One evening I saw a beautiful face trying on this weird looking eyebrow stencil. I had never seen such a device. I mean there was a head strap involved! As I continued to watch I found myself on giggle level 10 (the scale goes up to 9)! Right away I just had to learn who the woman was that made such comedic gold. Her name is Bella Yusuf. Her instagram is full of photos and videos on skincare, makeup, and style. Her bubbly personality will quickly brighten up your day. Seeing a woman of color, wearing a hijab, doing makeup tutorials and reviews was so amazingly beautiful to me.
Time went on and then the horrible crime happened in New Zealand. At mosque, a place of prayer, there was a mass shooting killing 50 lives, wounding another 50 lives, and affecting millions of lives around the world. It made me think of the reality of hate in our world, and the power of love that is needed. I wanted to speak to someone of Muslim faith and hear from them what life is like. Bella was on my mind and we had an insightful conversation. From being a young refugee, to taking a stand for her religious beliefs, going from sharing beauty with the world, to sharing pain with the world. Bella’s story is one of remaining positive when negativity is thrown your way.
Heads up this is a long one, because it was too good to cut short =]
Bella is the oldest of 10 children, 9 girls and 1 boy. Her family migrated from Somalia to Kenya, and from Kenya they came to America when she was 7 years old. At the age of 10 she began wearing her headscarf. Once she entered middle school, she decided to stop wearing her headscarf. After high school Bella began diving deeper into her spiritual growth and made the decision to wear her headscarf again.
“I felt comfortable because there was girls who were older than me, who still wore the headscarf. They’re working in these wonderful companies. They’re modeling for this top brand…I said hey, if they could do it, I could do it”.
In sharing her story, I realized Bella and I are around the same age. We both have stories of what happened in middle school after 9-11. I heard from my childhood Muslim friend, how people treated him and his family so terrible, and how he had to explain to them he was not from the same country as the terrorist. While I was hearing my friend tell his story, Bella was living hers. She experienced a great deal of bullying as well. Bella told me a story of what happened to her Muslim friend one day while they went into the locker room for their daily time of prayer. While the two were praying a girl kicked her friend and began to say harsh comments to them. When Bella spoke up for herself the girl began to push her.
“Nobody wanted to be my friend. I was only in 6th grade…Nobody wanted to sit with me. My teacher changed my assigned chair; all the way in the back, so nobody else would make fun of me or tease me. To even talk about this makes me shake. I was only a young kid…I was really bullied”.
Through the pain I saw in my friend’s eyes, and the pain I heard in Bella’s voice, they remained positive and did not return hate with hate. Bella stated that her parents taught her to love everybody no matter their background, race, or religion. As time went on, Bella gained more and more confidence and faith.
“If this is what I wanna do, and this is who I am, I’m going to wear my headscarf. Whether a person likes me or not…I’m gonna show everybody who I am, not what I have on. Even though the hijab and the scarf represents me, I am gonna show that I am not a monster”.
As much as Americans grew in having a better view of Muslims, many still needed to grow and be educated. As an adult, Bella faced discrimination when applying for jobs. She stated that sometimes the positions you want, you may not get all because of your scarf. Bella shared with me that even though you may be qualified for a position, you’ll get overlooked. For example, she was turned down by 5 nursing homes because of her headscarf.
Bella said that America is her home. Can you imagine not feeling welcomed in your own home? Bella was a young refugee girl when she came to America, and this is her home. We all want to feel safe in our homes.
“You come to this country where it’s wonderful, and then you have people who are hateful. You have people who are disgusted. You have people that hate you for no reason. They don’t understand you. And as a kid growing up in America, its like the norm for me”.
Through all the hate Bella has encountered, she makes the daily choice to put smiles on every face she meets. She sets out to educate all who will hear, about her religion and culture. Bella informed me that even though there are many Muslims around the world, not all have the same culture. At the core Islam is peace. I’ve learned, seen, and heard from Bella that Muslims are peaceful people, loving people, and caring people.
Bella went on to discuss with me a little more about the Muslim faith, her experiences as a Muslim woman, and Friday prayers; which is what was happening during the New Zealand shooting. Jumu’ah (Friday Congregational Prayer), is a holy prayer, and in the midst of this time of holiness, lives were taken.
“What happened to New Zealand was horrible, very horrible. Stuff like that scares me. I cannot go nowhere without somebody coming with me, especially a male figure. Stuff like that will happen in a gas station, at a store……Somebody will block you off, or you might just look at somebody and they will just probably shoot you, by just looking at you. I always have my guard, because you could just look at somebody and smile, and they would shoot you”.
To live your life, having to remain on guard is tough. I know many people of color feel that way or have felt that way at some point in their life. We must do better! Bella shared that she is thankful for all the people she has come across in America that are not like those fueled by ignorance and hate. She focuses on the positive in life and not the negative. She greets dirty looks with a smile and warm greeting. Bella hopes that, by her sharing love, that one day it will be just that small gesture of a smile, that will cause someone to turn their life around.
I want to share some things about the Muslim faith and culture I learned in our conversation: If ever you are invited to a Muslim household to share a meal, eat everything! They will treat you like royalty and out of love and respect, eat all that is before you. Muslims are very kind and helpful people. They are all about spreading love, peace, and positivity. Bella taught me about the 5 prayers a day Muslims pray. She also mentioned how she is not a stereotypical, quiet, Muslim woman, and has always been outspoken and bubbly. She was always the good kind of loud! Bella also taught me about Ramadan and all the wonderful good deeds Muslim people seek to do for others, and how it is a time of holiness for them.
As our conversation began to wrap up Bella began to share with me about life as a Muslim Beauty Influencer. She explained to me that some non-Muslims and some Muslims do not support her rocking her make-up, arched eyebrows, and how she wears her scarves. Bella believes theres no harm in playing with colorful makeup, and explained she understands where other Muslims are coming from, but she enjoys what she does. Bella said she does not wear makeup all the time, but loves it; and it washes away. She informed me that getting brand deals is difficult, because many companies don’t want to hire a black girl with a hijab to be a face of their makeup, and it pushes her to work ten times harder. Bella did give a shot out to Fenti, Urban Decay, Wunder2 Cosmetics, Beauty Bakerie, The Crayon Case, and Mented Cosmetics; all of which I will be looking into! She gravitates towards brands that cater to her skin color and are willing to have images of women in headscarves.
Bella spoke on how her faith also plays a role in what she is willing to wear and not wear. For example, she doesn’t wear tight clothes and would never show her cleavage, whereas I see many makeup artist glittering up their boobs to match their glowy makeup looks. I shared I’m guilty of rocking things short and or tight at times and many Christians would disagree with how I dress and rock makeup as well. I just told my mom today when discussing how she likes her shirts to run big, I said jokingly, “I want it tight, low at the top and high at the bottom!” Bella shops for clothes that are beautiful, comfortable, and stylish.
Bella Yusuf’s words spoke to my mind and my heart. I am grateful to her willingness to be transparent and teach this curious girl. In the end it all points to showing love, giving love, and spreading love. Now show some love on Bella’s Social Pages! Thank me later for introducing you to her =]
While doing my daily Instagram strolling I saw in bold letters, YOU CAN BE USED BY GOD AND GAY. It caused me to stop, pause, and think. In that moment I realized how many years I spent not acknowledging that, to be true. In that time of reflection I began to see how my thoughts and feelings about homosexuality had evolved, changed, and matured. The saying goes, When you know better, you do better. That same night I entered into dialogue with my husband about that subject matter, and for the first time in years, I heard a shift in his thinking as well. Later that night I began walking and speaking with God. We talked about the tug I was feeling in my heart to reach out to those in the LGBTQ+ community and learn how to show love, minister, and serve them. Clear as day God instructed me to reach out to the woman who posted the statement and request to interview her. I was so elated she responded with a yes, and I am excited to share with you our conversation.
SdotNoeL is a multitalented woman of God who started her life in the inner city of Los Angeles. She grew up in the COGIC Church, and when her family and peers learned she was lesbian, not everyone was accepting and ready to show her the love and support she needed. SdotNoeL states she was born gay and was always aware of who she was at a young age. She first expressed her feelings to her Aunt when she was 10 years old.
“I confided with my Aunt at the time; whom I felt really comfortable with….I came out to her, and she really became an advocate for me”.
Two years later her mother and other family members found out, and SdotNoeL was kicked out of her home at the age of 13.
“These ideas being put into my head about myself..I’d never be loved..God would never except me…These were coming out of my families mouth”.
SdotNoeL then entered into a time of depression. She continued to attend her Uncle’s mega church, experiencing being singled out from the pulpit. Even though many showed disapproval of her sexual orientation, she was still called upon to minister over the praise team.
“Having gone through all of that, but still being called on in church. Still being praise and worship leader. Still being used. Still being effective in peoples lives, because of what I’ve been through. Still being able to be a vessel”.
Faith is SdotNoeL’s driving force for everything she does, but there was a time she had a disconnect with God.
“I went through my cognitive dissonance. I went through the periods of time where I felt like I hated God because of what I had to go through…..but that was all a part of the purpose……God’s will for my life is to show people that through pain, and through judgment, does come a purpose”.
Although SdotNoeL’s family said many hurtful things in the past, they have had a turning point in their relationship with her. The relationship she has with her mother went from not speaking for about five years after she was kicked out, to now being able to call on her mother for strength and conversation.
“I can talk to her(Mother) about girlfriends…..The day I was getting a lot of church people come over(to her social media page), they were saying a lot of really harsh things. I just had to call her…I was like Mom, people are saying some really harsh things…She was just like, that’s unfortunate. You just keep doing what you’re doing, because God is using you”.
In our interview I also asked some personal questions I had about gay culture that I always wanted to hear answers to. One question that I was always curious about, was how a gay person interprets the scriptures that say homosexuality is an abomination unto God. SdotNoeL shared her personal views.
“I would never lay with a man the way I lay with a woman…..I’m not a heterosexual, so I don’t know what it takes to be in a heterosexual relationship…..I’m not redefining the relationship of male and female, by laying with a woman…..We’re not trying to become like heterosexual relationships…..So when I read that word, that doesn’t mean to me that I should not be laying with a woman period. That means to me, that I am not going to assume the role of a man…..That concept, that idea is so hard to sink through in the realm of Christianity”.
We both understood that change does not happen over night and what gets to you first is what you believe. I believe the word of God is infallible and I believe we all must search the scriptures and seek out truth. The amazing thing about being human is, truth looks different from the perspective and background of the viewer. While we talked scriptures, I agreed with many things SdotNoeL stated, some things I will be studying, and others I currently disagree. She talked about what its like for many gays to sit in church, and it hit my heart hard y’all. I want all people, from all walks of life to be able to freely worship in church, without fear, and in the presence of love.
“Which is why homosexuality in the confines of a church does not work for us. It’s degradation. I’m suffering If I’m staying in a church that does not understand my concept. That doesn’t understand my ideas and beliefs”.
SdotNoeL then made a great analogy likening gays and church people as warehouse workers who look the same, but in speaking find out they are different.
“You’ll have two choices. You can except them for their difference, or you can judge them for their difference. The moment that you start stepping over into judging them for their difference, you’re taking yourself out of the understanding game”.
As we began to talk about the misconceptions about gays in the Christian worldview we found that communication is key to understanding. SdotNoel said that no question was off limits before we started the interview, and spoke her truth throughout the interview; making me laugh and think throughout. I came to the interview with a list of questions, but as soon as we began to talk, the interview became a conversation of curiosity and courage.
We all must understand in life we may differ in thought in some areas, but we must all show kindness, respect, and love. I enjoyed our conversation so much and I know and hope it ruffles many feathers, because these conversations are simply not happening and they need to be!
Currently you can find SdotNoeL sharing her gifts with the world all to the glory of God. She is a singer, song writer, background vocalist, mixer, editor, actress, comedian, event host, and I’ll add, a missionary! I want to say thank you to SdotNoeL; Thank you for opening my eyes, pulling on my ears, shaking up my thoughts, and hearing my heart. God bless you!
For any young girls that are going through depression and anxiety, or contemplating coming out to their family about anything because of fear, I want to say know that God loves you, I love you, and I want you to read these words SdotNoeL stated she would say to her younger self that was going through depression and anxiety:
“….That is the beginning of the rose blossoming through the concrete….Those feelings of anxiety are showing you that there is room that needs to be made, on the other side of it, because any time that you feel anxiety young lady, on the other side of that is nothing but pure joy for you. And if you could just make it through the thoughts that are there in you, which are self-conscious beliefs; and if you could get a hold of those beliefs and turn them into something that you actually desire and actually want, you’ll be just fine”.
The conversation we had, was so good and necessary. There is so much more that we discussed and I want you and everyone you know to hear the full conversation so click the link below to hear the interview and share everywhere!
I am a Black Mother and I homeschool my children. If that sentence does not seem like a major statement, then please tell me where you live! Being a homeschooling mother is already met with funny looks from many people. Slap on this brown skin and you’ll really confuse the crowd.
My eldest is currently in kindergarten and my middle son will be starting pre-k this fall. I started homeschooling my TJ last year. When people learn that I’m homeschooling my children I get many repeated questions and I want to answer my top questions here.
1. How does that affect them socially?
Ok, This truly is the number one question I get all the time. It usually goes, “That’s cool you homeschool, I would too, but I’m concerned that they would not be good socially, and kids need interaction with other kids, but that’s good for you”. The strength it takes for me to not throw on my hood, I could cut you right now face has grown tremendously.
When people think of homeschooled kids, they automatically think of some weird kid who has been isolated from society and acts awkward around people. My kids are the complete opposite. I told hubby the other day, weird kids are from weird parents! My children are social butterflies as the term goes. They love going to playgrounds and I love watching them play and talk to all the kids. Kid conversations are absolutely hilarious. My middle son (Beans) always does this introduction, “Hi, I’m Beans, this is my big brother TJ, that’s baby Timmy, there is Mommy and Daddy, what’s your name? Wanna play?” So how are my kids so great socially? I teach them how to introduce themselves and how fun it is to be kind. Also, we leave the house people! Ha, we love going on adventures and doing fun activities, and along the way they have made so many awesome friends.
2.How do you do it?
This is the, “Girl I couldn’t do it” moment in the conversation. Having three small children I get creative on when school time is, and how to teach different ages. TJ is my main student and his brothers love going to school with him. If I have TJ working on his phonic sound for letter A, his younger brother Beans will be working on recognizing the letter A, while baby Timmy recognizes the red color of A. They all learn at the same time, but on their level. Somedays while TJ is in school Timmy may be napping, and Daniel is doing educational games on the tablet. Those are some examples, I’ll be sure to go into detail in a later post. In the end, how I’m able to teach is by, a prayer life, time management, and finding joy in what I do.
This one always gets me in my feelings. I have to control myself on not feeling like I have to defend a choice I made. In this moment of questioning sometimes I feel the pressure to say things that will make a compelling argument to persuade people to understand and respect choice. Like I mentioned earlier, being a Black Homeschooling Mom is rare in many areas. I didn’t know of and understand homeschooling until I was older, and when I did, it was presented as something wealthy white people did. And many still believe that.
Before I had children I knew that I wanted to homeschool them. I made the decision to be a stay at home mother, and decided I wanted to be that big influence in my children's lives. I get to teach them about reading, writing, math, science, music, art, the bible, black history, and so much more. To me its precious memories I get to share with my children, and an honor to be able to instill core values into them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to teach my children and watch them learn and grow before my very eyes. If you're on the fence or need support, I'm here =]