Dear May,

I always knew I’d write this letter to you someday. I just didn’t know when. Now, as I’m walking down a street in central London, I feel like it’s a good time to say exactly what I want to say to you.

To begin, you are beautiful. So beautiful. I know right now you will only be thinking about the physical things. About how much you don’t like them. The mole on your face. The colour of your skin. The size of your body. The largeness of your eyes. The texture of your hair. But, let’s go through a few things…

Your mole. In a few years, you will go to Jamaica with Mum. You’ll meet Grandma for the first time as a grown young woman. She has the same beauty spot in the exact same place and she will tell you how lucky you are to have such a special feature. Mum will tell you all about Cindy Crawford and how you look like her. She’s lying. You don’t. You look like you. Lol. But, you’ll understand in a few years what she was trying to achieve. You will grow to see how much character it gives you. The unique in-symmetry it brings to your face. It will become your favourite feature. One of the things that you’re most proud of. Don’t hate it. Love it.

The colour of your skin. You’ll know by now that living where you do in Leicester means getting used to being the odd one out. Embrace it! Your friends at school right now are not the friends that you will keep for life. I promise you. They are not as important as you think they may be. When they use racial slurs and joke about the ‘N’ word, don’t stay friends with them. Please. Walk away. I would rather you sit on your own for the next couple years than deal with what I know you’re about to deal with. Your skin is so wonderful. It is the loveliest combination of mums colour and dads. Make sure you ask them questions, too. If you do one thing for me in this lifetime, find out your heritage sooner rather than later. Trust me! Everything will make a lot more sense.

The size of your body. I know that most of the girls at school are two sizes smaller than you. Please do me a favour and stop trying on your mates clothes. You’ll only continue to get upset when they don’t fit. STOP CARING. It’s easier said than done, I know. But, your body is your temple. Look after her. Love her. Mama blessed you with the most amazing curves. The best tits. And a striking pair of hips. Eat well. Drink water. Exercise as you normally would. One day soon, you’ll find your confidence within yourself. Nobody can teach you that.

The largeness of your eyes. LOL. As a 20 year old woman writing this letter to you, people still take the piss out of my big eyes. Learn to ignore it. They are so beautiful. So open. So honest and full of wonder. I like to call them “bumble bee eyes”. One day, people will tell you it’s their favourite feature of yours. It should be yours too!

The texture of your hair. Okay… This one I know you’ve been waiting for. Whatever you do, please stop straightening it. Every time you press a strand between those plates, you burn your hair. You flatten out the bounce and you kill the curl. Your hair naturally wants to be kinky, Afro and huge. Please let it. Don’t listen when the boys laugh and say “hey bushy”. Either tell em to “piss off” or laugh about it. They DON’T matter. I promise you. Your hair is so special. The other girls wish they had it. I know that’s hard to believe now but, trust me. You light up a room with that fro. Take care of her. Wash her once/twice a week – no more. Keep her moisturised. Wrap her up at night. You will soon see just how much she is a part of you.

Now. From here on, you are about to embark on the greatest adventure of your life so far. Follow your heart. Don’t stop playing the guitar. Don’t ever hide your shine. Sing every day until you can’t sing anymore. Be confident.

Next time you look a photo of yourself on your phone, look deeper than the physical. See more than what’s on the surface. Focus closer on your mental. On your heart. Be the kind, wonderful girl I know you are and you will be just fine.

Instead of looking at photos and thinking about everything wrong with the physical, try and see the beauty in it. See a woman. See melanin. See strength. See health and with that, privilege. See curves. See happiness and see pain. See a future wife. See a future mother.

The point I’m making, Mais, is that we are built up of much more than our thighs and tummies. And we only realise it at the best of times. I’m working on my confidence still to this day. It’s important that you work on yours, too.

I love you dearly.

Mahalia x