Credit: Mother Mag

Wellness Guru Nikisha Riley On Becoming A Mom At 16 & Growing Up With Her Son


xoNecole's Moms Who Inspire series highlights modern day moms mastering all the tasks on their plate, from day to day responsibilities to ensuring their children are kind, educated and well-rounded human beings. Each mother describes their inspiration, what motherhood means to them, and how they maintain their sense of selves while being the superwoman we all know and love.

If you asked her one word that described how she became a mother, Nikisha Riley would say "unexpected."

The health and wellness social media influencer was 16 years old when she found out she was pregnant with her son Jaden. Raised in the midst of dysfunction, abuse, and toxic behavior, Jaden became a source of life and a source of purpose for the young teenager. She knew then that she would craft a better world than the one she lived in for her now 17-year-old son, protected and filled with love, hugs, kisses, and positive affirmations. And it started when their hearts both shared a beat.

Nowadays, Nikisha is not only the owner of the all-natural skincare line (a Solange favorite) Folie Apothecary, she's also one half of the popular lifestyle blog Urban Bush Babes and is on her way to being newly transplanted to LA, on the heels of divorce. Though it wasn't a path that she thought she'd be on, it's one that she is embracing wholly and completely, in the pursuit of her purpose and ultimately her happiness.

As a Mom Who Inspires us with her bravery and her transparency, Nikisha walks us through her upbringing, her career, and what motherhood looks like for her.

Nikisha & her son JadenCredit: Nikisha Riley

On what motherhood means to her:

Motherhood is like your heart being pulled out of your chest and watching it walk around. It's the most vulnerable place anyone could ever be. It exposes everything in you. I remember the first time I took my son to the park and put him in the swing. He laughed uncontrollably. I was able to bring joy this tiny human with the simplest thing. It made my heart so full.

On how her upbringing influenced her approach to motherhood:

I was very independent growing up. There was a lot of dysfunction, abuse, and toxic behavior. I didn't get a lot of hugs and kisses. I didn't feel that protected and I definitely felt abandoned at times. I didn't feel comfortable being honest. When my son Jaden entered the world, I wanted to keep him away from dysfunction and abuse. I needed him to know he could always count on me and be honest with me, even if I didn't agree. I've always wanted him to be his own person instead of me projecting my own desires onto him, wanting to provide a safe and stable space for him to grow into his own.

I tried to give him everything I didn't get growing up that I know caused a lot of damage in me.

Nikisha & JadenCredit: Mater Mea

On growing up with her son:

Since I became a mom at the very young age of 17 years old, I preserved characteristics of myself by default.

My son and I grew up together, so I was very much still exploring who I was and giving myself the space and the grace to do that.

On what a typical day in her household looks like:

I wake up with my morning routine. I drop my son to school. I drink a smoothie or veggie/fruit juice. I meditate, dance, workout at the gym. I check emails, I work on Folie orders, brand collaborations, or modeling. Eat a big ass salad for lunch, continue working. Get my son from school or soccer, make dinner, and wind down for the day with my fave show or a movie.

Jaden at the age of 12Credit: Nikisha Riley

On how she got through difficult parenting moments:

My son's school years going from the end of elementary to middle school scared the hell out of me! I was a single parent and he has ADHD as well, so school has been the toughest part of parenting for me. I would have nervous breakdowns at least twice a week from his grades or the school calling me. There were so many times I didn't know if I was gonna get through it. I took things day to day until I finally decided to move out of Brooklyn so he could have access to better schools and an actual childhood.

On the important lessons she & her son have learned from each other:

I'm always telling my son to stay true to his authentic self. And that resilience is key to living his best life. Learning how to bounce back after tough times or failure.

My son has taught me to let go.

I have to allow my son to be himself without projecting my own vision or wants on him.

Credit: MotherMag.com

On the three words that represent her approach to motherhood:

Humble, resilience, and unconditional love. Humble because there are a lot of times where we as parents make mistakes and we have to be willing to admit them and tell our children sorry. Resilience because raising another human being is the hardest job in the world and isn't for the faint of heart. Unconditional love because a parent's love should never be based on conditions. We are here to accept, guide, and help this human be the best version of themselves by providing a safe space for them to grow.

On how she practices self-care:

I practice self-care everyday ever since my diagnosis with anxiety disorder and ADHD. It starts with my environment and making sure it's not anxiety-inducing. Also, the people I choose to surround myself with have to be chill and not toxic or dysfunctional. I eat healthy, I work out, I take breaks, I go to bed early, I take supplements, I hang out with my friends. I do things I love, like dancing, cooking, watching thrillers on TV. I research ways to live holistically, and I say no to things to make sure I'm not taking on too much.

Nikisha with her motherCredit: Bee Walker/Paper Monday

On who inspires her to be a better mother:

My mom has always inspired me as a single mom. I saw her work so hard. She never made excuses, she just made things happen. She taught me what resilience looks like, something I always knew I could do, since she was able to do it.

On choosing a career that moves her:

I stuck to only doing things I was passionate about and it ended up turning into my career. I've chosen different careers throughout my life, like public school teacher, blogger, business owner, etc… because I have more than one passion. My favorite part is that I don't ever have to compromise my values or my time working on things I'm not passionate about. I get to be my authentic self.

For more Nikisha, follow her on Instagram. Check out her all-natural skincare line Folie here.

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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