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.
NAME: Moiyattu Banya
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Sierra Leone
LOCATION: East Coast, USA
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: Everybody talks about doing something to change the world. Then, they talk – and talk some more. All that talk leads to … well, nothing, because the world can only be changed by action. Enter Moiyattu! See, she’s a talk-about-changing-the-world, then, actually doing it kind of woman. Women like Moiyattu are one of a kind. Deeply passionate about empowering African women and girls, and determined to be a catalyst for change, she took a leap of faith and moved to Ghana for 2 years (a country she had never ever lived in) from her home in New York to effect change, in women’s and gender issues, as well as peace and security. Her work has also taken her to Liberia, Senegal, and her home country, Sierra Leone. Moiyattu also co-founded a nonprofit organization, Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone (GESSL). She also owns a media consulting and women’s lifestyle branding company called Women|Change|Africa. Her company’s mission is to “celebrate, cultivate, and connect young African women social entrepreneurs” in order to create lasting change in African communities. Moiyattu Banya is an absolute powerhouse and a go-getter. Her inner beauty and giving spirit combine with her external beauty to make her an absolute stunner. She is inspiration personified!
WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE?
I am Moiyattu, a woman of God and a servant to his kingdom. I have been blessed with God-given talents of insight, authenticity, fearlessness, creativity and leadership; so, I am blessed. I am a changer, shaper, and creator of projects to enhance the lives of young women and girls on the African continent and Diaspora.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?
I like the simplicity yet beauty of my skin, and my gap in my teeth and how it lights up my personality.
WHAT NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?
I love my presence and confidence in what I know, and my ability to be creative and come up with crazy, fun ideas to change the world. I love my “voice” and what I stand for.
WHAT PHYSICAL AND NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS HAVE YOU MOST STRUGGLED TO ACCEPT? HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT STRUGGLE? HOW?
I used to have a love-hate relationship with my cheeks. I love them because they remind me that I am truly my mother’s child; but, for a while, I didn’t like them because I felt that they made my face look fat. People would always pinch them in (what I am sure) was an endearing manner, but I hated it! Lol. As a teenager and even up until my early twenties, I really didn’t like them to the point where I wouldn’t smile when taking photos. As I became more into my womanhood, I always received compliments on my smile and I realize the cheeks were a main contributor to why I smiled. They were a special physical gift from God to make others smile as well! One day, I woke up and it didn’t matter anymore what my cheeks were doing. I was just thankful I had them and I smiled. I smile in every picture and love them now so much. I still don’t like them being touched. Haha! It annoys the crap out of me! Only one family member is allowed to, because we both have similar-shaped cheeks. But now, my cheeks and gap are such a huge part of my face. I love them.
HOW HAS YOUR FATHER INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF?
My father was in love with me from the time I was a child. He was an amazing dad. He made ice cream on Sundays - from scratch, yes! He would tuck me into bed when I fell asleep in the living room watching cartoons. He always showed love to me. My father was also really good at setting boundaries with us: I remember how, on weekends, he would have my brothers and I doing homework and reading; but I also remember Christmas getting everything I wanted and asked “Santa” for. Yep, my parents even all the way in Sierra Leone, believed in Santa. So, growing up I never ever questioned whether I was enough. I always knew there was something really special about me; I learnt this through my interaction with him, and how his eyes would light up when I excelled in school, and how I made him smile.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?
Not being able to accomplish all the dreams in my spirit that God has set in my heart by the time I pass on to the next stage of life. There is so much I want to give back to the world; so, my prayer is being able to do that! I also have these fears that have never occurred, like the fear of African love stories no longer being created is a legitimate fear of mine. I am a junkie for African literature, especially African love literature, written by African women writers. I really love to read and I love reading African love stories. I fear that, if we don’t write them enough, one day I will wake up and not have anything to read!
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?
I love spending time with my family, that is probably my greatest joy. We take God very seriously in my family. We love getting together, and we laugh a lot in my family; we are jokesters and, when we get together, it’s always a good time. My nieces and nephews in my family bring me so much joy, because they just say and do the cutest things.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
My greatest accomplishment, thus far, was definitely facing my fear and moving to a totally different country in West Africa for two years: the country of Ghana.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?
I feel the most beautiful when I am in my element of working with young African women and girls, and seeing my inner beauty shine through my gifts and talents I serve them with and how they respond to it. I feel beautiful when it’s Spring and the flowers are out, the sun is setting on my face and my afro is out just breathing. My spirit glows through my skin and face and, at that moment, everything makes sense and is perfect; my heart is happy.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VERSION OF “BEAUTIFUL”?
Beautiful is being happy and at peace with who you are. It is the moment of one tapping into that special gift God has given each and every single one of us and using it for the greater good. Once you know that gift, your blessings just flow and beauty illuminates in my spirit and shows on me physically because I am happy.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BEAUTIFUL, AS YOU’VE DEFINED IT?
To stay beautiful, I pray a lot and continue to seek God for his direction. I smile a lot. I exercise. I do a lot of “little” do-good projects for people, because I get the most compliments on the exterior stuff when I feel good inside.
WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?
My Mother, my aunty, my cousins. Every woman in my family has a special gift. It’s so beautiful when we are all together, and you see how beautiful we are inside and also just how amazing our physical features are.
Stay updated with everything Moiyattu! Follow her here:
Facebook: Facebook.com/WomenChangeAfrica; Facebook.com/GESSierraLeone
Twitter: @wcaworld; @GeSSierraLeone
Website: www.womenchangeafrica.com; www.girlsempowermentsummitsl.org
Instagram: @msboss_chique; @gessierraleone