The Journey to Beautiful Series: Wana Udobang

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.


Wana Udobang

NAME: Wana Udobang
AGE: 29 going on 30

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Nigeria
LOCATION: Lagos, Nigeria 
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: Wana “Miss WanaWana” Udobang is a force to be reckoned with – a force of creativity, that is. Simultaneously excelling as a writer, poet, broadcaster & On-Air Personality (for 92.3 Inspiration FM – Nigeria’s #1 family station & one of the leading radio stations in the country), spoken word artist, and a documentary producer (among many other things), this insanely talented young woman isn’t your “Jill of all trades”. Nope! She’s a master at every. single. thing. she. does.

I know what you’re thinking, “How is she even human?”, but that’s the beauty of what The Journey to Beautiful is all about: to show that every insanely talented, gorgeous, successful woman is just as human as the next; that we all have stories to tell, and journeys that we’re on.

Wana’s spirit shines brightly, from her megawatt smile to her unforgettable voice, and it’s clear that the journey is simply beginning for this incredible woman.


 

WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 

I often see myself as a daughter of the universe. A believer in self-expression; a story teller, dreamer and a positive spirit.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?

Hmmm … my hips and thighs, and my face. My cheekbones, I have to say, specifically(I barely ever use blusher as a result)

WHAT NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?

My personality. I am as much an extrovert as I am introspective, and I have a strange ability to bond with people quite quickly, for some reason. I also have a great deal of empathy and I think that helps with understanding people a bit better. 

WHAT PHYSICAL AND NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS HAVE YOU MOST STRUGGLED TO ACCEPT? HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT STRUGGLE?   HOW?

In relation to physical traits, I have always been big and thus teased, taunted and told all sorts; so, I went through very long periods of self-loathing. On the bright side, I got to a point where I wanted to be defined by anything other than what I looked like; so, I was always developing other aspects of myself, gifts and personality. When I think about it now, it was my way of overcompensating, because I kind of thought I didn’t get a beautiful body pass. In that case, I would need to be smarter, sharper, funnier and more capable. However, you become all those things and the self-loathing doesn’t go away because things happen, and the trigger sends you back to that bad place of deep insecurity and dissatisfaction.

Then, I think age has a great sense of humor. You grow older and you realize you robbed your self of so much, wallowing in loathing. So, I think as I grew older, my mindset just changed, [and became:] work on fixing the things you can – in my case, eating well and doing some physical activity. Just make sure you are fit and healthy, love the rest of who you are, and get on with things. Then, you also have to accept that it’s all a journey you must come to terms with.
A friend also said to me that some things are important and others are urgent. It was then it clicked that aesthetics were important, not urgent. Making sure I am healthy and strong enough to carry out my life’s purpose became more urgent than looking a certain way – and that became my focal point.

So, I say, take care of yourself – body, mind and spirit,

On the non-physical traits, I still struggle with the fact that I am quite open. Sometimes, I wish I could be a bit more enigmatic just for the sake of it, and maybe because there is something a bit alluring about people who don’t let out very much. However, it never quite works out that way. I also find that, in my openness, others feel more comfortable being vulnerable and sharing. So as much as I beat myself up about it, a little afterwards, I think it is for the greater good. So it is one of those catch-22 situations.

Wana Udobang

 

HOW HAS YOUR FATHER INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF?

My parents got divorced when I was ten years old so my father hasn’t been a part of my life. But I suppose, inadvertently, it has made me very strong, independent and self reliant; but, more importantly, seeking validation within myself and not from other people. When you grow up that way, you are always self-taught and figuring things out for yourself, so there is a certain fearlessness that you develop as well, which has been quite helpful in the way that I live my life. There is no one telling you about what is possible and impossible which has been hugely influential for me. So in my world, there are no limits or boxes. That kind of freedom is indescribable.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?

Not exploring my gifts, talents and myself to their full potential scares me. I am of the belief that I have so much to offer the world, and not being able to do that, leave some kind of impact is really frightening. However, I always just take it one step at a time and do the best I can in the process. I’m not one to put pressure on myself.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?

Family, friends and just being submerged in a creative space. I am happiest in the midst of good food, drinks and great conversation. I like to laugh and I love to discover.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

That’s a difficult one because I just do things I love and enjoy and then set myself challenges to know how far I can push myself. So I don’t know that I’m too acknowledging of the things I do as achievements. But I suppose if I did have to mention things I have done that I am proud of, they would include graduating with a first class, releasing my spoken word album Dirty Laundry, creating the documentary Sensitive Skin. I think there might be other things, but I suppose as I set myself newer challenges, I forget the old things I have done. I do think your best years are ahead of you, though.

Wana Udobang

WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?

Oh gosh, when I’m happy, I feel the most beautiful, and I’m happiest when I’m productive, the work I’m creating is impactful, and the people in my life are healthy. Once there is good health, both mental and physical for myself and the ones I love, then I’m good. That puts me in a good place and a good place is happiness for me and I think the beauty radiates. 

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VERSION OF “BEAUTIFUL”?

I think beauty for me is being my authentic self, when I’m able to just be me and not be bothered by anyone else’s opinions or constructions of whom I should be. It’s also acceptance of myself both inside and out.. The loud, the overly bubbly, the sometimes moody and overthinking philosopher. The wobbly belly , the saggy boobs and the very firm thighs. The childish smile, the flirty eyes and the wannabe burlesque dancer. It’s moving from loathing to acceptance and then to loving. It’s knowing the power that you hold inside of you. Most of all, it is confidence, and being unafraid to rock that confidence. That is my version of beautiful.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BEAUTIFUL, AS YOU’VE DEFINED IT?

I just surround myself with positivity. Positive people, genuine people and clean energy. I am also very reflective, so I do a lot of taking stock, meditating and taking responsibility so that I can own up to what needs to be fixed. I like walking as well: I’m thoroughly in my head and in my own company. I also try to stay in a happy place by making other people happy, being productive and creative.

WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?

I think almost everyone I meet on a daily basis is constantly inspiring me. I love anyone that is a dreamer, a doer, that doesn’t put limitations on themselves, and even when there are limitations, they are ebbing their way through it and navigating those barriers. I’m also inspired by people that are open and allow themselves to be vulnerable.

But I always say my mother’s strength and, interestingly, her complexity is a constant inspiration.


 

Watch Wana’s amazing documentary, Sensitive Skin, on living with severe psoriasis in Nigeria. It’s subject is the very inspiring, Glory Edozien, creator & host of The Inspire Series.

 

Also, prepare to be blown away by Wana’s spoken word talent. Here’s a little taste:


 

 

Stay updated with everything Wana. Follow her here:

 

Facebook: MissWanaWana

Instagram: MsWanaWana

Twitter: @MissWanaWana

Website: www.wanawana.net |  www.guerillabasement.com |  www.1k4cancer.org

Young, Married & African: Kemi + Sola Oladimeji

Couple: Kemi + Sola Oladimeji

From: Nigeria

Location: Texas, USA

Married Since: August 25, 2012


Kemi & Sola Oladimeji

We keep our marriage fun, full of love, and happy by spending quality time with each other every day. We love to joke around with each other and try new things together. We communicate with each other about any and everything.  Travelling is important to us even if it means taking a mini road trip just to have some weekend fun.

The toughest challenge we faced together as a couple was being separated during our first year of marriage. Sola got a new job and had to relocate to Texas.  Kemi was still in New Jersey, pregnant and in school. Although it was tough, we realized how much we really loved each other and the time away helped us grow closer to each other. We vowed to never be away from each other for that long again!  

Three things fundamental to a successful marriage are praying together, communicating together, and being honest with each other.”


Kemi & Sola Oladimeji

 

From Kemi:

My husband’s best physical feature is his smile! I love how he goes above and beyond to make sure that I am happy and comfortable. He is very selfless not only to his family but also to friends.  

The best thing about marriage is spending the rest of my life with someone knowing that we will grow and accomplish more together as a team.  

I’d marry Sola all over again, because he has been nothing but loving since the beginning. He is absolutely amazing! 

 

From Sola:

My wife’s best physic al feature is that she’s beautiful all around. She is a very loving and caring person.   

The best thing about marriage is having someone by your side who shares your dreams, and will stand by your side no matter what.  

I’d marry Kemi all over again, because she is a God-fearing, a lovely and remarkable lady. She has been a blessing to me, since the day she came into my life.”  


Kemi & Sola Oladimeji

Typical Date Night: A typical date night is dinner and a movie. Some nights it may be out at a restaurant and some days it’s right at home.  

Best Date Ever:  December 10, 2011 – Spirit Cruise NYC

Most Romantic Gift From Spouse:  Diamond necklace on our first Valentine’s Day

Favorite Place to Eat: Our house. I love cooking and trying new foods and Sola loves my food … he calls me Chef Kemi   

Favorite Travel DestinationFlorida! Always have a great time when we go whether Miami or Orlando 

Favorite Hotel to Stay In: Doubletree by Hilton-great customer service, great décor and welcome chocolate chip cookie is always delicious!  


 

From the Editor:Young, Married + African” is a feature that profiles married African couples all over the globe, between ages 18 and 40. I’m always looking for new couples to feature.

If you’d like to be featured, please e-mail me at chioma dot onyewuchi at hotmail dot com with subject, “Interested in African Couple Feature”.

#WomanCrushWednesday: The Ultimate Woman Crush

Social media has completely succeeded in uniting people – in trends and topics, at least. On any given day of the week, millions of people are having virtual conversations on the same topic, or uniting virtually as they celebrate a particular event or day. In my opinion at least, few topics have dominated the social media (Instagram, specifically) topics like #WomanCrushWednesday. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Wednesday is the day set apart for Instagram users (male & female alike) to put up pictures and tributes to a woman they consider their “woman crush”, either because: she has made a difference in their lives; she is an admirable & inspiring person; or she is considered very attractive. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of people choose celebrities for #WomanCrushWednesday – for obvious reasons. They “love” that celebrity, and they want to look just like her, or be like her someday. From Beyoncé to Rihanna, Gisele Bündchen to Naomi Campbell, celebrities are fawned over in remarkable ways. Of coursem #WomanCrushWednesday can be all in good fun. However when it makes the shift to a desire to be somebody we’re not, or to look like somebody else, it becomes something entirely different. It becomes a vehicle for dissatisfaction, discontent, and low self-esteem. 3  Rihanna for Harper's Bazaar Arabia For all of us, our Ultimate Woman Crush should be us. We should want to look like the healthiest version of ourselves – and that includes emotional, spiritual, and mental versions, in addition to the physical. We should strive to achieve the purpose for which God created us. We should fall in love with who we are, and the amazing journeys we’re embarking on. So, as you celebrate today’s #WomanCrushWednesday, I hope you’re tipping your hat to yourself as you look at the mirror this morning, and declare that you are your own Ultimate Woman Crush.  

 

 

{Image: Beyoncé for Vogue, photo by Patrick Demarchelier; Rihanna for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, photo by Ruven Afanador}

DATE NIGHT: Have A Ball with Balloons ;)

Have you ever had a celebration or party with balloons, but didn’t know what to do with it afterwards? Thinking of deflating them and throwing them in the trash immediately? You might want to hold off on that. You can, literally, have a ball with balloons – and it will be a date night you’ll want to have again and again!

Several days ago, my husband and I celebrated one of the greatest moments of our lives: we celebrated our son’s 1st birthday. Though we made it an intimate affair with just the 3 of us, we bought lots of balloons for him to chase around and play with. We decided to leave the balloons around for him for a few days longer, because he had such a great time with them. Little did we know that we would, too. :) When we discovered how great they would be for us, too, an impromptu date night at home was born. And, boy, did we have a blast!!!

We played “Balloon Ball”! For couples who are looking to have an active and fit date, get silly, and have a great laugh, what we did was very simple. We used the balloons like they were volleyballs – volleying that balloons between us and doing our best to keep them from hitting the ground by all means necessary, with hands, legs, heads, and whatever body part would do.

After a half hour of chasing balloons around and volleying them between us, we were literally sweating buckets (or shall I say, balloons)? We were laughing, running around, and having a wonderful time. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve agreed to do it again. Who knows, we just might make this a ritual, and bring balloons home from parties we attend?

Try it, and let me know how you and your spouse enjoyed it.

Happy Dating!

 

{Image via Munaluchi Bride Magazine | Photo by Tomayia Colvin Photography}

Young, Married & African: Christiana + David Okuwobi

Couple: Christiana + David Okuwobi 

From: Nigeria

Location: New Jersey, USA

Married Since: September 3, 2011

Find Christiana Online: Blog – www.mysixthlens.blogspot.com

                        Instagram – @sixthlens


 

Christiana and David Okuwobi 1

We keep our marriage fun, full of love and happy by being goofy, spending quality time with each other, being spontaneous, being open to new things, and being supportive of each other. We are able to laugh at ourselves or each other when the moment calls for it. Quality time gives us that moment and opportunity to connect with each other; spontaneity keeps things fresh and new. Lastly, we keep our marriage happy by basically doing things we both know are important to each other and make the other happy. 

The toughest challenge we’ve faced so far has been moving to a new state as new grads and newlyweds with no family, friends and only one of us with a job. It was a time that, despite its challenges, gave us a strong base, and contributed to the success of our marriage today. So, the challenge actually helped our marriage [instead of hurting it]. We always joke that if we could make it through that period, we can make it through anything. 

Three things we believe are fundamental for marriage success are: God, first; then, Respect and Effective Communication.”


 

From Christiana:

“My husband’s best physical features are his arms! Also, I love his determination, and his willingness to go out of his way to help others.

The best thing about marriage is building a legacy with your partner, and knowing that you have someone that will always be there for you in your worst moments, and someone who you can share all your best moments with.

I’d marry David all over again, because he is my prince charming.”

 

From David:

“[I love that] my wife is caring, fun, quiet and charming.

 The best thing about marriage is the joy of building a home & family, and living forever with youbest friend.

I’d marry Christiana all over again, because she’s my oxygen and she completes me.


Christiana and David Okuwobi 4

Typical Date Night:  Movie and dinner. Dinner could be at a restaurant - but, in most cases, it’s [right] at home.  We make something special, set the table and have good conversation. 

Best Date Ever: 02/13/2010 – Cinghiale, Baltimore Maryland 

Most Romantic Gift From Spouse: A necklace with heart-shaped pendant

Favorite Place to Eat:  At home! We don’t eat out often, so, we don’t have a favorite so far. I enjoy cooking, so I cook a lot of varieties and he loves it. 

Favorite Travel DestinationMiami, Florida, because we always have so much fun and great adventure. 

Favorite Hotel to Stay In: Marriott Hotels Good standard and quality is consistent across all locations. 

Christiana and David Okuwobi 2


 

From the Editor:Young, Married + African” is a feature that profiles married African couples all over the globe, between ages 18 and 40. I’m always looking for new couples to feature.

If you’d like to be featured, please e-mail me at chioma dot onyewuchi at hotmail dot com with subject, “Interested in African Couple Feature”.

Why You Should Treat Your Marriage Like Your Career

When two people become joined to one another in holy matrimony – “to have and to hold”, “to love forever”, “in sickness and in health” “till death do them part” – they are committing themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. That’s a tall order! It’s little wonder, then, that there are few comparisons one can make marriage to.

Compare that to your professional life! Most people work just to get a paycheck. They go to work reluctantly, check every minute the clock chimes, and throw their hands up in the air & do a victory dance when the weekend arrives. Imagine having a marriage like that!

Thankfully, I’m talking about treating your marriage like your career. What I described above is a “job”, while careers tend to be much more fulfilling, long-term, and create opportunities for advancement, and growth.

Here’s why you should treat your marriage like your career.

Many people who have chosen a career for themselves [think: medicine] are willing to invest a lot of themselves to achieve their desired outcome. With medicine as the career example, aspiring medical professionals invest copious amounts of time, money, and effort to become doctors. Their focus is singular and they are highly committed, because they plan to do this for the rest of their lives! We should treat our marriages with the same commitment, intensity, and singular focus, because – let’s face it – our marriages definitely impact us more than anything else does.

For people in careers where there are opportunities to “climb the ladder”, they go above and beyond their scope of work – showing initiative, taking on new responsibilities, and bringing fresh ideas to the table. Their goal is to show their employers that there is so much more that they are capable of. How amazing would it be if both individuals within a marriage were as committed: showing initiative, taking on household responsibilities, and bringing fresh ideas to the table to keep their marriage fun, loving, and purposeful?

When you have a career, you expect to be on an upward trajectory: going from a lower level position to a higher one, or earning a better salary at each career stage. In the same vein, we should work towards being on an upward marriage trajectory – looking back each year and saying, “Wow! This year was better than last year for us. We grew more! We met challenges better. We know each other in new ways. We serve each other more. We trust each other at a new level. We are more committed this year than we were last year.” The day you got married should be the least of all the days in your marriage, because we all need to work hard to at least attempt to make each year better.

As professionals, most people dream of being called “the best”, “the expert”, “the go-to man/woman”. We imagine being the “Employee of the Month” or “Manager of the Year”. We dream of being the “Ultimate Team Player”, because it feels good, and there’s often a good bonus that comes along with it. It’s a winning package for sure. Now, imagine if we channeled the same energy into being the “best spouse”, a near-expert on doing great things for our spouses, or the ultimate team player in our marriages. Imagine the great bonus that would come with that: joy, love, and happiness exploding in all directions, and a true sense of peace and security.

 

Maybe, we all need to think about how the effort we put into our careers compares to the effort we put into our careers. We might all be surprised by what we discover.

 

Young, Married & African: Dennis + Lilian Y. Kordie

Couple: Dennis + Lilian Y. Kordie

From: Ghana

Location: New Jersey, USA

Married Since: August 22, 2013

Find Them Online: Blog – www.africankingandqueen.blogspot.com

                  Instagram – @africankingandqueen


lilian-dennis-1050

“Our goal in marriage is to keep it fun, joyous, full of love and happiness. We do this by utilizing effective communication: we listen to each other, respect each other’s opinions, and don’t hold back. We respect [each other's] weaknesses and don’t use them against each other. Furthermore, we spend lots of time together- talking about our goals and aspirations; we blog often, spend time with our families, and take lots of pictures. Let’s not forget spontaneity- we take road trips and tours, and travel often.

The toughest challenge we’ve faced so far has been being newly married while working full-time and in school full-time. Honestly, without God, we would not have been able to succeed. We sought ways to cut down the stress by exercise, healthy eating, and some good wine. Just being honest oh!

Three things we believe are fundamental for marriage success are Prayer, Respect, and Effective Communication.


 

Copy of IMG_1629

From Lilian:

“My husband’s best physical features are … eish! His whole body! I love every bit of his physique. Plus, he’s God-fearing and kind-hearted.

The best thing about marriage is spending the rest of my life with my best friend, my confidant and the love of my life.

I’d marry Dennis all over again, because he completes me.”

 

From Dennis:

“My wife is beautiful inside out! She’s the most compassionate, and kindest person I’ve ever met. She’s amazing, and Godsent

 The best thing about marriage is the peace of mind, and the beauty in what we are able to accomplish together.

I’d marry Lilian all over again, because I can’t take a breath without her.”


DSC07412

Typical Date Night:  Believe is or not, at home! We pick out a good recipe from a magazine, cook together over some good wine, and play Ludu afterwards.

Best Date Ever: 11/11/11 – The View Restaurant, NYC

Most Romantic Gift From Spouse: Getaway to National Harbor, Washington, DC

Favorite Place to Eat: Due Mari Restaurant, New Brunswick, NJ  

Favorite Travel Destination: The Bahamas. It was our first vacation together as a couple.

Favorite Hotel to Stay In: The Westin, Washington, D.C. Great view, good customer service, and great location 


 

From the Editor:Young, Married + African” is a feature that profiles married African couples all over the globe, between ages 18 and 40. I’m always looking for new couples to feature.

If you’d like to be featured, please e-mail me at chioma dot onyewuchi at hotmail dot com with subject, “Interested in African Couple Feature”.

52 Weeks of Romance Challenge: Week 28 – Some Loving!

The 52 Weeks of Romance Challenge by Love. ‘n Words is a weekly Wednesday inspiration series that shares tips on how you can spice up your marriage with more love and romance. Designed exclusively for you, the goal is to make your marriage much more exciting, fun, and passionate. Let’s prove that injecting romance doesn’t have to be impractical or expensive. Join in here and on Twitter (@lovenwords) every Wednesday at 12 noon for a new challenge for the week. Use hashtag – #52WeeksofRomance.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Pamper your spouse this week: prepare a decadent meal or give a relaxing massage. Do something loving!

#52WeeksofRomance

{Image  credit: Huffington Post}

The Journey to Beautiful Series: Natasha Nyanin

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.


Natasha Nyanin 12

NAME: Natasha Nyanin
AGE: 28

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Ghana
LOCATION:  Atlanta, GA – but really, the whole world :)
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: I love being a woman, because I adore how complex we are. It’s amazing how seemingly contradictory things can exist side by side in one woman. We are beautiful combinations in ways that can be unexpected, but never ordinary. Natasha, Nyanin, lifestyle blogger at The Ecstatic Flash, is one such combination. A health scientist at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) by day, and a freelance writer, style consultant, and professional dancer at other times, Natasha is a great example that science + art equals a wonderful marriage. With the personal mantra to “live life artfully”, Natasha is all about finding beauty in living and life’s experiences.


Natasha Nyanin 9

WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 

I am woman from Ghana who works in Atlanta and lives in the world. A woman who relishes  creativity and the arts, and who believes that love is the most powerful force on earth. I’m an obsessive list-writer, serial photo-taker, a yoga sadhaka, a lover and writer of poetry, a gastronomical explorer, a film buff and a style enthusiast. But do any of these interests define me? I  hope not for I do not do well in boxes. To make it easier on myself,  here is one of my favourite poems by David Whyte and I will answer some of his questions as they pertain to me:

 

Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in thatfierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

 

I feel I belong AND I feel abandoned. I have indeed known soul-deep despair and I hope I can recognize it in others.  I only know how to melt into the fierce heat of living. And, am I willing to live day by day with the consequence of love and the bitter unwanted passion of my sure defeat? I see no other reason for living!

Natasha Nyanin 6

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?

In the gorgeous film, The English Patient, a lot of hoopla is made of the suprasternal notch as an erogenous zone. It is, indeed, beautiful, this chasm, but far superior in my mind is the entire clavicle of a woman. So what’s my favorite physical feature in a woman? Undoubtedly, a pronounced collarbone with, perhaps, well-sculpted arms falling second on my list. In a man, it is always the eyes. Always, the eyes…and sometimes a beard

WHAT NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?

I appreciate my ability to make connections between things: linking a film to a fashion trend, or a favourite chef’s recipe to a book chapter. I suppose I believe that our purpose on the planet is to connect with what makes us happy; one thing that truly does inspire joy in me is finding connections between seemingly unconnected aspects of our world. Finding a thread of linkage between things brings a certain harmony to life and I am glad that I seem to have a knack for doing finding such linkage.

I have been told that I am creative and passionate; if these words are true, then, these are also aspects of my non-physical self for which I am grateful. I am also thankful for a well-developed sense of humour. It is a blessing to be able to laugh at oneself.

 

 

Natasha Nyanin 10

WHAT PHYSICAL AND NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS HAVE YOU MOST STRUGGLED TO ACCEPT? HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT STRUGGLE?   HOW?

On the physical side, I’ve struggled with accepting my body. As one with a predilection for (as I like to call it) “bone and sinew” when it comes to body types, I work out extremely hard in an effort to remain lean. Still, I have a naturally more muscular build and so, over time, I am teaching myself to accept that I am not nor will I ever be skinny.  I have not, at any point, been so unhappy with my body as to inflict emotional harm on myself, as I believe in the practice of “santosha” (contentment) as my yoga discipline prescribes. It is becoming easier and easier to accept my body as I grow in that practice of contentment and the practice of finding the fine line between pushing my body to its limits and punishing this vessel in which I live.

Then, there is my struggle with accepting the fact that I have zero musical talent and, quite frankly, might be tone deaf. I still have not accepted that and have no intention to. When the opportunity arises, I still sing at the top of my lungs in competition with Renee Fleming and Whitney Houston. Life’s just better that way!

 

Natasha Nyanin 8

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?

My most abject fear would be never realising my potential, and not making my mother proud. In the words of Maya Angelou, “she [my mother] deserves a great daughter”.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?

Here are a few:

Learning a new word (like “époustouflant(e)” —a word which seems almost onomatopoeic and absolutely perfect to me) tickles me so very much. In general, I derive a lot of pleasure from the literary. So, the discovery of a new poem or poet (like  fingerspitzengefühl or komorebi – and the actual experience of both), or the rediscovery of an old one by finding new meaning in it), the perfect use of paradox, or even the most sordidly saccharine of alliterative assertions will make me smile. Keat’s captured this sort of joy best in his On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer: 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken; 10

Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific—and all his men

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 

In this poem, Keat’s uses the discovery of new lands as allegory for literary discovery. Conversely, if I am not travelling in a literary world, then, traversing the terrain of our physical world is another way in which I milk happiness from the breast of life. Alain de Botton said in his book, The Art of Travel, “it is not necessarily at home that we are most ourselves”; I am inclined to agree. I appreciate any opportunity to pack way too many clothes and shoes into a suitcase, hop on a plane and immerse myself into another way of living [whether it is] as close by as Savannah, Georgia or as far away as Montsalier, France. Travel reminds me of how infinitesimal I am in comparison to this sublimely grand earth. In so doing, paradoxically, it empowers me beyond explication. And travel allows me to excavate my other passion: food.

 

There is so much joy to be found in a heap of kelewele, bought on the roadside in Accra, as its oils seep into the paper in which it is served, or in conquering Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe for Pave Potatoes in one’s own kitchen. When it comes to the ecstasy of eating, I like it all; from high to low, from complex to simple, from Michelin-starred to market stall. Food is its own poetry that reflects the attention, care and creativity afforded in its preparation succinctly: as the finished product. Every morsel tells a story, and if the morsels are good enough, then, they too become a story to tell.

 

Fashion also usually tells a story and it is perhaps the occiput of my creative joys. My mother once told me, after a bad breakup, “You must get up and go on and do what you love to do! If you love to eat- eat, if you love to dress- dress!” It resulted in laughter, for which I had been much starved prior to our conversation, and me jocularly accusing her of being shallow. She was right, though.

I am as happy playing around in my own closet as I am poring through books of Richard Avedon’s fashion photography, or reading Diana Vreelan’s memos.  Fashion is a world in which beauty is unabashedly celebrated; and if we don’t live for beauty, then what on earth are we here for? 

Then, there is dance. Through it all, dance! Pear Primus put it best: “In dance I have confided my most secret thoughts and shared the inner music of all mankind. I have danced across mountains and deserts, ancient rivers and oceans and slipped through the boundaries of time and space.” “Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.” – Jacques d’Amboise

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WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

I have surprised myself in quite a few ways.

In high school and even when I danced in college, I would not have been seen anywhere near a treadmill or weight machine.  In fact, I came pretty close to failing PE back in my salad days. I now run races regularly and have completed grueling exercise programs like Insanity and P90x.

In high school, I don’t think I ever stood close enough to a stove in the kitchen to feel its warmth. I am now a self-taught amateur chef. My greatest accomplishment, though, is not the 30lbs I lost, or becoming an athletic woman,  or learning the difference between a pate brisée and a standard pie crust. 

By my definition, my greatest accomplishment is  not accomplished; it is not past tense but a work always in progress. That work is understanding that the self is a mutable thing: that who I am will not and should not be calcified until I draw my last breath. I am most proud of blindly feeling my way through the understanding of this notion that I continue to reinvent, fine-tune and learn myself, even when it is unbearably scary to do so.

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WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?

When I am able to exist in the state of “grace” rather than the  state of “nature” (to borrow a dichotomy from the film “The Tree of Life”), I feel at my most beautiful.  In other words, when I am able to gracefully and graciously accept whatever life throws at me with equanimity (in sanskrit: upeksha)  rather than acrimony, I feel I have connected with the soul of the universe and I am thus at my most beautiful. A touch of red lipstick never hurt anyone though. 

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VERSION OF “BEAUTIFUL”?

Keats wrote:

“Beauty is a feeling and one’s personal truth.
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

I say: Beauty is a feeling and one’s personal truth. 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BEAUTIFUL, AS YOU’VE DEFINED IT?

In the words of Polonius, the bloviating fool (the fools always are the bearers of wisdom): “to thine ownself be true”. I try to remain true to my ever-evolving self, so that self may flourish and blossom.

WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?

Tilda Swinton, because she is operatic in her existence. Cate Blanchette, because the woman just knows how to wear a dress. Gail O’Neill, because she epitomizes kindess. Wisława Szymborska, because she wrote with such compassion. Chef Anne Sophie Pic, because I love to see a woman be such a force in man’s world.  Coco Chanel, because we share a birthday and because she reinvented fashion. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar because she, like her inspiration Pearl Primus, is  a woman of such somatic intelligence and because she taught me to “stay in the frying pan”. My 6th grade history teacher, Mrs. Margaret Laryea, because she is a woman of poise and grace, stern and loving and forever my champion. Oh, there are many, but I will end with my mother, because her love is unconditional and her wisdom (in my life) unparalleled.  


 

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The Journey to Beautiful Series: Amma Appiah

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: Amma Appiah
AGE: 26

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Ghana
LOCATION: Maryland,United States  
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: I stumbled on Amma “Amma Mama” Appiah’s blog some time ago, and loved it! With a unique eye and perspective, she shares stories, writes posts, and communicates about natural hair, style, art, & other great lifestyle topics. You can feel her genuine appreciation for Africa, her passion for seeing black women fall in love with their natural hair, and her appreciation for great creativity. This beauty is definitely one to watch! Amma, I’m pretty sure your fears are unfounded [Read the feature to understand], because it’s clear that your heart is just as beautiful as your exterior – even a blind man can see that. 


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WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 

I am thoughtful, smart and wise. 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?

My smile, legs, and sometimes my arms…Lol

WHAT NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?

I appreciate that I am considerate of other people’s feelings; thoughtful; kind, and well-mannered. I am respectful and that is important to me.  

WHAT PHYSICAL AND NON-PHYSICAL TRAITS HAVE YOU MOST STRUGGLED TO ACCEPT? HAVE YOU OVERCOME THAT STRUGGLE?   HOW?

Well, growing up, I was teased about my overbite, gap and big nose. I was constantly called a “buckteeth beaver” and “pig nose”. I was teased about both {my nose and teeth} by children and adults. I have insecurities about both still, but I try not to dwell on it because God made me how he saw fit. I used to really want braces but I think my smile and gap is my trademark. [As for] non-physical traits, I am way too nice. I overextend myself and I have trouble saying, “no”. I am a recovering people-pleaser. I’ve learned that it’s okay for me to just say, “no,” and maintain my sanity and peace 

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WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?

Not being successful, being single forever and not falling in love. I am a hopeful romantic.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?

Helping people, traveling to new places, buying cute accessories, zumba, reading a good book, and eating well.   

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

Mmmm … I am not sure, to be honest. I think I still have a lot more to achieve on my goals list. 

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WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?

When I am truly at peace, my skin is nice and even, when I am in shape and eating well. Also, when my hair is done!  

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VERSION OF “BEAUTIFUL”?

Beautiful is being kind, humble, helpful, considerate, wise, and most importantly, honoring God. There is more to life than just focusing on you.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BEAUTIFUL, AS YOU’VE DEFINED IT?

I try not to be superficial and too materialistic. I try and focus on God, and my blessings. I try to read my Bible and positive things. I continue to encourage and help others as best I can – all while trying to better myself. I really enjoy uplifting and inspiring others. Whether it is my friends or co-workers, I like to be positive towards people. 

WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?

My mommy and First Lady Michelle Obama. 


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Instagram: @ammamama  | @allthingsammamama

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