Meet Jamila Ama Toussaint - Lawyer, Model, Yogi, and Ms. Black Minnesota 2020!

I first got to know Jamila at a networking event in Accra, Ghana back in January 2020. My anxieties around networking events almost got the best of me. However, the spirit of my New Year's resolution was still fresh and I resolved to face my fears around meeting new people. Needless to say, I'm happy I went! Jamila and I were introduced via a mutual friend, Bridget Boakye, citing that we're both interested in the wellness industry. Accra's wellness scene is blossoming with more health/wellness shops, yoga studios, vegan/plant-based restaurants, and fitness centers popping up around the city. Jamila and I spoke briefly, but even with the short interaction, I got the vibe Jamila was committed to decolonizing the wellness space, understanding African ancestral healing modalities, and creating space for women, specifically Black women, to engage in healing. Sign me up! 

Jamila occupies many identities as a daughter, sister, lawyer, model, yogi, holistic health advocate and so much more. She's a dreamer and doer on an admirable mission to make healing more accessible through her work and personal practices. Here's Jamila! 

Introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? And why? 

My name is Jamila and I was born and raised in South Minneapolis. I always start with where I’m from because it's had such a huge impact on who I am and what pushes me. Growing up here is what ultimately led me to want to learn more about my African ancestry and become more connected to my inner self. As a black person, you are a minority in Minneapolis. We don’t have many spaces curated for our enjoyment and development. It’s so easy to adopt a color complex, a desire to be and look like something you’re not. Interracial dating is huge here, specifically, white women and black men. I mean it’s a dating phenomenon, I had guys at my high school that would say, “if she’s not white as tissue, we got an issue.” It’s so easy to go down the road of feeling less beautiful than the mainstream Eurocentric standard. This is one of the main reasons I love modeling today. I want to show the world that there is more than one type of beauty.  

Thanks to my Dad’s career with the airlines, I traveled a lot growing up. I gained a lot of exposure at a young age and I knew I wanted to be engrossed in a diverse community. That’s what ultimately led me to leave home and go to historically black college, Howard University. At Howard, people leaned into their blackness instead of hiding from it. And there was so much black beauty! Gaining a deep understanding of black history and culture in college allowed me to see the many ways that we’ve been bamboozled, and how my confidence and self-worth were almost stolen from me. It’s so important to connect to who you are; you are the highest and wonderful version of yourself. To me, that’ the true journey, and I want to share my journey with people like me, my tribe. 

You were crowned Ms. Black Minnestoa 2020! Congratulations! Can you speak more on what inspired you to enter pageantry and what this win means for you?

Well, first of all, thank you so much! I am someone who has a very clear and passionate message. I remember being in my fifth-grade social studies class giving a long unsolicited “TED talk” on why black people should get reparations for slavery. Since a young age, I’ve been inspired to use my voice to speak on injustices in the black community. I went to law school and had internships in policy-making for the federal government. My experience there was disheartening. We can’t expect the government to do anything for us. We have to do it for ourselves. My message has deepened. I now speak about how we can evolve and become healthier people and happier people within ourselves. That’s why I wanted to enter into a pageant. I wanted to have a bigger platform to talk about things that I think are very important to the black community. 

For me, the true win will be competing for the national title of Ms. Black USA on August 9th in Washington, DC. This competition is really going to be a test of strength and consistency. I will really have to focus on the journey of physical, personal and spiritual growth. It’s important that I document this journey. I want to show people that you can accomplish your goals by being consistent. 

How do you make space/balance all of your various interests and forms of creative expression? (Modeling, teaching/practicing yoga, being a judicial law clerk, side hustle, pageants, etc). 

You know, it was pretty difficult when I first started modeling in law school. I had to make sacrifices. Getting good grades was important to me but modeling was just as important. I think we’re taught from a very young age that you have to focus on one thing and then do that forever. At some point, I just had to reject that idea. I’ve definitely taken vacation days from work so that I could do an all-day photoshoot. During my lunch break, I go to casting calls. I communicate with my boss and I’m so grateful for the flexibility that my job provides. I take risks. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.

I’m really into making schedules and I hold space in my life for the things I’m passionate about. I might have to go into work at 6:30 a.m. to complete an assignment just so I can leave work at 3 p.m. That creates space for me to do a yoga training or go to a casting call. It’s a lot of juggling but it makes my life fun and interesting. 

Why was it important for you to visit the Motherland (Africa)? What country/countries, in general, have you visited and what were your stand out experiences? 

It was really important for me to go to the Motherland because in college I really understood the importance of being surrounded by people that look like me and share my culture. That was something I had been deprived of as a child. I really wanted to know what it would feel like! When I first stepped foot on Howard’s campus it was such a loving experience, you just feel 100% comfortable in your skin. So I knew that going to Africa, I would feel that but on a larger scale. When I first arrived in Ghana, it felt so amazing - like I finally made it home. It took me nearly three days to get there so when I arrived I wanted to cry. The journey was very emotional for me. My friend was at the airport already and before I could even see her, she yelled, “is that Jamila?!” I was greeted by our tour group, our new family.  Everywhere you turn you’re being welcomed home. The African marketplace was probably the most amazing part of the trip. People there are really using their skills and talent to hustle. I love that mentality. I loved the art, clothing, and beads. I’ve been in love with the sacred tradition of waist beads for many years. Real authentic waist beads can be difficult to find and sometimes overpriced. There were so many affordable options, I came back with over 60 waist beads! I decided to begin importing waist beads and sell them here in the US. It’s a way for me to support the Ghanaian women and their amazing skills while spreading the tradition to women here in the states. I plan to sell the waist beads both online and at pop-ups shops this summer around the country.

So let’s see, some of my favorite places are Paris, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Barbados (and Ghana of course). I absolutely loved Paris, it was my first time going abroad without my parents. We really enjoyed the nightlife. I loved seeing all the beautiful African people. We ate at the most amazing Senegalese restaurant called Mama Africa. The culture is very rich and the language is so beautiful. I love Jamaica for so many reasons. The people are very spiritually aware and conscious. Many of the Rastafaris are vegan and the ital food is so good. You can learn so much in Jamaica about holistic health. I’m a big foodie, in case you couldn’t tell. My trip to Puerto Rico was a huge food tour. My favorite dish is a traditional African dish called Mofongo. Barbados, again, the food was amazing! Its such a beautiful country and the people were extremely friendly. 

Can you tell us more about your wellness journey and what it means to be a holistic health advocate?

Starting from the very beginning I have always been open to the idea of holistic health and natural healing because of my Dad. He would take apple cider vinegar baths and when we were sick he would create different herbal concoctions instead of giving us medicine. 

My journey really started during law school. I struggled to adjust to our crazy schedules. I rarely cooked. I was eating out 80 percent of the time. My physical health was suffering but my mental health took a drastic change for the worst. I started dealing with anxiety and depression. That’s when I began looking into natural remedies because I wasn’t interested in taking any type of medication. The two things I kept seeing and hearing over and over were meditation and yoga. I decided to give them a try out of desperation. The anxiety I had was becoming unbearable and was manifesting in the physical. I was having heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and panic attacks. It made it really hard for me to even be productive because my thoughts were racing all the time. I decided to try 30 days of yoga with Adriene, she’s a yoga instructor that teaches on Youtube. She’s a very beginner-friendly yoga teacher.  Within the first week, I felt a huge shift, mentally, spiritually and physically.

I also knew that I would need to change my eating habits. Going to law school in Georgia, all ate was Chick-fil-a, Waffle House, and Zaxby’s. My menstrual cycle was lasting 14-15 days. I was really concerned. I talked to my sister about it, she was living in Philly at the time. She told me about a book called Sacred Woman by Queen Afua. That book was life-changing. After reading Sacred Woman, I quit eating meat and dairy - cold turkey. That book changed the way I think about my body. Our bodies are our temples. 

To be a holistic health advocate is really important to me because someone shared this information with me and it was magical. I believe that it’s my duty and mission to continue to spread this information. 

Where can people go to learn more and connect with you?

Thank you soo much for connecting with me!! I am so humbled and honored. Thank you for the work you do and the wonderful community you are creating. 

I would love to connect with your tribe!! I will be documenting my journey on my Instagram, @_jamilama and on Facebook at Jamila Ama. I will be launching a new website very soon, so if you visit my current website, you’ll get updates on when my new website is dropping and how you can purchase waist beads.

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