Smooth + Confidence Series 01

To Be Carefree
+ Careful

All Photos taken by Abbas Sabur

All Photos taken by Abbas Sabur

Since Hanahana launched in March, I've always wanted to create a little platform where black women's skin, voices + stories could be highlighted. My first thought was to write a newsletter each month, interviewing different black women. But instead, I created the Hanahana Beauty blog, The Journal, and now we're here with our first Smooth + Confidence Photo Series.

The Smooth + Confidence series is not just about the pictures but also about the voices and stories of black women, from Dumbo, Brooklyn, to Accra, Ghana. It's important for our words and stories to be captured with our pictures, especially as black women.

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For the first interview series I was blessed to be able to talk with three carefree yet careful black women I know, Yaminah MayoShiara Robinson + Isabel Baylor. We will be focusing on the idea of being a carefree black woman in the same instance of being careful. Sometimes people feel that in order to be carefree you cannot be careful, but I think that as young, independent, millennial black women we are figuring out that it is possible, day by day. For me, behind every curve of my smile or even the bounce of my braless chest, there is a cut of anxiety and a glimpse of anger. There is never a moment when I am truly just carefree; I am always careful. But when I'm surrounded by black women and our energy, I feel more at ease, and definitely more carefree. 

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Abena Boamah: Do you connect with the idea that you can be carefree + careful at the same time?  

Yaminah Mayo: I think I am a very Careful Black Girl, but I do have carefree moments. I find myself at my most carefree when I'm surrounded by black women who motivate and inspire me. Our laughter is the essence of carefreeness.

Shiara Robinson: This question, on the surface, seems very simple, but as I reread it, it becomes extremely complex. My initial thought was “YE…”—a yes abruptly interrupted by a “well….” I think it is innate in most women who live in NYC to always be vigilant, and on guard, to a certain extent. So, bearing that constant cautiousness in mind, I say yes, with the disclaimer that it’s not always easy, and usually not fair. For example, I'll be minding my business, walking down the street, fully clothed, no bra but shirt opaque—me being careful—yet still receive unsolicited comments. I’ve had phone numbers and a slew of obscenities yelled at me, and even been followed twice in one day. There I was being carefree and careful, but still not safe.

Isabel Baylor: The reality is that not all women of color can be carefree, but we can all be confident, courageous, and resourceful. I’m constantly in panic mode about a number of things: finding a career I’m passionate about, paying rent, teaching an inspiring yoga class, working on my self-confidence and anxiety, supporting my community, and navigating the world with a troubling political culture. So being a carefree black woman is not easy, but I think of it is a mindset I am always aspiring to.

Yaminah Mayo, shot by Abbas Sabur 

Yaminah Mayo, shot by Abbas Sabur 

Abena Boamah: How do you embody the notion of being a carefree black woman in your everyday life?

Yaminah Mayo: Day to day, I think I'm most carefree when I'm able to keep from letting people get the best of me and get under my skin. When I light incense and unwind, take a shower, moisturize, drink my daily recommended amount of water—those acts take away stresses and allow me to be "carefree.”

Shiara Robinson: Being comfortable and confident in myself working in a male-dominated, fetishized industry, in which being a successful, notarized black woman is still niche. Prayer, of course. And I remind myself to not forget where I came from or get lost in the sauce.

Isabel Baylor: I try to embody this way of being or mindset by surrounding myself (visually or physically) with inspiring women of color. I feel lucky to live in a time and place where black and brown women use technology to pave their own way of being in a white, male, patriarchal society. Having a community of women of color that support, challenge, inspire, and support me is a form of resistance and a way I try to be a carefree black woman. You recently shared an Audre Lorde quote that relates directly to my thoughts: “We have to consciously study how to be tender to each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women for each other.” 

Shiara Robinson, shot by Abbas Sabur

Shiara Robinson, shot by Abbas Sabur

Abena BoamahWhat self-care and self-love practices do you currently engage in that relate directly to being carefree/careful or make you feel smooth + confident?

Yaminah Mayo: I love a good face mask. Sleep and disconnecting from your phone (the latter is something I'm steadily working on) are also great self-care tools. Social interaction is a big one for me; when I get to see my people / my tribe, I feel energized and ready for anything!

Shiara Robinson: I’d have to say my ultimate device is exercise. Getting my endorphins flowing really helps energize me and motivate me to strive for more.

Isabel Baylor: I think it’s important to provide my own definition of self-care before lending insight into the practices I observe…. To me, self-care is the active practice of taking the time listen, restore, and nurture your body and soul.

My day-to-day self-care routine usually includes moving my body, 3–5 minutes of journaling, reading a few pages in my current book, taking a probiotic, and preparing at least one healthy meal (with lots of greens). The game changer has been taking a bath and applying my lotions and potions (including Hanahana shea) before I go to sleep—my way of thanking my body for being my vehicle through life.

I also teach yoga two to three times a week; this is a part of my self-care practice that has changed my life, and I want to share how yoga makes me feel with others.

Isabel Baylor, shot by Abbas Sabur 

Isabel Baylor, shot by Abbas Sabur 

Abena Boamah"Smooth + Confident" became a tagline for Hanahana Beauty over a phone call with my friend Kenya and has now become my everyday mantra.

What does the phrase smooth + confident mean to you?

Yaminah Mayo: Moisturized + living in your purpose + drama free.

Shiara Robinson: For me, smooth + confident means looking in the mirror and seeing the reflection of a BOSS, a queen, a baddie. It’s synonymous with glow in my life. It encapsulates my idealism of Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good...all of those aligning and coming together = Smooth + Confident.

Isabel Baylor: I think about being confident in my own skin (just like your mission). As did most young women of color, I grew up having so many issues with the way I looked, most notably that my hair wasn’t “straight enough.” I quit swimming because I started getting relaxers, even though I loved it and was a talented swimmer. I burned my scalp over and over again because my friends, the women I saw on TV, and my white mother had straight hair (even though she loves my hair no matter what it looks like). It’s been a journey for me to be comfortable and love my hair. The versatility, uniqueness, and strength that comes from it is just one way that allows me to harness the power to be smooth + confident.

Thank you ladies for answering with such honesty. Y'all and your words are so inspiring, and we appreciate you sharing your experiences + thoughts with us. 

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Stay Smooth + Confident

- Abena Boamah