Yaya DaCosta Alafia has the kind of magnetic personality that makes you instantly feel like you’ve known her forever. It’s her infectious spirit, openness, and shining-from-within-beauty that have made her an in-demand young actress. When she’s not on movie sets with Oprah, this born and bred New Yorker can be found advocating for women’s maternal healthcare rights, and working on her very own documentary about birth in America. At the time of our shoot, Yaya was six months pregnant, and eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first child (son Sankara is now eight months old). With an at-home birth plan firmly in place, she admitted to feeling like she was settling into her power, and "stepping into a new dimension of womanhood.”
"People love talking about their births, giving advice and making observations. It was difficult to accept at first, but I know that it's healing for them, and I am now able to listen without internalizing their energy; giving my ear to them, while still energetically protecting my baby and my psyche as I prepare to birth without fear."
"I try not to read too many blogs or books, since most feel colored by fear rather than empowerment, but I love Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. And, Musings on Mothering is a lovely, tear-jerking compilation of poems and art from mothers who make mothers-to-be look forward to the journey enthusiastically."
"I've learned that curly hair is happiest when left alone, so instead of flat-ironing it straight for a role in a film or on a television series, I'll braid it down and throw on a wig instead. I have naturally very curly (full circle) eyelashes that make it almost impossible to apply false lashes for big events, but one makeup artist had a heated eyelash curler and I asked if I could see if it straightened my lashes if we used it backwards, and it did! Now I occasionally pass one over my lashes (from above, in a downward motion) to make them appear longer and 'open up' my eyes. Working with older African American actresses like Debbie Morgan on All My Children or Lisa Gaye Hamilton in Honeydripper reminded me that less is often more. Neither of these women seem to wear any makeup at all on camera and I thought, if I look enough like them to play their daughters, maybe I too could look better and have a more authentic performance with less of a mask on."
"On the set of The Butler, stylist Dana Boisseau, who has a hair texture similar to mine, turned me on to Shea Moisture products. I remembered the brand from their beginnings in a little store in Harlem, but had forgotten about them and was pleased to see the major expansion of their company, which is now sold across the country and remains true to its natural roots."
Yaya sits in front of a baby hammock made in Australia, which she found online
"When I found out I was pregnant, I got rid of every household and beauty product that wasn't all-natural and replaced them with great chemical-free alternatives. It wasn't a huge adjustment since I've always leaned more toward simple ingredients, but it was also easy to make exceptions before I was pregnant (like reaching for foundations with questionable ingredients because it was so difficult to find good makeup colors for brown skin). I've since found some really effective cleaners and a lovely tinted moisturizer from 100%Pure, which pigments their line with fruit and cocoa."
"As a naturally slender girl, I’d always looked forward to growing up, getting pregnant, and gaining the weight that I’d heard so many women complain about not being able to get rid of. Here I am, grown, pregnant, and carrying small—actually like my mother did with her firstborn: 'all belly.' From talking to other petite pregnant women (we seem to gravitate to each other in public), I hear that not only is every woman different, but each pregnancy can be different with the same woman. I have let go of expectations and am just nurturing and enjoying watching my body go through this amazing journey!"
"I had no idea that in planning my own child’s birth, I would become so passionate about women’s and babies’ rights during childbirth, and become involved in the fight to change legislation around hospital and insurance policies. I am now on a mission to add my voice to the one's already out there, reminding us of our power and primordial knowledge as women, and our right to insist on the birth of our choice. Preparing to birth a baby has subsequently given birth to my documentary as well!"
"It seems that pop culture has encouraged teenagers and pre-teens today to obsess over their looks way more than my friends or I did just a decade or two ago. I will try not to let my child's physical body—whether slender or chubby, light or dark, aligned or straying from mainstream definitions of beauty—dictate how they feel. Beauty truly does radiate from within, and it is reflected in the beauty all around us, in all of the beautiful living things on our planet. Feeling connected to others is beautiful. Compassion is beautiful. Generosity is beautiful."
"I never ever saw my mother wearing makeup growing up. She is absolutely gorgeous, looks way younger than she is, and despite walking through the world radiantly, attracting admirers wherever she steps, she seems to be oblivious to her beauty. I look to her to be reminded not to be concerned too much with physical phases I go through, and that, if I'm blessed to be like her, I will get better with age."
"Birthing at home is the right choice for me and will help me get in the proper mind-set to surrender and allow my baby to birth itself through me, the way we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. While I am very grateful for modern medicine and its benefits when necessary, I am still young and healthy, and so far, my wonderful midwife sees no reason that I should not be able to have a normal birth. I feel most comfortable with the decision to do it at home, probably in water."