(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Abyana Botan believes self-love is everything. The freshman digital media production major said she grew up feeling a little out of place, but now embraces who she is.
“I was basically the only black person in my school, so I’d get bullied for that – not bullied, but just looked at differently because I was different,” Botan said.
Botan said it was weird because no one was like her or looked like her.
“I was always just the odd one out and I was just like ‘I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t even like myself, so how am I supposed to feel like I belong?’” Botan said.
Botan, who was raised in Michigan, said she started to want to look like the other kids. She said it got to the point where she was asking her mom to straighten her hair because it was frizzy and not straight like the other girls.
“I didn’t like my skin color,” Botan said. “I wanted it to be lighter, but now I love it – it’s my favorite part, it’s everything.”
Botan said she moved back to St. Louis, where she was born, and began to fully embrace everything about herself while in high school.
“People started telling me I was beautiful and – well, people always told me that, but I never believed it, and then I just started to, I don’t know, just to love myself and to embrace everything about my culture and just to realize that nothing was wrong,” Botan said. “I was just unique.”
Botan said she grew up with a Muslim father and a Christian mother who taught her the importance of self love. She spoke about her Somali heritage at UCM’s Story Slam in November of 2017 with her story, “Somali woman.”
“I’m very proud of my roots,” Botan said at the slam. “I used to be embarrassed when my father would come around at school in high school…he has a strong accent. He barely speaks English and I would kind of be embarrassed and now I embrace it because that’s who I am.”
Botan said the gist of her story was to inspire others to be in touch with their roots and to fully love themselves.
“No matter what skin you have, you should always be comfortable in it,” Botan said. “To my black queens – I love you, you’re beautiful. Love the color of your skin because it’s beautiful.”
Botan is an aspiring journalist. She said she was an entertainment editor at her high school newspaper and interned at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during the summer of her junior year as part of an experiential learning program.
“My mom always hates me for this, but I always say I want to go to war zones,” Botan said. “Like I really do. I just want to … not (just) experience it, but talk to people in different places who have never seen camera equipment. I just want to give them a voice because I know so many people don’t (have one).”
She said it’s her dream to go to Somalia.
“I’ve had so many chances to go, but I’m like ‘No, Dad, I don’t want to.’ Because it’s like (a) war zone there,” Botan said. “But the place that he goes, Mogadishu, is nice but I’m still scared. It still frightens me. How am I supposed to go to a war zone if I’m scared to go to my homeland? “
Botan said one of the main struggles she’s had to overcome is second-guessing herself.
“I always think I’m not where I’m supposed to be even though I am. I think that’s become a main struggle of mine – just not being confident enough, but I’ve definitely overcome that over the years,” Botan said.
She said if there’s one thing she wants to make known, it’s that self-love is everything.
“I don’t think loving yourself is conceited,” Botan said.