All too often, we see a post on social media that makes us feel as if we’re not pretty enough, not smart enough, not cool enough for the online world. @MelaninGirlsClub highlights the beauty in every being. As a matter of fact, founder, Chare’A Smith, only shares captions that bridge the gap between the pretty girls and their insecurities.
“Because of its name, girls would reach out asking me to share their cute pictures. But when they send it, I’d ask them to write one thing that they struggle with that they’re learning to love as a woman. I gained a following because people loved how the page talked about loving yourself – even in the midst of going through what you’re going through.”
From the outside looking in, the concept seems to exclusively serve as a motivational account on social media. While originally created as a profile for self-love, the Melanin Girls Club handle has evolved into much more than an Instagram account.
On a beautiful summer afternoon, Chare’A agreed to graciously share an hour of her time chatting with me about her humble beginnings in The Region’s creative space, the creation of Melanin Girls Club and its initial anonymity, and her ambitions for the Club’s future. Read the story below.
Before we dive into the organization, I’d like to learn more about the person behind the movement. Tell me more about yourself and what you like to do.
I was born on the Southside of Chicago, then moved to the Hammond and Gary area. My mom was strict and I couldn’t go outside and do things that other kids did. I would just sit at home and use my imagination to create. I loved to read – I would literally get in trouble because at bedtime I’m sneaking with a flashlight reading books! That’s probably why my eyes are so bad now! [Laughs.]
I love art – I’m a painter. But I also like to curate and collect art. I also do poetry and write books. It’s been very healing for me throughout my entire life. I’ve always suffered from anxiety, but I had the type of family, as a lot of African-Americans do, that don’t really understand that. I’ve kept journals since I was young and in the beginning I’d write about stupid shit like cookies and not being able to do what I wanted in class. But, it’s always been therapeutic. The pen is my highest art form.
I’m also very into activism. I served as the Vice President of the NAACP when I was on campus and helped begin a couple of different black organizations when I was at IU. Activism is very important to me – not just for black people, but for all people of color. I really believe that you can’t make any change unless you change everything for everybody. It’s like the MLK quote, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I had to learn to use my empathy towards those issues as a point of action because I was starting to get depressed. Being an empath is tough because you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see this happen and that happen and it’s like “it’s so crazy that the world is like this.” Instead of being sad, I had to learn to give back.
Instead of being sad, I had to learn to give back.
I loved that you initially approached creativity as a form of therapy – mental health is important. What advice do you have for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered their talent or their personal form of therapy?
You have to look inward and see what it is that you love, and then figure out how you can perfect that interest. If you know that you are good at organizing things, take that and practice it once everyday. Find new ways to get better at it! If you don’t know what you’re good at already, you need to try something new! I try a new thing at least once every week – whether it’s food, an activity, or tactic at work – literally anything. Figure out what you like and manifest it into something by doing it, trying it, being it every single day.
Figure out what you like and manifest it into something by doing it, trying it, being it every single day.
I love that idea! I’m going to do that myself. What new thing did you try this week?
I actually went to Bakersfield – the taco place!
I LOVE THAT PLACE!
Girl it is so bomb! I’m pescatarian now so I got a fish taco and a shrimp taco – I was in there smashing. [Laughs.]
So now, tell me more about Melanin Girls Club. What’s the background story of its creation?
I followed a few natural hair pages on social media – they’d only show girls with 4A to 4B hair types and they very rarely showed dark skinned girls. That’s not always relatable! Seeing all of these standards of beauty made me want to create something where I could combine my poetry, my activism, talk about self-love, and show women of all sizes and hair types.
I started the page and followed friends and people I knew, but nobody knew I was managing the account! I would reach out to women that I thought were beautiful, despite their flaws, to repost their pictures. Eventually, girls would reach out asking Melanin Girls Club to share their cute pictures. But when they send it, I’d ask them to write one thing that they struggle with that they’re learning to love as a woman. The page gained a following because people loved how it talked about loving yourself – even in the midst of going through what you’re going through. Those messages were so fulfilling but still nobody knew that I created it!
Sometimes I feel like people support strangers more than they do people who are right in their face. I definitely had people who would support me, but through it’s anonymity I was able to be free in what I said. A friend of mine, Brandon Wallace, created a logo in 2017 and I was so hyped about it that I shared it on my personal page. Everybody was like “this was you?!” Once I posted the logo it was my way of saying, “I don’t give a fuck who knows if it’s me or not.”
I wanted to do something even more purposeful with the brand, so I decided to make it a nonprofit. I wanted women to learn to love themselves and to teach meditation. I wanted to share the same resources that I used to survive. This is my way of using my platform for good.
This is my way of using my platform for good.
What about Melanin Girls Club changed once you established the nonprofit?
I hosted my first art and yoga event earlier this summer! I felt so dope doing that.
Melanin Girls is a club! If you’re using your gifts to uplift others, I want you to share and serve others along with me. I reached out to artists and other female entrepreneurs in the Indianapolis community, including Go Off Sis and Snatched Fitness.
Along with art and yoga, I also led a meditation session. We also talked about different things that affect us as women and how we can overcome them. The crowd was such a beautiful blend – there were women in their young 20s and even a couple of grandmas in the building!
Please tell me more about your most recent events. How do these differ from the art and yoga event earlier this summer? What did you learn from your first event that made the following events a success?
Melanin Girls Club is an outlet for the arts, activism, healing, and strengthening community amongst women in cities everywhere. Our events bring women together to evolve in their self care routines through meditation, empowerment discussions on many topics, holistic self care tools, and vibrating higher in our thoughts and ambitions. The self care shop for Melanin Girls Club, www.worthyofevolving.com, helps women explore their holistic health with alternative methods and Evolution journals written by me. We even expanded and had an event called ‘Pushing Culture’ that included men and a dope discussion on finding your passions outside of your 9-5. I learned that there are dope people out here that believe in themselves, their evolutions, and positive vibes so don’t doubt your capabilities to harness all of your powers together in one space. My events have been successful because I believe in what I do and create wholeheartedly – and I do it authentically.
Do you have anything else planned for Melanin Girls Club outside of events?
Right now I’m just focused on our event planning and keeping things creative. We are building a community of people that want to elevate in new ways. These events were just the beginning of the larger dream of reaching young girls everywhere. The proceeds we make help our mission of mentoring and speaking to melanin girls at church events and middle and high schools all over. I love the work the work that we do and reaching so many women, however, I always thought to myself that if I knew then what I know now, I would have saved myself a long time ago. Knowledge of self and self discovery is one of the most important things in life and it is the only thing that isn’t taught to us in school. I want more young girls to begin their journey of self earlier so that they can start their evolution much earlier. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”
Knowledge of self and self discovery is one of the most important things in life and it is the only thing that isn’t taught to us in school.
How else has Melanin Girls Club expanded outside of its original mission of being an Instagram account about self-love?
Turning MGC into a non-profit basically put more action behind our words. We aren’t just an Instagram account anymore. We are motivating women in all areas, creating, giving space, highlighting other women and men, building community, and volunteering with the younger Queens.
We aren’t just an Instagram account anymore.
Which Indiana-based creatives have you grown to support through Melanin Girls Club, outside of the fitness movements aforementioned?
Honestly, right now I’m surrounded by so many people elevating and creating in their own ways and I’m genuinely inspired and encouraged by it. I’m beginning to kind of not like being called a creative anymore. I love seeing everybody work towards their passions and grind to be a little better everyday. Being from Chicago but journeying in Indiana allowed me to meet so many good people from photographers to writers to entrepreneurs and I support them all in whatever way I can. Even those I don’t know personally or those who aren’t seen as “popular” in the creative world, I’m still rooting. I feel Indiana was a lot slower than Chicago to embrace creatives and supporting those trying to go outside of the box, but the love is really there. If you’re elevating yourself or those around you in some way, I see you. And I appreciate your artistry in its authentic form.
Last thing I want you to think about: if you had to describe Melanin Girls Club using three words, what would they be?
Unapologetic, light-filled, and authentic.