Question...if you had to sleep on couches, eat cheap eats, and work in retail for seven-plus years to realize your dream—would you? I know someone that did just that. Her name is Africa Miranda and if you don’t know her—you need to. Africa Miranda is a tv personality, a beautypreneur, and a social media influencer. She can be seen singing, acting, and modeling on the reality tv series The New Atlanta. She is also launching and producing a new web series called Beautifully Driven with Kia which is a fun, light, and refreshing look into the world of progressive women who in their own ways have forged and found their own lanes. And when she’s not on the tv scene, she’s branding and building Beauty by Miranda, her very own skincare line. Africa Miranda is a true embodiment of what it means to step up, step out, and shine. We met in Atlanta a few months back then hopped on the phone a few weeks later to chat. During our call, we discussed everything from thrifting to what one can do to make and take strategic moves to realize their dreams and succeed.
Keisha Mabry: Who is Africa Miranda? What’s her story? And note, when answering this question you cannot speak about work...you can only speak about who you are beyond the work that you do.
Africa Miranda: I am a lover of people, a lover of life, and am always in search of my WHY. In fact, my story is still being told. It started in the south but I found myself in the city—in New York City. And although I found myself, in college and in the big city, there are still chapters of my story that have yet to be written. Yes...my story is still being told and gosh it’s so hard to answer this question without talking about what you do...especially when what you do is so ingrained into who you are as a brand and as an influencer.
Keisha Mabry: It is and you’re not the only one that struggles with this question. We all do but we all have a story behind our glory, a person behind our profession, and a who behind our do. Speaking of your who and your do, you moved to New York for a dream that your family and friends in Alabama didn’t really understand. Then you slept on couches, you worked at a boutique, you sold hair, and from there you modeled. So what kept you motivated and inspired on your seven-year journey?
Africa Miranda: In the early days—it was desire. Desire for what I wanted and desire for who I wanted to be...and I was of the mindset whatever it takes is whatever it takes. But then I hit a wall. I couldn’t keep surviving on pizza and I couldn’t let my desire for music consume me anymore. I had to give in. Not give up—but give in—to other possibilities. And when I opened myself to using all of my gifts, that’s when I got the modeling and the television opportunities. I’ve learned that when we’re not open to receiving other things, we can’t and we won’t. But, by surrendering and opening ourselves to other things, other opportunities and other possibilities will come our way. And here’s the funny thing...by me being open to receiving other things, that’s when I was able to sing. So the moral of this story is—be open to second and third dreams if and when the first dream doesn’t happen.
Keisha Mabry: That’s deep...so when did you know that it was time to give in?
Africa Miranda: I was unhappy. I would be in the studio trying to record and I loved it but it no longer brought me joy. I was miserable so I had to pivot.
Keisha Mabry: That word pivot is such a powerful word and an important one, and you have had to pivot multiple times in your journey—even in your hair journey. So speak to me about that. In a recent interview, you talked about having to shed your hair during your natural hair transition, what else have you had to shed along your journey to be the Africa Miranda that we see today?
Africa Miranda: I had to shed preconceived notions of what success looks like, I had to shed people and as it pertains to my hair...I had to cut and shed my hair and transition for the second time. And at that point in my life, I was known for my hair. But I was also holding on to European notions of beauty and the physical process of shedding my hair [for the second time] forced me to reteach myself what beauty was for me. It forced me to grow, to become stronger, to become more self-reliant, and ground myself in a more robust sense of self. I even had to learn how to take care of myself and how to be kinder to myself. I knew how to be kind to others, how to take care of others, and how to speak life over them to be better to themselves and better versions of themselves, but I had to learn how to master and do these same things for myself. Because we will go out and black girl magic everyone else but ourselves.
Keisha Mabry: I absolutely love your sayings so let’s continue to ride this wave...you say step up, step out, and shine often but what does it mean to you and what’s the story behind it?
Africa Miranda: It came about from a Periscope broadcast and everyone wanted to know how I leveraged my platforms to get from A to B. And to be honest, some of my success was me being fortunate, some was natural talent and ability, and it was also me making specific decisions and moves in my life. So in life...step up means you can always do more and go to the next level. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. It’s a matter of being great not good. It can be small actions and big—as small as—today I am going to get up and go exercise. Next is step out. Once you’re up, it’s a matter of pitching yourself, a matter of speaking, and asking organizations to not only speak but to moderate and host too. It’s a matter of making yourself more visible and bigger. Then there’s shine and shine is the culminating point. You’ve done the work, you’ve gotten the opportunities, and now you should be creating opportunities that help others step up and step out with you. It’s a continual process and there’s phases, and every time you’re in a new phase the cycle repeats itself. There’s always going to be moments where you don’t know what to do next but you just have to repeat the cycle, the small steps, and be the best version of you that you can be.
Keisha Mabry: Great advice. What advice can you give readers about managing multiple social media platforms because from the looks of it...you do this pretty well?
Africa Miranda: It’s a struggle but here’s the thing...when I start my day I don’t jump right on social media or email instead I journal and go to the gym. I feel so much better and so much clearer and just good when I do this. But when I start my day by jumping on social media, I get anxiety, I get distracted, I don’t feel good, and I don’t get the sleep that I want the next day. So...if there’s anything I want to do for myself—I do it first. I put myself first because the world isn’t going to end if I don’t respond. It’s not!!! And we have to make this shift for ourselves. Everything does not need our response instantly and when we operate in this mode we never turn off. It’s good to be accessible but it’s also good to be inaccessible and plug off.
Secondly, I’m always looking for ways to weed and cut things out. I’m a living document and I’m always asking myself...what can I edit and what can I take out of my life? People will always tell you what you can and should be doing and let’s be honest... there are 10,000 more things that I can be doing but to me...passion plus purpose equals profit. There’s a lot that I’m passionate about but is it my purpose? And, is it profitable? Is it going to help me, help others, or make me better? If not, then I don’t do it. For example, a lot of people are asking me to do a podcast but I don’t see the profit right now so right now it’s not right for me.
Keisha Mabry: Podcasting may not be right for you, right now, but beauty certainly is so how did you carve out space in such a super-saturated market that seems to be controlled by large brands?
Africa Miranda: What we are doing for other brands, we can absolutely do for ourselves so I wasn’t worried about the other skincare companies of the world. I was worried about me because my story was unique, it was mine, and I knew my audience. I knew who I was speaking to, what they wanted, and how they wanted to buy it. And I can proudly say that we are coming up on a year and people are buying it. So my advice...do your research, get a following, show your personality, and tell your story. It’s not going to be easy, or simple, but it can be done. It takes work but people are always looking for a good product and a good story to support. And if there was ever a time to launch a product for black women—the time is now!
Keisha Mabry: I agree, the time is now and it’s also time for our lightning round so I want you to answer the next five questions with one sentence answers...ready? Question #1—what has surprised you most about the TV personality/beautypreneur/social media influence industry?
Africa Miranda: It probably shouldn’t be surprising but the amount of support that I got and received surprised me...it’s so hard not to buy into the belief that people don’t support each other so you brace yourself for that but people are so supportive and I’ve been so fortunate.
Keisha Mabry: If you could go back in time and give your 20-year-old self-advice—what would you tell her?
Africa Miranda: Nothing is going to be what you think but you’re going to be ok...just be driven, let loose, and leave him alone, lol.
Keisha Mabry: Lol, I love it!!! What should every woman do at least once in her life?
Africa Miranda: Travel solo because we miss out on so much because our friends won’t and don’t go and then we go from traveling with our friends to traveling with our husbands to traveling with our kids, so travel alone because there’s strength in knowing that you can navigate and function in this world alone.
Keisha Mabry: Everyone has a secret single behavior and you may even remember the term from Sex in the City back in the day so what’s your SSB?
Africa Miranda: I lay in the bed eating snacks and watching bad black flicks on Netflix.
Keisha Mabry: Omg...me too!!! The straight to DVD kind. Ok, ok...fellow thriftier...what’s your favorite thrift find?
Africa Miranda: Vintage fur coats...I’m obsessed and I’ve found them everywhere in New York, Alabama, and on the road. My favorite is this gold fringed vintage leather jacket that’s avant-garde and it should totally be in the Kanye West Run Away video.
Keisha Mabry: What’s next for Africa Miranda? What stories do you still want to tell the world?
Africa Miranda: I’m adding author to my name and I’m co-hosting a digital series that’s a 4-part road trip series called Beautifully Driven that will introduce people to women they should know. It’s powered by Kia and we will tell different stories of how women found their lanes. Like I said earlier, influence is great but it’s really about me being able to create platforms and opportunities that help other women step up, step out, and shine—specifically black women.
Keisha Mabry: Any last pieces of advice or words of wisdom to share?
Africa Miranda: I have to shout out Misty Copeland because a quote of hers closes this interview so beautifully. So everyone reading, repeat after me...you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.
About Keisha Mabry: Keisha Mabry is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur on a mission to change the world one connection at a time. She has been featured on National Public Radio, the Nine Network, Fox 2 News, Next Step U, The Business Journal and Blavity for her work in personal branding and networking—or as she likes to call it—friendworking. Pretty soon she will be featured on TED.com for her TED talk What I Learned from Meeting 100 People in 100 Days. In addition, Keisha is a lecturer at the Washington University in St Louis, a contributor for the Huffington Post and Watch the Yard and her new book Hey Friend: 100 Ways to Connect with 100 People in 100 Days is a movement to make the world friendly again—or at the very least friendlier than it’s ever been. It’s a must-read, a fun read and the ultimate guide to teaching people how to meet new peeps. Keisha believes that by connecting people to people and people to resources she can increase movements, access, communication and progress to get the right people in the right seats to end inequality. Learn more about this fearlessly free human being at www.keishamabry.com. #heyFRIEND