Iye Bako: Beauty Requires Compassion

Iye is a human rights, environmental justice, and climate change activist. Iye is also a vegan lifestyle content creator. She shares with us her journey toward veganism and skin positivity. 

“I'm originally from Nigeria. When I was little my, family immigrated to the United States. I'm basically Americanized, but I've retained my Nigerian culture. My Mom and Dad are Nigerian parents so you know they're going to be like — you're Nigerian when you're at home,” Iye laughs.

Iye explains to us what inspires her content.

“I love learning about different cultures through food, world issues, and activism. Learning about different cultures is what catalyzed my skincare journey. While learning about the different cultures of East Asia, I became exposed to Korean skincare. After I discovered that Korean skincare blended perfectly with my love of self-care and veganism, I got started. Korea has outlawed animal testing in their country. So, all skincare products produced in Korea are cruelty-free.”

“I was so happy when I found K-beauty because as a vegan, shopping for products can be nerve-wracking. it's so difficult to know whether or not a product truly fits my lifestyle, but K-beauty made me feel very comfortable. It truly became my entry point to skincare because I wasn't interested in skincare as a teenager.” 

Although Iye discovered a newfound love for Korean beauty, she describes how she became a bit overzealous, and this is what led to her breakouts.

She explains, “Growing up, I had low-maintenance skin. I don't say “good skin” or “bad skin” because I don't believe in those types of concepts. However, “I started getting breakouts as an adult, and it's partially because I was experimenting with skincare and trying new products that I had never used before. I was using too many exfoliants, and my skin didn't like that. So, I broke out. During this time, I truly noticed the subtle ways people treated me differently versus when I had clear skin.” 

“In terms of wanting to spread the message of skin positivity, that made a huge impact on me. It doesn't matter what your skin looks like. What truly matters is who you are and how you feel. Although the slightest bit of hyperpigmentation from healing acne can make a huge dent in your self-confidence, you are more than your skin. Being a resilient, empowered person with a zest for life is possible regardless of what your skin looks like.” 

“I can remember when I was breaking out. I did keep moving, but I also doubted and questioned myself. I thought to myself — what am I doing wrong? Why is my skin like this?”I had to learn to be patient with my skin. While I still have hyperpigmentation from recent breakouts, I've decided to live with it because it doesn't impact who I am as a person. It actually gives me more passion for skincare because I like trying the new dark spot and PIH products to see what has the most impact. I don't really place that much emphasis on having perfect or clear skin. I just keep moving.”

Iye continues, “Your skin is your largest organ, so it seems like people should always notice it, but truly, I pay more attention to people's energy, vibrance, how they present themselves, how they talk, and their tone of voice. So, when you're fixated on something like skin, you're investing your energy on a fixation instead of being present in the moment. Life is so short and worth living so try the best you can to avoid fixations. When we look in the mirror every day, we focus on analyzing every detail. But, when we only focus on one part of ourselves, we're less able to bring our full selves to the table. We are here on this planet for such a short amount of time, and your energy is precious. So, put forth your energy towards things that help you feel good, help you make it through the day, and thrive.

Iye conveys how her appreciation for life and energy led her to being vegan.

“I made the decision to go vegan because I was at a transitional point in my life. I wanted to do something that aligned my mind, body, and morals. I educated myself about plant-based diets first. Jumping into it without knowing what you're supposed to eat is not the best option. When it came to learning about the lifestyle, documentaries were one of my starting points. Then, I learned further about nutrition and portion sizes. Of course, plant-based food is less filling so you have to eat a larger quantity of food than you would normally eat.”

“Soon after, I became especially motivated by the fact that climate change has caught up to us.” 

“We're no longer waiting for climate change to happen. We're experiencing it.” 

“So, I wanted to reduce my consumption in the best way possible which is veganism. Overall, plant-based diets have a lower carbon impact. And ultimately, many people from different backgrounds are being displaced from their land because of the animal agriculture industry and pollution. I don't want to contribute to that because they're actually spraying pesticides and animal manure in low-income communities. So, I just wanted to reduce my impact in terms of contributing to the animal agriculture industry.”

“Before educating herself on environmental justice, Iye explains how she viewed veganism like many others.”

“I didn't grow up with veganism. I didn't even know what veganism was, and if I made any connection, I just thought of PETA. But as I learned more, veganism has become my extension of compassion. To me, it means coming full circle with love, justice, and freedom. Furthermore, it means expanding these values to the other animals we inhabit this planet with. Veganism has made me feel more spiritually aligned and at peace. I do believe in energy, and more specifically, I believe in the transference of energy via consumption. Most animals that are eaten are raised very poorly, and they suffer a lot when they die. I believe we absorb low that vibrational energy upon consuming it, and this deeply impacts our minds. Given that, I've felt more like myself, happier, and more at peace since going vegan.”

Iye continues, “Many products from the animal agriculture industry are bad for our health, and we are literally running out of time with pollution and climate change. I think compassion and not wanting animals to suffer can improve our situation. That's why I'm building my own community and my own content. I want my content to reflect and unite different communities. 

Iye speaks about how respecting the environment can also empower marginalized communities.

“It’s very healthy and liberating when you can grow your own food on your own land. As opposed to cooperations dominating the vast majority of land ownership, this is called food sovereignty. Owning land carries a lot of power, and it should be proportionate. Knowing how to grow your own food and owning land is one thing that can bring you freedom. And if not, you should always have access to fresh and whole foods.”

“On the other hand, fast food is engineered with certain blends of sugar, fat, salt, and other things that interact with the happy chemicals of the brain. This combination makes you feel like you need it. The animal agriculture industry is worth trillions of dollars, and a large portion of it is solely for food like this. On top of that, the industry separates people from their food source. For example, the trucks that take animals to slaughterhouses only go on the freeways at night. So, we’re never privy to animals going to slaughter. We never see where and how animals are raised. We never experience the negative vibe around their suffering, and if you’re not physically close enough to witness it, you can't comprehend what the animals go through. We can't see, smell, or hear any of it. Physical distance is mental distance from reality.”

“And then, let’s talk about the dairy industry. I was going vegetarian, but when I learned about the dairy industry, I made the cut right away. It sounds funny, but I didn't know cows had to be pregnant for us to get milk. I thought dairy cows just made milk because they're dairy cows!”

“But, just like humans — cows are mammals.”

“Mammals have to lactate to produce milk. They get to spend less than 24 hours with their calves, and then, the calf is fed milk replacer.”

“I don’t want to be a part of that.”

“In turn, veganism is not just a diet; It's an all-encompassing social justice movement. It encompasses what you wear, the products you buy, how you treat your environment, and how you treat other living beings. To me, you can't be a vegan if you’re prejudiced in any way because it's all about compassion for mankind and animal kind.”

Iye tells us how she would like to spread this compassion. 

“I want to provide more fast education through YouTube content, a podcast, and my current social media community. Once I get my channel and podcast rolling, I want to interview vegans from the diaspora, indigenous vegans, and vegans from every walk of life. Not only that, I want to talk to people who work in beauty, health, and nutrition. In an effort to heal our planet, I want to share education around self-care, healthy living, and vegan lifestyles from a lens of different topics.