Image source: Amini Bonane
Amini Bonane is a Congolese-American social entrepreneur, community organizer, women’s rights advocate, scholar, and pageant queen. Born in Kinshasa, D.R.C. her family immigrated to the United States in 1997, and she has lived in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area ever since.
She has taken a leadership role from a young age being the oldest to 7 siblings. She is a Non-Profit fellow at George Mason University where she studies Finance, Philosophy, and Law. During her undergraduate studies, Amini held many leadership positions. She was elected twice as President of TS Honor Society, served as student chair of Mason Service Council, was appointed to the executive cabinet of the President, and founded Mason’s first delegation of Model African Union.
She also is a graduate student at Harvard University, where she is completing her third degree. Outside of her scholarly work, Amini is very passionate about empowering others. She does this through her social enterprises. As the daughter of a lawyer and an accountant, running a business became second nature. She is the founder of Brains Then Inc, Nchi J Co, and RISIPI. All three are mission-driven companies focused on impact. Brains Then Inc. houses a mentorship program while Nchi J Co funds girls education. RISIPI, her latest venture, will leverage the power of technology, to spread awareness and save lives.
In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Amini shares the inspiration behind becoming a beauty queen, how she’s able to achieve work-life integration amidst running businesses and schooling, and how she intends to use her position as a Black Beauty Queen to encourage other black women to be themselves and melanin proud. After all, the women who accomplished the most and who are really trailblazers in their respective fields, are people who refused to apologize for who they were. So, you have to find your sense of self. Be proud of who you are and be proud of being a Black woman.” Lean in!
1. The inspiration behind becoming a Beauty Queen? (what are your roots, what connects your childhood to what you do now? Who are the most important people in your life and how did they impact you?)
I became a beauty queen for the girls who look like me that are not represented. As a child, I felt like an outcast. I never understood why I never fit in. Now, as an adult, all the things I was insecure about, have become my greatest strengths.
2. How you do intend to break the stereotype attached to pageantry with your position?
I believe you need to be the change you want to see. At first, my loved ones were hesitant about me joining the world of pageantry, which is understandable. Every platform has its faults. My intentions are genuine and I want the world to know how far I can go with my integrity intact.
3. Brains Then Beauty plans for this year especially in collaboration with Rise Against Hunger?
Yes, we are so excited to partner with local nonprofits and help even more underserved communities.
4. How you combine (achieve balance with) your education at George Mason University with Harvard’s, running a jewellery line and running your non-profit organisations?
One word. Delegate. As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to ask for help, but I choose my sanity over my pride. As a business owner, time is something you never seem to have enough of. It rules your calendar and day whether it’s a workday or a weekend. For each thing you cross off your list, there are at least ten more behind it that needs to be done. That is one of the reasons delegating is good for your business.
Delegating allows you to finish more jobs in a shorter period of time. Therefore, it saves time to be used on other work projects or on more enjoyable activities, such as spending it with your family or friends.
Image source: Amini Bonane
5. Milestones and achievements
I’m extremely honoured and humbled to be recognized by the Martin Luther King Resounding Voice Award, as well as stick figure drawings of me from my baby sister. While I don’t do my work to be recognized; however, it’s amazing to see my team beam with pride. I’m always in awe when I see my ideas comes to life. For example, when I started Brains Then Beauty, I had no idea Fairfax County Public Schools would be interested in partnering for mentorship. When I started Nchi, I had no idea we’d be accepted into MSEA. I’m just so grateful for all the doors God has opened.
6. Would you be contesting for any pageantry this year? Plus, what makes you an unusual queen?
Yes, I will be competing August 9th 2020 for a promotion to become Miss Black USA. I’m unique because nobody else is me. That’s my superpower, and I intend to leverage on that.
7. Advice for the next generation of women/queens? (Plus self-love tips for women).
Please give yourself room to grow. Growth requires a total abandonment of your comfort zone. Always remember pain is temporary. Stay focused.
Image source: Amini Bonane
8. Legacy/ What you would want to be remembered for.
I want to be remembered for my unwavering faith. No matter how hard things get, always believe better days are ahead. Never let doubt cloud your judgment. That is just a test. I want to be remembered as a woman who stayed true to herself. A woman that embraced her flaws and defeated societal pressure. A woman content being perfectly imperfect, but always strived to become better.
The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.