Tell me about yourself and what you do.
Kahdija: My name is Kahdija. I am a Los Angeles based graphic artist and a black queer woman. I used to be really interested in Japanese art and American comic books, but now my art showcases the beauty of women of color. Growing up, I didn’t feel represented in art forms especially in the art I consumed. The characters didn’t look like me and if they did they were stereotypes. I couldn’t relate to those art forms mentally and emotionally. I am still learning to come to terms with myself. I actively try to break the chains of the European standard of beauty. I have been brainwashed to think women of color are not beautiful. My art aims to to celebrate Black women for the sake of other young girls of color. Currently, I am working with Jasai Madden, the founder and CEO of Alaiyo Waist Beads. She sells handmade African waist beads that helps with weight loss. I am doing her graphic content. She has also been working on a relationship book that illustrated. It launches around Valentine’s Day.
What are your beauty struggles?
Kahdija: I had a shaving issue. I had no hair on my legs, but I still wanted to shave them. I used hair removal cream and got permanent chemical burns on my legs. I also struggled to love my hair. I felt like straight silky hair was superior even though my hair was long down. I hated my hair because it shrunk. Kids at school used to call me “chicken head” just because my natural hair texture was kinky. Even though we all have kinky hair, there is so much self-hate in the black community. I used to stare in the mirror wearing a t-shirt on my head as if it was straight hair. I am very lucky because my mom never let me relax my hair. I hated kinky hair so much that I went as far as calling kinky hair ugly because I just thought eurocentric standards were beautiful. I had deep-rooted issues in being a black woman. It's difficult to be gay or lesbian in the black community because people don't want to bring you closer to Christ they want to judge and condemn you! It drives you further away from God, from religion, from people. I also had body image issues and suffered from an eating disorder in high school and early college. It took me 26 years (my whole life) to accept myself and see myself as beautiful. I accept that I am a thick girl. I accept my hair and my coils.
What is one of your earliest experiences with beauty?
Kahdija: Unfortunately, my first experience was that my natural beauty was inferior. I didn’t feel beautiful. My first introduction to the idea of beauty was Disney’s princesses like Jasmine and Ariel. One day on the bus, my friend plainly stated that black girls couldn’t be pretty. He did not say it to be mean. He just stated it like it was a fact. Children are a reflection of what they see and he had been taught that black women were not beautiful. His comment crushed my spirits and was the first time I understood and realized that I was black. He was older than me so I thought what he said was true. I had no positive examples of black women so it reinforced his comment even more.
As a woman of color, are there things that you encounter that your counterparts do not?
Kahdija: People tried to exclude me while I was in university. They always put me in a box because I was a woman in the field of commercial illustration which is still a “man’s world” especially in gaming. A lot of my peers would rate my art lower because they didn’t understand the inspiration behind my art. I had low self-esteem because people crushed my confidence. I beat myself up. In terms of my expression, I know who I want to touch so I draw for the girl in me that has been underestimated and quieted. Now, I am confident in myself as a black woman.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Kahdija: In its various forms, the “Just do you boo” mantra from my mom, spiritual leaders at a church, and friends. That is the best piece of advice I have heard and every single human on this Earth should absorb that. It is beneficial towards yourself and others. Also, you should express and be what your heart wants not what others tell you!
What makes you feel unstoppable?
Kahdija:Honestly, communicating with others makes me feel unstoppable. The internet has allowed me to connect with like-minded humans. Technology has increased the amount of human interaction we can achieve and this is important for learning how to love ourselves, and for our personal self-growth. The internet has helped me with my business. I don't feel free and happy in a 9 to 5 job. The internet has allowed me to be my own boss and serve clients from around the world. I am also a music head. I listen to an insane amount of music. My favorite song right now is Chirping by Pell. I used to not listen to rap and hip-hop, but now I listen to hip hop and r&b bc its evolution to telling a story and being raw and being independent. The internet is like a knife you can use it to cut someone down or you can use it to cut a check.
Keep up with Kahdija on her journey: