If there’s been one person we consistently wanted to be in 2018, it’s Josephine Oloito’a aka @Josie.Édan.
A bit of daily Josie makes us feel like it’s okay to not have our shit together all of the time; that we’re a sisterhood and we need to look out for one another; and bich, you can actually make anything happen for yourself if you set your mind to it. The person with the most to lose if you don’t invest in yourself? That’s you!
Which is why Josie was literally the first person who sprung to mind when Converse launched their awesome ‘Love The Progress’ collection, part of their All The Stories Are True campaign, and asked Miss FQ to help them find local female trailblazers who, against the odds in many cases, are carving their own path and inspiring other young women to live by their own terms. Josie joins a global movement that includes actor and activist Millie Bobby Brown, Australian-Russian Stephanie Kurlow, the first hjiabi ballerina, and Qin Yungqua, a Singaporean native committed to empowering women through self-defence, as some of the fearless females redefining what it means to be a girl today.
Read on to hear what it’s like being a strong, fearless female leading other Kiwis on a path to social change… As Josie told us: “The introspection was REAL.”
What is your full name (and preferred name!), age, hometown and current location?
My government name is Josephine Oloito’a, on the gram I’m Josie Édan (ay-den) and everywhere else I answer to Sose. I’m 22 years old, I hail from the villages of Salelesi and Fusi Saoluafata in Samoa and I’m currently based in Wellington, Aotearoa.
Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s been your story so far? What do you do? What do you aspire to do?
I’m a full time uni student, part time 111 operator, a content creator upon request (but only if the price is right), a social activist, a funny bitch, a womanist and most importantly; a brown girl. I’ve written blogs, made videos for TVNZ’s Re: News, I’ve even been a YouTuber once upon a time. Now I just bare my soul on Instagram for my own personal healing and ended up empowering others along the way. Through oversharing online, I help destigmatise concepts that are often seen as taboo or just don’t get talked about enough. I start necessary dialogue around topics that need unpacking and normalising. My aspirations in life include dismantling the patriarchy, decolonising indigenous spaces, getting my driver’s license and starting my own media company with content that centralises people of colour. Like, a BuzzFeed for brown people.
What does it mean to be a girl in the 21st century?
Being a girl in the 21st century means being whoever you want to be. It’s pushing past centuries of archaic gender ideologies and creating your own narrative. It’s reclaiming your identity – whatever that looks like to you.
Define what the word GIRL really means.
When I say GIRL, I say it with my chest because the word itself exudes power. GIRL is loud, unapologetic, ever-changing and free. She’s a revolution.
Tell us about your personal path to empowerment? Were there any significant moments that lead you to be where you are today?
Growing up in a religious and patriarchal Samoan household often came with the burden of adhering to strict and modest ideals that never quite sat right with me. It was seeing the women closest to me taking a step back for the men in the room, being the primary caretakers and emotional labourers yet never being given the opportunity to make decisions for the family. Living through this was enough to show me everything I didn’t want for myself, it made me want to break the cycle. I’ve never blamed my culture for this skewed power dynamic though, I blame colonisation but that’s a history lesson for you to do in your own time (Google is free). Pre-colonial Samoan culture saw women as political leaders, powerhouses and matriarchs, even our fiercest Gods and deepest lovers were women. This is where I draw strength from. This is what sparked my own personal revolution. If my own ancestors were violently tainted by western social conditioning, what ugly imposed narratives have I been subconsciously conforming to? From this I began to question everything, unpack everything and unlearn everything until I was comfortable knowing that although my choices aren’t made in a vacuum, they’re still my choices. And now we’re here; hairy, opinionated and sexually liberated. And this is only the beginning.
Why do you think it’s more important now than ever for women to help one another?
As women, we share lived experiences. Living under the patriarchy means we’re all suffering out here, some more than others so it’s important we show up for the marginalised groups first because we can only move as fast as our slowest sister. No woman is free until we’re ALL free.
Who are your mentors or feminist icons that you aspire to?
I’m such a stan for anyone who lives unapologetically in their truth, all the women I keep in my company (on the TL and IRL) keep this energy so I’m constantly being reminded by their existence to channel my own mana. Shout out Chidera Eggerue aka The Slumflower for helping me deprioritise men, unpack my internalised misogyny and enjoy my own company, Raquel Savage for encouraging the freak hoe in me and educating through her thought-provoking thirst traps, Princess Nokia for her distinct self-awareness, her deep and eloquent love of self, and consistently radiating an infectious That Bitch energy, Cherelle and Brianna Fruean for inspiring the tree-hugger in me and being true extensions of the motherland, their voices in feminism and climate change activism are so loud and so necessary, Jahra Rager Wasasala for decolonising my mind and shedding layers of herself through her art, so often I’ve found solace in her movement, poetry and general being, and Anny Ma for showing me how to love people in their language, encouraging introspection, being relentless in her feminism and always holding me accountable. All are women of colour and all have contributed to my evolution. I need to pay them.
Define your style.
My style reflects my need to be comfortable yet cute while living my best life. It’s mood-dependent so it’s often lazy but it’s always feel-good. I don’t like feeling physically restricted by the clothes I wear so if they don’t pass the twerk test, I’m not wearing them. I’m also just a massive slut for anything high-waisted.
How has Converse enabled you to form and express your own sense of style?
I’ve always seen Converse as the ultimate kick back shoe. She’s chill, she’s cool, she’s cute even when she’s worn out… wow she’s basically me. I’ve always had love for Chuck Taylors at a young age for their comfort and cool factor and have since leaned into my own version of those elements.
How has social media been a channel to help you not only express, but grow your opinions around the women’s rights movement?
My media consumption has an effect on my perception of self and my ideas of the world so I make the conscious effort to only engage with content that educates and empowers me. I follow badass women on the gram and have learned more from them than I have in any classroom. But it’s not anyone’s job to educate me for free so once I’ve been enlightened on something, I make sure to do my Googles in my own time so that I’m developing my own understanding and putting in the work to educate myself.
How do you use your social media presence as a channel to positively impact women and raise awareness around these ideas?
Social media gave my voice a platform, its allowed me to curate a safe space for myself and anyone else who sees themselves in me. I share stories for my own healing but my transparency gives others a space to sit in theirs. It’s often uncomfortable but that’s where the magic happens. (Grow baby, grow!) I’m very aware of the vulnerable position I put myself in when I overshare and project these ideas in such a public sphere but if I can help at least one other girl out there feel better about herself then it’s all been worthwhile. Yes, I can die in peace.
How do you deal with negativity – on social media, in life – and keep trucking on?
If it’s coming from strangers, I don’t give a f*ck. On social media it’s easy, my blocked list is almost as long as my hair. IRL it’s a little trickier to navigate, especially when the negativity is coming from family or close friends. I absolutely hate feeling like I have to compromise who I am just to make others comfortable because I’ve spent too long trying to be comfortable with myself. I’m not ready to give that up. So dealing with negativity from the people closest to me is always a little heart breaking because at the end of the day I know I’ll always choose myself.
Do you have any final advice to share with other women walking the path of empowerment?
DO THE WORK. It’s not enough to just scroll through your feed and absorb the fruits of someone else’s labour – take that inspiration and put it into action.
Photos: Rob Corica
This article is brought to you in partnership with Converse and their new ‘Love The Progress’ collection – designed by an all-female team and inspired by women past and present who are moving the needle for the next generation. The edgy-yet-feminine collection uses cute details, such as the heart motifs on the side of and under the sole, plus meaningful text, fun prints and cool colour-ways. Available online at converse.com.au, in-store at Converse Sylvia Park, Converse Manukau, Converse St Lukes & selected retailers across the country.