INSPIRATION: Danai Gurira

Gorgeous midnight skin as smooth as silk, a deeply brilliant mind, and wonderful self-assurance make Danai Gurira far from your average Hollywood actor. She acts, she writes, she creates, and she speaks with such wisdom and self-knowledge that you can’t help but love her. For fans of AMC’s hit show, The Walking Dead, Danai is known simply as the sword- (kitana) wielding warrior princess, kicking zombie butt and taking no prisoners.

Danai Gurira, Essence Magazine, Black Actresses, Dark-skinned actresses, African actresses in Hollywood

Gomillion & Leupold for Essence Magazine

Danai Gurira, Essence Magazine, Black Actresses, Dark-skinned actresses, African actresses in Hollywood

Gomillion & Leupold for Essence Magazine

Danai Gurira, Essence Magazine, Black Actresses, Dark-skinned actresses, African actresses in Hollywood

Gomillion & Leupold for Essence Magazine

 

Born to Zimbabwean parents in Grinnell, Iowa, and returning to Zimbabwe from age 5 until her college years, Danai is deeply, deeply rooted in who she is as an African woman. Passionate about the representation of African women as strong, thinking people, like all other women, Danai rejects any roles that show us as weak and pathetic.

“The thing I’m against is the inauthentic portrayal of Africans,” Gurira says—roles in which she’s supposed to play a woman who’s waiting for her husband to bring her home a fish, for example. “I’m like, African women don’t wait for men to bring them home fish. They go and plow the [expletive] land and make their own food. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I’m not doing that. There are tons of things that I turn down based on the fact that this portrayal of the African woman is so pathetic.” – as told to Vulture 

Maybe less known are her forays on the big screen, in collaborations with Nigerian-American fashion photographer, Andrew Dosunmu, playing the lead role in his visually stunning short film, Mother of George, as one-half of a Nigerian couple in New York, struggling with fertility issues. She played a more minor role in his earlier film, A Restless City.

Danai Gurira, Essence Magazine, Black Actresses, Dark-skinned actresses, African actresses in Hollywood

Gomillion & Leupold for Essence Magazine

Danai Gurira, Essence Magazine, Black Actresses, Dark-skinned actresses, African actresses in Hollywood

Gomillion & Leupold for Essence Magazine

 

Gurira is also a very accomplished playwright, having won an Obie (Off-Broadway Theater) Award in 2006 for a play she co-wrote, In the Continuum, and winning a Princeton Fellowship & Whiting Writers’ Award for The Convert.

Her brilliant mind and knockout beauty are completed by her wisdom, self-knowledge, and beautiful spirit. She wears her dark skin and very closely cropped natural hair with pride, stating that women don’t need to change anything about themselves.

“One day I had to wear a wig cap, and I said, ‘That kind of works.’ ” says Gurira, who sported an Afro in college. “As soon as I could, I CUT IT ALL OFF, and I HAVEN’T LOOK BACK since.” – as told to People

 

Danai Gurira

Peter Hapak for New York Magazine

Danai Gurira

Peter Hapak for New York Magazine

 

Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira for Cole Haan

“A young woman recently told me she’s THANKFUL FOR ME. She said, ‘We’re trying so hard to CHANGE OURSELVES. Then we see you and realize we don’t have to,'” recalls Gurira. “For me, it is all about SELF-LOVE and the right to walk in this world THE WAY WE WERE CREATED.” – as told to Essence

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

 

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

 

“Clothes manifest CONFIDENCE. I’d never go out in sweats, for example,” she said. “I have a small waist, curvy hips, and a booty from Pilates — and I don’t mind showing them off in formfitting clothes.” – as told to InStyle

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

 

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

Danai Gurira, Jan Welters, Black Actresses, The Walking Dead

Jan Welters for InStyle Magazine

“Have a coherent VISION of yourself and your MISSION in life, and truly BELIEVE that you can CONQUER ANYTHING you face,” Gurira added. “That sentiment will translate in your walk and become your SWAGGER.” – as told to InStyle

[All caps are mine; not capitalized in the original sources]

Find Your Way Back to Your Spouse

I recently watched the Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams romantic movie, “The Vow”. It’s about a man’s journey to get his wife to fall in love with him again, after she loses her memory of their life together following a major accident. Apparently, the story is based on the real-life experience of an actual couple. Go figure!

After watching that movie, I thought about my marriage and other marriages out there. What would my husband have to do to get me to fall in love with him all over again, if I completely forgot who he was, and what our life is together? What would yours?

I guess the real question is, What is it about your spouse that made you fall in love at the beginning? Was it something he did or said? Was it the way she made you feel? Was it an instant attraction, or a work in progress?

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Let’s reexamine what made us fall in love with our spouses today, and celebrate them for it.

The funny thing is that, many times, we forget some of the things we fell in love with in the first place, because we stop looking at them and start looking at the negatives. Or, we become irritated by some of the things we fell in love with in the first place. Lol! How ironic is that? You loved that she took her time to make rational decisions while you were dating; but, now that you’re married, you hate that she is just so slow to decide on anything. You loved his drive and ambition when you were dating; but, now that you’re married, you resent the fact that you seem to play second fiddle to his career.

Take a deep breath today, take a trip down memory lane, and take some time to fall in love with your spouse for the amazing things you saw in him/her at the beginning. It’ll be worth it to find your way back to each other.

The Journey to Beautiful Series: Ijeoma Eboh

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.


Ijeoma Eboh

NAME: Ijeoma Beatrice Ugoma Eboh
AGE: 23

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: Nigeria
LOCATION:  New York, NY  
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: Ijeoma Eboh is all about external and internal health – because, really, who wants to have one without the other? This brilliant woman is pursuing a PhD in the History of Public Health – at only 23, straight from her undergraduate education at Harvard. Talk about bravery and direction! Plus, she works for a non-profit as an obesity health educator.

When she’s not putting on her cape for physical health, she’s crusading for self-love and internal health. Superhero status!!! At Klassy Kinks, Ijeoma’s on a mission to prove that tightly coiled, kinky hair is just as gorgeous, fly, and fabulous as any other hair type, in a world that often puts that hair category at the bottom of the totem pole. Sharing tips, documenting journeys, and bringing inspiration are all in a day’s work for this young woman.

Now, I know you really want to know her. :)


 

Ijeoma Eboh 2

WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 

I’m a value-driven, over-achieving, health conscious child of God who loves everything about black people.  

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?

I’ve always loved my legs; I think they are long, strong and elegant. I used to get teased about the size of my lips when I was younger, but now I love them!

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

I’m an incredibly hard worker, sometimes to a fault, but it means that I go, go, go; and then, every so often, step back and say to myself, “Yassss, you really did just do all of that hun-tey!” I also like that I laugh easily and heartily.  

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

I’ve most struggled to accept my athletic, non-curvy build that doesn’t fit the African female body stereotype. I used to be confused when I visited Nigeria and saw the thick bodies of all of my cousins, so I was self-conscious about my stick figure for some time. Now that being fit is in, I’m a bit better with my body acceptance, but honestly, it’s more because I don’t take time to think about it. Every once in a while, I temporarily wish for a bigger bra size, but then I remember that I’d have to buy all new lingerie, so I snap back to reality. Lol.

Ijeoma Eboh of Klassy Kinks

 

HOW HAS YOUR FATHER INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF?

Since I’m the only girl in my family, my dad has always paid me special attention and showered me with love. He instilled my notion of myself as beautiful, because he would tell me regularly as I was growing up that I was beautiful, just like my mom. 

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?

I’m terribly afraid that I won’t live up to my calling, and of leaving this world without accomplishing what God planned for me to do; so, I try to make the most of every day. I’m also afraid I won’t be able to repay my parents for all the sacrifices they’ve made for me.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?

My family brings me ultimate joy – we’re all so funny! Cooking delicious meals that put people to sleep also brings me joy.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

I think most people would say that graduating from Harvard, or entering straight into a PhD program after undergraduate studies were my greatest accomplishments, but for me, staying sane through an emotionally abusive relationship in college was pretty fierce.

Ijeoma Eboh of Klassy Kinks

WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?

When I’m wearing a brand new dress, especially if it hugs my hips.

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

People are beautiful when they are honest with themselves, which means living to please no one else.

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

I’m kind of living this wild life right now where I’m doing a whole bunch of different, unrelated things at the same time – I’m in graduate school; working with urban teenagers; the founding editor of a natural hair blog, and I’m also trying to have a vibrant enough social life so I can get married someday and have godparents for my kids. People have told me I’m crazy to be doing all of these things at once, but it’s what I feel like doing, and it’s what makes me happy. That’s beautiful. And every once in a while I buy a new dress. :)

WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?

The usuals – my momma, my aunt Beatrice, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, and my beautiful friends.


Ijeoma Eboh 4

Stay updated with everything Ijeoma & Klassy Kinks. Follow her here:

 

Facebook: Klassy Kinks

Instagram: KlassyKinks

Twitter: @KlassyKinks

Website: www.KlassyKinks.com

Tall Girls Are Only Beautiful When They Are Models

The average height for a woman in the United States is roughly 5 ft 4 in. The average height for women globally varies by country, but is typically in the 5 ft 2 in. to 5 ft 4 in. range. By contrast, the average height for a man in the United States is 5 ft 9.5 in.

Now, imagine, that you’re a young woman who stands tall at 5 ft 10 in, or even 6 ft. You’re so tall, you’re taller than the average American man! Do you feel confident, because you’re so beautifully unique and special, or do you slouch, shrink, and attempt to hide? Unfortunately, for many women, it is the latter.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people tell a tall girl or young woman that she should “be a model.” Because, of course, modeling is the only viable option for a woman who is much taller than the average. Because. if she’s a model, all that height finally counts for something, and becomes acceptable. Because if she’s a model, you automatically have a shift in your mind that changes her from “too tall” to “beautiful”. As if slapping the “model” title on someone is what suddenly validates her beauty, her uniqueness, or her existence. As if her presence is now – magically, suddenly – desirable! Ha!

I can’t express how deeply that irks me. It irks me to the core!

I know a few tall women, but 2 come to mind. They come to mind, because they are such beautiful and confident women that, when I’m around them, I suddenly want to be 6 feet tall. One of them walks into a room and literally commands it. She walks in with such confidence and poise, and speaks with such self-assuredness, that you want to be that tall. The other carries a presence with her that is regal, elegant, and such magic; it’s breathtaking! [Hi, Gi & April!!]

The amazing thing about both is that they credit their mothers with teaching them to own the beauty in their height. The former has stated that her mother was so insistent about posture and carrying oneself with self-confidence, that she would have her walk with a book on her head. Talk about practice for walking with a crown on your head! How beautiful is that?! Really!

So, the next time you look at a young woman who is taller than the average, and immediately blurt out, “You should be a model”, may be you should take a minute to reconsider. Because, really, she doesn’t need to be a model to have her beauty validated. Because she can be a teacher, a doctor, a surgeon, a writer, an author, a scientist … and move through life just the way she is. Because her height is just one of the amazing things that makes her the most beautiful girl in the world.

If you are a tall girl hoping to “be a model” one day because it’s the only chance you think you have to finally hear someone say that your height is perfect just the way it is, know that it already is. If no one’s said it, am telling you.

You are breathtakingly beautiful just the way you are. God made you so tall, because He wanted you close enough to Him to touch. He made you to pierce the clouds, because you are a STAR!

 

{Images via BellaNaija; Ladun Liadi; Gistus; FashionBombDaily}

The Journey to Beautiful Series: Nikky Mokobia

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.


Nikky Mokobia Green Beauty

NAME: Nikky Mokobia, sometimes known as Green Beauty
AGE: 28

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN/HERITAGE: American Nigerian
LOCATION: New York
WHY YOU HAVE TO KNOW HER: YouTube video personalities are a dime a dozen. With the rise of YouTube “gurus” and the amazing movement towards the acceptance of natural hair by many women of African descent, YouTube hair gurus are rising fast. However, Nikky Mokobia is not one of many – she is in a league all her own. Seeking to express her individuality and uniqueness through acceptance of her own natural hair, and falling in love with all things related to natural hair, Nikky decided to create a platform to educate women on how best to care for and grow their God-given hair. Refusing to be a purveyor of myths and what’s simply popular right now, Nikky takes an approach that’s refreshing: she backs up every bit of information she shares with scientific demonstration. This smart beauty has created GreenBeauty, a YouTube platform & hair product line, that “takes the guesswork out of hair care”. She’s a natural, and is poised to do even more amazing things. Keep you eye on her!


Nikky Mokobia Green Beauty

WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE? 

In a few words, I would say that I am kind, curious, impulsive, creative, clever and outgoing.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHYSICAL FEATURES?

My hair … of course :)

I’ve never really had a bad relationship with my hair.  I relaxed my hair for most of my life.  Then, I turned to weaves because they were easy to deal with.  [Eventually,] I got tired of blindly damaging my hair, and I noticed that I was starting to look like a clone.  I forgot what it felt like to walk outside without an artificial enhancer. I guess you can say, I rebelled. Lol.  I chopped off most of my lifeless hair and started educating myself on how to care for my natural hair.  What started as curiosity, turned into late nights in my campus’s library reading: books, dissertations and studies on the science of hair.  This newfound knowledge made me fall in love with my hair.

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

My mind is my most treasured asset.  Learning and mastering a new task makes me the happiest.  It seems like I’m always trying to find something challenging to do.  I chose to study Applied Statistics in grad school because it is a difficult field.  Most things I’ve chosen in life were chosen because they were difficult (education, school, and career).  It gives me a thrill to take on difficult and risky tasks because the reward of success is the real validation.

Nikky Mokobia Green Beauty

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

Physical, I would say my knocked knees.

As a kid I was so knock-kneed and pigeon-toed that I would trip over my own feet when I walked. Lol. If you look closely, you can still notice it.  But, it’s gotten a lot better as I’ve gotten older.

Non-physical trait, practicing patience.

I have a playful, youthful personality; so, at times I can be quite impulsive.  I make a lot of decisions based on a single feeling.  Having the patience to think things over, or simply wait in line for something, is challenging.  To be honest, it’s almost torture.  There’s a Nigerian saying that my Mom always says to me (high pitch voice; Nigerian accent), “Nikky, you do everything like Gra Gra Gra”. That’s probably not the right spelling, but it basically means that I rush everything. The struggle continues. Lol

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST FEARS?

Not being able to accomplish all my ideas. Making an idea come to life can be so challenging, it can seem impossible.  Ending up with a life where I did not go after and complete my ideas is a waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-a-cold-sweat type of nightmare.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST JOYS?

Challenging myself, connecting with people, eating, creating, traveling to new places 

Nikky Mokobia Green Beauty

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

I don’t think one accomplishment is greater than another. I have  a lot  more to achieve and learn in life.  But, it feels great to know that I’m helping others understand and care for their natural hair through my channel on YouTube “GreenBeautyChannel and through Green Beauty Products.

WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST BEAUTIFUL?

When I’m in shape, eating well and healthy. 

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

“Beautiful” is a state of mind. If you truly believe that you’re beautiful, you take better care of yourself and carry yourself differently. Beauty is having a correct understanding of who you are and loving every bit of it.   

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

I surround myself with like-minded, positive people; and pursue and complete things that I want, and that make me feel accomplished.

WHICH “BEAUTIFUL” WOMEN INSPIRE YOU MOST?

My Mother, for so many reasons.

My mom is the true definition of a lady.  Growing up, I had a mother that took care of herself on the outside (on point), but who was also very educated and well-spoken. She’s a high achiever and has a playful, youthful personality. She has been through a lot of obstacles. But, every time I have seen her fall, she quickly picks herself back up and goes after something even more challenging. I’m lucky that my personality mirrors hers.

 Nikky Mokobia Green Beauty's Journey to Beautiful


 

Stay updated with everything Nikky. Follow her here:

Facebook: GreenBeautyPage

Instagram:@greenbeautychannel

Twitter: @greenbeautytalk 

Website: www.greenbeautyproducts.com

INSPIRATION: Nneka Egbuna

From www.nnekaworld.com:

“Were she not a musician, Nneka might have made an excellent investigative journalist. Or perhaps she’d have been a philosopher. In truth, an element of both those disciplines informs her art. Because throughout her third album, Soul Is Heavy, Nneka constantly asks questions. She interrogates friends, her Nigerian countrymen, politicians, God, the universe… and, most importantly, she questions herself.

“It wouldn’t make any sense if I only pointed fingers,” she admits. Her music and attitude are probing, even confrontational, yet never didactic. “It’s important that you recognize yourself as part of the system, too, and that the only way we can make things work is by realizing we are part of the same entity.

“I’m always having little battles in my mind,” she continues, apropos of the struggles that shape her work. Everybody has their existential quandaries, but most people are content to wake up, go to work, have a few beers and play some video games in the evening, and watch the world go by. Not Nneka. “I’m the kind of person who always questions things. It has a lot to do with the way I brought up, and my surroundings.”

Born and raised in Warri, in the Delta region of Nigeria, Nneka Egbuna watched as the city and its citizens wrestled with the impact of new-found affluence. Three decades later, electrical blackouts are still a part of daily life in Nigeria, an oil-rich nation plagued by petrol shortages, where tribalism and disparity of wealth and political power further entrench divisions of class.

At the age of 19, Nneka left Africa to Hamburg University, where she studied anthropology even as her musical career was building steam. With its marriage of timeless grooves, contemporary technology, and 21st century black consciousness, her 2005 debut Victim Of Truth was lauded by the British press. “As good as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” trumpeted The Sunday Times. Its 2008 follow-up, No Longer At Ease, impressed rock star Lenny Kravitz so profoundly that he immediately tapped her to accompany him on tour. In 2010, selections from both albums—including the international hit “Heartbeat”—were compiled for her US debut, Concrete Jungle, which showed North America what the rest of the world already knew: Nneka is a unique, formidable talent to be reckoned with.

Written and recorded throughout the three year period following the release of No Longer At Ease, the fifteen selections on Soul Is Heavy were culled from a backlog of roughly fifty songs, many of which Nneka composed while back in Nigeria. They integrate myriad musical styles: reggae, hip-hop, modern R&B and vintage soul, Afrobeat, and even elements of flamenco and Sahara desert blues.

On “My Home,” triumphant brass and uplifting reggae rhythms illuminate the singer’s journey into the heart of darkness and an uncertain future. “That song is about your quest, searching for a place in life to feel comfortable, and not knowing where to go. And, in the end, realizing there is actually no peace on Earth until you accept that both bad and good are part of life. There is never total happiness, only a search for a healthy equilibrium between two extremes.”

The title song “Soul Is Heavy,” preceded the album’s release with a vibrant video reflecting its thought-provoking lyric, which invokes historic Nigerian revolutionaries including Ken Saro-Wiwa, Isaac Boro and Jaja of Opobo. While Nneka expresses frustration that the same social ills Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti addressed in his own work—oppression, corruption, oil exportation—still persist today, this inspirational anthem also charts a way forward. “Nigerians must stop separating ourselves from one another, despite the fact that we have 300 different dialects and tribes. Things would be better if we would see ourselves as one.”

Soul Is Heavy also features a pair of notable collaborations. “God Knows Why,” a hard-hitting song about hypocrisy, mental slavery, and the pitfalls of knowledge without questioning, features rhymes by Black Thought. “I felt he could relate to the context and content of the song,” says Nneka, who has performed with The Roots in the past. “I wouldn’t have to explain much to Black Thought—and that’s exactly what happened.” Mercury Music Prize and BRIT Award-winner Ms. Dynamite helps ignite “Sleep,” a cut inspired by Nneka’s battles with insomnia on the road, and the thoughts and feelings that keep her up at night.

On the album’s centerpiece, the insistent “J,” Nneka scrutinizes her own actions and motives alongside those of her fellow man. Amidst much soul-searching, she strives to project positive energy into the universe, and perform feats of emotional alchemy. “If you approach me with hatred, I will approach you with love. I have to be strong enough to transform that hate into love. And the more you hate me, the more I will love you, and the more I will make you love me.”

Nneka’s songs may begin with personal experiences and homegrown sentiments, but global appeal imbues her music and its messages. She transcends boundaries, both geographic and aesthetic. Regardless of the listener’s mother tongue, there is an immediacy to Nneka’s singing—be it pointed (“Don’t Even Think”) or poignant (“Stay,” “Do You Love Me Now”)—that anyone can appreciate. Nneka is indivisible from the world she inhabits, and her art reflects that on every level. “I am what you hear,” she concludes, succinctly. “I wouldn’t be able to separate my music from me.””


 

BEAUTY INSPIRATION:

Every time I see Nneka Egbuna, one word comes to mind, “unforced”. To me, she is the epitome of a woman who is totally comfortable in her own skin, and with the way she moves through the world. Whether she’s rocking the stage in pajamas, wearing her beautiful natural hair, or uncharacteristically glammed up for a magazine shoot, she looks exactly like herself. It’s so refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t look like she’s trying too hard – a woman who looks in the mirror and understands that what she sees is totally enough.

CAREER INSPIRATION:

Nneka’s music is nothing short of amazing! Really, it is! In a music industry belabored with catchy beats but senseless lyrics, she is one of the few singers that truly stands apart. Singing about everything, from politics to spirituality, Nneka’s music goes in deep, and doesn’t shy away from the truth. Always determined to have her music be a beacon of love, peace, truth, and justice, she isn’t afraid to take on governments in her music or force us all to think much more deeply.

What makes all this more amazing is that, well, she’s a woman. Count with me: how many singers with wide acclaim are achieving success without taking off their clothes, or aggressively pushing their sexuality. Cognizant of the power music has to transform and create change, Nneka is committed to using her music as a vehicle and platform for things that are truly worthwhile. Talk about living life on purpose!

SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION:

I, sometimes, think about the courage it must take to be a singer like Nneka. From addressing politically-charged issues that make her a governmental public enemy du jour to refusing to let her body and her looks be all she offers to the world, it takes a very very special kind of strength. I can only imagine the number of times she’s been told to tone it down. Or, on the other spectrum of things, to “sex it up.” After all, she is a really gorgeous woman! Through it all, Nneka understands that she is on earth for a reason and a purpose – and that, in the grand scheme of things, she really only has God to answer to!

We could all use a few lessons.  :)

 

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}

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