Motherhood Interviews

Welcome to the deep dive in. We're happy you made it here. 

EBONEE

What is the inspiration behind this spoken word piece? 

The inspiration behind this spoken word, and a lot of what I’m doing right now, is divine feminine energy. Divine feminine energy on this planet has been oppressed through systems like patriarchy and capitalism. I really feel like it’s time for us to reemerge, reclaim our power, step into the forefront, and step into the light where we're supposed to be. 

I talk about my mother’s body being colonized, but it’s also sort of symbolic of the colonization of Mother Earth and the way we’ve robbed her of her riches. Although she continues to nourish us and provide everything that we need, we continue to exploit her. And the same way we treat her is the way we treat women - there has to be this entire healing that takes place that extends from the Earth and extends beyond ourselves. We have to see it as a collective effort. We have to see this healing that we do individually as a collective effort. 

I also talk about, “there will be no martyrdom, only celebration,” “there will be no sacrifice, only unconditional giving of self,” things like that. Those are things I saw my mother go through. I saw her be a martyr, I saw her sacrifice herself, I saw things taken from her, and again that goes back to the way we treat the earth as well. 

I saw her dance in the shadows. I healed those shadows because I was able to recognize them within myself and recognize that that energy also lived in me, which allowed me to be free and dance in the light. 

You’re an extremely successful and incredible model - why transition into spoken word? 

I’ve always loved spoken word. From the time I was super young I used to watch Def Jam poetry and it’s something that I’ve put on the back burner and forgot about while chasing this modeling dream. Then in quarantine I had time to sit down, and I realized there’s so many things from my childhood that really fulfill me and make me happy that I had forgotten about. I realized these gifts are for the world. These are tools to express myself in order for me to feel fulfilled on a soul level. These are things that I actually need to put energy into. Right now I want to focus my energy on these other outlets that I feel like can really express a truer part of myself. 

When I step on set typically I am taking on someone else’s ideas of who I should be. But when I do poetry it’s straight from the soul. I open myself up and channel from Source, and I get to share that with the world. I really get to be a vessel for God’s love. It makes me feel purposeful and powerful. 

Any goals for your poetry, where do you want to go with it? 

Right now I’m just enjoying the fact that I can tap back in - it brings me to that childhood place I was in where I was just super excited to create and wake up in the morning. I’m just like, “What can I do today?!” I’m just really enjoying this energy space that I’m in. I don’t know what can come of it. Maybe I’ll end up making an album or doing something bigger, who knows? But for now I’m really excited I got to be re-introduced to this part of myself and it almost makes me sad because I’m like, “Man, if we didn’t have this time in quarantine I would have missed out on this whole piece of who I am.” So in a lot of ways I’m lucky enough and privileged enough to look at quarantine as a blessing. I know that’s not the case for many people, but I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had with myself. 

When we step back into our power as women and balance the scales I think the Earth is going to be a better place for all people. I want to encourage everybody to do the healing work that they need to do so we can collectively ascend into a higher level of consciousness: a level of consciousness where we are respectful of the Earth and each other. Where we can live freely and everyone can have the pleasure of being exactly who they were created to be. 

JESSI

Your public vulnerability and honesty about the pregnancy loss has been inspiring yet also heartbreaking to witness. Why have you decided to publicly share your experience? 

Even before I got pregnant, I knew I really hated the “silent rule” where you’re supposed to be silent about it until you’re in the “safe zone” because of the risk. I just feel like that’s really backwards. I knew I was going to tell my close people immediately because I needed that support either way. 

I think the reason I was so vocal about the pregnancy loss was to de-stigmatize it, make it a part of the discussion, and help women know they have the right to grieve however they want. They don’t have to be pigeonholed into silence and shame the way they are today. I think the more of a discussion there is, the better it is for everyone.  

You are no stranger to loss. Where are you at now in the grieving process? 

Grief is messy and it’s not linear and I definitely, you know, losing my dad at 17 to cancer, made me grow up really fast and I’ve become seasoned at dealing with grief, but this loss is different. Of course all loss is different, there’s the physical layer to it, but it all kind of works the same way and it comes in waves. It’s not like you ever get through it: you’re always in it, you're just in a different capacity. I think you just get better at dealing with it. You get better at wearing your scars, whether you choose to wear them outwardly or inwardly. And you learn who this new version of you is, because it does change you. 

It’s a journey and I think it’s important to feel the wave, ride the wave, don’t guard it up because then you’re just going to explode. It’s important to have your meltdowns, and to feel your joy. And you shouldn't feel guilty for being happy one day, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not being over it. 

I know there’s a rainbow at the end of this, however we get there, so I’m definitely looking forward to that day. But I think one of the biggest lessons I learned and the most eye-opening piece of this is not only do you grieve the loss of your baby and that future, you also grieve any possibility of a joyful pregnancy the way that it should be. When I first got pregnant I was unadulterated joy - any anxiety I had was at bay, unlike anything I’d ever felt. I think that everyone who gets to experience that way should be so grateful because it’s so beautiful. I will never have that experience. 

I actually had my first post-miscarriage positive pregnancy test a few weeks ago and it ended up being a chemical pregnancy, and a miscarriage within the first few weeks. But those first days where I was pregnant again... I realized before it was joy sprinkled with the reality that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and now any future pregnancy will be all of those other emotional layers with sprinkles of joy.

What advice/thoughts can you share with other women who are experiencing a similar loss?

You’re not alone. I know it feels like that but so many women have been through this and seeking them out whether that’s family, friends, acquaintances, or books, podcasts, social media accounts. However you choose to - whether it's actively engaging with these folks or passively consuming their stories, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re not alone because it's very easy to dive into an isolation hole and it’s so much better on the outside of that. 

Second, take each day by day. There’s a lot of waiting with pregnancy loss - you wait for your body to heal, your mind to heal, you wait to menstruate, for test results, ovulation tests, everything is the waiting game. And it can be overwhelming to think of all of the steps you have to take until you can move forward. Waiting to be ready to try again, waiting to try again... and so I think it’s important to be proud of your little healing milestones. Know you're a badass and you're going to get through this stronger than you were. And don't let the entire awfulness consume you. 

Anything else you want to add? 

Thank you for being an outlet for this because it’s so commonly hidden. I think it’s really important to share this aspect of Motherhood because it is 1 in 4 pregnancies.  

 SYNMIA

You are a mother, doula, herbalist, and all around powerhouse - how do you balance it all and maintain space/time/energy for Self?

That’s the billion dollar question. Taking time for myself. Making sure that I make it a very important thing, as important as taking care of my kids. Because if I'm not well, they're not well. My time is early morning or late evening, so I make sure I get my meditation, my stretching, journaling, reading, whatever I need to do for Self, and then I'm off technology for the day. Then once they go to bed I have that time for myself again. 

It's funny because after this past year, I've learned we’ve been conditioned to think that having time for yourself is actually working on another thing, when it really should be taking baths, not reading any books, not listening to podcasts, or not doing anything except being inside of your body. So it was a nice switch up this past year to redirect my focus on not just my passions but being passionate about myself. Allowing yourself to feel your body. Because being a mother is about doing...forever! You’re constantly doing something. To be able to have that moment to just breathe, feel your breath, feel how your muscles feel in your body, think, “Oh man, maybe I do need to get some body work done, maybe I do need a soak, maybe I do need to switch up my diet.” That's the only time we really have to tune in. 

If we're constantly needing to finish this book, start this project, etc. you know we’re really just drowning ourselves more in tasks. It's very essential to take time for Self. Even if you don't have kids. Self is more important than money. It's the very form of meditation. Some meditative states ask you to hum certain sounds, do certain breath work, or hear certain instruments. Some just require you to be in your body and just allow whatever to come out. That meditation is the real cleansing because you're not doing anything. It's like being pregnant: your body is doing things without your permission and you're forced to take a back seat and actually listen. So you can live with intent, instead of performing. 

I think in this culture - and how our planet has been so westernized - we’ve become performative. Everything that we do has to result in something, and we forget that something is well-being: this light we’re facilitating, this love we're putting upon ourselves - so that we can literally give to others. And we don't feel like we're giving them anything because we're so full of it. It's cyclical isn't it? It's this big synchronicity, it's this big cycling act. I love it.

I know you didn’t grow up with a mother, so wondering what does Mother mean to you? 

The three words that came to my Spirit are Intentional, Spontaneous, and just being present. I know by actually doing that's really the only rules you need on being a Mother - everything else doesn’t really apply. 

We’re a different civilization, we’re raised differently, and I think we need to get out of this idea of being an ideal mother. Instead we need to step into this feminine entity, because that feminine energy is nurturing, and then we can actually be the mother that we’ve always wanted to be - or always wanted to have. So I take little tidbits of different feminine energies I see around, and how they nurture whoever or whatever. And then I use that in my own life and apply it to my family and my kids. 

I think that being a mother is breaking down this patriarchal view of what the mother is. Stepping into your feminine energy, and by stepping in you also embrace your masculine energy. You know without one there's not the other. They both feed each other. It's that cycle feeding into this perfect ecosystem we’ve created on this planet. 

All of these things that the feminine energy is, we just brush under the rug because we're told, “This is what it means to be a woman, or to be what you are.” I’m stepping into that and setting my boundaries and actually defining who I am in this world as a feminine energy. Once we can step out of these color realms, gender realms, and sexuality realms, we can really step into who we are supposed to be on this planet. And get some shit done, cause we got some shit to do! 

Mother to me, deep, deep, is just the divine. Everything begins and ends with us. We are the gatekeepers of life and death. We are the embodiment of the masculine and the feminine. We are actually a reflection of this planet and the love on this planet, and the resources. I feel that we are a reflection of that because of the ways our body works, right? We’re able to produce humans, our bodies can clean themselves, we go through so many different transitions and rights of passage. Mother to me is stepping away from patriarchal ideals of being what a mother is, and stepping into what being this divine feminine energy is. More than that - being the direct representation of what balance is. So it's not the little things we do, it's not doing, doing, doing, but it's, “Who are we, and how do we reflect who we are and our love out to our family?” Which then reflects their love and who they are out to civilization. 

So I think as a mother we really have a huge responsibility, but we get to take it for ourselves. Now we don't have to say, “Oh well I should be this, that, and the third,” because we know that the patriarchy just placed these burdens on us to keep us in the system to help them thrive. So now it's up to us to save this planet by raising these beings the way we see fit. And the only way we can tap into that is through balancing within ourselves - taking time for our Self - and also through meditation. I really feel like the answers - I can’t give people answers - the answers are there within you. I can help with the tools to get to the answers, but those answers on how to be the mother you should be to your family or to your community, is within that individual person. So when I think about motherhood, I think about empowerment, rites of passage, clarity, nourishment, nurturing, medicine. All of these things that, unfortunately you don't see anywhere else. You know males don't have it, they have a very different role in this society than we do. So Go Moms!

How can we all tap into Mother? 

It’s the triad, right? In Christianity they have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It's this triad that’s perfect and they all feed into one another. We allowed Big Brother, society, and the industrialized world to break these things down and separate them. But the Mind, Body, Spirit are one and they all feed into one another. It’s not, “Oh I need to fix my Body and then I can get my Mind together, and then for my Spirit, the clouds will open up and God will be like, “Hey you’re doing a good job!” It’s not like that - you’ve got to tap into all three in order to feel really enlightened, empowered, pure, happiness, bliss, peace - all of these things we’re striving for.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to add that healing is a  process. I know that everybody is on this healing journey, and I'm sending everyone blessings, but with that know that this process isn't always good. There's some darkness, and the healing journey is about working through the darkness. It's not about ignoring it. So I encourage people who are on this healing journey to lean into the darkness. Have support, have resources, have those tools to pull you out when the vortex gets too deep, but know that this is all a part of the process. And your process is going to look differently than someone else’s and no one can tell you how you can heal better than you can heal yourself. This is just for all the social media healing that's going on these days. It's just certain things I feel like we need to remember - that it's not just a quick click with the healing! 

I used to love Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go, and they said, “Life is a great balancing act.” I really love that quote especially because of motherhood and after this pandemic. I think everyone had that rude realization that it is just us. There's no tribe, there's really not a community, you can't depend on any outside sources except for yourself. So with that in mind, really being intentional and adamant about carving the time out for yourself, so you can be supportive of your family and feel strong, right? 

A lot of mothers feel really tired. We’re exhausted, our adrenals are blown out, our nerves are frayed, and obviously this is because of the system we live under, but also we don't’ make enough time for ourselves and we think like, “Oh I should be hustling or working or straightening up this closet or reorganizing our kids thing.” But really we should just delegate that task to our partner or family member, because it's very much their child just as much as it's yours. Or say this can wait. These are my times to do these things, my times are during the day time, and then taking my early morning and late evening to really cultivate myself. Because if I don't cultivate myself nobody will help me cultivate that soil. It's really up to me. 

MAMA WANG

Kelly: Does the Dao discuss Motherhood at all? If so, what does the philosophy say? 

Mama Wang: Dao is Mother. Basically, the Dao is Motherhood in the sense of nourishing all things. Help things to transform, to develop, and to grow. 

Kelly: What is your favorite part about being our mother?

Mama Wang: Mainly learning from you, because you bring new knowledge, new technology to me. Help me to grow and help me to understand American culture better, to understand the world better, and to connect me with my students. You’re the guinea pigs.

Kelly: What is the most important thing your mother taught you? 

Mama Wang: Oh! To be good and fully realize your own potential. To be good to do, you know, function well. 

Kelly: Since we’re here, what does Ziran 自然 mean? 

Mama Wang: There’s two meanings: one meaning is self-so and a sense of spontaneity. Another one is nature, everything has their own natural state. Myriad things, the world, each individual, all have something within themselves. Their own uniqueness and specialties. This is the actual meaning of Ziran. 

Kelly: I want to talk about Tiger mom -- we’ve clashed a lot over your intensity and bluntness and how direct and brutal you can be. Is this a cultural thing and where do you think it comes from? 

Mama Wang: I think the Tiger mom thing we have to look at two ways: there’s the positive way because it gives children structure and directions. The children have to be guided in some way, right? But if you overly do Tiger mom then that can be a problem. There is a cultural difference - how do you be successful? Every mother wants their children to be successful - one type of successful is all about talent, another thing is through discipline and hard work. So here is mother. Mother is playing the role to help children to establish proper habits and learn ways to do good work. Help forming who this person really is. 

Kelly: Yeah but you could say that for anybody. Why specifically do a lot of Asian mothers carry this? Why are Asian mothers so fucking brutal? 

Mama Wang: There is something about American culture always wanting to feel good, nothing else. From you growing up, from elementary school, everything you can only process are these kinds of compliments, you cannot accept some sort of criticism. The idea of “be what you want to be” is a delusion.

Ok I do think Tiger Mother can be a little bit overdone, but I do think pretending and promoting a sense of Ziran: give children direction but also allow children to be themselves, to be Ziran. The best combination is both. I just think this is a problem of how we understand how individuals growing. I guess American culture is sometimes delusional. Asian culture might be too strict, too structural, so could be suffocating. But I think the best way is to be in between, let's have good synergy. 

Mindy: You being from China, and then coming here to America, and raising children in a foreign country, what was your experience? 

Mama Wang: Oh it’s hard, it’s not easy because you feel you are in constant tension with teachers, with external outside influence, with what you think should be done. There’s tension. Just felt like I was always sending you loose. 

Mindy: How have your values as a mother transitioned from 30 years ago when you had me and Kelly versus now, and what is important to you as a mother now versus then? 

Mama Wang: I think back then I’m a little tense, a little worried, seeing if you had a good habit, remember Mama Wang 4 principles? 

Kelly: Yeah, say the 4 principles!

Mama Wang: Eat well, plenty of sleep, exercise, do well in school. 

Kelly: And then we would say what about our happiness? 

Mama Wang: Well, if you can do the four things then you’ll be happy! 

Now I feel like its more relaxed, more calm, to enjoy your successful life. More watching mode and looking at you and trying to guide you. 

Mindy: So still guiding! 

Mama Wang: No, now it's not still guiding.

Mindy: What are your hopes for me and Kelly if we’re lucky enough to become mothers ourselves?

Mama Wang: Oh, that’s the question I would ask for you. When you become mother, what are you going to keep, what are you going to eliminate? 

Mindy: Wait, you didn’t answer my question.

Mama Wang: I did. 

Kelly: She just answered it by asking another question!

(Mindy asks the question again)

Mama Wang: To be a competent, good, lovely mother. Be caring, nourishing, and to have boundaries, to help your children to grow. 

Kelly: Wow ok, it’s good on paper.

Mama Wang: What kind of things will you continue to do like your mother, or not do what your mother did? Basically, how do you copy your mother? 

Kelly: I will always have my kids back like you did, and that unconditional love and dropping everything and putting your kids first and just being down for us super hard. I would eliminate the micromanaging, the brutal comments about things that don’t matter, like physical appearance things or like, “You’re not going to college because you hung out with your friends and took star shots photos.” Maybe choosing what fights to pick and what to let go. 

Mindy: I literally cannot agree more. 

KATHRYN + HELEN

How did you two meet?

Kathryn: We met on OkCupid in 2013. Helen was wearing a gold lame suit, laying in a bathtub, and holding a bottle of champagne in her profile pic.

Best thing about being mothers? 

Kathryn: I feel like before you have a kid everyone says, “You’ll never know a bigger love, and it’s the hardest work,” but I feel like no one says how much fun it is. We have a blast. Everyday we laugh, we giggle, we delight at this guy. We have fun. That’s the best part. And human life, growth, creation….A+ on that too. 

Helen: Yeah I think getting to watch a human create himself in front of your very eyes is very mesmerizing, it's better than any TV you've ever watched. It’s an amazing thing.  

Common misconceptions about same sex parenting? 

Kathryn: We are two moms. One of us is not the dad. We’re two moms. We’re two people with different energies, different points of views, different styles. It’s just two parents that happen to be same sex. But sometimes people will say, “Whose the dad?” and we’re like, “We don’t have one. We have dads, we love our dads, but we don’t have one.” 

It's a lovely moment to educate, I don’t get upset by it. It’s a relatively new thing for people. It’s okay. 

Any advice for other same sex couples looking to have children? 

Kathryn: Just do it. Don’t let the science scare you either. In the beginning of the process you spend so much time thinking about DNA and sperm and egg and what do we do? And once you have your little person you never think about it again. Every once in a while we’re like, “Oh my god we made you in a lab,” but he’s like this little dude and if anything we made him with just as much love as anybody else. And attention, and detail. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Kathryn: Be on the same page as your partner. And if you’re not on the same page with your partner, get on the same page. Or make a new page. Being a parent is a 24/7 thing and if you love and trust your partner you can’t go wrong. Like if you’re down for the count then you’ve got a loving and trusted partner that will take over. We definitely have that with each other. We have departments. 

CHAUNTICE + MIA

What are some challenges + opportunities you face as a stepmother/mother figure to Mia? 

Chauntice: Just wondering if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m getting it right, and teaching her things that could really help her develop who she wants to be, as well as teaching her things I know from experience in life. 

I've known Mia for the past 7 years. I was pretty young, you know 22/23, when we both came into each other's lives. And it's a really interesting phase to be that young and to make the decision to not have a child and then realize the importance of stepping into the responsibility of raising one. The last couple of years have definitely been important in our relationship growth, and we just get closer and it's great. I love it, I love you, so much. 

Same question but for you Mia! 

Mia: Like her answer, but on my side, I saw her as a girl that my dad met. And I didn’t know how long she was going to stay and I didn’t want to get attached, but then I did and I really loved it when I did. I was so happy when she stayed, so happy. I love every minute with her, even when we bicker. I still love her throughout everything. Even in some situations when I don’t agree with her I still love her so much. And then later I have to admit, I don’t want to, but I have to admit...that she’s always right. 

Chauntice: I think what’s cool is that we’ve developed our own relationship outside of her dad, and life is full of - you never know what’s going to happen - and I think it’s important for both of us that we both know that no matter what we are stuck with each other. I let you know that. 

Mia: I’m not stuck with you, you’re stuck with me. 

Chauntice: And we’re growing up together, what more can you ask for? And we’re learning together, and I am always right. And sometimes it’s nice to let you be right. I’m just kidding. 

Our day to day focuses on responsibility and understanding the importance of the choices we make, and what happens when we make those choices. Like, “Look, you get to do what you want, but understand when you make choices that come with things, good and bad, and you have to be ok with that.” 

Mia: With every action there’s a reaction - you’ve been teaching me that for years. I’m still trying to catch on. 

Chauntice: We’re going to get there, it’s fine. That’s the focus - we want her to be who she wants to be but we also want her to be comfortable with the choices she’s making and most of that has to do with like, “You knew you were supposed to do the dishes and you didn’t, so where do we go from there,” that kind of stuff that all trickles down. We see it in something as little as that to something as big as forgetting homework for a week. 

Mother-daughter roles, or sisters sometimes too?

Mia: She can be a sister sometimes but she's a mother when she gives me rules and responsibilities, which I’m very thankful for but don’t always love at the time. But I’m going to love it later and be so glad she taught me. 

Chauntice: She’s a smart little girl, she’s so emotionally intelligent, a lot of adults aren’t even this emotionally intelligent. We can have really real conversations about life and I think that’s where the big sister feelings come. We are able to have a friendship - 

Mia:  - a conversation with no bounds and no hate. 

What do you love about Mia? 

Chauntice: I love Mia’s big heart, she will love anybody and everybody - she wants to help and wants to give, and that’s something you can’t teach a child. That’s just in her. She’s the warmest, kindest child and I’m so blessed to know her and be a part of who she's going to be, because whoever she wants to be, whatever she decides to do, is going to take over the world. I can’t wait to be a part of that, I’m so excited. I get to be a part of that, so thank you. 

Mia: You’re welcome, you're a part of my life, it’s an award. 

What do you love about Chauntice? 

Mia: What I love most about Chauntice is she keeps me in line, and even when she’s keeping me in line she's always on my side. She never does things like, “You’re supposed to do this and you didn’t so why didn’t you.” Say I got into a punishment she will be like, “You wanna watch a movie with me?” 

Chauntice: - that sounds like I don’t have any backbone! 

Mia: You do, you have a lot of backbone, you’re just really nice. 

Chauntice: Yeah the punishment - it's about building moments. As long as we're building moments together, punishment or not, that's what’s important and what’s important to me is that we share those moments together. 

Mia: Yeah, also what I love about Chauntice is her creativity. When I would go on set with her I would just observe her, she looks like she's having so much fun and is in control, I love that so much. 

STELLA

What has your mom taught you that you teach your children? 

There’s always something to learn. Surround yourself with individuals you can take notes from, and make yourself the best version of you. 

I believe you are ethnically mixed and your partner is too. How does this mix of cultures play into parenting? Want to share specific elements of your cultures that you teach your children? 

I am Bangladeshi. My partner is Panamanian. So the kids are ethnically mixed. 

The thing about having such a nice mixed family is that cultures are all about rituals. We have these rituals because they help us get in touch with our histories, our identities, just fall in love with ourselves more. So to share that with our kids is giving them a tool to really enjoy life in the future. Whether that’s through the vibrant dishes we’re eating, our music, our arts, or even just our native tongues, there’s something they’re getting familiar with about their history and their ancestors. There’s something so beautiful about that.

Not just with our cultures, but we also think it’s so important to approach the entire world that way - just understanding other cultures and really embracing that. There’s so much more you can be when you’re a more curious individual. 

Advice for other mothers? 

When it comes to motherhood, especially for those that are newer, definitely listen to the rules you feel will apply to you, not every rule is for you. Make it your own, otherwise it’s going to be a mess.  


CHIHARU

You lost your mom at a young age, and now you’re a young mom, what’s one thing you wish she had a chance to see in your life? 

Chiharu: I mean, any little moment we could share. So amazing with kids and I never had any experience, and now I have a baby, she had 4 babies, and I think it was so hard but she did it really good. Any little moment I want to share with her. 

What does Zen 善 mean? 

Chiharu: “Simply good.” To be better.  

As an immigrant to the US, what are some of the biggest differences in parenting you’ve noticed between the US and Japan? 

Chiharu: Definitely diversity. Japan doesn’t have this many people, same places, share different countries. Japan is really small, has beautiful stuff, and a good education. But here we can share the whole country. 

Is the way people parent different? Japanese VS US Mom? 

Chiharu: Yes, I think so but this is my first time too. I don’t really know how they do it but I feel like the Japanese are so careful, here it’s more “Ahhhhhh!” People are more open and try to do so many things. Japan has many little rules, you can do this, you can’t do this. But here it's more open.

Do you think you raise Zen like a Japanese mother or a mix of Japanese-American, now that you’ve been here for awhile? 

Chiharu: I think more like Japanese. When I was in Japan I wanted American because so many things are beautiful. But now I see things differently. I want to learn more about everything. I want to give him Japanese culture too. 

Tell us about the pants you made for Zen!

Chiharu: This character (善) is Zen, his name. This one (生) is kanji meaning, “Life.” This one "Wu Wei" (無為) is part of the meaning of Ziran and means "action by non-action". Really simple - I want kids to have a good life. I want to tell you a good message in these pants! 

What is Babyshine? 

Chiharu: Babyshine is what I want for children. Educate children, young age is really important. Now I have a baby and they are so pure, nothing, they take everything so clearly. If I say something, they take it and then they do it. It’s so important how you teach them. If you teach them peace - I want world peace, a better place - if I teach that they take, and then they do it. That's what we need. That's what I do for Babyshine. I tell the world. 

AKUA + REBECCA

What prompted you to start a business together? 

Rebecca: When Akua was in high school she started experimenting with her style and upcycling and modeling vintage clothes. I had a machine so I started helping her with that. She started wearing those items to school and her friends were interested and wanted items themselves, and so we started sewing for them. And eventually she came to me and was like, “Ok Mom I think we can turn this into a business.” She saw that I was self-employed as a lawyer, her dad was self-employed as a musician, so she knew that she could be an Entrepreneur and it was something we would support her in. So then we turned the business into a brand and came out with a youth collection called Urban Nomad and had that on the Etsy shop and then when she got ready for college in New York at Parsons, we decided to grow up the brand, re-brand the brand, and really focus on what we feel is our strength, which is storytelling. 

Akua: Yeah my mother has been supporting me along this journey! It’s been an interesting ride but I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. 

What’s the best thing about creating as a family? Worst? 

Rebecca: I think the best thing - because it is family - is we’re conscious of creating a heritage brand. We want to create a legacy brand that is an inheritable asset, and so we’re really conscious of that. So come hell or high water we’re family and we have that as the end goal. I think that what can be difficult at times, is because we’re close and you are working with a close family member, so when there are differences and disagreements I think you have to really remember, “What is the end game here and what are we really trying to do?” It’s not just for our generation, it's for the generations down the line. So that’s what really motivates us to keep working together, and it also helps us work on our own family bond as a mother and a daughter. It helps develop and nurture that as we work on the collections and the stories, uncovering these nuanced stories in the Black experience, but also in our own family lineage. 

Akua: I think that it’s very sacred. My mother has always emphasized the importance of culture and family for me growing up. So us working together and focusing on legacy - and understanding that this is bigger than us - we’re doing something that’s going to live on beyond our time here. I think that having that type of upbringing has made it pretty easy to get along. But at the same time, when you know there’s that pressure of what you’re trying to do, it also has its ups and downs. But I think honestly it’s really beautiful. 

How do you impart Folk + the Black Experience into the House of Aama? What messages do you convey?

Akua: House of Aama really focuses on the Black experience and storytelling in general. I come from a very spiritual hoodoo voodoo background growing up. For us that’s easy because it’s how we express ourselves, these are the stories that are dear to our hearts, these are the stories I grew up on. So when we decided to create the brand and really focus on our strong suits, which is storytelling, we knew there were narratives we wanted to tell - especially from the Black American experience and the Black African diaspora experience. So for us it’s really easy to incorporate these folk narratives and incorporate storytelling because we see ourselves as folklorists first and that’s how we identify, so we're really just using the garments as a medium to express these narratives. 

Rebecca: We’re just continuously inspired by those nuanced histories. I’m reading Their Eyes Were Watching God again by Zora Neale Hurston because I’m continuously inspired by the imagery that she creates in her story, the language she creates in her story, the whole environment that is in her stories that the people live in. And so when we create our collections that’s also a part of our whole process: we create an environment, we create caricatures, we look at the flora and fauna that these characters would live in, we look at the foods that they would eat, what their whole world looks like. From there we move into identifying what from those aspects we want to pull into the collection, or have in the collection be based on. Also Octavia Butler is really pivotal to us because Octavia allows for people, particularly women and people of color, to see themselves in the past, present, and future. And so we see ourselves living in all of those spaces at the same time simultaneously. So when we look at our collection that we’re creating, we consider them to be timeless but also to live in a modern environment and have a modern relevancy. So I would say those two authors, among others, are very pivotal for us and where we draw our inspiration from when we’re creating.  

Akua: Yeah, and I would say one little thing even from just our personal family experience, and our last collection Bloodroot, we really focused on what was “hidden in plain sight,” and the concept around southern women, parlor women, southern belles, but also them juxtaposed with being hoodoo workers and root workers. That’s something I’ve seen a lot among African American communities and diasporic communities. I think it’s really interesting, those nuances, and I think it’s really important to highlight them because a lot of times when you meet someone there's so much more depth to them and it’s important to focus on that. 

Rebecca: Yeah and I also think it’s important, particularly in the African American community here on this continent, because a lot of times people focus on what was lost. But actually there’s a lot of retention. If you can only recognize what you’re looking at, there's an incredible amount of retention in terms of spiritual content, folk narratives, mythology - that is just hidden in plain sight. In the church, in the food, just in the mannerisms and the speech, we really feel it's our duty actually, as “Daughters of the dust,” in the medium we are operating in - which is textiles - to bring those stories to life. 

Akua: I feel like for us our strong suit, especially for the returning customers, are people that really relate to the story and are looking to buy something that has sentimental value. You know when you’re buying a piece from our type of collection you’re not just buying a beautiful garment, you're buying a story, you're finding your own self within the story. I think that's something really important. It is hard sometimes. When you're making beautiful pieces regardless of the story, which we're all doing, people can just focus on that. But I think it's our duty, especially as POC, for people to understand we're making clothes and this is a business. But there's so much more depth and meaning to it beyond just going into capitalism. I think that we're doing these things because it feels like our birthright and it's very meaningful for us. We have to tell our stories. 

Rebecca: Yeah and I think just in terms of the price point and pricing, I think we’ve been conscious to have price points that are aspirational, price points that are affordable, price points that could meet a range of different people at different levels. I think we do have to value our work and value our content. We have to put a value on what’s appropriate and not undervalue ourselves. 

Where do you see the brand in 5 years? 10? What is the ascension? 

Rebecca: We’ve always endeavored to have a lifestyle brand. Granted we’ve started with clothing but we are definitely looking to see how we can branch out from clothing into other types of product offerings and also experiences. So when we are projecting into the future and looking 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the line, we're looking at how House of Aama is living as an expression and an experience. It could be a range of different types of offerings, but also experiences as well. Because we really do see House of Aama as an experiential brand. 

Akua: We’re just trying to think of ways people can get into the narrative and the story beyond just clothes, and I think that's so important. We're thinking of the longevity of the brand. People want to buy into it for different reasons, whether that's home goods, maybe a little shop, there's so many ways to go about it. I think we're really open to what that's going to look like for us. 

A lot of mentors tell me we actually are going the right way building strong foundations and strong stories. If you were to look at our brands there's no way you can say we don't have a focus, and that we don't understand who we are, our consumer, or what were trying to say. It's always going to be beyond clothes and that means our possibilities are endless. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Rebecca: Just a new excitement everyday! You know having this business really is having something new everyday, and we have to be thankful and grateful for that and in 2021 that we are thriving. We actually expanded our business during the pandemic and I know that that's not everyone's narrative and were conscious of that for ourselves. We're grateful that we are here in 2021 better than we were in 2020.  

WHEW, IF YOU MADE IT THIS FAR WE ARE IMPRESSED. IT'S NICE TO GO DEEP SOMETIMES, RIGHT? 

All talent interviewed by Kelly Wang Shanahan
Photos by Kanya Iwana