"The transition to my new Scandinavian home proved challenging. I searched for something that would bring me joy and reflect the vibrant colors, sounds, and aromas of my childhood home. That is something I hold dear in my heart. Makeup!"
I’ve often ridiculed my mother and sisters for moving far from home for L-O-V-E. “That will never be me,” I said on many occasions. But, as fate would have it, that four-letter word catapulted me to another continent. So, I guess the joke’s on me!
Growing up in Jamaica, I never imagined relocating to another country. Traveling was fine, but I didn’t like being away from the comforts of my tropical paradise for more than two weeks. Then came the day my now husband asked me to move halfway across the world. Of course, my lips uttered “yes,” but secretly, I was terrified of leaving the sun, family, and friends.
I was unprepared when I arrived in Sweden in the Spring of 2015. Sure, I had all the right clothes—sweaters, warm tights, and a jacket—but nothing prepared me for the freezing wind that chilled me to the bone. My clothes were useless.
Researching Sweden for a year and a half before the move eased my mind, especially learning that English is widely spoken and Malmö is culturally diverse. The city was also home to many international companies. With my communications background and work experience, I figured finding a job would be relatively simple. Instead, I started receiving “we regret” letters. My confidence dwindled, sending me in a different direction. Finding a job in my field seemed impossible. So, I registered with a matching company. They found me a job in dry cleaning, which was my entry into the Swedish job market. From there, I tried my hands at different positions, which included working as a student assistant in an international school, as a cleaning lady, and eventually in retail. While jumping from job to job, I earned my qualifications as an ESL/TEFL teacher and a Master’s in Communication for Development from Malmö University.
The transition to my new Scandinavian home proved challenging. I searched for something that would bring me joy and reflect the vibrant colors, sounds, and aromas of my childhood home. That is something I hold dear in my heart. Makeup! Splashing colors on my face, shading and fading with matt and sparkling powders, softly and purposefully, I decided to turn my skin into a canvas and me into an artist. I wanted to celebrate my happiness with the world, smiling from cheek to cheek with creamy glossy lips and my pearly whites. So I started blogging on Instagram, playing with different looks using various products, throwing in a little fashion here and there and eventually styling my curly locks for all to see. I was happy, unapologetic, carrying myself high with Jamaican pride. It was me again.
“… I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman.
I met like-minded people through my blog, and suddenly I didn’t feel so ostracized.
Sharing my love of makeup on social media led me to my job in retail, working for a French cosmetics company. I loved my work, and I improved my Swedish along the way. This experience cleared the way, allowing me to work with the brand’s digital marketing team. As a result, my confidence grew, and after two years, I tried my hand at entrepreneurship, creating a consultancy in community management for social media and freelance writing.
While I enjoyed the flexibility of entrepreneurship, clients weren’t exactly tripping over themselves to work with me. Building a network in Sweden is not easy. So, earlier this year, I accepted a full-time position working within my area of expertise – Communications. It took seven years and a lot of sweat and tears, but I’m finally in a good place professionally.
All in all, my bittersweet Swedish experience has made me stronger than ever.
/ Yahneake Sterling Russell
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