Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The calendar declaration of Black History Month is coming to an end, BUT that does not mean that the celebration of our Blackness ends here. I am here to present to you the LAST (whaaaa, I know, I am SO sad too!) installment of the Black is Beautiful mini blog series for this month! One of the most inspiring people I know that I am featuring today is my sweet soul sister, Melissa! Let me share a bit about this beautiful human being before we get into it!
I have been so privileged to have gotten to know Melissa these past few years on a deeper level. Being another Congolese sister of mine, we have very similar upbringings. Our families are long-time friends. This connection has been a blessing since it has allowed me and her to foster our own friendship over time. I was so excited to hear that she was attending school in SoCal way back when I first began college. Though we did not attend the same university per say, her proximity to where I was located was perfect because she got to spend a few holidays and breaks with my family. There, our bond grew stronger. I honestly view Melissa as a sister who I dearly admire. We have beautiful memories together, and she is a fashion ICON yall! My favorite thing about her is that she is truly symbolic of a humble and gentle spirit. She is one of those people with who you can feel such radiant energy exuding from her. Let me stop bragging now – I want you to read about all of the exciting accomplishments we are going to uncover today about her in this interview!
Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!
Melissa: Hi beauties! My name is Melissa Mulengwa (she/her), and I’m the Owner & Founder of Mama + Mimba Maternity (and most recently, Mimba Chic – yay!). I’m a 20-something forever fashionista and blossoming entrepreneur. I LOVE fashion + style, and expressing myself visually through clothing. I’m a first-generation immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have a background in public health & women’s health, and for a long time in my undergrad career, I honestly thought I was going to go to medical school to become an OB-GYN (I just couldn’t pass organic chemistry – if you know, you know, haha!). Although I ultimately decided to go to business school to get an MBA, I’ve loved and always known that I wanted to work with pregnant women. But I had absolutely NO idea that I would start a business at this point in my life, let alone a maternity boutique.
I’m not a mother just yet, and I’ve never been pregnant before (although I’m SO excited for that part of my life when the time comes). But I know that God placed it on my heart to open a maternity boutique that would inspire women to feel beautiful & powerful throughout their motherhood journeys. Through Mama + Mimba (and now Mimba Chic), I’m learning what it means to be a mama, how beautiful pregnancy is, and how truly amazing women are. It’s so special to me that I get to combine my passions for fashion + style and working with pregnant women in two lovely spaces, and I’m so happy I get to share this journey with you all. I’m so excited to share chic maternity fashion, uplifting words, and inspiration!
Irene: Choose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?
Melissa: The 3 words that come to mind when I define “Blackness” are: melanin, glow, and unique. I chose these words because they are the words that perfectly capture all of the beauty, strength, and power that is Blackness!
Melanin – Melanin is such a beautiful word to me, and is the very thing that gives us our vast range of beautiful skin tones. It is what gives each of us our own unique stamp that allows us to stand out among others, and to be deeply rooted in our Blackness. I love my melanin, and my beautiful, chocolate brown skin!
Glow – It’s truly magical how our skin just naturally glows, especially under the sun! I remember sitting down and having an honest conversation with my baby cousin when she was younger (she also has chocolate brown skin), and telling her that she is the most beautiful person in the world (and always will be) because she naturally glows like the sun. Seeing her face light up as a big smile stretched across her face after I told her this was truly the cutest, most special moment I’ve ever had with anyone, aw!
Unique – Black people (and Black women especially) are truly the most unique and beautiful beings on the entire earth; from our hair textures, skin tones, and body shapes, to our style and personalities, we as a culture and as individuals are just so phenomenal and powerful!
Irene: What is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?
Melissa: To me, the most beautiful thing about being Black is the elegance, power, and beauty that we so naturally carry in our walk, our talk, our style, and how we show up in the world every single day. We carry with us the stories and experiences of those who came before us, the hopes and dreams of those who will come after us, and the strength and courage we need to live in the present moment. The joy that reverberates from our hearts as we carry on the legacy of our culture from one generation to the next with such grace is just so beautiful to me, and I’m so grateful to be a Black woman in this life!
Irene: How do you keep your Blackness beautiful on a regular basis?
Melissa: I keep my Blackness beautiful by practicing self-love and self-care daily. For me, self-love and self-care look different during each season of my life – in the current season I’m in, self-love and self-care are pouring into my journal whenever I feel most led in the mornings, as well as writing down all the hopes and dreams that I’m praying over (as this is my favorite way to speak to God); maintaining my health and fitness (including drinking 8 cups of water daily and doing my mini workouts + taking walks); being consistent with my daily and nightly skincare routine (the goal is for my skin to look like a glazed doughnut all 2022); listening to uplifting music that inspires me to love myself and the woman I’m becoming (and also if I just want to whine my waist and be THAT GIRL in my room, haha!); watching YouTube videos featuring my favorite fashion girls (Monroe Steele and Highlowluxxe are my absolute FAVES!); and lastly, coming up with amazing fashion looks & concepts, and doing editorial-style photoshoots.
Each of these activities makes my heart fill and burst with joy and allows me to truly see and feel how beautiful my Blackness is, always!
Irene: What is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?
Melissa: One of my favorites is called “Cleva” by Erykah Badu – this song is my JAM, especially whenever I wash my hair. I love how its beat just hugs my soul, and its lyrics make me feel so beautiful as a Black woman in the simplest, truest way possible. My favorite lyrics from the song are “My dress ain’t cost nothing but seven dollars / but I made it fly / and I’ll tell ya why / ‘cause I’m clever…” To me, these lyrics (and the rest of the song) tell me that Black women are honestly the coolest, flyest people on this planet, and that it doesn’t take much effort to embody that. Our existence is just that, beautiful + clever.
Irene: How can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or we can support?
Melissa: Yesss! I’m the proud Owner & Founder of two beautiful brands: Mama + Mimba Maternity, and its beloved (and new) sister brand, Mimba Chic. I created both brands to inspire mamas-to-be to look and feel their absolute best during their pregnancies with stylish & functional maternity fashion. Through both platforms, I also hope to bring more representation of Black women in motherhood & maternity wear spaces. Below is a bit more about each brand:
Mama + Mimba Maternity is an online maternity boutique that uplifts & empowers mamas-to-be with beautiful, elegant, and chic clothing. Our maternity dresses are carefully selected and curated with love to compliment a woman’s natural glow from within. At Mama + Mimba, we inspire women to feel beautiful during all parts of their motherhood journeys. Thus, all of our dresses can be worn before, during, and after pregnancy! Hooray! Shop with us at www.mamaandmimba.com, and follow us on Instagram @mamaandmimba! (Also, if you’d like to learn more about me and my inspiration for starting Mama + Mimba, watch our introduction video on YouTube!)
Mimba Chic is a platform that inspires mamas-to-be to live their best and most fashionable lives during their pregnancies. We help mamas bring out their beautiful, natural glow with stylish & functional maternity fashion. From helpful tips on the most comfortable maternity basics and maternity casual wear to invest in, to the cutest maternity dresses to wear for special occasions, we provide mamas-to-be with our top recommendations for the best fashion pieces they need in their maternity wardrobes. Who says you can’t be fabulous, fashionable, and pregnant? Check us out at www.mimbachic.com, and follow us on Pinterest at @mimbachic!
Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!
Melissa: Definitely! To follow along my personal journey and love for all things fashion + style, follow me on Instagram at @melissamulengwa!
Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!
Melissa: My daily reminder to myself (and to you) is to choose love, and to show up in love, always. You were beautifully crafted in your mother’s womb by God to be the amazing person you are, and the world deserves to see you glow! And always remember that your Black is (and always will be) beautiful. 🙂
I don’t want these to end, ah!! Now do yall see why I was in such AWE at the beginning? Melissa is a self-made woman, okayy! A whole entrepreneur, making her dreams a reality every day! It has been so amazing to hear her talk about these dreams when we were young ones in college, and to have actually manifested it into a reality is so empowering to witness. Check out her businesses. She has put in so much work building her businesses from the ground up. If motherhood is in my future, I will definitely be supporting because fashion stops for no one — I must be stylish at all times! Also, I LOVEEEEE me some Badu! “Cleva” is also one of my all-time favorite songs by Ms. Badu! You’re so right, it does make for a great hair-washing song! I swear my deep conditioner penetrates better with “Cleva” in the background (lol). Thank you so much, Melissa, for letting me feature you today. It is truly an honor to have you on the site and for you to share such exciting news with us!
Friends — I don’t want to say it BUT this technically does conclude the Black is Beautiful mini blog series that I have planned and executed for this month. I really had so much fun interviewing my lovely friends this past month. Each and every individual interviewed is so special to me, and I really hope that you all were able to learn from them and also support their various businesses, projects, and aspirations. I am so touched that you all took the time to read my blog series this month. Yall’s support, affirming words, and shares have truly made this process even more worthwhile. I hope that by reading this series, you all have learned a little more about why Black is SO beautiful and the many forms, shades, and narratives Blackness presents as.
I maayyyy have a little surprise to share on the blog in a few days – we shall see! Stay tuned just in case! 😉
Peace and love,