“I want to encourage people to be themselves”

Mayowa Osinubi from Atlanta, Georgia, is constantly trying out new genres: She modelled, directed a documentary film and started both a YouTube channel and a feminist comedy show. She currently lives in Berlin as Chancellor Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In the interview she talks about how the internet gave her the feeling to belong – a feeling she was missing offline.

published by Alumniportal Deutschland in November 2019 >> and in German >>

Your documentary film “Acting White” starts with your memory of being told that you acted white while growing up in Atlanta. What did people mean by that and how did it make you feel?

They meant that the way that I am does not fit the mainstream perception of a black person. This phrase was said by people of many races and it would make me feel sad. I felt that I must be doing something wrong for people to say this about me.

In your film, you interview several teenagers who experience this as well. Did you change your behavior to be seen as fully belonging?

In some ways I did. I sought a lot of validation from my peers, so it made me feel really insecure when people suggested that I didn’t belong to the black community. I was always an outsider though, so I don’t think I was good at pretending to fit in. What helped was when I turned to the internet where I found the community and validation that I did not have in real life. I listened to youtubers from backgrounds very different from my own and started to realize that there is more than one way to be in the world. Today, this is exactly what I aim for: encouraging people around the world to be themselves.

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