photo via Yumi Matsuo
LaTonya Yvette is a woman of words; she is also a native Brooklynite. A mother of two beautiful humans, River age 8 and Oak 5 — many of us have followed LaTonya since the beginning of her inspirational namesake blog. And she’s here, the city we live in. She is getting her kids ready for school, writing about the missteps and successes that come with raising city kids, improving her home, working on her writing, connecting with people and her community, and sharing along the way.
And we need this as busy city moms. We like this energy. We have our babies and seek out stories that help us to connect, to feel whole again. We search for other women’s stories and truths.
And now LaTonya has written a book, Woman of Color. LaTonya’s book is about empowering yourself as a woman, motherhood, wellbeing, hair, and style. Stories from “Birthing a Body, Growing a Woman” to “Five Rules for Being Bold in Life” can be found in this relatable book that connects all women. The stories are part reflection and bio with woven stories of strong black women that empower all to feel they can get through anything.
Our Editor, Donna Duarte-Ladd, caught up with LaTonya to talk about Woman of Color, turning 30 and raising kids in NYC.
I identify so much with your stories you have told through Woman of Color: the conflicts you had with your name when you were younger and people thinking you are the nanny when you’re out with your kids. How do you try to nurture a healthy sense of self in your kids?
I believe that moving through motherhood with an identity that does not conflict with my role as a mother is important. Part of it is, I think, being a young mother, and not having a sense of self that could be either discarded or hold fast with the birth of a child. I had to mold myself, my work, and my life as a mother, around and with my children. And to me, I never was comfortable with giving up my sense of self.
Part of my mothering experience is teaching my kids, mostly by example, that self is essential. I believe in instilling a sense of autonomy in everyday ways. For example, I don’t make their beds. They sleep in their beds, and they can make them as best as they can. I believe by doing this, I am teaching them responsibility in regards to themselves and their immediate community. It’s layered, but also simple; when I take care of myself and take responsibility for myself, it shows them and teaches them, that this is what they have to do in this world. Right now, this is very important to me. I want them to have fun, be silly, be children, but as one of my good friends would say, “I am raising adults”.
In your book, you share what color means to you as not only a black woman, but also in how you dress. Can you share with our readers more about what color means to you?
For me, color is an entire experience. It isn’t just what I wear, it’s how I see the world. I am inherently attracted to color, people, colorful people. Dynamic characters. Spaces and events.
This is a really important aspect of my work right now. Woman Of Color is an exploration (with kids in tow) of color: theirs, mine, what we wear, the world we live in, and all of my colorful (good, bad, and in between) experiences. Color isn’t just a style experience, and it’s why my book goes back and forth between style, spaces, and experiences. Color isn’t one-dimensional. It is really important for people to understand that, even when we are speaking about the Black experience, that we all have many unique stories.
photo via Yumi Matsuo
You write about many transitions in parenting and relationships, do you have any advice to share on this topic?
All I will ever say about marriage, parenting, single parenting, co-parenting, or whatever your situation, YOU HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING WITH LOVE. It seems hard. SO hard, but in the long run, anything you do out of love, feels SO MUCH BETTER. Whatever your situation is, or where you are, this is one of my biggest parenting tips.
Your mother comes across as an incredibly strong woman in Woman of Color. She raised you as a single mother. How has she, as a single parent, influenced you as a parent?
Thank you, she is! You know, my mother taught me that I was home wherever she was. Which is odd, and likely why I didn’t leave the country until I was in my late 20s. My family was so woven in and out of good and bad experiences — things we took on together in our early years as kids, in the end, turned out to be really formative. I don’t parent like my mother, yet I’ve taken so much of her strength and her willingness to not only survive, but to thrive. She also taught me, for better or for worse, that I can do it all. Yes, it will suck at times. Yes, I’ll likely feel too exhausted, and maybe when I’m in my 40s, I will regret the way I ran around Brooklyn, for my children. But when you see someone do it with five kids, it is hard not to adapt that to your own situation. I am not my mother, but the strength she gave me is still so much part of my everyday. She also taught me ways to make different decisions than her. When I’m down and think I can’t, I think that she did.
photo via Yumi Matsuo
You have great advice regarding personal style. Can you share with us any tips on us on some core pieces a mother should have in her wardrobe?
You know, I think it’s essential that women just dress for their current bodies. I think we are always told to lose the baby weight, as if this day will turn up tomorrow. Therefore, many women do not end up getting dressed for who they are now. Have fun and make time for where you are now style-wise. I think as far as style, sizing, color, patterns, and prints, you can’t go wrong with a onesie or jumper. There are many options and different prices. If you have something that allows you to be comfortable, but also speaks to all of the above, you’re good as gold.
Where do you shop for clothes?
I am super privileged and get many things for free because of my work as a lifestyle blogger. But I usually lean towards female designers who are inclusive, colorful, and who themselves are stylish. These designers also have an attainable price point for readers and followers. With that said, I also like to shop at & Other Stories, and I’m a crazy vintage person. It makes me feel good to get a deal while getting pieces with a story, and that are a bit unique and that capture a moment in time while telling a story.
photo by Bee Walker
Favorite place to grab a bite to eat with the kids?
Dino at 222 Dekalb Ave. in Brooklyn. But also any German beer garden, because they have fries. And when it comes to eating out with kids, as long as there are french fries, it feels like the best outing possible. Also, Speedy Romeo on Classon, because they know the kids and me and put a glass of rosé down when we sit down. It’s our local spot. And Habana Outpost on Fulton, because I’ve been going for years and as a Brooklynite, it sort of feels like mine, even though it isn’t!
Prospect Park for sure!
Favorite summer activity with the kids?
Ferry rides! We’ve been taking them from one area of Brooklyn to the next, park-hopping and hair blowing since River, my youngest, was a newborn. The East River Ferry was opening, and I worked in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m super nostalgic for those days. Oof.
Favorite family TV show/movie?
We cannot agree right now. Honestly. Oak (my 5-year-old) is obsessed with Home Alone (which he watched for the first time at Christmas), and I find it a bit fishy. And he also loves the Polar Express, but I am really against Christmas movies playing outside of Christmas time. River has no specifics. She’s almost 9 and mostly wants to be left alone. But with that said, we will watch old-school Muppet movies together and Mary Poppins.
Favorite holiday destination?
New York! You know, I think the magical thing about New York around the holiday season is that everyone leaves. Not New Yorkers (unless it’s Time Square or Rockefeller Center… don’t go there!).