Courtesy of thecatchmeifyoucan
Written by: Nia Shumake
It’s 9 o clock pm in Cyprus, and Nabongo, is just 59 countries away from achieving her goal of being the first black woman to travel to every country in the world. By the time you finish reading this, she’ll be at 52. Being a digital nomad isn't a far stretch from her childhood norm, as travelling has always been apart of Nabongo’s life. The Detroit native and former UN employee frequently travelled to Uganda and London to visit family and even spent time in the Caribbean during holidays.
Engaging in conversation with Nabongo you’ll find that she is impassioned, concise and equally ambitious as she is hilarious. While traveling to every country in the world has always been her dream, the advice of a good friend pushed her in the direction of actually becoming the first black woman and Ugandan to do so, and it’s all projected to happen before her 35th birthday. Nonetheless, though her platform thecatchmeifyoucan and global jet black are all about traveling, ultimately Nabongo wants to inspire people to do what they didn't think they could do.
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“It’s not about convincing people to travel it’s about convincing people to dream bigger and to go after their goals and dreams” she exclaimed, reflecting on a time where she was stopped at a coffee shop by an Instagram follower who had conquered her fear of flying by watching Nabongo’s Instagram stories. “It’s just been amazing to receive messages from people just saying how inspired they are.”
Nabongo goes on to say that she thinks what’s holding people back from traveling abroad is fear and when it comes to Black Americans, possibly the fear of-- the fear of Black Americans. “Growing up black in America we’re so oppressed that we unfortunately can only have this idea that, that’s what the whole world is like and it’s not” she says. “White supremacy is a global phenomenon but it doesn’t persist in the rest of the world, the way that it’s in the us.
Because the social media influencer is so adamant about encouring others to follow their dreams whilst rejecting limitations, we were stoked to ask her about how certain limitations were persistent on a global level when it came to beauty. “I think the consistent thing is that women like to feel beautiful and whatever the adjustment is in their culture, they adjust for it.” Unfortunately, all over the world hundreds of millions of women are adjusting themselves to fit a limited standard of beauty within that particular culture.
With the majority of the world, proclaiming Eurocentric features, light skin and long hair as the universal standard of beauty, given Nabongo’s physical features, she defies this. With dark skin and a bald cut she has found that even though there are linear beauty standards in many cultures, her differences have often made her seemingly beautiful.
For instance, Nabongo visited the Philippines, one of the top consumers of bleaching products [to the extent that they have product specifically for vaginas] and very frequently got compliments on her skin. “You can go to the drugstore and get bleaching products for like any part of your body.” she says. “It’s interesting because a couple of people there said oh i really like your skin” The Detroit native believes it stems from locals being intrigued by her as she isn’t always necessarily what people expect to see.
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if we wanted to. people of color could burn the world down. for what we have experienced. are experiencing. but we don't. -- how stunningly beautiful that our sacred respect for the earth. for life. is deeper than our rage - @nayyirah.waheed 📷 @iamjamesanthony #catchmeinantigua
This sort of fascination with exoticism often happens in regards to her baldness as well, which she transitioned to due to a lack of finding stylists for black hair while traveling. Furthermore, being bald has been much easier for Nabongo and she now takes pride in visiting barber shops all over the world to get haircuts. She’s gotten haircuts in at least twenty countries by now.
Nabongo is most definitely a trailblazer, she’s not only a future history maker but she’s a woman so in love with the human experience that she’s fully invested in depicting the beauty of it through her social media. When asked about commaniities within the world that have been persistent she says, “Yeah man, most people are good” and we admire her for this.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
To help Jessica Nabongo reach her goal of becoming to first black woman to visit every country in the world donate here.