Interview By Lauren Ash. Photography By Travis Chantar
“I’m being completely honest when I say, I can fall in love with every spirit I meet. I see beauty in everyone and everything. My smile is genuine. I believe everyone possesses the divine potential to be successful at whatever they desire. My goal when meeting you is to turn that flicker into a flame.” - Adora Tokyo
Earlier this month, I chatted with one of my sisterfriends Adora. Adora and I recently reunited when I guided a yoga class for women of color in Minneapolis. She arrived a little late (love you, boo!) and completely knocked me off my yoga game when she entered the room. We hadn't seen each other in two years largely due to my moving to Chicago and Adora's jet-setting nature. From Minneapolis to New York to LA to Spain, I've lost count of where and why she travels! But she does and I'm impressed. I’ve been curious about how she’s maintained her sanity and natural, bright light while traveling so often. So, Adora is the first of many features in our Wanderlust series that will hone in on people of color who travel: for work, play, and just because. Travel can be stressful. What wellness practices do we cultivate while traveling? These questions and more inspire these features. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did! You can follow Adora on her continued journeys on Instagram and Twitter: @AdoraTokyo.
Lauren Ash: Who is Adora Tokyo in this moment right now?
Adora Tokyo: In this moment I am a mother, a musician, and a make-up artist.
LA: I love it! Mother was first. Was that intentional?
A: Oh, absolutely! That is my role, that's who I am, that's what I'm doing before and after and during everything else (chuckles). That's my consistent role. The other roles tend to change, this one will always be the same. That's who I am. I'm a Mama.
LA: I've noticed a huge growth in your life professionally and in other ways since we first met. How do you think you've grown in the past two years?
AT: Oh, I have grown. I've learned a lot of things that I didn't think were true about being myself. About things I didn't think I should be doing or wasn't capable of doing. And I've learned to follow my instincts because my instincts are what lead me to do anything great. Listening to them leads me to do anything great. So, I think the past year you've seen a lot of evolution because I've been doing feels most natural and most beneficial for Adora, you know.
LA: I love what you said about instincts because I feel like I'm doing that as well as I'm also trying to take things to the next level. I've realized whether its professional relationships or personal relationships or ideas that I have for BlackGirlInOm, there's always a deep down feeling about what I should do and if I don't listen to it then I find that things get a little messy...
AT: Exactly! And the more you do that the more natural [things will become]. Few things are by chance, you know. I think the more we listen to our instincts, the more things intentionally happen around us that we wanted.
LA: Mmhhhm. Yes. Completely. So, you've grown a lot but what ways do you anticipate growing in the next year?
AT: I've taken 2015 to focus on music, and still take any make-up or hairstyling or DJ opportunities that come my way, but my primary goal is to release music that I've been producing for the past six months. There will be lots of original music from me this upcoming year.
LA: Yay. Oh, that's perfect! I love it. You're inspirational to a lot of women who have goals and aspirations. I feel like you encourage a lot of us to take it to the next level. So, for you, who has motivated you to keep growing and keep achieving? Who has done that for you?
AT: Oh, that was beautiful for you to start with thank you! My motivation comes from my immediate, my immediate, exterior and extended circle of family and friends. You, are someone who motivates me. It's a back and forth. So if I see my friends making progress it almost holds me accountable to keep making progress, too.
There isn't one person in particular that I can think of that has motivated me solely. There's a collection of people from different parts of my life. Travis Chantar, he's a motivator. Ashley Nguyen. Maconnie. You. Julian...You know all these people so I think you know exactly what I mean. We touch base every now and then in any capacity that we can so we can talk about how we all are. So, it's a network of support that keeps me grounded and motivated.
Oh, and my Daddy. My daddy! I need to give him a big, big, big, big moment of credit because he is a very, very inspiring person and I only hope to be only a quarter of who he has been in his lifetime. He has been nothing but supportive and encouraging for 99% of the decisions that I've made...past age 21. (laughs) And without that I think it would be difficult because I need to feel as though I have a strong foundation with someone consistently in my corner. So, my Daddy: Dr. Mike Okeke.
L: I remember that. I remember one particular time that you read me this letter that he wrote to you...
A: (laughs) About men? (laughs)
L: Yes, girl! You know what I'm talking about. And I was on the floor. Because on the one hand yes, it was really, really long. But he was like “you need to know your worth, girl.”
A: Yes, my Dad helped me out. I was engaged to someone who wasn't for me. And he was like "absolutely not." (laughs) "If you must: go ahead. But you do not have the approval of people you probably want approval from."
L: I will never forget that.
A: I'm glad that I shared that with you. Sometimes I forget ...That's just how my Dad talks. (chuckles)
L: Alright, so tell us about the countries that you've traveled to in the past year!
A: In the past year, let's see...I went to Korea around this time last year. I'm really, really hoping to go back in a few weeks for Fashion Week again. Korea, then Spain and then Nigeria. Korea is great because (Seoul) is one of the cities few cities where I go where I experience a lot of wonder. I'm curious about everything around me. I'm intrigued by everything around me. I'm also at complete peace. I think the people there have a good grasp on a way of life that works for a lot of people. It's a low stress environment. Even when things should be stressful it's still low stress. And I'm inspired by all of the food, fashion, culture language, etc. etc.. And I happen to have a very good friend who lives there who I consider family. So it's good to see family (laughs).
Spain was really beautiful. It was my first time there and it was the first time I took my son out of the country to travel with me. So...and then (my son) just chimed in right now and said what Onyx? That he doesn't ever want to travel with me again. Well, that's unfortunate that you would want to miss out on such a fun experience. However,....oh, he only wants to travel to New York, he said, because he's just as posh as Mommy. (laughs) "I only want to travel to New York I don't want to go anywhere else again." Okay, Onyx. He's still talking, he's like "only Minneapolis and New York!" He's never been to New York, despite all of the times I've invited him, he's always said "no."
So, Spain was great because I feel like I got to see the source and the root of a lot of different cultures that I come in contact with. And that was pretty, just like in Africa you see the source and root of a lot of different cultures that we see now. Very beautiful and I know that my son loved it!
We then went on to Nigeria from there. I have family still living there. My father and my mother are both Igbo people from the Igbo tribe. And they both frequently go back and forth to Nigeria. So I have a very active life there with my family and I hadn't been back in 20 years. And I wanted to bring my son with me and celebrate the new year, Christmas and my younger sister got married so we got to partake in the traditional marriage. And It was really, really great
L: That's beautiful. I love it. I knew that you went back to Nigeria and Spain but didn't know too much about it. Also, I went to Spain in college and I loved it, Loved it!
AT: That's what I mean by friends motivating me and inspiring me! Because of how highly you spoke of it and how highly Julian spoke of it. I thought should probably go and I should go for the first time with my family. I loved it, it was cool. I wasn’t there long enough, but I was there long enough to be with a 5-year-old if that makes sense. (laughs) I'll go back with my adult friends and check out Madrid (laughs).
LA: Yes, girl, yes. Okay, so while traveling how do you find stillness? I know that you travel quite a lot. Do you feel as if you're able to find moments of peace and stillness despite the jet-setting nature of your trips?
AT: Absolutely. I make a point and priority to find stillness and reflect and rebuild. I do it early in the week. Sometimes, it is very rare that I have to do a project or work on a Monday or Tuesday. Usually, I tend to be home with my son and we take those times to re-energize and get ready for whatever's next.
I also light some candles. And I (laughs) I would say I partake in...adult activities. And, I really do. (laughs)
LA: That's good! (laughs)
AT: Yeah! And, you know what, I listen to music that has more of a soundscape vibe. A down tempo. And, yeah, I take some time to reflect. That is how I find my stillness. And my stillness includes sound because I think sound generates certain vibrations that our bodies are attuned with.
AT: And, to me, there's always sound present around us. So to try and create stillness without sound is kind of counterproductive. So I do always have some music in the background. I know that's why I'm a DJ, too. I love music so much! The music will sometimes dictate where I go with my stillness if that makes sense.
LA: No it does. I love it, I love that. Is there anything besides what you already spoke to that you would consider a wellness practice?
AT: Yes, actually, actually! (laughs) I've got a wellness practice that I really believe in that I try to do multiple times a day if I can: I get cute and dance in the mirror.
LA: Love it!
AT: (laughs) It's a method to promote confidence, promote self-awareness, and really get in touch with who I am. We're in an era now where we're able to see ourselves and see our reflections a whole lot more than we have been in the past. And if you use it properly it's allowing you to see what other people see, it's allowing you to perfect what other people see, and it’s allowing you to love what you see and what you feel. So, yeah I dance in the mirror a whole bunch. It's an extension of my night life, career. It's an extension of my performance. So, It's like rehearsing for something that you don't know what's coming. But something's coming.
LA: Thank you, Adora!