Photos c/o Emmanuel Afolabi
Makenzi Koyen is a Brooklyn based actress, writer and producer originally from Seattle, Wa. She is passionate about Jesus, womanhood, storytelling, creativity, and all of the incredible humans in her life.
Have you ever met someone who was completely and utterly themselves? It’s fascinating, a little unnerving, yet incredibly freeing to be around someone who isn’t ashamed of who they are.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty confident woman and yet there have been times where I didn’t fully express my opinion. I’ve watched friends make compromises or hide parts of who they are for the sake of others. It’s like we’re playing hide and seek, looking for the best spot to hide and praying we don’t get found.
In my work as an actor, it’s easy to get caught up in making comparisons, and I sometimes second guess myself rather than trust that I am enough.
Why are we so obsessed with perfection? As human beings we have the right to fail. We owe it to ourselves to own our experiences and our mistakes, our weaknesses, and all of the messy, wrong, beautiful parts of our lives.
When I was younger, I straightened my hair for so long that no one knew I had curly hair. I went to great measures to hide a natural part of who I am, because it helped me relate to people. I didn’t want to be different.
Growing up bi-racial in a predominately white community was tricky. You experience things very differently when you’re mixed race because you’re not “just black” and you’re not “just white.”
There were times I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone, which often left me feeling misunderstood and alone. Straightening my hair was my shield. I felt safe because I fit in. But it was exhausting.
It took a long time to do and was difficult to maintain. One morning in my last year of high school I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I see it as a small victory where I finally surrendered to who I really was.
Later in my adult life I realized there isn’t anyone else in the world like me.
No one else has my exact features, talents, or thought patterns.
No one else has my voice, perspective, attitude, or opinions.
No one else has lived my experiences, or seen life through my eyes.
So why would I rob the world of who I am and what I have to offer? I don’t have to make myself seem interesting because I already am interesting. I don’t need to envy another actor’s careers because what I have to offer is completely different!
I believe many women grow up afraid of their power. When women hold immense power, it’s unstoppable. When we hold space for ourselves and other women to truly be who they are, change becomes possible and we can become a presence that cannot be denied or ignored. Sometimes that makes other people uncomfortable, but I’ve been lucky to have wise friends and leaders who have encouraged me to release my voice.
Even more, I am lucky to know Jesus. He is the epitome of authenticity and my relationship with him has enabled me to let go of others’ opinions and to be the woman He created me to be. Jesus reminds me that I am loved – despite the mistakes I’ve made.
I don’t have to be perfect, I get to live in the freedom of who I am and take that out into the world. I have a voice — a voice that does not shame or judge or condemn. A voice that encourages others to be who they are. A voice that acknowledges the gifts in the women around her.
Beauty is authenticity. Beauty is freedom. It’s giving myself permission to fail because I know I can get back up again. It’s showing up, not to put on a show, but to be an actual human with perspective, opinions and feelings. We’re all so afraid to be our authentic selves that we’re missing the moment, and let’s face it: when this world is over, all that will be left is the truth we exchanged with one another.
I may be “too loud” sometimes or even “too emotional.” I speak what’s on my mind and maybe it doesn’t always come out the way I intended it to. But that is ok. I am a work in progress, but that gives me hope. Hope for what’s to come and who I’ll be.
I don’t have to have it all together, where I am today is enough.