Hi friends! We are so excited to kick off a new series called “We Love This Babe” featuring cool women, doing cool things in life. We hope their stories and lives will inspire you as they have inspired us.
We love this babe. Sunshine, or Sunnie, as you call her once you’re friendly, is truly a living testament to her namesake. Along with her blog, African Boheme, we love her style, her lust for life and her fresh take on motherhood. Keep reading to learn more about Sunnie and see where she’s headed next.
Tell us a bit about your blog, African Boheme and what led you to start a travel blog. What were the goals you had for that space when you created it?
African Boheme is a family travel blog documenting my adventures in global motherhood. I watch as my daughter Noon’s mind explodes as a result of travel and realized many people get stopped by the idea of traveling with a baby, by all “gross bits,” but the truth is those gross bits are going to happen regardless of where you are. I started African Boheme as a means of informing other parents about the truth of traveling with small children. My motto is, toddlers are going to have tantrums, they might as well be 10,000 in the air en route to paradise.
You speak a lot about finding your confidence to travel with kids. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way in your travel journey?
Kids are bigger and stronger than we give them credit for. In America, my daughter is a baby. Abroad, she is a person. At 2, she knows to find the server, pay with “dollars” and get her change. I’d never know my toddler had the capacity for understanding the world on such a grand scale had we not traveled.
As a curly-haired brown skin toddler, she gets a lot of attention in South East Asia—people like babies, people LOVE exotic babies. I’ve found confidence through instilling it in her. She doesn’t have to say “hi” to anyone she doesn’t want to. She has no fear of telling adults ‘no.’ When people want to touch her hair, she tells them ‘no!’ When people want to take her picture (on the occasions they ask me for permission), I tell them “if she says it’s OK.” Sometimes she’s in a posing mood, but most of the time she says ‘no’ firmly. That my 2-year-old daughter can police her body and communicate her desire to the world fills me with so much joy. I’m inspired by the wild woman she’ll be if she’s bossing so hard at 2!
You’re a lover of fashion, and your style is incredible. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience working in that industry?
Before getting pregnant and married and falling in love in the space of about 6 months, I bought a pair of leopard-print bell bottoms online and decided, “wherever these were made I want to live.” Fast-forward 6 months and I moved to Byron Bay, Australia. It’s literally the farthest point on a globe that you could get from New York City; I loved it. Byron Bay is the epicenter of all boho fashion in the world—it’s a mom boss hub nestled into a beach town. There I worked with former employees of many favorite multinational brands to bring their brands to life. I was a designer and manufacturing consultant. I made frequent trips back and forth to Bali to liase between manufacturers and brand reps in Byron Bay. Until this day, I see designs inspired by the work I did in those months coming out of Byron.
Before that, I had a really rad time peddling vintage all over New York City. I’ve sold at music festivals and street fairs, wherever the vibe was great and the sun was shining. My preferred era for clothing was the ’60s and ’70s.
Seeing the inner workings of brands made it so clear to me that there was a space for my particular voice in fashion and that’s why when I became a mom and couldn’t find my particular flavor bohemian duds in breastfeeding-friendly fashion I began designing Mino the label. It’s African-inspired, breastfeeding-friendly fashion, and an ode to global travel and bohemian motherhood.
How do you maintain your flawless look when traveling? Any tips for overpackers?
The key to looking and feeling good is NOT to overpack. I’m a recovering overpacker myself. Then I realized that overpacking leads to under-shopping in my final destination, and that’s a serious crime. My wardrobe has a pretty limited color palette all the time, but if that’s not your thing, try it on a vacation. Pick a version of yourself you want to be on this vacation: chic, bohemian, polished, and just pack for that alter ego. DON’T dress for a destination. If I wouldn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt in New York, I wouldn’t buy one for Hawaii. You’ll end up overpacking to compensate for that nagging feeling that you may not be able to pull off that cute look
Tell us about one of your most memorable trips. What made it so special?
My most memorable trip was this year, my two best friends invited Noon along for our annual Aquarius birthday trip. Noon is a Leo so she totally ran the trip, but it was divine. She never let anyone fall too far behind. She reminded us when we lost things and my girlfriends wholly took on my natural mama methods even though they’re sans kids. They baby wore and explained the world around them to her. Three countries, seven airplanes, a nine-hour overland bus and 14 days later.
I don’t know what I was worried about to begin with. In the end, I was the extra wheel! I wish I had memories of my mom traveling with her tribe. I hope we instilled in her the importance of village, sisterhood and that motherhood is the beginning to so much. Never the end.
You live in Brooklyn when you’re not traveling. Do you thrive in the city or do you prefer to be adventuring?
Adventuring! New York is full of so many nooks and crannies, it’s easy to find pockets of adventure. My happy place is in sight of palm trees in temperature that keeps my coconut oil liquid. Winters in New York are harsh. I started looking up atriums in New York and they’ve been a total treat. Also, where I live in Brooklyn is just 20 to 30 minutes to some of the best beaches and nature trails. During the summer, we live on the beach.
What lessons are you hoping Noon learns from traveling at a young age?
That the world is much bigger than she can ever know. And that we are all closer than we truly think. One night in Vietnam, I was contemplating bringing her attention to the geckos that inhabit the night. Tiny animals with toddlers can go one of two ways: super cute and adorable or Godzilla-level panic. Something told me that now was as good a time as any to show her our night friends. She stood there absolutely still, observing for a long time watching the geckos as they defied gravity on sunset-colored walls. I stepped back watching her as the street lights bathed her in a warm glow. Finally when she looked up she said, “geckos aren’t only green.”
Now anyone who knows a toddler knows that once something is so, it’s so. If the shoes belong on the shoe rack, any place else you put them is wrong. Mommy’s phone is mommy’s phone and baba’s phone is baba’s phone, never shall the two cross paths. But in 5 minutes of observing geckos on a wall, in an alley at night in Hoi An, my 2-year-old had put together that her favorite cartoon character, a green pajama’d superhero with gecko characteristics, wasn’t the only gecko on earth.
In that instant, my mind was completely blown. If more humans saw the world, they may be able to see that even though we look different on the outside we are in essence the same.
Can you tell us about Mino? What’s your role in that and how did it come to be?
As soon as I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and thankfully my body supported me in that goal. It didn’t take long to find out that dressing for breastfeeding is much harder than dressing for maternity. Your body is post-baby, and you want certain things hidden. You need to access your boobs, which are the size of whatever huge fruit you never thought you’d be able to compare your boobs to.
After giving birth, it was hard enough to feel good about how my body had changed so much with the miracle of life, the added dread of getting dressed was really getting me down. It doesn’t help that all the literature makes it seem like all “good moms” wore leggings, purchased spandex and swore an oath to “Take The Black” and never wear colors again, unless of course they were primary. In the early days of my postpartum fashion journey is when I started designing for Mino the label.
As I said before, Mino the label is African-inspired breastfeeding-friendly fashion. It’s inspired by global travel and cultural consideration. I work with micro producers in West Africa to produce the garments. Our work is low and sustainable and designed to nourish. A portion of each sale goes to putting a girl in Benin, West Africa in school.
Mino the label is my second love child so to speak. I’m the designer, stylist, photographer and PR team for this one-mom show. I shot the lookbook for Mino the label on my iPhone, with the tribe of women I met in mom groups. Fun fact: New York City mom groups are a hotbed for supermodel hopefuls, those first You sessions will be brutal. I chose to keep the the colors dark and heavy with a focus on women of color because it’s something I see lacking in the whole motherhood conversation, but particularly the natural realm.
Top 3 favorite places you’ve ever traveled to?
- Clarendon, Jamaica – where my mom was born
- Hoi An, Vietnam – where I’ve left my heart and my stomach
- Cairns, Australia – dream landscape/seascape
Any dream destinations you haven’t made it to yet?
Ghana. I’ll be in West Africa during the time it has its Chale Wote street festival. I’m so bummed I won’t be going.
Where are you headed to next?
Cotonou, Benin in West Africa to look over the production process for Mino the label, and let my daughter cuddle her family. She’s the only grandbaby abroad, so I have to return her often.
Check out these posts for more powerful female inspiration: Start Your Own Thing: 5 Fears To Squash + Finding Your Own Style With One Of Hollywood’s Coolest Costume Designers.
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