fashion | beauty | 2 november 2017
what does beauty mean to you? lara daly chats to new face Wumi Amokeodo about perceptions of beauty, body positivity & growing up.
photographs & styling: megan alexander
interview: lara daly
hair: henare davidson quaife
make up: lara daly
What does beauty mean to you?
I used to think it was purely aesthetic, but now I reckon it’s just a vibe someone radiates… something striking.
What has shaped your perception of beauty?
Growing up with such a narrow view of beauty was completely detrimental to me. I used to want long, straight blonde hair up until I was about 14 then I realized that was not an option. I had to actively surround myself with images of a wider range of people. I think Tumblr actually changed my perception of beauty because it exposed me to more body positive things. Especially when the Black Girl Magic movement got really big on Tumblr, just seeing pictures of these women looking happy and comfortable with themselves changed my perception.
When do you feel most beautiful?
When it’s sunny! I feel happy and I want to wear colourful things. It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when the suns on your skin.
If you could go anywhere where would it be?
I’d like to travel and teach English abroad. I have an obsession with Brazil, I’d love to go there. I watched this documentary and apparently most of the slaves that were brought over to Brazil were from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, which is the same as me.
"Kids at school would roast me for being a bit of a weirdo."
What would you want to say to your 13 year-old self?
Kids at school would roast me for being a bit of a weirdo. Especially in London there was a lot of pressure to conform. I would sit in the library and read 1950s French books wearing hand me down suede Converses from my mum and people would be like, where’s your Nikes? And now everyone pays ridiculous amounts of money for shoes I got picked on for wearing. So I’d congratulate myself for not giving in to what everyone else thought was cool.
What was your experience like growing up in a mixed family?
My mum was the white parent and a single mother. She always encouraged me to embrace my Nigerian roots but I really rejected them. Now I’m older I realize how difficult it would have been for mum to see her kid rejecting a huge side of herself, and not be able to do much about it. Cos obviously she doesn’t know what it means to be black or Nigerian, she couldn’t provide that side of my upbringing. Then again, my Nigerian family didn’t know what it was like to be half white. I grew up without clear reference points for how I should be which is very confusing as a child.
Did you and your mum talk about this a lot?
Often. But then I’d just say I don’t really see myself as black. Or like, I really hate my hair I want to shave it off. Talking to my friends who are mixed about this now, I realize how hard it is for all parents of multi-ethnic kids when it comes to children’s identity. It’s complex!
"I realize how hard it is for all parents of multi-ethnic kids when it comes to children’s identity. It’s complex!"
What was that like for you growing up in London?
In London a lot of people are mixed so it’s nothing unusual. I was used to the diversity so I didn’t think about race in a self-aware sense? You’re like ‘racism is bad’ and that’s the extent of it. In high school people would be like, “why do you act so white? Go back to your roots”. People were confused as to how to perceive me and I didn’t even know myself. Coming from a real diverse area I didn’t realise I’d be a minority elsewhere. I was oblivious to the fact that others had privileges I didn’t and vice versa.
When did you start to reflect on that?
When I came to New Zealand. I moved to Whangaparaoa, which is a nice beachy suburb where the majority was white and there were very few people of African descent. I was a curiosity at school for a while, “so you’re English, but you’re black…” I had this moment doing my hair in the mirror where it hit me that I was every bit as black as I was white. It took being one of the only brown faces in the classroom to realise that ignoring my ethnicity wasn’t an option.
"I had this moment doing my hair in the mirror where it hit me that I was every bit as black as I was white."
Was it a shock moving from London to Whangaparaoa?
Oddly not! I was 14 when I moved and it was a really seamless transition. School in London was pretty awful. It was very authoritarian and devoid of celebrating any sort of individuality which I struggled with. Kids in London were tough, they grow up very fast. I remember being shocked about kids in New Zealand wearing backpacks and sandals, you would get roasted in London for wearing a backpack to school! Girls wore these huge tacky handbags from age 12. In New Zealand you could just do things because they were practical or you enjoyed it, in London it was all about image.
What’s inspiring you at the moment?
Since I’ve started doing an acting course I’ve been really intrigued by the way people move and just observing their vibes. Like if they look tense or carefree how it translates into how they move. I’ve always been into acting but I've started to take it seriously now which is scarey cos it means I’m considering it as a career and possibly being broke for the rest of my life! I think entering any creative industry is a bit scarey, but you’ve gotta go for it and see how it goes.
Megan Alexander: @megan_patriciaz
Lara Daly: @lara.daly
Henare Davidson Quaife: @henaresss
Wumi Amokeodo: @wumi.amokeodo
The Others Agency: @theothers.agency
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