Beauty & Pride

3 Afro-Indigenous TikTokers Share Their Most Meaningful Beauty Rituals

From braiding to sacred full moon ceremonies.

Written by Jada Jackson
afro-indigenous influencers Kara Roselle Smith, Faith Campos , Kiara Mctear
Kara Roselle Smith, Faith Campos, Kiara Mctear

Indigenous representation is sorely lacking when it comes to television, movies, and the fashion and beauty industries. In recent years, Indigenous women like Quannah Chasinghorse, who attended this year’s Met Gala in intricate Native jewelry, and influencers, like throat singer Shina Nova, have risen to prominence — but there’s still a great lack of visibility, especially for Afro-Indigenous people who have both African and Indigenous lineage.

Fortunately, with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok, Afro-Indigenous creatives are finally getting the recognition they deserve, sparking important conversations around representation while spotlighting the cultural traditions passed down through generations. Bustle chatted with three Afro-indigenous influencers about the beauty traditions they grew up with, their intersectional identity, and how their current beauty routines relate to their culture.

Kara Roselle Smith

Courtesy of Kara Roselle Smith

TikTok: @kararoselles

Background: Afro-Indigenous, Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe

What are some beauty traditions that you have grown up with?

The biggest theme or tradition I've grown up with beauty-wise is that less is more. My Ma never had an extensive skincare routine or makeup routine and often used products as multiples, which I think has influenced my own relationship with beauty. When using products, my personal philosophy is to highlight my features rather than hide them, and to get the most out of products like lipstick, often using it for multiple things like blush and a shadow. One of my favorite products currently is the Fenty Beauty Match Stix in Espresso — it works simultaneously as the perfect light contour, eye shadow, and lip color for my complexion.

What has your experience been as an Afro-Indigenous woman in the United States?

Growing up in predominantly white spaces was difficult at times, especially being that my Ma didn't share the same complexion or hair type as me and I'm an only child. While both of my parents worked to instill a strong sense of self-worth in me, there are comments I still remember that threw me a bit off-kilter. One of the ones that have stuck with me came from a family member: one summer while at our annual Tribal gathering on Martha's Vineyard, a cousin about age eight who — the same age I was at the time — said I couldn't be Native because I was too dark. It was said in front of other cousins and I remember feeling alienated, even though I spoke up and attempted to defend myself. Though these experiences did and continue to have an effect on me, I do realize that I'm relatively light complexion-wise and recognize the privilege that comes with that.

“I think it's important to be vulnerable and truthful, for myself and others, about the fact that I've struggled a lot with my hair.”

How has your heritage influenced your approach to beauty?

As I've grown, I've done my best to incorporate more plant medicine into my routine — things my ancestors used that naturally came from the land to nourish the body: Mullein for its anti-inflammatory benefits, elderberry for an immune system boost, burdock root to aid in digestion, and so on. I consume these often in tea form.

For my skin, lately, I have been loving black soap cleanser, Pangea Peptide-Rich Eye Cream, the Aesop Exalted Eye Serum and marula oil. I also incorporate face masks, like the Pangea Superfood Smoothie Mask, Drunk Elephant Baby Facial, Tony Moly Rice Mask, and YTTP Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial. A great winter tip I recently learned from a friend is to seal my face at night with Aquaphor. I've been waking up with the most moisturized skin.

Braiding is a huge part of both the African and Native American traditions and something I do often. Lately, I've begun wearing my hair more and more sans braids — it's loc'd and I also did that myself in late 2019. I think it's important to be vulnerable and truthful, for myself and others, about the fact that I've struggled a lot with my hair. From an early age, I correlated beauty and confidence with long hair, and am still working to untangle this personal ideology.

What are some inclusive brands that you love to use?

EADEM, Cocokind, and Moskethu Consulting, to name a few. EADEM is a great brand owned by women of color and every product from their core brighter (not lighter) line has worked so well for me. I've also been a fan of Cocokind for years; I was honored to be the face of their Chia Bounce Mask earlier this year. And I have to shout out Moskehtu Consulting, an Indigenous company owned by Chenae Bullock. It offers not just consulting from a fellow Afro-Indigenous woman, but a Moskehtu box that includes plant medicines she's foraged to help with "stress, anxiety, depression, respiratory, immune boosting, and clear skin." I love the bath tea, and the mullein and elderberry teas have become a staple in my routine.

Faith Campos

Courtesy of Faith Campos

TikTok: @faithcampos

Background: Afro-Peruvian and Anishinaabe/Dakota Tribe

What are some beauty traditions that you have grown up with?

I wasn’t really allowed to explore makeup and hair until I [was older]. I feel like if I had access to these things earlier, it could have corrupted my knowledge of what beauty is. Knowing how much I struggled with self-image at such a young age, having access to makeup and hair straighteners could have made it worse. I think it’s fair to say that having to love myself as I was every single day is a huge reason why I love myself as I am now.

What has your experience been as an Afro-Indigenous woman in the United States?

As an Afro-Indigenous woman, unfortunately, I have experienced a lot of anti-Blackness within the Indigenous communities, and more specifically, through social media. I have also met a lot of amazingly supportive people in my life — those are definitely the people I choose to focus on. But growing up, it wasn’t always that way. Because of what was portrayed in the media, being visibly Black in Indigenous spaces often made me feel like I was the least prettiest in the room. The darker you were, the least desirable you were to society — that was a belief I had to overcome growing up. I am in no way shape or form saying that Indigenous people had an easy time, because that is definitely not true. We as Indigenous people also suffer racism and colorism, but being a Black Indigenous woman at a young age was a challenge.

“Understanding its sacredness and value has allowed me to put more positive energy into doing my hair.”

What does your current beauty routine look like and does it have any cultural ties?

I think it’s quite beautiful that both in my Black and my Indigenous side, hair has such a significant value. When I’m doing my hair, I do everything I can to preserve my natural texture and curls, embracing a side of me that I used to be ashamed of. Growing up, I did not embrace my curls or the texture of my hair. I fell into the belief that the straighter your hair was, the more beautiful you looked.

One thing that I do that has a very big cultural significance is to collect any fallout that happens during my wash routine and set that hair aside. Every full moon, we have a ceremony and one of the things we do in that ceremony is burn that hair that we’ve collected. Our hair is believed to be sacred, and isn’t something you just throw in the trash. Honestly it’s allowed me to truly appreciate my hair; understanding its sacredness and value has allowed me to put more positive energy into doing my hair.

What are some inclusive brands that you love and use?

Some beauty brands that I support and use often are Fenty Beauty, and Duafe beauty, which are both Black-owned makeup brands. I also use Cheekbone Beauty, an Indigenous-owned makeup brand. Then, of course, I love some SheaMoisture for my hair — the products always work for my curl pattern in particular.

Kiara Mctear

Courtesy of Kiara Mctear

Tiktok: @kiaramctearthatassup

Background: The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Klamath Tribe

What are some beauty traditions that you have grown up with?

I think back to my grandma braiding my hair as a child, and the love and care she put into my hair to make sure I felt beautiful. The teachings she passed down to me in regards to my hair and what it means to my people and myself is something I uphold and carry with me throughout my life. We would do our makeup in the bathroom and as she smudged black eyeliner on our eyes, she would turn to me and say, “This isn’t makeup — this is our war paint, Dinx.” (This was a childhood nickname she’d call me.)

My grandmother grew up in the punk-rock era and in the early 2000s, would continue to dress up as some punk-rock kid. She had a very young and fighting spirit, which I admired. She would show me how to spike up my hair, as if I was in some rock band with her, and she’d decorate her fingers in silver and turquoise rings with a pair of beaded earrings; she always wore a leather jacket. She redefined what beauty was for me and I’ll always be thankful for her because of that. When I think back to the beauty traditions I’ve grown up with, I think of my grandma.

What has your experience been as an Afro-Indigenous woman in the United States?

As an Afro-Indigenous woman growing up in a predominantly white area, the challenges that I have faced concerning anti-Blackness and colorism unfortunately came from my own family ties and past friendships that I have since removed myself from. There were times when being Black around family members would lead to [slurs] being used, and when expressing my hurt and discomfort with the things they would say, I was said to be too sensitive.

I was told I was “so much prettier with straight hair” and felt as though me being Native was only validated when I hid my Blackness away. Not having pin-straight hair felt like a burden to others. This definitely took a toll on my mental health and self-esteem. There was a period in my life as a teenager when I fried my hair with a straightener and lost myself in trying to prove how native I was, all the while neglecting a part of me which is beautiful and should be celebrated. It wasn’t until graduating high school that I began loving who I am in its entirety and came to the realization that I do not have to prove who I am to others. Knowing that you are enough should come from within.

“I am still here — my tribe and its people are still here.”

How has your culture influenced your beauty routine?

Some current beauty routines that I do include smudging in the mornings and thanking the creator for blessing me with a new day; it makes me feel beautiful and closer to my ancestors. I absolutely love doing my edges and finding new ways to style my curls, whether that be wearing my braids like a crown or letting my curls roam past my shoulders and down my back freely.

I always make sure that I have some beaded earrings on whenever I leave my house. By doing so, I am letting those around me know that I am still here — my tribe and its people are still here. Native jewelry is absolutely a luxury product and should be treated as such. Our designs are not something that can be merely copied and sold cheaply by others. Each design and piece has its own story.

What are some inclusive brands that you love and use?

Some inclusive brands that I love would be Bella Doña and another would is Jazz Moné’s mugs (@jazzmoneee on TikTok). Jazz has created beautiful mugs for uplifting Black women and amplifying our voices with quotes such as “Let me talk my sh*t”, and a personal favorite, “A Black woman is speaking, listen and learn.” Tiktoker @madebyalexnyc’s brand Shine By Nature is another clothing brand that deserves all the hype for my cute plus-size girlies and non-binary baddies. She quite literally redefines clothing and tailors them with bigger body shapes in mind.

Lastly, Adri Dawn’s beadwork is out of this world. I can’t even begin to comprehend how someone can come up with such intricate designs and execute them to perfection, down to the color, bead size, and cut. It’s incredible.