She Refused to Let the Expectations of Her African Household Stop Her from Moving to NYC

Outfit Details:

Top: Think Twice (thrift store)

Jeans: @nakdfashion

Shoes: Local boutique

Head wrap: @thewraplife

You are originally from West Africa, and moved to NYC from Belgium just last year. What was it like to move to New York by yourself? 

“Well growing up I have always dreamed of coming to New York, because I knew I had family here and I used to see pictures of the people living here and I was just in awe! People are so free here and people love to chase their dreams, so it’s just always been something that I wanted to do. Ever since I was a young girl, I set that goal for myself; when I graduate from college, I am moving to New York and that’s exactly what I did. I graduated college, packed my bags, and I left.”

That’s awesome! So everyone comes to New York City with a dream that they’re chasing. What is your big dream or goal for being here?

“I just want to be able to be successful and also inspire other women who have the same upbringing as I did, to just do as they please and to go after their dreams. I feel like growing up, in an African household especially, as a woman you’re usually told not to go after your dreams; you should settle down, just get married and have some kids and be a house wife. I never really wanted that! I felt like why should I settle for something like that? That’s not what I want to do! And I would always see women in America just doing their thing, and I knew that I wanted to do that too. I know I can do that too!”

So now you have a blog (chasing-her.com) and a YouTube channel! What made you start making videos and writing on your blog?

“I’ve been watching YouTube videos since I was 13. The first person I started watching actually was Taren Guy. She’s from New York, Brooklyn I think. So she was the first person I saw on YouTube, and after that a whole bunch of other women started following in her footsteps, and I was just in awe. I was like ‘oh my gosh, their hair is huge! And they’re so confident walking around with their big afros, and the way they make their videos.’ They were using products that I’d never even seen before. I knew that I wanted to do that too. They actually taught me how to take care of my hair and how to love my hair as well, which is why I went natural, to be honest. So now, after I went natural and [gained a following on Instagram], I get a lot of emails and messages from other women asking how I do my hair, what I use on my hair, so I decided to just make a YouTube channel so that I could help someone else figure out how to do their hair, just like these other women helped me do mine.”

What do you feel most accomplished for in your life right now?

“Honestly it would be moving out to New York, because if you know me personally and how I was brought up, it’s something that you just don’t do as a woman in my culture. You just don’t do that. You don’t leave your parents house and move to a different country on your own, and follow your dreams. So me being here, is like ‘woah, I can’t believe I’m still here!’ I did this all on my own. Financially, I did everything on my own; I was still a college student; I was working three jobs just to make money to get out here. I found a place by myself and I’m still in shock that I pulled it off! This is what I dreamed of when I was a little girl, and now I’m here. Dreams really do come true if you really want it and you work hard for it.”

What has been your greatest struggle in life? 

“Remembering to follow what I want and not to listen to other people. That’s definitely a huge struggle, especially when it comes to family. I feel like with family, they either support you or they don’t, and sometimes I feel like it can become a struggle when you want something and you don’t have that support system, so you’re just on your own. You know this is what you want, but you have to make that decision and just go for it. So that’s definitely been the biggest struggle.”

What is your biggest fear and why?

“My biggest fear is to lose who I am. I always tell this to people as well—always stay true to yourself. Even yesterday, I met a very lovely girl at an event and she said she followed me on Instagram. She asked me what’s key to making it on Instagram, and I honestly said ‘be yourself.’ As long as you are who you are, people will respect you for that. People will see that you love who you are, and they will love you for that. Because if you’re out here being something that you’re not, and just pretending or doing things just for Instagram, people will see through that and it’s not going to work out for you. And in the long run you’re going to get tired of it yourself! So then once you decide to be yourself, it’ll be hard for you to make that transition. So for me it’s always been important to be myself. When someone offers me a collaboration that I don’t believe fits me, I’m not going to do it, whether it’s a big brand or not. I want to stay true to who I am. And I feel like that’s what’s got me to where I am right now.”

What has been your greatest lesson in life?

“Just to be yourself. Love who you are, for who you are. And just work hard for your dreams. Don’t listen to people that tell you, you can’t or you shouldn’t. If you really want something, best believe if you really work hard for it, you’re going to make it happen.”

What is your favorite quote and why?

“I don’t remember exactly how it goes, but it’s something like ‘this too shall pass.’ I really live by that, because whenever I have a tough moment, that’s always the first thing I think of. Yeah, we go through a moment and we think that life is over, or this is it, but you just have to remember that this is only one moment in your life and it’s going to pass. There will be a tomorrow, and you’re going to wake up and feel better. You’re going to be able to look back on this day and wonder why you thought life was over at that moment. That’s how life is. You’re going to go through struggles to get to your success; you can’t just make it to success in one straight line. So whenever I’m going through something, that’s the first thing that pops into my head—this too shall pass.”

IG: @africanmelaninnn

By: Kacie Nelson

Coco Salako