Phenomenal You Series: Meet Dara

I first came across “Love Darbie,” in 2012 when she posted her Guide to Thrifting. I actually think I found that post from Amber, our Phenomenal Beauty from this past Monday. Since then and through twitter, I’ve to regard Dara as the little sister, that’s not so little. Her ambition and drive is so refreshing. And she’s probably one of the sweetest women I’ve come to e-meet through blogging. Continue to read on to understand exactly why I feel this way about today’s Phenomenal Beauty!


 

PY-Dara

In your post, “I Didn’t Know I Was Black Until I Came To America”, you stated: 

I moved to Texas and I learned to be black. Being an African immigrant, I was black to the white students and African to the black students. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, especially not in the latter group.”

During this transition period, do you think the events of trying to fit in, or having being “different” highlighted constantly, took a toll on your self-esteem? How would you describe your self-esteem now and you believe these past events continue to impact you?
This period had an enormous impact on my character. Before moving to the States, I could be described as outgoing, smart-mouthed, and very opinionated; I never hesitated to speak my mind. Coming to unfamiliar territory, where the way I spoke was abnormal, I found myself growing shy and reserved. I developed this traumatizing fear of public speaking, always afraid of the moment that the pronunciation of my words would be corrected. My classmates would joke and question me about whether I had lived in a hut, had clothes back home, and other questions that come from just a lack of global knowledge. I couldn’t blame them, but I definitely blamed myself for not being like them. I was consumed with the idea of fitting in and it greatly impacted my view of self.

Fast forward a couple of years of self discovery and it’s a completely different story. Perhaps this could be attributed to meeting others like myself with who I could share tales of growing up as an immigrant or just becoming accustomed to the culture, but I feel a sense of belonging rather than alienation. I now embrace my cultural heritage as it is now a strong part of my identity and the confidence I exude. Now I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to lose that West African accent of mine.

Photography, coding, design and fashion, all things you have mastered outside blogging. You’re ultimately a quadruple threat! Do you ever feel pressured in maintaining all four of these crafts? How have they played a role in your sense of self-worth?
This question hits the nail on the head with my biggest dilemma – maintaining all my passions. There are certain people who focus on one thing and do that extraordinarily well, then there’s me: the kind of person who yearns for different ways to express herself. I’ve always (and still do) wondered whether I should try to become like those people who’ve mastered their crafts, problem is I could never choose. I’m now starting to embrace that my passions are all uniquely a part of my identity. But, the pressure to maintain them all is still enormous. Rather than devoting all my time to one, I split it 5 or more ways. I’m sure if someone took a snapshot of my brain, they would see how much of a colossal mess it constantly is. I remember one time I was trying (and failing) to focus on coding a script at work but kept thinking of themes for my photo shoot the upcoming weekend and about the color scheme for a design I was working on for a client. Despite the annoyances, having multiple crafts I could turn to really made me feel like I brought some value to the world and it’s made me relatable to different groups of people, which I love.

What made you decide to open “Love Darbie”? It’s such a positive space, have you ever experienced the backlash of blogging (hateful comments, tweets, unhappy readers) ?
I started blogging at a really young age. I’m talking about using Xanga, LiveJournal, and then moving on to self-hosted Cutenews — platforms that are pretty much nonexistent now. All those years, my blogs were pretty much restricted to the blogosphere so it was a really private and safe space. When I launched Love, Darbie I didn’t have any real plans for it, I just wanted to share my journey with the world rather than privately with a couple of devoted readers. I haven’t really received the backlash of blogging, because my community of readers are all generally positive people. I’ve caught one or two subtweets here and there when people disagree with something I post and a few people find it pretentious that I share my life publicly but that negative energy usually comes from people who know me in real life, not my online community. The biggest downside of blogging is just the fact that people think they know your life and I’m careful about what I choose to reveal on my blog. Ultimately, I’ve had really positive reception with my blog, I’ve been able to build genuine relationships and impact a few lives here and there, and that completely makes some of the negative energy irrelevant!

You seem to have a great sense of self, how do you maintain this? Any tips you’d like to share?
I’m humbled! My cliché piece of advice would be to fake it ’til you make it. I was the furthest thing from a confident person. Sometime a few years ago though, I made the decision to “try” to be confident and to do what I wanted to do even if no one else was onboard. I was extremely intentional about discovering myself, my passions, and my purpose. I think my sense of self came from the realization that I could be exactly who I wanted to be; that will lies within me. So that’s what I’m doing, constantly working at becoming a better version of myself. It’s such a rewarding feeling to watch yourself, grow, change, and start molding into everything you’ve envisioned. It’s a lifelong journey — what is life if one does not constantly strive to reinvent oneself?

What words of advice would you share with your 16-year-old self about self-esteem, self-worth, and of course, the art of blogging and maybe finding your passion?
Many would say I’ve changed a lot since I was 16. I’d somewhat disagree. I believe I’ve always been the person I am today, but back then, I wasn’t true to myself. So to my 16-year-old self, the girl who was scared of her own individuality — Listen to your voice first before that of others. Trust that if you’d just spread your wings, you can fly. Learn to be yourself, shamelessly. Follow your heart and do what you love. Be uncompromising as you pursue your passion.

What’s next for you and where can we find you (literally, you’re always on the go!)
I didn’t realize I moved around a lot until recently. Wanderlust is defined as the strong desire to travel, that describes my perpetual state of mind; I can’t seem to sit still. For now, I’m back in Texas to wrap up my senior year of university. And then (I actually decided this yesterday), I will be starting my post-grad life in Seattle, WA working at Microsoft. I’ve developed a love for the west coast, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself living internationally soon — that plan is still in the works!

Dara is twenty year old transplant from the motherland residing in Texas or the Pacific Northwest and a self-proclaimed renaissance woman in the modern era. She’s a lover of minimalism, bulleted lists, personal memoirs, and Jesus. A woman with many passions, she works as a software developer, portrait photographer, web developer, and freelance graphic designer. She documents her life, style, faith, and random musings on her blog ‘Love, Darbie’. 

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