Yhanni & tribe via IG

By Sharon Pendana

Yhanni
Jamila Brown, founder of Mama
Makers Collective,
 a movement of mother creators, has embraced the lush glory of her
natural mane all her life, rocking it all from super long locs to a super low
Caesar. These days she keeps it simple with her thriving tribe of five:
husband, Bobby and their adorable children, the agile, kinetic Judah and the
lionesses, twins Nāli and Echo, who just turned 1 years old. Happy Birthday! The cuteness quotient in their LA household is high. 
With
easy laughter that moves from deep belly to a quirky cackle, Yhanni shares her
hair journey, her beautiful story of motherhood and her advocacy for creative,
entrepreneurial moms.



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Yhanni & son Judah via IG

You were a loc-wearing, head-turning little girl in 1990’s Brooklyn, now you’re still turning heads as a mom in Los Angeles.

My five-year-old has locs, and he told me not to cut his hair; he wants it to do what it does. And we haven’t cut it. So now HE is that little head-turning kid who’s booking jobs in modeling. He says “it’s my body; it’s my choice.” (laughs) These little woke children.
Photo courtesy of Yhanni 
After 20 years, why did you give up
your locs?
I
felt so strongly that I wanted to release the energy that was caught in my hair
and make way for the new–make way for Judah. When he was about a month or two
old, I sat up all night and combed them out.

Photo courtesy of Yhanni

Was there ever a time when you felt
uncertain about your hair?

Though
I love having my hair super short, that was the most difficult time. I didn’t
realize how much my gender identity was attached to my hair until I cut it
short. Not necessarily how do I appear feminine, but how do I make myself feel
feminine? But my femininity is just within me.
Do you have a hair crush?
@jayhairbigga;
she’s incredible. She has gorgeous dark skin; it’s freakin amazing, and her fro
is always ridiculous! If you have the audacity and the confidence to wear your
hair natural and wear it huge, it’s not just a hairstyle, it’s a statement.
What products do you use?
Carol’s
Daughter. Hair Milk all the way! I can leave
it in; it’s great for my hair, and the scent is unmatched. I’ve had her
products [family friend and founder, Lisa Price] in my hair since I can
remember. My hair feels fed every time I use it, and I loved her Loc Butter
when I had locs. If I don’t use Carol’s Daughter, I just use coconut and castor
oils, and maybe some rosewater.  
Do you take issue with people
touching your hair?
I
do. Don’t pat me; I’m not a dog. It seems the bigger my hair gets; the more
people think they can touch it and the only people that try are white people. I
was at a party, and a friend said: “Your hair is just so amazing. I wanna put
my hands in it.” Caught off guard, I let her touch my hair, and then her
husband came up to me and tried to do the same thing. At that point, the shock
had dissipated, and I said, “Oh no, we’re not going to do that.” It became a
teaching moment.
Photo via Yhanni’s IG

What’s been the best part of your
natural hair journey?

I’d
have to say how empowering it’s been. At every stage, I’m learning something
different. It’s so incredibly different having locs than it is to have your
hair really short or out in a ‘fro.
Did it bolster your self-esteem?
When
you have a huge ‘fro, how can your self-esteem not be super bomb? It is my
unicorn, superpower that just grows freely. How could I not know I’m magic with
all this incredibleness that shoots out of my head and stands straight up?
That’s amazing! Clearly, Judah rocking his natural hair has that, and now it’s
my job to make sure that the girls have it as well.
Photo courtesy of Yhanni 

Tell us about your miraculous
daughters.

Our
girls, Echo and Nāli, are rare monoamniotic/monochorionic twins which occur one
in 1000 identical twin pregnancies. They share an amniotic sac and one
placenta, so the worry is that one twin will get more from the placenta than
the other, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent one twin from getting
wrapped in the other’s cord, which is potentially detrimental. I moved into the
hospital at 24 weeks and was connected to monitors that read their heartbeats
24/7 until their birth. It was so challenging after having had a home birth
with Judah. There was a lot of having to assert myself, but it was good. Had my
aromatherapy diffuser, set up my crystals. My girlfriends came to braid my
hair; you never know what will keep you grounded and that was one of those
things that did. The experience taught me how much power I have to stay
elevated and keep my eyes on the prize, which was bringing home two healthy
babies. Thankfully they were. They were delivered early at 34 weeks, and not
tangled up at all – the doctors were amazed. While I waited for the girls to be
able to come home, my sister Thandi gave me a blow-out, so I walk into the NICU
after having had a C-section with this huge, blown-out Afro like “Mom’s
here; what’s good?” Those hair moments are empowering.
Founding Mama Makers must be
empowering as well.
Mama
Makers Collective is my absolute passion project, my joy; total fulfillment
comes full circle with the addition of Mama Makers in my life. When I had Judah,
my chakras were open, and I had all that creative energy to release. I was also
searching for a way to contribute to the household income. I’ve always made
things, so I looked for a community of moms who were at the same stage to get
some feedback and help, and I couldn’t find anyone. That’s when I realized we
need this. Mama Makers Collective is about creating a community of creative
mothers through curated events and markets. We are doing workshops that entice
self-care. Mothers teach the classes, but all people who identify as women are
welcome. I’m excited.

The Browns: Photo courtesy of Yhanni

What do you do to stay healthy?

I
make sure that what I’m cooking at home is healthy, and when eating outside of
the home, it’s in line with things that will sustain being able to nurse two
babies and run after an active five-year-old. And I have a glass of red wine
every night. A nice glass of wine with your lentils and your kale? Gotta do it!
Yhanni’s twins in an Aveeno Baby ad
Follow Yhanni on instagram or visit her Mama Makers Collective website! 
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Are you a mom? How do you stay creative?
Sharon Pendana is the creator of THE TROVE, author of Secret Washington DCand on a relentless quest to discover treasures, human and otherwise. Find her on InstagramMedium, Twitter or binging on Netflix and Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps.