Millenials of Africa and the Diaspora: Naballah Chi

When it comes to the fashion world, it seems sometimes that culturally we are force fed the same images of our women, under the standards of the Western world and it’s pseudo sexual exploitation of the female form.
Not the case with Trinidadian, hijabi model and fashion designer Naballah Chi. As the first installment of my “Millenials of Africa and the Diaspora” highlights series, I spoke with Naballah about her career, her goals and her influences as an internationally respected member of the Diaspora fashion community.
As a professional consultant Naballah received a BA in communications and also studied fashion design at the University of Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indian Islands. Like most of Africa, Trinidad and Tobago has a history of repeated invasion and conquest by competing Europeans colonizers but according to BBC the two Island nation which has a population of almost completely people of African decent, “is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, thanks to its large reserves of oil and gas.”
About her childhood upbringing, Naballah says ” The path and the journey of my life makes me unique…love, support, guidance, protection and healthy boundaries were all part of my childhood so as a result I’ve been fortunate to grow into a high-functioning adult with good confidence and self worth, who has constructive coping strategies in difficult times.” It is such an upbringing that she reflects in her mission to show humility and piety in her quest to redefine the modern fashion world and it’s stereotypes.
But this is what being a millenial is all about right? Redefining what the world has spent centuries defining for us. “Growing up as the ‘connected generation’. I’m constantly in flux, trying to discover who I am…” says Naballah, “to be seen and to be heard. As an African creative I often talk about telling my own stories via self expression namely through social media, blogging, vlogging etc. Being a millennial means using technology extensively to move beyond conventional approaches in all aspects of my life. For example the content I share on my craft, forging new connections with my audience, reaching new markets and brand awareness.”
Her colorful expression of style and grace through fashion design is a depiction of such efforts. Her social media pages are decorated with hundreds of professional photos displaying her various designs of modest dresses and youthful ensembles. With nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram, she has already been featured in outlets such as The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail UK, Cosmopolitan, RunwayRiot, BBC’s The Conversation, Miss World Muslimah Trinidad and Tobago and a host of other fashion columns and international events.
In the true spirit of being a millennial on a mission, when asked what opportunities she was glad she missed, she replied “I’m not really fond of missing opportunities but I’m ok with it only because I believe what missed me was not meant for me.” She does admit she would enjoy a chance to work with Italian fashion house Gucci as well as more fashion events on the African continent. She also plans to open an online store to showcase and sell her own designs around the world. Some of her recent inspiration comes from being selected to participate in Mission Catwalk (a reality tv show where fashion designers compete).

Being in such a position to influence so many is a blessing but also a huge responsibility. A young woman in Naballah’s position can largely contribute to the self esteem and awareness of a generation of young girls. “I find the courage to lead by example…” says Ms Chi about her influence on her community “be it sparking creativity, prompting deeper thinking or just inspiring action. I usually cultivate and express the inspiration within myself first, and it becomes infectious. I keep my message and work authentic to amplify my results of inspiring others.”

Her open advice to teenagers and young people is to “Set goals. Stay focused on trying to achieve them. Develop good financial habits and always keep yourself in a state of constant awareness [and] knowledge.”

Naballah told us her mother was the most inspirational person in her life. ” Not because she is my mom” she says, “but because of the way she handles every situation, her positive attitude towards life, her problem solving [and] multitasking capabilities, the fact that she is very ambitious and determined.” Otherwise she says ” I have so many people who support me in such a big way but my friend Jeffrey Johnson definitely stands out more than the rest. It could be his physical presence or a word of encouragement he is always there for me.”
We asked for her vote in an ongoing poll we’re taking just for fun. If Africa became one country, where would the capital city be. Her answer, “Ghana or Nigeria of course!”
Thanks so much for your contribution Ms. Naballah Chi, we wish you all the best in your endeavours!

Author: RJ Mahdi

African American repatriate to West Africa, founder of Made In Africa Project, pan-African activist as well as business and investment consultant broker. Follow me on social media @KingRJMahdi.

RJ Mahdi

African American repatriate to West Africa, founder of Made In Africa Project, pan-African activist as well as business and investment consultant broker. Follow me on social media @KingRJMahdi.

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