Tatenda Luna: I’ve Always Been Unstoppable, Overhauling My Socials Helped Me Pick Up Speed
POPSUGAR is dedicated to heroing the voices of women, people who identify as women, and non-binary people who are powering a brighter future and making an important difference through their work. People who are truly, ‘unstoppable’. For our latest Unstoppable series, we’re profiling the ‘Class of 2023’ — the women who are driving towards a better future. We’re focusing on women across a range of industries, including beauty, sustainability, fashion, public policy and more. You can find all the pieces here.
“You can do anything you put your mind to.” I used to hear that all the time growing up from teachers, parents and the Disney channel. I grew up thinking that I truly was unstoppable. I wanted to be a fashion designer, department store owner, lawyer, forensic scientist, journalist and fashion designer again!
When I moved here from England I told everyone that I was going to go to fashion school and become a designer. One boy laughed at me and said I could never do it. To him, 11-year-old Tatenda said, “watch me”. I can do anything I put my mind to. He can’t stop me, no one can. But for someone like me, a black girl living in the northern suburbs of Western Australia, things sure as hell can slow you down.
There were many things I didn’t realise I took for granted growing up in England. Going to the salon to get my hair done, finding my shade of make up in Boots, (the Priceline equivalent, not that I was allowed to use it anyway!) going to school with people from Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Jamaica. Seeing myself and families that looked like mine on the telly. My blackness was never something I thought about negatively, it wasn’t really something that was brought to the forefront of my mind in general.
Often times there are things we only begin to notice in their absence. That’s when the painful awareness drags itself to the surface. It wasn’t a flood of change, it came little by little, bit by bit. Trying to find that BB cream I read about in Dolly magazine that everyone was wearing in Year 8, only to try to make it by myself with Nivea and my mum’s old MAC foundation. Getting laughed at because I put SPF on and looked like a ghost. Ad breaks in between ‘Neighbours’ for getting the dullness out of your straight silky hair. I began to ignore these things because they weren’t for me. But what was?
I recently watched Bretman Rock accept an award and in that speech he said, “when people say ‘I never saw myself on tv’ girl, change the channel!” And that’s exactly what I did! In 2015 as I graduated high school and prepared myself for the real world, I did an overhaul. I went through my Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, deleted, unfollowed and started from scratch.
I discovered a whole different world outside of the one I had been living in. Patricia Bright and Jackie Aina became my aunties and they taught me everything I wanted to know and everything I needed to hear about what beauty looked like on a darker canvas. My Instagram feed was overflowing with melanin magic and the confidence that I had in my own skin was euphoric. I had always been unstoppable but now I was picking up speed.
Eight years later and here we are. As I write this I’m sipping on my vanilla oat latte, waiting for boarding to begin. I’m flying out to Sydney to watch the Super Bowl halftime show with Fenty. As in Robyn RIHANNA Fenty! Sometimes imposter syndrome really kicks in and I start doubting my presence in these spaces. Should I really be here I think, what makes me think that I’m someone that can do this. I can’t do this.
But then 11-year-old Tatenda whispers, “watch me”. Actually she doesn’t whisper, she never has. She hadn’t yet figured out how to make herself smaller to get by. It’s still hard sometimes. I’ll go to an event and be the only black girl and I’ll think, where are they?! Because I know they exist, I’m not the only one.
I often get asked what keeps you motivated. It used to be the people that said I couldn’t do it. Then it became the opportunities, the events and the trips. And then my mum called. She has a friend with a daughter who’s about to graduate high school. She spoke to her mum and said, “Tatenda is really making us proud, to see someone like us doing what she’s doing is so amazing!” I get comments like that quite often, from girls all over the world saying that I’ve inspired them to try a certain makeup look, that I’ve shown them that some styles and trends aren’t exclusive, they’re for us too.
But there’s something about hearing it from someone in this part of the world, there’s a weight to it that pushes me forward. I wish that I had someone like me when I was in high school, the thought that I can be that person for a black girl in THIS country is what motivates me, it’s what makes me unstoppable.
You can follow Tatenda Luna on Instagram.