In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Miriam Agwai, a self-professed "Jill of some trades" who is humbly talented in quite a few areas of the artistic world. She's an actress, model, producer, filmmaker, and storyteller- in her free time. She plays Grace in her latest film, The Things in Between, and has chronicled her production work on the platform STORYMAKEHER. We talked to her about birthday resolutions, kindness, and how important her hair-washing ritual has become.
1. Describe yourself in three words?
Empathetic, resolute, honest.
2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you?
To me, heritage is the sum of all your history, all who’ve come before you - what they carried, what they lost, what they gained, culture and stories preserved and told. I think heritage is more fixed than tradition. Tradition can very much be reflective of your heritage, and it also encompasses all you are learning and experiencing in the light of your culture and heritage. I think tradition is the hand that connects the past to the present and can be extended into the future in ways that can either hinder or free us. Tradition can preserve our heritage while seeing us through the present and into the future.
3. Who do you most admire?
There are truly too many people to list, and I’m so afraid of even starting that list because I don’t want to forget anyone. I will say the list sometimes changes and fluctuates depending on what season of life I’m in, or the things I’m holding space for. There are historical figures, public figures, and people in my life. I just try to be mindful of my admiration, in that I want to make sure I’m leaving full space for people’s humanity and not unintentionally deifying them. I try to communicate my admiration as best as possible, specifically to the people I know personally.
Wash day for my hair has become a ritual I do for myself that brings me great joy. It was hard to make a ritual of it before because there haven’t been a lot of hair products on the market that cater to the beauty and health of Black women. Though I wish it had happened sooner, the tide is slowly turning, especially as we’re seeing an increasing number of Black women at the helm. It’s taken a while, but I now have the products that work for me and my scalp, and knowing that these products are made by people like me who want me to be able to care for and honor my hair makes washing my hair that much more special. Even when I was trying out new products and getting frustrated at times trying to find what my hair and scalp needed, there was still this joy of me knowing that I get to care for and honor my Blackness in this way and that these products made by fellow Black women were helping me find what was best for me. Washing my hair reminds me to check in with myself. The process reminds me that I’m worth the time and that Blackness is very much an excellent God idea.
5. What is something you’re proud of?
My ability to grow and learn. I love being able to look back at my life and see the ways I’ve grown for the better, all the ways I’ve been able to learn and unlearn. I like being someone my younger self would be proud of.
6. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?
I try to fully listen to myself, and I try to do so honestly.
7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?
I really can’t think of anything right now. I promise I’m not trying to sound pretentious, but all I can think of are the traditions I’ve adopted for myself. A lot of it comes from not really fitting in anywhere, so I’ve kind of learned to figure out what works for me. One thing I started two years ago is writing letters to myself the day before my birthday as a way to honor the past year before ushering in the new one. For the last decade and change, I’ve gotten into the habit of making resolutions on my actual birthday. That way, the new year isn’t a stressful time for me, and I can better hold myself accountable. I’m sure I’ve picked up a tonne of things over the years with moving as an army brat. I just can’t think of anything outside of those things.
8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?
By holding space for myself and listening intentionally and honestly to myself. It’s not the easiest thing for me to do, so sometimes I think about someone I love, and then I’ll ask myself, “How would you show up for them if they were in your position right now?” Whatever love and kindness I would show them, I show myself. In the same way, it helps me build trust with someone else, it helps me build trust for myself, which helps me listen better, which in turn leads me to align and connect with my intuition better. I also try to surround myself with friends with whom love, care, respect and honesty are reciprocal. That way, I have support within me and around me.
9. What's an assumption others make about you?
It truly runs the gambit: naive, know-it-all, uneducated or undereducated, condescending, spoiled, doormat, weak-minded and weak-willed, aggressive, overly sensitive, and emotional.
10. Is there an item that you would like to see (or see again) from Collective Closets in the future?
Technically not an item, but I’d have to say the wanderer collection. I don’t think there’s been a Collective Closets item I’ve seen and hadn’t loved, but there is something about the wanderer collection that’s literally burrowed itself into my heart. Like, I think about those pieces and sigh wistfully.
11. Something that you’re passionate about?
Telling and sharing stories that cause people to feel seen and heard. Working towards and creating equity wherever and however I can (even in seemingly small things).
You can follow Miriam on her Instagram here, find out about her latest film project "The Things In Between" here, or see some of her other production work at STORYMAKEHER.