Hey homies! Not too much to say to introduce this month’s Q&A because I am short on time [I was solo parenting this week and it dragged me, hence why this is a few days late already] but here are your questions and my answers for the October Q&A! Can you believe we’ve already been doing these for a year and a half?? If you want to go down memory lane, here’s the first one!
Hair & Beauty
Girl, your hair color is a WOW! Give us all the details.
I got my hair highlighted by one of my favorite natural hair stylist/colorists in NYC (full list of my go to here), Nyasia! I never know what color a colorist uses on my hair and I never ask. Like I don’t ask a chef what kind of chicken he used to prepare my dinner at a restaurant! I do my research and trust the process, which you can watch in my vlog!
Who designed your glasses?
I got them from Utenzi Miller — they’re Black owned too so my faves!
Get more style and beauty content here.
Grad School, Academia, & Mentorship
Any tips on being overwhelmed with PhD work?
Unless you’re working within the confines of a fellowship that’s about to end, whatever “timeline” you’ve constructed for yourself is just that, a construction. Take a breather and be ok knowing that slowing down a bit probably won’t even impact when you finish but if it does, finishing your PhD 3 or 6 or even 12 months later in the grand scheme of things DOES NOT MATTER. Take your time and take a breather.
Do you sometimes feel “intellectually inferior”? And what do you do about it? Is your confidence level at a 10?
Ok lots of questions here! I do feel intellectually inferior quite a bit. I don’t typically speak in “academese” so sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in academic spaces where words like hegemony and neoliberalism are regularly dropped in conversation. I also haven’t published much of my work, and since publications is a measure of academic success, I sometimes feel like I’m not meeting up. As for what I do about it, I try to remind myself that 1. my research is meant to help real people, not to help the academy, so it’s ok if I don’t play by their rules and 2. I have a much more complex (and imo, well-rounded) life than the average academic, so it’s completely ok if I don’t hit the same publishing milestones they do.
As for confidence, it definitely varies day to day. Some days my confidence level is at 150 lol and other days it’s at a 2.
How did you pick your mentor and establish the relationship with them as mentor/mentee?
I didn’t pick my mentor; we were paired together as part of a mentorship program that is run by an academic association that I’m a member of. When I decided to apply to postdocs I wanted a Black woman academic mentor to be able to talk very candidly about what to expect, how I should think about navigating academia, and even whether I should stay. The mentorship program application had the option to indicate whether you wanted a mentor from a specific racial group and/or a mentor of a specific gender, so I selected that I preferred a Black and woman mentor, and I got one! Technically she actually picked me, as she was part of the committee that did the mentor-mentee pairings lol.
How have you cultivated and grown a strong relationship with your mentor?
I mentioned a bit in the response above, but I intentionally sought out a mentor for this specific stage of my life, and I did so through a structured mentorship program. I’m lucky to have been paired with a mentor who is really down to earth and easy to talk to — she is for real that cool auntie who tells it like it is but also hypes you up.
I’m also really focused about what we discuss during the hour we have together. I always have specific questions and try to keep our conversations themed — for example, right before I started teaching I asked for strategies on teaching in an engaging way and for insight on how much time I should devote to class prep. So I take our calls, and really, her time, seriously and I think she appreciates that.
How frequently do you touch base with your mentor?
We meet once a month and have been doing so for the past 8 months! The mentorship program actually technically ends in December but we already agreed to continue checking in monthly since I’m still trying to figure my academic life out.
Get more school-related content here.
Work & PhD
When did you realize it was time to start a business for your blog?
Good question. To be honest I don’t remember if the business formation was driven by an uptick in blog revenue or driven by a goal to have an uptick in revenue. I had separated my business and personal finances pretty early on, even before I started my blog, but the business formation itself happened in 2014, a year after I launched my blog. Omg my blog is 8 years old, wow!
Did you get more influencer work now that you are back in America compared to when you were in Kenya?
I receive the same number of inquiries from brands, but I’m able to say yes to more opportunities now that I’m in the US, because shipping is no longer an issue. But interestingly, the kind of campaigns that have been coming my way lately are different — many more health-related projects, which five years ago when I was struggling to make sense of how my blog tied into my academic work, I would have NEVER thought possible.
Out of curiosity, did you ever do any Kenyan brand partnerships while in Nairobi?
Yup! I worked with Kenyan brands mostly on a gifted capacity. Most Kenyan agencies weren’t able to meet my rates, but when I believed in the brand or really liked the products, I did an in-kind (no money exchanged) partnership.
Find more posts on work, productivity, and finances here.
Home, Living, & Marriage
What is one thing you dislike about living in South Bend if any?
I actually can’t think of anything I don’t like about South Bend yet! It’s a quiet suburban town but for where I am in life right now it’s perfect. It’s not too far from Chicago if you need the feel or amenities of a big city.
Jk, I just remembered. The fact that there is no direct flight from South Bend Airport to any of the 3 NYC airports!
How is the weather in Indiana? Is it cold?
It just got cold this week 😭
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Personal, Marriage, & Advice
How do maintain your faith?
The phrasing of this question is really interesting because we use the word maintain often to describe our physical shape (maintain your weight, maintain your figure) and like with mine and most people’s bodies, faith is ever fluctuating. So my spirituality is not a linear thing — some points in life I have much stronger/healthier faith and at other points I have less faith. But the things that help me the most are regularly reading and writing down my thoughts of scripture and devotionals, listening to music that is based on or inspired by scripture, and listening to sermons based on scripture.
Are you still looking for a church?
We’d found a church in Nairobi but I haven’t started looking for a church in South Bend. I’m actually put off my most church & churchgoers nonchalance, denial, and ignorance around COVID-19 so I’m avoiding in person church for health and safety reasons.
How did you know Jonathan was the one?
I have a whole post on how I knew he was the one! It’s actually one of the most popular posts on my blog.
Did you discuss marriage with Jonathan when you started dating? How was it like?
We didn’t talk about marriage when we first started dating, but probably started to a few years into our long-distance relationship.
Does your spouse say no when you ask them for sex?
Nah sis, that’s never happened 😂
If you could get only one gift for Christmas, what would it be?
It would be a $500,000 donation to Cohort Sistas so I could lead it full time and hire several people to help execute my vision and programming to support Black women pursuing doctoral degrees. If you’re feeling generous you can donate here!
What are your Christmas plans?
I haven’t thought that far ahead — I have to sort out Thanksgiving because I’m hosting! But I’ll be back in Kenya for Christmas and excited for some warmth.
What advice would you give someone who is moving to the states for better opportunities but does not have papers?
I wouldn’t advise moving to the US without papers but I also don’t know enough about life in Malawi to know whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Good luck either way!
You mentioned in your recent vlog that you are pro vaccine mandates. I am curious to know why.
Happy to share why I am in favor of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates. But first, some background: I am and have been since my junior year of college very passionate about the health of groups of people over the health of a single person. It was why I switched from a medical career to a public health career. So I believe in the health of many over the rights and liberty of one. I also believe that I, having studied something for nearly 10 years, am an expert in my field. So when I hear experts on immunology, virology, or infectious disease control suggest or advise vaccine uptake, I defer to their expertise. But here are some additional reasons why I am pro-vaccine and pro-vaccine mandates.
- 5 million people have died from COVID-19 (from the official counts, but that number is certainly an undercount). Accurate or not, I don’t want to be one of those statistics. I don’t want any of my family members to be one of them. I don’t want anyone I know personally to be one of them. So far I’ve been lucky. I don’t want my luck to change.
- Vaccines work to reduce disease severity and spread. COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of being hospitalized and die from covid because they protect against severe cases. They are effective.
- Vaccines are safe. It’s been over 6 months since vaccine rollouts happened and nobody has grown a third head. Yes there are things we don’t know about them but you have literally no idea what exactly is inside a fast food hamburger or chicken sandwich and yet we readily and eagerly consume them.
- Normally, I would love for people to be able to make their own choices about health. For example, I am in favor of a woman’s right to choose whether she should carry a pregnancy to term. However, the COVID-19 vaccine has been intentionally politicized, over-spiritualized, and vilified to the point that I genuinely feel — and obviously one can disagree — that people who are anti-COVID-vaccine (and aren’t traditionally anti-vaccine in general, cuz that’s a different group of people) are not only making misinformed choices that impact their own health, but are negatively impacting the health of the rest of the population.
- I have immunocompromised family members and a child that is too young to be vaccinated. When healthy people do not get vaccinated, they put the health and lives of people I love the most at risk.
- Allowing people to take the vaccine on their own did not work. Incentivizing people with lottery tickets and other monetary prizes did not work. So mandates are necessary to protect the health of those of us who are lucky to still be alive. Because again, 5 million+ people do not have the privilege of being able to decide right now whether they should or should not get vaccinated. Because they are dead.
Get more family and personal content here.
Don’t forget to check out the Q&A archives, which include tons more advice on a variety of topics.