This month we are celebrating the amazing Excellent Shing. She is from the island of Ambae and believes it’s important to remember where you come from and practice living a balanced and spiritual life. Working for Peace Corps, Excellent is also part of the Smart Sistas committee and is passionate about building the capacity of others so they can be the best person they can be. She also tries to make time for herself to unwind and relax to relieve herself from all the stress that life brings. Excellent encourages others to always be themselves and stay true to themselves. She walks through life with love and not fear no matter what.
#SmartSistas #AmbaeGodess #AelanGodess
Where are you from?
West Ambae married into Shing Family on Aneityum
Tell us about your family?
I will try and keep it short and not go into much detail. Both my parents are from West Ambae. My parents are both hardworking people who believed in God and have shown us that anything is possible. My mum was pregnant with me when the rebellion on Santo started and so my parents moved to Efate with my brother and sister who were very young at that time and we lived here ever since. Growing up, my parents have always shown us how important family is and to take care of others. I remember my dad saying that it’s very important to know who you are and where you come from. I believe that is why I feel very close with my siblings and grow and love and appreciate the cultural diversity in my family and I also want the same for my kids to know and appreciate that they are part Ambae, Aneityum and Japan.
My husband and I are separated. We have 3 children together, our oldest daughter is turning 15 this month, our second is 12 and youngest is 8. It’s been hard on all of us, but we are taking it one day at a time.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
You know, I am just picking myself up again, with the separation, COVID and a lot of things going on .The pandemic in a way got me to reflect on my life and I had to change my mindset. I am doing my best, now to make time for things that help me relax and unwind, reflect or boost my energy and awaken that creative mind in me LOL. Spending 1 hour at least at the park while my youngest plays, picnic at the beach with family and friends, take up that offer to have a shell of kava with my sista’s, or go out with my sista’s for a glass of wine. And of course not forgetting, the family fellowship my family have every Wednesday evening, I believe in having that balance in life. I enjoy the spiritual learning and sharing. The kids are learning a lot of church songs which is good.
I like listening to music and dancing, Facebook, watch the RED Table Talk, Netflix. I love anything to do with Art and I buy art and craft stuff at Uncle Bills for those DIY projects with my kids. I am starting to crochet and did a few portrait sketches. One time I made a macramé for my hanging my pot plants. Not a lot but it’s a start.
What do you study?
I am committing my time do online courses. I am currently taking a Supervisory Management Courses and some Intercultural Diversity Courses on LinkedIn. One recent course and staff training I received was on Unconscious Bias. There is a lot of bias that we have of women in leadership and it’s good to be aware now of what they are. Most of these unconscious biases are because of how we are brought up.
Do you work?
Yes I have been the Programing and Training Specialist (PTS) for our Community Health program here at Peace Corps Vanuatu for 9 years. I am also the Gender Point of Contact for our post and I am a member of the SMART SISTAS committee and a Girls Leading our World (GLOW) facilitator in the SMART SISTAS ICT Camp.
What do you aspire to do in the future?
We all have our place and purpose in life. Empowering individuals through capacity building is something I am passionate about. Whether directly or indirectly my desire is to be of service to people and bring positive change in their lives. I see my role here at Peace Corps supporting Volunteers through training so they can be competent in their work in empowering our communities to develop and improve life in Health and Literacy. Supporting our Volunteer Gender and Development committee so they can conduct Camps and Clubs to build leadership skills among youths in their community. My involvement with the SMART SISTAs ICT camp is something I feel fortunate to be part of because it is opening opportunities for young girls. I am already on that path and am open to other opportunities in the future.
What is a quote that you live by?
I will say one that resonates with me now is “Pause and remember: if you empty yourself of yesterday’s sorrows, you will have much more room for today’s joy” by Jenni Young
How would you describe your style?
It’s elegant, comfortable, and my own creative expression for what I see as beautiful. When I started my dreads in December 2016, I was conscious about the reaction I would get from my family, my coworkers. The head wraps was my creative way of making myself look presentable especially at work and when I go to church. I got some good tips from Pinterest too! I got a lot of compliments and it and it became natural for me to continue that. That also led to me finding cloths that would not only match my head wrap but also accentuate my figure.
Why do you like fashion?
It is a creative expression of how you see yourself and how you want the world to notice you. Fashion is always evolving and yet ageless.
Who influences your style?
Different people, mostly the women in my life, and different aspects of culture influenced my style. Nowadays I would say, I am more aware of what looks good on me, I can afford to buy stuff I like and I have control of what I want to wear and I wear it with confidence. My style I would say does have a history and I am embrace that because it is an expression of my life’s journey.
My relationship with my hair is another chapter and I will say I have developed this fascination with being authentic after one of our former Black American Peace Corps Volunteer did a presentation about natural hair and how to take care of your natural hair. I went natural and towards end of 2016 I started my dreads. To me it’s a hair style and nothing more or less. In my side of the family, I am the only sister, momma, aunty, grandma, great grandma with dreads which is kind of cool!
What beauty products do you use (including perfume)?
This is actually my first time to have make up on my face for this shoot. It’s amazing LOL. So thank you I feel extra beautiful today!
For my face, because I have very oily skin, I have morning and evening routine of Washing, cleansing, and applying the Rosken Vitamin E Lotion afterwards. I use Saint Ives Apricot Facial scrub as well in the morning and evening routine.
I own a Revlon Lipstick and I apply it daily. Now perfumes, I have a few favorites that I bought and loved their scent. Fifth Avenue, White Diamonds, Sun Flower, Red Door all by Elizabeth Arden, and Daisy by Marc Jacobs. I am now wearing Lady Million by Pacco Rabanne.
For my hair I am now using the Argan shampoo that I just bought at the Pharmacy and I wash my hair once a week. One of the reasons I have my dreads in head wraps is to protect it and it keeps dust and other debris at bay. I use coconut oil and sometimes I use a spray bottle to spray water onto my scalp just to moisturize. There is a lot on YouTube about caring for your dreadlocks. I personally find that what I am doing works for me.
Any fashion tips?
Buy clothes that fit you, experiment with colors and outfits and once you find your style, stick to it. Most importantly, be yourself.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to face?
Breaking ties from loved one is hard. I mentioned earlier that my husband and I are separated. The hardest part is coming into realization that people you love are not always best for you and it’s okay because it’s part of growth. Some people are just in your life to teach you a lesson about life or yourself
What is something you love about yourself?
I always look for understanding and what lesson to learn from the experience. And I am able to look at things objectively. In this past year, I had to do a lot of that to not allow anger, hate, self-blame and blame, disappointments cloud my judgements of myself or of others.
What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Forgive and move on. Whatever you may face in life, you got this! Walk in love and not in Fear.
Photographer: Nicki Kuautonga
Assistant: Umi Nompavos
Make-up: Hair & Body Shop
Photo Shoot Venue: The Retreat Seaside
This article was originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s June 2021 Life and Style magazine edition.