Photo Credit: Love Thy Skin
How One Traveler Encourages Young Black Girls Worldwide To Love Thy Skin
Miami-based traveler Nakeitheya “Nikki” Smith is all about promoting self-love and encouraging girls to Love Thy Skin. The 34-year-old property manager, travel content creator, Instagram coach, and humanitarian created a program that teaches young girls how to properly care for their skin, preserving its natural melanated beauty.
Love Thy Skin was inspired by the experiences of Nikki’s 12-year-old daughter.
“Love Thy Skin was born during a trying time in my daughter’s life when she bullied at summer camp at the age of six due to the color of her skin,” Smith told Travel Noire. “Can you imagine trying to explain to a six-year-old little girl that she was being bullied because of what she looks like? It truly was a difficult task at hand to simplify it.”
Instead of taking a negative route, Nikki tried a different approach, geared towards approaching the subject in a positive light. From then on, she was intentional about showering her daughter with daily affirmations that would boost her confidence, self-love, and kindness to herself and others. Nikki educated her daughter that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and shades because it is measured from within.
“My daughter and I are alike in many ways and we share some of the same features. Our physical appearances, however, are opposite. I used this as a prime example, illustrating that though people are different, they are all still beautiful.”
“She was taught acceptance and to be open to the content of people’s character. I soon began to notice she would speak to her cousins and friends and repeat the things I taught her. She was passing the lessons along, which helped her during her difficult times in primary school.”
Pleased with the newfound confidence she was witnessing in her daughter, Nikki began to wonder how many other young girls who were dealing with issues such as bullying, colorism, and insecurities placed on them by peers or social media could benefit from the inspiration and affirmations her daughter received. Thus, Love Thy Skin was born.
Love Thy Skin promotes the appreciation of one’s self, no matter the pigment, shade, or color of your skin. The organization provides education on proper skin care techniques and simple, affordable skin care routines that will enhance your skin’s natural glow. Classes include a pampering spa treatment experience. Developing positive self-images while promoting healthy youth development is the organization’s core value.
So far, Love Thy Skin has conducted presentations for girls aged 7-13 in South Africa and Zambia. Nikki says working with the girls has given her some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of her lifetime.
“I feel that I really have the opportunity to immerse myself in their culture and also leave a part of me there with them,” she explained. “Just simply spending time listening to them and getting a better understanding of their lives, we all learn and embrace each other.”
“Connecting with the girls, the feeling is truly unmatched. So many emotions flow through my veins whenever I can connect with them. There are moments of enlightenment, positivity, love, self-awareness, humanity, laughter, and occasional tears.”
Sometimes initially met with apprehensiveness on the girls’ part, Nikki appeals to their curiosity with an icebreaker exercise and soon has everyone feeling more comfortable and ready to openly engage. Watching their nervousness turn to excitement and joy is a feeling Nikki will always cherish.
“When I see their reactions, I’m immediately overcome with the same joy, and gratefulness that I was able to touch on a topic that garnered their interest.”
Nikki is currently in the process of making Love Thy Skin an official non-profit organization. In the future, she hopes to spread her message of self-love in her local area of Miami, throughout Afro-Caribbean nations, and to continue hosting seminars in different countries on the continent of Africa.
Today, Nikki’s daughter continues to thrive and promote self-love, as well. She is one of Nikki’s best travel companions, and Nikki is happy to be able to show her the world.
“My favorite travel memories are the ones I spend with my daughter. The look in her eyes when she saw the Eiffel Tower for the for time was absolutely unforgettable. Travel benefits us both mentally, physically, and spiritually. There’s nothing like being 30,000 feet in the air, daydreaming about what experiences await you once you reach your destination. Travel keeps us sane in an era of uncertainty. Travel is healing and travel is life.”
Nikki most enjoys visiting locations where she, as a Black woman, receives a warm welcome, namely, African Caribbean, and Latin American countries. A notable country for her was Egypt, where she said she was made to feel like Beyoncé or Michelle Obama during her travels.
“In Cairo, I was welcomed by every single person I came in contact with. Even while going for a stroll on the outskirts of the Khan el-Khalili market, every person I passed said with such beautiful smiles ‘Welcome to Egypt”. The people seemed genuinely friendly and happy to have me visiting their country.”
Nigeria was another standout, a place where Nikki says she experienced the best nightlife in the world, hands down, as well as Sint Maarten, where she found her heart and a second family. Brazil, too, was a very special experience for her, with its unique vibe and strong African influence apparent in its magical samba and Carnival customs. South Africa, however, will always hold a very special place in Nikki’s heart.
“It was the first African country I visited, and it was a solo trip. I cried as I gazed at the vast variety of geography flying into the country from my window seat. So many emotions were present, especially excitement.”
“I finally felt like I was home at last and where I belonged. Seeing Black people at every turn brought me so much joy. I love the diversity of the country, the infrastructure, the culture, dining experiences, and its nightlife. I enjoyed it so much my goal is to eventually live in South Africa three months out of the year.”