Alicia, Kaliyah, and Kyah

Kyira: “Tell me, for any of you or for all of you, what made you decide to come today and be a part of this project?”

Alicia: “Um, when I’ve always kind of had issues with my body and my self-esteem and how I looked and everything. It really started to get bad, like I really started to notice it more in like sixth grade. And then as time went on, it kept kinda getting worse. And then, um, this year I’m just trying to find myself and I’m becoming more comfortable with who I am and like, not feeling like I have to look a certain way for anyone or feel a certain way. And so I just like how the project isn’t meant for just one person - there isn’t just one mold everyone has to be in to be able to do this project. It’s for everyone.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Alicia:  “And I like that.”

Kyira: “So part of you doing this is also a way of sort of claiming the worth that you’re putting into loving yourself and not trying to fit inside of any sort of cookie-cutter image or anything like that.”

Alicia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “That’s awesome. Kyah, I see you nodding your head a bit. What about you?”

Kyah: “Um, I don’t know, my Mom kind of told me about it and I thought it was cool how, like, you like made this how it was like you feel better about yourself and so I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm. What was it like for you – cuz a lot of people doing it are a little bit older. And so, what was it like for you to be able to be a part of it now and be like, ‘I’m entitled to feel awesome in my body now, at this age’?”

Kyah: “I thought it was really cool because I notice how like a lot of older people do whatever you said or whatever, and I thought it was cool because, like, um … (pause).”

Kyira: “We can go as slow as you want.”

Kyah: “(Laughing.) I lost my train of thought.”

Kyira: “But you thought it was cool for you to do it just …”

Kyah: “Yeah, to feel comfortable in my body now. And hopefully not having to go through more later in life.”

Kyira: “Yeah. Starting to tackle a lot of those things that happen earlier on.”

Alicia: “Cuz I feel like that’s like a bigger issue with people who are younger is they see all these – they go on social media and they see all these girls who look the same. And they’re all in this mold that people feel like they have to put themselves into when they really don’t.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Kaliyah: “Right. And so with that, I feel like I like how you allow every age range because every age, every person deserves to feel like they’re worth it and, like, they mean something to someone and they have a say and they have – and their voice is being heard.”

Kyira: “Yeah. Which, we were talking about this before you guys came back that I think it’s especially importantfor people as they’re growing up to have a voice and have that be heard in a way. Cuz I think a lot of times, teachers, caregivers, parents silence that or assume, like, you don’t understand how bad it could be or it’s …”

Kaliyah: “And to be acknowledged is a really big thing, too. Um, just like knowing someone’s listening really …”

Alicia: “Helps.”

Kaliyah: “Yeah, it helps, and it changes how you feel and what you do say and what you do allow people to know, I guess.”

Alicia: “For me, I think that involving younger kids like these two – and I know there are a couple more that are these guys’ ages – that it’s important because it does show that sometimes, um, teachers, caregivers, parents, guardians, those kind of people, just people in the world in general, um, don’t always talk about, you know, body image and self-care and how to love yourself and things like that. But probably when we were kids, it really wasn’t talked about and – at least that I can ever remember. And but now it seems to be becoming more prominent, you know like self-love is becoming more prominent in society to be talked to, less of a stigma if you don’t feel like you don’t belong, it’s more talked about. So that’s why I was proud of these two when they wanted to join in, so …”

Kyira: “Yeah! And like every single person who is quote-unquote ‘an adult,’ that talks about their experience, it dates back to like you said you started noticing things in sixth grade. And so for everybody, it starts to pop up around like elementary school, middle school, like we start to notice our bodies differently. And so it’s different if we can come in now and say, ‘OK, how do we help you to not have 20 more years of feeling like crap in your body like other people have?’ By talking about it now. Otherwise, it just feeds the shame cycle.”

Alicia: “Yeah, I agree. And like I told you while they were gone, that I noticed it with you…” (looks to kids) “And I also noticed it with you that it was around like fifth grade that, you know, you guys both started kind of to compare yourself to other girls that were maybe in your class or people that were in magazines or other girls that were on TV or in movies or stuff. And no matter what other people say around you, you have to actually -- or, you know, say to you – you have to believe it for yourself.”

Kaliyah: “Like being told that you’re beautiful and that you’re worth it and that, like, nothing is better than you is great and all. But once you finally feel that for yourself, it’s – it’s a whole other feeling than having someone else say it to you. Like really sitting down with yourself and just thinking like, ‘OK, I’m not happy. What can I do from here?’ And, like, making those changes. Just acknowledging the fact that you aren’t happy with what’s going on and figuring out ways to make yourself happy, but like not changing yourself for anyone, but changing yourself for you. Because that’s what you want to do, that’s what’s gonna make you happy in the long run, because honestly no one else’s opinion really matters but yours. Cuz you’re the only one that really matters at the end of the day.”

Kyira: “Yeah. So where do you all, when you think about the culture that you grew up in or are growing up in and existing in – so maybe that’s like your family dynamics, maybe it’s your friends, or just society at large – how has that shaped the way you’ve been able to feel about yourself? Like what messages have you received from different parts of culture?”

Kyah: “Um, like, girls with like straight hair or have their hair down or curly are like, ‘Your hair’s frizzy. Your hair’s this and that.’ Like, frizzy isn’t a compliment.”

Kyira: “Right.”                                                                        

Kyah: “This isn’t helpful. This is why I don’t wear my hair down cuz I get all these comments saying how, like, ‘Your hair’s frizzy. It’s so big. Why’s it so poofy?’ My hair’s not like yours. It’s different. That doesn’t mean different in a wrong way.”

Kyira: “No!”

Kyah: “Just different.”

Kyira: “Right. And who decided that straight hair is the goal, ever? You know, like it’s that question back to them of why is that better.”

Kyah: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “Yeah. So for you it’s a lot of like people your own age, like at school, that make these comments that you’re like, ‘I’m supposed to look like this.’ And it becomes harder.”

Kyah: “Yeah!”

Kyira: “Do you like wearing your hair down?”

Kyah: “No, not really (laughing).”

Kyah: “Is it because of people like that? Or is it because you just don’t like it?”

Kyah: “Kinda. And kinda I just don’t like wearing it down. It’s a lot of work.”

Kyira: “So (laughing), yeah, so there’s that, too. But also then so how do we help it so the choice is always yours and not somebody else’s too?”

Kyah: “Yeah. Um, I don’t know (laughing). I guess I am still working on that.”

Kyira: “It just takes time, I suppose.”

Kyah: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “And what about for you two?”

Kaliyah: “Um, I feel like as you keep getting – like in middle school, I would always try to sort of like, I would wear makeup every single day to school, I would wake up at like 5 in the morning. I’d shower, I’d do my hair, I’d do my makeup. I would, like, pick out my outfits an hour before bed because it would take me that long to find something to wear. And, um, I would try on different outfits, like my room would be a mess. I’d have different articles of clothing on the floor. I’d just be like, ‘Oh, my god.’ And I just really stressed myself out trying to make other people happy.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kaliyah: “And no one even said anything when I did it, too (laughing). So I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ And then like freshman year, I just – and sort of the end of like eighth grade year – I just like – like I still wear makeup, yeah, and it’s fun and all. But like I don’t wear it most of the time. I don’t really care what I wear to school. Um, my mom used to tell me on the first day of school, ‘Kaliyah, it’s not a fashion show. You’re there to learn.’ (Everybody laughing.) So, like when I get dressed in the morning that goes through my mind still, and I’m like whatever. And so it’s like I’ll just throw on sweatpants. Like I just don’t really care. And like what I’m comfortable in shouldn’t matter to you. Cuz honestly I’m here to get an education. I’m here to leave this place. I’m here to do bigger and better things. I’m not here to impress you.”

Kyira: “Right. And, well, think about all the time. Like as you were describing everything I’m like, ‘Oh, my god, I remember that.’ I still sometimes have piles of clothes all over, when I’m trying to find the right thing for a certain space that I had …”

Kaliyah: “Occasion.”

Kyira: “Yeah! And it’s like that’s so much time that you were wasting …”

Kaliyah: “And it was every single day …”

Kyira: “Yeah!”

Kaliyah: “And I was just like, ‘I can’t.’ And then I was like, ‘Well, I’m kinda done.’ And I just stopped.”

Kyah: “I think it’s funny, she wakes up early in the morning – well, she woke up early in the morning to get ready and look good, I wake up early in the morning just to sit on my phone. Like, I don’t wear makeup or anything, or I just pick out stuff in the morning and throw clothes on. Like I remember we each share a room and she’d get up like super early and make a whole buncha noise and I’d tell her to shut up. (Laughing.) And I closed the door so I could go back to sleep.”

Kyira: “Does it help you, having had your sister go through it, where like you’ve seen that she went through some of that stuff and now, like, she’s doing fine without having to put so much effort in. Does that change it for you?”

Kyah: “Yeah. Cuz I noticed how, like, she got up and suffered through all of this cuz they were bu … bu … (laughing) I can’t say it …”

Kaliyah: “Bullying.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kyah: “Bullying, and stuff like that, just for nothing.”

Kyira: “Yep.”

Kyah: “So, it’s just, it kinda helped like noticing what she’s been going through, seeing what I could do to make, to prevent it.”

Kyira: “Yeah, for yourself.”

Kaliyah: “And like really, what I went through was like …”

Alicia: “It was really bad.”

Kaliyah: “It was so bad. But I’m glad that I went through it, well, for a few reasons. Because, one, it, it’s shaped me as who I am. It’s made me a stronger person. It’s made me a more caring person and a more understanding person. But also, it’s made me like wiser, and it’s helped me help, like, Kyah if she goes through certain things. Like I’m like, ‘I know this really sucks, but I went through it and, hey, I’m still here.’ And like, yeah, it’s hard but like, I’m still here.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Kaliyah: “And, I don’t know, I just – I like knowing that I went through it instead of having her just go through it blindly. Cuz I really didn’t have anyone to, like, look up to and try to like help me get through it. I was just kinda like, ‘Well, we’re gonna try this!’ (Laughing.) And, like, it was just …”

Kyah: “Suffer in silence.”

Kaliyah: “Yeah, it was bad. But, like, and now that I have gone through it, I feel like I can help her.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm. And there’s something very different, I think, about like your experience of having that because, like, yeah, maybe your mom could’ve said something to you. Doesn’t really mean shit, though, cuz you’re like, ‘Yeah, but you’re my mom!’ (Laughing.)”

Alicia: “You just read my mind! I was gonna say the same thing. I was trying to help her along, but there’s nothing like a peer or a sibling …”

Kyira: “Right!”

Alicia: “Or another family member …”

Kaliyah: “Or a friend …”

Kyira: “Or a mentor of some sort that’s like separate from that, that can say like – like what you said that’s really sticking with me is, ‘I went through it and I’m still here.’ So, yes, this stuff is hard and you’re not minimizing that experience for others or for yourself. But also talking about you made it through that and so can other people. And I think that, by your even coming here and saying what you’ve learned from your sister and how you’re applying it, the next person reading this is gonna hear it and be like, ‘Wait a minute. OK, so other people my age are doing this, I can also make it through it.’”

Kaliyah: “That’s like my goal, really, is to like take from what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned, and just let people know that they’re not going through this alone.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kaliyah: “Because I remember I’d be like, ‘Hm, I’m the only one feeling like this.’ And I started going to like groups at school and it was like, ‘Wow, I’m not the only one feeling this crappy! Whoa!’ And then, just the big factor of being alone really messes you up. Because also, you don’t know how to say it. And you’re afraid if you do say it, is it’s going to backfire.”

Kyira: “Yep.”

Kaliyah: “What’s going to happen? Like yeah …”

Kyira: “Yeah, cuz you can’t ever really predict how someone’s going to respond to what you say.”

Kyah: “And you can think how other people are going to respond when you tell them, but you never really know.”

Kyira: “Right, yeah. Which also comes back to what you said in the beginning, of like other people can say positive things but if you don’t believe it yourself, it’s the same about anything, really, like you have to believe it in yourself and know that even if someone responds a different way, that doesn’t change your value, that’s them.”

Kaliyah: “Mm, hmm. And, like, middle school was such a bad time for me. I have so many example of this! (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “Middle school was a bad time for everybody, I’m sorry! (Laughing.)”

Kaliyah: “Another example that happened in middle school was …”

Kyah: “How come you have so much drama happening here and I don’t?”

Kaliyah: “Honestly, just you wait, honey! (Laughing.) It gets so much better, I promise you. Um, I used to, I got in a lot of trouble with like phones and stuff in like seventh grade, early eighth grade, middle ninth – er, not ninth, middle sixth – and I just kept, my mom was like, ‘Kaliyah, what are you doing?’ And I was like, what I was doing was because I was not happy with myself and I figured, hey, if other people think that I’m attractive, that’ll just fill that hole inside of me and I won’t feel sad anymore.’ And then, they wouldn’t like, yeah they were nice and I was like in bed at night alone and I was like, ‘Hm, I still hate myself.’ And it was a bad cycle. And my mom was just like, ‘Kaliyah, why are you doing this?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t even know.’ And then after I like got out of that, that stage, and look back at it, I’m like, ‘Oh, my god.’”

Alicia: “That was really hard for me, for us – for me and my husband – for Kaliyah. Because like when I was that age, I didn’t have, I really didn’t have those confidence issues, that I can remember. I mean, I probably did have it at some, you know in some instances probably, but not, not really big like that that I can remember, you know. I was pretty confident in myself …”

Kaliyah: “Not me! (Laughing.)”

Alicia: “And so when she was …”

Kyira: “We also came about before technology got that bad.”

Alicia: “No. Yeah, you’re very right, yeah. Um, I didn’t even – I didn’t even, you know, the Internet was there but I didn’t know what it was, you know, like it was, I had no idea. So, um, yeah, so when she was doing these things and I would find out, I’m going, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ You know, and repeatedly. And she would build up the trust and get her phone back, and it was again. And um …”

Kyira: “So it was like posting photos and stuff?”

Alicia: “It was …”

Kyira: “Just anything you could do to get that sense of, ‘I’m worthy.’”

Kaliyah: “Yeah, anything, pretty much. It was bad.”

Alicia: “Yeah, and um, and we’d do it again. And we’re just, ‘OK, I can’t.’ Just getting that like self-gratification from compliments from other people that she didn’t even know.

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Alicia: “And by ways of being, ‘I’m so ugly. I hate the way I look or, blah, blah, blah blah. And so people that she doesn’t even know from like …”

Kyira: “They’re responding.”

Alicia: “Yeah, from like another app was she said, she finally broke down and said, ‘I feel this way, so I’m looking for people to say these things, people that I don’t really know, so it makes me feel better.’ And I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. And I’m so glad now, I’m so proud of her that she loves herself so much more, that she doesn’t need that as much, you know. So and she learned a lot in those groups, and she learned a lot in just on her own and all that stuff so …”

Kyah: “This is really depressing. (Laughing.)”

Alicia: “But it’s part of the journey that she’s …”

Kyira: “But it’s real!”

Alicia: “Yeah. So, and like you touched on earlier, that if, you know, some of the people that are doing the #ReclaimBeauty project now, you read their stories, that they would have gone through these things like at your guys’ age, wouldn’t have maybe gone, you know, their stories would be totally different.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Kaliyah: “And like parents and stuff, when like the kids are going through this stuff, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ Like they’re there, but they aren’t there. Cuz they don’t, it’s completely different. Like, you’re like, ‘But when I was a teen, it’s’ …”

Kyira: “You’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t get it.’”

Kaliyah: “Every year is different.”

Kyira: “Yep.”

Kaliyah: “Every single year is different. And like, even right now when I try to talk to Kyah about certain things, it’s not the same as how it was when I was in middle school.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Alicia: “Yeah, and there’s only four years, you know.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Kaliyah: “It’s, so it’s like hard in that aspect, to really like fully be there. But like …”

Kyira: “I think it’s more of like creating a safe space to talk about it too, of just like, ‘I don’t have to say I get your experience, but I want to be here with you in your experience.’”

Kaliyah: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “So like, we did not have Snapchat going on. I still don’t know, is it you snap? You take a snap? What is that, like the act of snapping, like in a snap? I got rid of it because I don’t even know what to do, and there’s so many filters, and it’s like, what filter can you apply that you look best? And I was like, ‘This just seems stupid! Like I don’t understand.’ But I grew up with texting being the primary communication. Snapchat for you all is like what Instant Messenger was for us growing up. So it’s like, that is a primary way of communicating with people. You have to do that, you have to – and it’s like, ‘God, I don’t envy you like at all!’ It’s just, it’s terrible!”

Alicia: “Yeah, it can be a blessing, and it can also be like the most horrible thing in the world.”

Kyira: “Right. Right.”

Kaliyah: “Yeah, like I’ve got seven Snapchats right now.”

Kyira: “Right. Cuz that is, that is what was our online communication, and now that’s the way that people communicate. And there is, there’s so many great things about it – and that’s a lot of pressure to keep that up and maintain it and present it a certain way.”

Alicia: “Yeah, they have like these ‘streaks,’ where they literally – yeah, apparently …”

Kyira: “Snap streak?”

Alicia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “OK.”

Alicia: “So every day, I think …”

Kaliyah: “It has to be every day, you snap the person three times to keep the streak.”

Kyah: “Yeah.”

Alicia: “It doesn’t mean shit.”

Kyira: “It’s literally, I just send two, three messages a day?”

Alicia: “Yeah. And they’ll, like, take a picture of the floor. And then they send it back.”

Kaliyah: “To the person.”

Kyira: “But what’s…what do you get from having a streak?”

Alicia: “Nothing! Just bragging rights.”

Kyira: “Well, but that’s something. (Laughing.) Like do you like the bragging rights?”

Kaliyah: “Yeah! OK, let me take it …”

Alicia: “For me it’s nothing! (Laughing.) Which is why, when she said, like, parents can get it but they don’t – cuz you’re sitting there like …”

Kaliyah: “Prime example, mom! Boom! (Laughing.)”

Alicia: “I know! Whaddya doin’? Listen to me! To me it’s utter nonsense (laughing).”

Kaliyah: “But, like, it’s the principle (laughing).”

Kyira: “So there’s something about it to where like you want to maintain that.”

Kaliyah: “It’s like a commitment, too.”

Kyira: “Yeah!”

Kaliyah: “It’s a commitment. Once your streak hits 100 days, you cannot lose that.”

Alicia: “See her face!”

Kyira: “I am so, like, when I started my Instagram for like this project, people are like, ‘You have to Instagram at least once a day, you have to do this, you have to do that.’ I’ve tried so hard to keep up with like once a week and it’s exhausting. Like, three times a day but it’s to as many people as you can? Or to like, cuz you can snap one – it’s called a snap, right? – so you snap … I know you can send it to a bunch of different people, so you choose your story, right? Or like your thing, so it doesn’t count if you just post it to your story, you have to like send it to all these people.”

Alicia: “Like individual people, I think.”

Kyira: “Oh, my god.”

Alicia: “I know. It’s like a full-time job.”

Kyah: “Mom won’t even let me have Snapchat.”

Alicia: “No.”

Kyira: “Yeah, I’m glad about it.”

Alicia: “She’s not old enough.”

Kyah: “But you post on Instagram every single day?”

Kyira: “You’re supposed to post on Instagram a minimum of once a day to keep your stats up. It’s the same as like getting a streak, to be able to be visible by enough people …”

Alicia: “Well, and she has her work, not just personal.”

Kyira: “Yeah, like I would never just post my own stuff that often. But I mean, but that’s also the primary means of communicating is through, like video, photos things.”

Alicia: “My dad just learned how to text. He doesn’t even call me anymore.”

Kyira: “But sometimes it’s nice, cuz I don’t really want to be on the phone with you for 45 minutes, but …”

Alicia: “That’s how it is, usually.”

Kyah: “Yeah, it’s not like I’m complaining cuz he talks on the phone so much and I’m like ‘Mom,’ and she’s like, ‘Shh, I’m on the phone.’ OK, I guess I’ll starve then.”

Kaliyah: “You’ve been on the phone for like an hour and a half mom. It’s done now.”

Kyira: “So what do you think, so you’ve talked about how you’ve come out of all this stuff, and right now you’re at such a different place than you were before.”

Kaliyah: “Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s still an everyday battle. It’s never, like you just, it’s never over, it’s never like a one-year thing. It’s always gonna be every day you have to tell yourself, ‘I’m not gonna stoop back down to how I was. I didn’t like how I was and I’m not gonna be that person again.’ So …”

Kyira: “What have you gained now, like by making those changes? What have you noticed that’s been positive that’s come out of it?”

Kaliyah: “I’m happier. I’m finally content.”

Kyira: “How are you going to carry that with you the next like – you said it’s a battle every day, and some days are gonna be like …”

Kaliyah: “Some days are bad.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kaliyah: “But then, you have those good days and you’re like, ‘I can do this.’”

Kyira: “Holding on to those good days helps in those bad days. So what message do you want to hold on to that, say, five years from now when you have like a really dark cloud that comes up, what do you want to be able to tell yourself in that moment to keep you from falling backwards?”

Kaliyah: “When you were going through something difficult, you thought it was the most difficult thing you’d ever gone through, but you grew past it. And you got through. And so this is just another moment that you can get through. Because you had situations where you thought that you couldn’t make it through and you did. And you’re still doing pretty damn good.”

Kyira: “Yeah. The resiliency piece for that. Absolutely. That’s awesome.”

Kaliyah: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “And what do you think for you?”

Kyah: “I don’t know. (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “Like, let’s imagine now you’re in high school. So that’s like, what, three years from now?”

Kyah: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “So, you’re in high school. You have some new pressure that you weren’t expecting. And suddenly you’re starting to feel a little like you’re getting pushed in one direction. What are you gonna tell yourself so you can fight back?”

Kyah: “Just get through it. Cuz there’s gonna be another side to this. And by keeping up on school work and stuff like that, you’ll have a nice life.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm. So remembering the things that are important to you versus some of the stuff that doesn’t matter to you in the long run, you mean?”

Kyah: “Mm, hmm. Just leave the people behind that make you feel bad or down or anything. Keep those behind and find the people that make you feel happy.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kaliyah: “That was another huge thing, too, I dropped certain people in my life who were, I was trying hard to …”

Kyah: “I have this year.”

Kaliyah: “Yeah, Kyah has. And I’m really proud of you for that. Because, like, I was surrounding myself with people who I thought were gonna be my friends and who I thought were gonna make me happy and were there for me, and then they never really were. And so …”

Kyira: “Oh, that’s real.”

Kaliyah: “And then I was just like, ‘Why am I feeding out all this positive energy just to get negative back?’”

Kyira: “Yep.”

Kaliyah: “Why am I wasting my time and my energy that I could be using making everyone else feel better, but when I really need them at the end of the day they’re not there. And so I just had to cut those ties. And now I’m at the point where I have people that really are there for me when I really do need them. And that, um, when I went to the hospital last month, they were there. They visited. They called. They made sure I was OK. And like, just that – it’s not just a one-way street when it comes to a friendship. It’s, it’s gotta be both ways. It – I don’t know …”

Kyira: “No, what you’re saying too is like, you put yourself out there for people and you were there for everybody, and when they don’t return it, then it is one-way. And so for you to be like, ‘Well, I also deserve to have people take care of me when I need it too.’ And to demand that because you deserve it, and you know that they deserve you to be there for them, so you’ll show up when they need you too.”

Kyah: “I remember last year I was hanging out with this girl who I thought was my friend, and Kaliyah was like, ‘You’re, she’s gonna be just like the person who I dropped this year.’ And I was like, ‘No, no she’s not. She’s gonna be there for me. She’s gonna be my best friend dah, dah, dah.’ And this year I was like, ‘She’s really not. She’s not.’ And it took a lot out of me just to leave that friendship. It was just at lunch, just to walk away and go to my new friend group or a new table I think. That’s just a lunch. And, and I’m happy I did because I was not happy over there. I was not happy in that friend group.”

Kaliyah: “My mom always said everyone else can see it before you can. And so just like, how I was talking to certain people, and mom was like, ‘Kaliyah, they’re not good for you.’ And I was like, ‘Nah. Nah. You’re wrong. I know my friends. You’re wrong.’”

Kyira: “I’m the expert.”

Kaliyah: “I know them, you don’t. And then I was like, ‘Oh, look at that, you were right.’ (Laughing.) So there’s that thing.”

Alicia: “Yeah, and I try really hard not to be like, ‘Ah, I told you!’ (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “I wouldn’t try too hard. She needs to hear it a little bit. (Laughing.)”

Alicia: “No, I know. But I kinda did just to her like, ‘You know, I did kinda try to tell you.’”

Kyira: “I warned you.”

Alicia: “But then again, they’re kids and everyone kinda needs to learn for themselves and that’s how you, you know, you make a mistake and then hopefully you learn from it.”

Kyah: “The thing that really pushed me to leave that friends group was like my other friends I hang out with now were like, ‘You shouldn’t be with them over there. They talk bad about you. They talk behind your back.’ And I really thought then and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I knew that they do this, but I just put it behind me. I was like, ‘Oh, no, they’re not gonna, they don’t actually do that. You’re just thinking too much.’ And then to hear that from another person that was more than mom or Kaliyah, um, really like pushed me to go do it.”

Alicia: “The night before she actually told this friend that she wasn’t gonna sit by her at lunch anymore and she wasn’t gonna hang out with her anymore, the night before she did it, um, she goes, ‘Mom, I’m doing it tomorrow and I’m really anxious about it. But it’s been going on for a long time and I’m really anxious, but I’m gonna do it.’ And then, so she did it at school the next day. And then she came home and she was so proud of herself …”

Kaliyah: “Cuz it’s so hard!”

Alicia: “I know, yeah, I know. I’ve done it. I’ve experienced it.”

Kyah: “I met that girl in like third grade, so there’s like a lot of history.”

Alicia: “So I was so proud of her, cuz it took me a long time to, you know, I was an adult …”

Kyira: “I’m still learning how to cut people off! Having this conversation …”

Alicia: “Yeah! And so I was so – at 11, you know, she learned how to do it. And so I was very proud of her.”

Kyira: “And I think so much of it is like the two of you having the opportunity to think about what do you want, what do you need and what do you deserve in every relationship you have. Cuz all three of those things are important. And so, yeah, like you deserve to be treated with respect and to never have to question that someone’s gonna talk about you behind your back. You also want them to do all of these other things, you also need them …”

Kaliyah: “But you don’t need them to do …”

Kyira: “Yeah! Exactly. And so it’s like figuring out what are all three of those things and how do you get them in relationships. And the fact that both of you are learning how to do that now says that, my guess is that when you’re our age sitting here, you’re gonna have so much more practice than we did. Because like I’m still having the veil lifted and being like, ‘Ah, shit, that person really hasn’t been there for me, for 10, 15 year, you know, or whatever it is.’”

Alicia: “Yeah, and you go, ‘Yeah, I did this and this and this.’ And they still didn’t do – yeah. Um, I’m on this, and have been, on this long journey of, you know, I told you of how I was a nice person, I just had a really bad temper. … But so in the past few years, I’ve been trying to just really focus more on me and then do things like self-care so, and reading and going to groups and going to therapy and stuff, these are things that I’ve been learning. And so I’ve talked to them a lot about it. And so I’m hoping because I talk to them a lot about what I’ve experienced and then things that I’ve learned, that I’m hoping that because they’re so young that they won’t make as many mistakes as I did. Or if they do they’ll learn from them.”

Kaliyah : “It’s like what you said earlier …”

Alicia: “But they’ll learn from them quicker than maybe I did or they’ll have more tools in their belt, you know, to deal with different things better than I did maybe.”

Kyira: “Well, and sometimes I think it’s difficult. So when you start, you know, go to therapy or you learn all these different tools, you can think about like, ‘I wish I would have done this. Or why didn’t I do this.’ It’s also giving yourself credit that you did the best you could with the tools and resources you had at the time. And so saying like maybe there was really a need to have a temper. Maybe there were some reasons why that actually needed to happen and you couldn’t have expected something else. And now you’ve learned something different and you can choose to use different tools, but that doesn’t mean that you weren’t equipped well.”

Alicia: “Yeah. And that’s true, you’re right. I didn’t know any of this stuff that I know now. But I just am hoping to equip them with these new things that I know now, and giving them the choice to use them.”

Kyira: “Yeah, and then when you don’t, cuz it’s not relevant to you right away, then there’s nothing wrong with that either, cuz you’ll learn it in time.”

Alicia: “That’s right. And then I can say, ‘I told you so.’”

Kyah: “You don’t have to rub it in too hard! (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “There’s those of us, though, that would rub it in just as hard as we can no matter what. (Laughing.) Are there things that I didn’t ask you that you want to make sure are part of this piece of your story, this part of, you know – like you are a part of this project, yes, but this project is a part of your journey, long-term. So are there things you really want to capture in this that I didn’t ask you?”

Kaliyah: “You’re worth it. You really are. Every second that you’re living is an experience and you just have to take those experiences and make something out of them.”

Kyah: “That sounds like some Disney Channel stuff right there. (Laughing.)”

Kaliyah : “Jesus Christ, Kyah, I’m done! (Laughing.)”

Kyah: “I’m sorry, it did!”

Alicia: “No, but I agree. I think she’s totally right. I mean, just, yeah.”

Kyira: “Well, there’s a reason why it sounds like something you’ve heard elsewhere, because it’s that important that people hear that and to hold on to that and to, in those moments where you definitely don’t feel like it, to see that.”