The "Narratorial Creators" Series is a space for radically creative teastained women to share ideas that inform their work and the resolutions they have for its impact on the world. My hope is that their offerings inspire us to Journey Soulfully, thinking differently about our humanity and creative continuance as we see what other stories are possible for us to tell with our gifts along the journey.
Luna and I met over the phone back in 2014. She'd called me from Atlanta, her rich, Brazilian accent asking "Do you know who this is?" At that point she was working hard on Project Tribe. later when I'd first moved to NYC Luna called me and shared her personal narrative of making it in the city--struggles and triumphs, gains and losses. Her story and encouragement inspired me to keep my head and hopes up.
As for her work, Luna has always been an inspiration to me. She's built her personal brand around her ancestry, she uses her ancestral, cultural narrative to inspire pride in fellow Afro-Brazilians, and she doesn't limit herself to any ONE thing. Fitness, head-wrapping, activism, corresponding, workshop-leading, modeling, dancing, motivational speaking, fashion consulting, teaching, corporate/creative strategizing--she does it all, keeping her feminine energy, ancestral pride, and her life testimonies of overcoming at the helm. All of Luna's work honors her spirit and soul, staying in the realm of her calling. Hence, she is a Narratorial Creator.
Yemesi "Juliana" Luna is a communication strategist/ urban connector/ performer/ artist from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil traveling the world designing shared experiences for people of every background.
Her work is developed around 3 simple principles: intuition, ancestral wisdom and the art of head wrapping.
Through these experiences she bridges people together and lets their stories bloom. She brings forth to our contemporary world the creative power present in the ancient art of sculpting with a piece of waxed fabric.
In May 2015 Luna was invited to go on a trip to reconnect with her ancestral roots where a DNA test revealed that her ancestors come from Nigeria, of the Yoruba tribe. As the co-founder of the Instagram-based movement Project Tribe, this knowledge about her ancestry proved a turning point in her personal narrative. Later Luna created the Yemisi Experience: a Summit programme which used the art of head-wrapping (which her ancestors were known for) as a channel of connectivity for individuals to connect with themselves in a non-digitized, holistic fashion.
Today, Luna uses ancestry, fashion, wellness, and motivational speaking to empower not only the next generation of Afro-Brazilians but also the next generation of women to be confident in where they come from and the stories they’re meant to tell.
What is something you tell yourself every day as an affirmation?
I tell myself to surrender.
To the magic of life.
To the healing that comes with challenges,
to the feelings of despair that sometimes take over me.
I tell myself to surrender.
What is your work?
Your Instagram shows this conglomerate of Afro-Brazilian women’s empowerment
meets fitness and fashion and hair and cultural pride…
What are these elements’ role in your day-to-day?
My work is to become one with my essence.
I am just sharing my journey.
If that makes any sense.
That’s why I do different things.
Because all of the things I do, are small parts of my essential self.
It’s like manifestations of who I am...like a hand woven fabric.
That reveals it’s colors as the work progresses.
The empowerment element, is because at some point in my life,
that very same concept crossed my path,
enlightened me about so much in my blackness I didn’t know about..
And put me in touch with something that later on led me towards a path of identity discovery.
That’s my work.
To discover, explore and become one with my essence.
Which is seen in material creation, but also ethereal feelings.
What lessons learned from your life’s events have qualified you to do your work well?
I learned to listen to myself.
And to accept that I am just learning.
Making mistakes is growing.
For a long time I searched for approval,
so I tried to be perfect, please everyone.
But that’s a burden too heavy to carry!
I would be unhappy my entire life living that way.
I have come to accept that I can make mistakes.
It is all good at the end of the day.
I try to walk with that in mind.
You weren’t always this blossoming, confident Amazon of a woman. What birthed within you to bring about your transformation?
My transformation came from a shitty situation. A very bad relationship.
That led me to depression and lots of confusion,
showed me how my lack of awareness
just didn’t help me live in a nourishing environment.
I had to see darkness in order to appreciate light.
After that bottom pit, I decided to be better.
To live happy.
And I just did everything to achieve that centered state I once lived in.
I watched my very shadow take me to a more conscious place.
Maria Bethania says:
"People are made to shine. Not to starve. People are a mirror of life, a sweet mystery” in one of her songs.
So I believe in that. We are not made to starve.
She talks about nourishment..
Love, courage, ease, warmth, coolness, touch, soul...
I then started to fill myself up with those qualities. Nourish myself.
And it’s what has brought me to this state I am in now.
But it’s an ongoing process.
It will only stop when I leave this earth.
What are the most important things you’ve had to overcome, learn about yourself to be the Juliana Luna we see today?
I had to overcome fear of abundance,
low self esteem, lack of awareness, loneliness, self doubt…
I still have to; it’s just now,
I know where to go when those things
wanna have a chance to express themselves.
I watch them. And after surrendering to them, I allow them to leave.
No resistance. No conflict. Just compassion for myself--
lots of compassion for myself.
I have to forgive myself for feeling those. You know?
I was programmed a certain way.
And I live in this society that has done
the same dirty job to millions of us.
So I need to exercise that compassion... 'cause I am not alone in this shit!
Name 6 things you’ve had to learn to release.
Low self esteem
Lack of confidence
Fear of abundance
You’ve had to loose yourself from toxic relationships.
What is the primary way you’ve learned to identify and separate from such people/situations?
I realize I often gave away my power.
And that has to do with how I allowed people to treat me. Again...people pleasing is some toxic shit!
I just learned to find the ones that really bring the best out of me. With love and ease.
Whenever something or someone brings drama, that’s a huge red flag.
Detoxing from drama can be a very difficult task.
'Cause crazy makers are pros at creating that shit in the first place.
Think about it as a slimy pool of mud.
The more you try to run and make violent moves to get out of it, the dirtier you become.
People can be pools of mud oftentimes. It’s up to you if you wanna go there.
It’s up to you how you wanna end up. Again, awareness is key.
Watching people’s lifestyle is key. Not on social media though, in real life.
When shit gets real you can determine whether people are or not on your “level”:
Their habits, how they treat people, what they eat, how they behave in front of others other than yourself...etc.
And then, making a decision to cut it off comes from a real place.
I think we became so disconnected from our intuition.
We kind of go into things blinded. That’s some dangerous shit.
BUT… lessons have to be learned.
Walking in awareness is always good, watch for the lessons in every situation,
surrender and repeat to yourself: it is all good.
All in divine order.
Name 6 truths you’ve had to learn to hold close.
It’s all in divine order.
What have you learned from this?
Redefine what love is to you.
Find your sacred.
Express your essence.
Be patient with yourself.
What does it mean to be an Afro-Brazilian woman in the world?
How has the identity evolved over the years and what is the work yet needed to be done in Brazil?
Being Afro-Brazilian has so many facets.
I have half of the world in me... Culturally I have so much to learn.
My own heritage has been sabotaged and hidden from me.
So it’s a very hard thing to only learn about my ancestry in my adult life.
I am just now coming to a place of understanding of my identity, and this is a primary stage.
The work that needs to be done is of education.
Not only historical, but of transformation of our minds.
Looking at the world with my people’s eyes, cosmogony of my people:
Not this do do do do...go go go go, thing we live out here.
When Bob Marley spoke of emancipation of the mind, this is what he was referring to. T
he understanding that everything we know thus far are foreign concepts.
We come from harmony. We come from respecting the sacred. Honoring nature.
Becoming one with life. What happened to that?
Well, now...it’s up to us to find out.
The diaspora people, as well as African people must come together in this mission.
Transformation of the mind.
Not only in Brazil, but everywhere our people live.
Can you talk about the experience of going to Nigeria,
finding your ancestral connections there, and being given a name?
I am very blessed.
Finding this connection was never even a dream of mine.
Because I didn’t even know this was there in the first place.
This is far beyond what my imagination could conceive.
But I went. Because I trusted my instincts.
I worked with headwraps, after I fell in love with them
at a family gathering of my Yoruba people in Boston.
There I discovered this beautiful art.
Fell in love with fabric, stories, colors, creativity, my blackness.
Only to discover later on that my very roots came from that tribe, and I was only exercising my ancestral knowledge.
You see? My heart led me there.
I have no merits in this. I was brought back by my ancestors.
Just so they could tell me:
You are here for a reason. Be brave. Be kind. Become love,
Be your essential self. Everything else will fall into place.
We are guiding you. You are not alone.
The documentary Brasil DNA Africa was just exhibited by BBC earth.
All South America saw it. This is some powerful shit.
To tell people: hey! You are not alone. Honor your roots! Respect your ancestry!
You can find it and re connect with it. No matter where you are.
It’s amazing! Isn’t it?
It’s funny because when you told me that you’re Yoruba you and I were both amazed at how, before learning this about your cultural identity, you actually sold headwraps (Crowns of Nyanga) and led head-wrapping workshops! So it’s like your soul always knew who you really were all along...Do you think this is true for other teastained women? That if we look around us and examine the things we are drawn towards to express ourselves we may learn it’s connected to us in a greater way?
Yes. For sure.
You see: we are connected to our ancestry whether we acknowledge it or not.
And it doesn’t have to always be extraordinary.
Some women love plants, herbs, making things with their hands, weaving,
touching and massaging people, cooking, making parfums, caring for others, writing, telling stories…
There are so many ways of expressing that connection! We really have no idea.
If someone feels deeply connected to headwraps, even though they aren’t black, who am I to say:
No. Don’t touch this. This is mine!
Very few things are exclusively ours. And those are sacred.
That’s what being in touch with my ancestry taught me.
Using our intuition to share and educate people is also part of expressing who we are and to honor our roots.
We come from a place of love. Our people were extremely connected to nature and life itself.
We must return to that state.
Our ancestors just want to express themselves through us.
And guide us in a path that makes sense for the world.
Harmony. Restore the Harmony.
How has knowing your roots impacted your perception of life, your work, your dreams, etc.?
I am definitely more aware now. Of myself.
And that gives me so much strength.
I can make decisions based on how I feel instead of just doing it with no intention.
I put an intent in what I do because I know I am powerful and guided by my ancestors,
so they will support me in my purpose.
It’s nice. Feels warm.
You bought a Vagabroad Journal a longgg time ago! Why do you keep a journal?
I keep a journal because I love documenting my feelings.
I need to make it a daily habit. But I try to write as often as possible.
And it helps me see with more clarity what is inside of me
and how that can change as soon as I release it in the paper.
Do you read old journal entries? Why?
Yes I do. I read it to go back in time. Works like a time machine for me!
It’s nice. I love reminiscing.
Can you please speak to any of the Afro-Brazilian women out there who are living dynamic lives, overcoming societal pressures, unsure about whether or not there is hope for them beyond current circumstances and not at all inspired to document themselves?
To my dear women in my country…
Mantenham a fé em nosso povo. Somos muito poderosos e resilientes.
Que nossas palavras, pensamentos e ações possam refletir essas qualidades.
Que nossa mente seja renovada a cada dia. Podemos sim reescrever nossa história, literalmente!
Que cada uma de nós possa ser um veículo para que essa história seja reescrita.
Que o amor e a compaixão possam ser nossos guias, em nome dos nossos ancestrais.