in a while, we all don’t make the effort), marriage can get monotonous. However, the key is to work on breaking yourself out of your rut, instead of merely throwing in the towel and declaring it a thing of boredom that will never change.
In the spirit of that, and the fact that we just celebrated Memorial Day this week, let’s make this a week of creating mementos, and revisiting the ones that we already have.

Is there a special song that always reminds you of sweet moments in your relationship? This is the time to go back, play it – and maybe, even dance with it together.
Is there a piece of jewelry, art, collectible, or clothing that reminds you of a much-enjoyed trip you took together? Find it, touch it, sniff it, or revel in it.
Is there a special meal you’ve shared that you haven’t had in a while? Discover the recipe, get  into the kitchen, and prepare that dish together.
Rediscover those sweet moments you’ve shared together, and it will lead you on your way to creating new, even sweeter moments. Never forget why you fell in love. Life makes it so easy to do so, but let’s work on what we love: each other. :)

BEAUTY BRAND YOU SHOULD KNOW: Pure Òkwùma

One of the things I am always striving to do with our amazing www.lovenwords.com features is to showcase love that is full: from a woman who loves herself on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, to abiding, committed love & partnership in marriage. I want to show a woman that loves herself inside, as well as outside. So, I am going to be featuring beauty brands (skin care & makeup) that are owned by women of African heritage or descent.
So, if you have such a brand, or know someone who owns one, feel free to send me an e-mail at chioma[dot]onyewuchi[at]hotmail[dot]com.
Editor’s Note: Feature interviews are often edited and/or condensed in some way.
The first beauty brand feature is Pure Òkwùma by Kaylyn Danielle. Find out all about it.

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Name: Kaylyn Danielle
Brand Name: Pure Òkwùma
Open Since: 2015

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What inspired you to launch your business? Why skincare?
Friends and family advising me to do what I’m good at, do what is easy for me and do what I love. It sounds too simple, but it actually led me to starting a business that I enjoy doing every day.
Starting a business in natural skincare just made sense to me. I certainly had experience from making my own natural hair and skin products and dabbling in herbalism. When my friends would come over to my house, they would be so excited to see how I rigged up my apartment for my newest concoction.
Why did you choose the name, Pure Òkwùma?
To say the least, choosing a name for any company can be one of the hardest tasks an entrepreneur has to tackle. I thought about choosing something that reflected our core values and foundation. Something that would keep us focused on doing things right and doing things better. Pure Òkwùma was the clear choice.
A late night at my computer, looking at shea trees, sparked the idea to look at local names for “shea” where the shea tree is predominant.
The name, “Òkwùma”, is another name for “shea” from the Igbo language in West Africa. It is amazing how many products are based on all-natural foundations, but are so chemically modified and reproduced that the essential ingredients are lost.
All of our products are made with cocoa and shea butter, two of the most versatile natural beauty ingredients on the planet, that nourish your body, as well as local communities in West Africa where our ingredients are sourced.
This is the beginning of a long journey but, by naming ourselves after our purest intentions, we will constantly be reminded to do better.

 

Why did you choose shea and cocoa butters as the foundation of all your products?
Shea and cocoa are two of the most versatile over-looked natural beauty super foods on the planet. Their richness in precious constituents, like essential fatty acids, vitamin E and D, and allantoin make them the best choice for moisturizing, anti-aging, regenerating and protecting from UV sunlight. Shea and cocoa will always beat out any trendy skin care products for the cold and sunny seasons.
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What sets Pure Okwuma apart from other natural skincare products?
I wanted to develop a range of products that bring together the very best in skincare ingredients that are designed to nourish, replenish and hydrate the skin. Pure Òkwùma is exactly what I wanted for myself.
Pure Òkwùma products are all vegan and don’t contain any parabens or harsh chemicals. We’ve added six different types of antioxidants that reign supreme in combating many signs of aging, including wrinkles, dullness, and discoloration, and botanical fragrances like basil, lime and bergamot. However, it doesn’t just stop there.
We believe that we have a responsibility to the earth and to each other. Many of our ingredients, like our shea butter are fairly traded and sourced from a women’s cooperative, that help to enrich the lives of others. We take all of these wonderful ingredients and combine them to create the products that you see on our site.
I am proud of the results our products are achieving and the difference they are making to people’s skin.
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Have you always wanted to start your own business?
I think so. Starting my own business was something that my dad showed me was possible as a child. The fulfillment that I received from people that liked my body butters when I was just doing it for my own personal use, propelled me to create my own company. It’s been really exciting so far and I plan to introduce a lot more items soon.
What do you believe about yourself that makes you certain that you can succeed as an entrepreneur?
Starting a business is surprisingly simple–you just need to take the first step. It’s my willingness to go out there, my ability to embrace the confusion of starting a business and learning from my experiences and others, that makes me certain I can succeed as an entrepreneur.
How has the way you see yourself changed since you launched your business?
Starting Pure Òkwùma let me really embrace what it means to be comfortable, not only in my skin but in my willingness to be vulnerable. I’m constantly learning in both my business and personal life that embracing my authentic self isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, in many ways, having that push to just let go and go for it is what the human experience is all about.
What does success look like to you?
When it comes to success in business, it’s easy to focus on obvious measures like profitability, but I’m learning that the real indicator of success is how much you’re learning and becoming an expert in your field. To have someone consider me an expert would be worth so much more than money. Doing what you love as well as making a difference in other people’s lives is also another factor that I believe helps in your success.

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Orange is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks on Overcoming Insecurity & Suicidal Thoughts

Orange is the New Black (OITNB) is one of the series that really put Netflix on the map as a serious contender in the series department. Though I’ve never watched the show myself, I’ve only heard and read amazing things about it.
I recently came across a great article written by OINTB actress, Danielle Brooks (who plays the character, “Taystee”) for Glamour.com. In it, she talks about her battles with insecurity, self-acceptance, and a negative body image – so much so that she had suicidal thoughts. One of the things I found most eye-opening about her story (and one we all need to keep in mind) is that she stated that, from the outside, one would probably never guess that she was fighting those battles, because she hid them so well and always came across as  confident and self-aware.
Plus, it reminded again to be a fierce protector of my children by being vigilant about the words that are spoken to them about their bodies and their minds. All too often, it is careless, mean-spirited words (sometimes, disguised as “jokes”) that introduce children to the vicious cycle of insecurity and negative self-talk.

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Here is an excerpt:
“Being a teenager can be one of the hardest phases of a person’s life. For me, I struggled every day tricking myself into appearing confident. After reading over old journal entries, I realized some days were less successful than others. I came across one that took me aback. In this entry, I had written about how insecure I was about my weight. I wasn’t able to wear the flared jeans and cute tops the other girls wore—they didn’t come in my size. On top of that, I was dark-skinned and had natural hair. By the standard definition of beauty I had absorbed from the world around me, I had three strikes against me: I was too dark, too curly, and too fat.
Because of this insecurity, I was desperately unhappy. I was even having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it. The world saw a young teenage girl who was happy in her skin, laughed a lot, and didn’t care what anyone thought about her. The truth of the matter was I wasn’t happy in my skin; I laughed to hide my pain, and cared deeply what my peers thought of my appearance.

By the standard definition of beauty I had absorbed from the world around me, I had three strikes against me: I was too dark, too curly, and too fat.

I didn’t always feel so self-conscious. As a young girl, I was always a healthy kid but never a skinny kid. I didn’t know that there was anything “wrong” with my body until I was in middle school and a woman from church felt the spirit move her to tell me. As I walked home from Bible study one Wednesday night, she stopped me and exclaimed, “Danielle you’ve got stretch marks on your arms!” and proceeded to take her pointer finger and identify the four or five tiny lines that were starting to form. She continued, “You’re too young to be getting stretch marks,” though she was covered in them herself. And that’s when the cycle of judging myself began.
From that moment on, it was a long road to learning to love myself again. I dreamed of being an actor, but when I looked for reflections of myself on the screen, I found few. Still, I found inspiration in the words of Sharon Flake and the music of India Arie. I took acting classes, where I felt free and accepted. Free to let out the biggest screams, to roll around the floor like a cat, and to cry sloppy tears without being judged. Accepted by this tribe of fellow performers, unique individuals who valued me for my talent and my boldness and not for what I looked like (or didn’t look like). In acting I found my confidence, my joy, my safe place.

I didn’t know that there was anything “wrong” with my body until I was in middle school and a woman from church felt the spirit move her to tell me. As I walked home from Bible study one Wednesday night, she stopped me and exclaimed, “Danielle[,] you’ve got stretch marks on your arms!” and proceeded to take her pointer finger and identify the four or five tiny lines that were starting to form. She continued, “You’re too young to be getting stretch marks,” though she was covered in them herself. And that’s when the cycle of judging myself began.

Being in the public eye magnifies my “imperfection” to an insane degree. Attending the Golden Globes for the first time, I was aware that the majority of the other actresses in the audience didn’t look like me. But you see, the average woman is a size 12 to 14. Those actresses don’t look like most women. I’m not saying those actresses should gain 30 pounds, but I am posing the question, that if art is supposed to reflect life then why don’t the red carpets and magazines reflect reality?
Ideally, I want to see all beauties, all shapes, all sizes, all skin tones, all backgrounds represented in my profession. Now that I am blessed to be that reflection I was once looking for,  I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be. I might not have the power to change what media puts out there, or to single-handedly convince young girls like me that they should love themselves. But what I can do is start with me: living each day, embracing who I am.”

I’m so glad that Danielle is learning to embrace who she is, and inspiring other young women along the way. Let’s make a point of ensuring that our words do not start (or encourage) anyone down the spiral of insecurity.
Please read the full essay at Glamour.com via this link.

 

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