“Legacy” is often defined as something we leave behind — but what if we thought of it as a gift — with contributions from our family, friends, and ancestors — for future generations to inherit? To explore this theme, we’ve partnered with Target to bring you Beat Of My Own Drum, a photo series that amplifies the narratives of HMCU alumnae who are building their own legacies while expressing their uniqueness through style, entrepreneurship, and self-acceptance.
Not many of us could decide on a major as sophomores in college, much less launch a career-defining venture, but that’s exactly what Kaya Nova did. While she was a second-year music student at Spelman, Nova started blogging about the roller-coaster of emotions she was experiencing as a young Black woman who was the first in her family to go to college. Nova’s father suggested she recruit her friends to contribute stories to the blog, and since then, Grown has evolved into a full-fledged fashion, beauty, and lifestyle platform. “Grown was very personal when it began,” Nova says. “I had no plans for it to be what it is today.”
The digital magazine isn’t the only thing that has struck a chord with Nova’s audience. In true multi-hyphenate form, the New York City-based singer, songwriter, and producer is continuing to pursue her musical ambitions. Nova dropped a single titled “More Than That” in August, and has another to be released at the end of 2021. Nova hopes that by sharing every step of her ongoing artistic journey, she’ll impact other creatives along the way.
“I hope I can inspire people to challenge standards that make us feel like we have to fit into a box,” she says. “I want to keep teaching, sharing, and creating businesses and spaces for people like us. I want them to know every step I took to get where I am, so they can be even better than me. That’s the only way to create real influence.”
Read on for more of Nova’s wisdom on what it means to be an “artistpreneur,” the truth about making it big, and how to carve out a path with integrity.
Why going to an HBCU was everything: “The sisters and brothers I met on the Spelman campus are like family to me. The HBCU experience was so empowering. It gave me so much confidence in myself as a Black woman, and that helped me take big risks and pursue my dreams. As young Black people, we really need that push to say that you’re worthy, you matter, and investing in education built for you, by you, is so important.”
I launched an online magazine because… “I wanted a safe space to say how I felt. A space to go with questions about how I should feel about my life as a Black girl in college, and what it means to be an adult. I didn’t feel that existed anywhere in the media at the time. Then I realized there were probably a bunch of other women who needed this space, too.”
I made up the word “artistpreneur because… “I never connected how business and artistry go together until I was in it. ‘Artistpreneurship’ is just the general act of owning yourself as a creator and allowing that to cover a lot of different fields. I’m hoping it catches on, and that artists embrace themselves as bigger than just the talent that they have.”
The truth about making it big: “With social media, it feels like people go from zero to 60 overnight — but that is never the case. Sometimes you get to spaces that you thought you always wanted to be in, and you’re like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t feel like I thought it was going to feel.’ You just have to give yourself grace and a lot of space to change your mind. Be flexible and realistic about where you are right now and what can happen. Be gentle with yourself through the process because it’s very hard, and it happens over time.”
Why it’s important to keep it real: “Even in modern-day artistry, it’s a lot of wanting to be someone else. Like when you’re thinking about how you’re going to become this superstar, you’re imagining something that really isn’t you, it’s something that would attract people to you. But it takes a lot of authenticity to be successful. You really have to know who you are as a person, what you care about, what you want to say, and who you want to say those things to.”
I would describe my personal style as… “The perfect blend between street and sweet. This year, I got into these milkmaid-type of designs. I didn’t know it was called cottagecore! But I also still love my long nails, my gold jewelry, and my sneakers. I’m very feminine, but someone might think, She’s not somebody that I want to play with because she kind of looks like she’s from around the way. I like to mix the two.”
How I primp: “I love to have a good set of lashes on, nice lip gloss, and I’ll do my eyebrows. I also like colorful eyeshadow because I feel like it makese a big impact with minimal effort. I like to keep it simple, but with a lot of color.”
Style is more than just what you wear: “There’s a saying that when a Spelman woman walks into a room, you know the room has been walked through. We know how to command attention. When it comes to fashion and beauty — especially for Black women — it is so important for us to have as much self-expression as possible because we often don’t feel heard. But when we are dressed or when we have a certain style, it says so much without us having to say anything.”
What self-acceptance means to me: “It’s about having patience with yourself. It’s not about changing. It’s about having inner conversations every day and saying no matter where we are mentally, we’re still worthy. We’re still loved. We’re still cared for, and whatever is happening right now, we’re going to ride it out and be patient because it won’t always be that way.”
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