Shake That, Give Back! With Olivia Anakwe and Meghan Takahashi
When models Olivia Anakwe and Meghan Takahashi aren’t jet-setting around the world, walking catwalks, glossing the pages of fashion magazines, and modeling for high-end campaigns, they are doing the type of off-duty model thing that makes for a good Instagram feed. Head to their individual pages for tales of travel, a glamourous hustle, life lesson and foodie type recipes for sweet potato mac and cheese.
Olivia and Meghan met at a fashion presentation, and what started as a staged conversation, turned into a fast friendship. They are both first-generation products of a determination, hope, and passion. Their stories are rich intricate weavings of heritage, migration, and future. It’s truly a beautiful story and the girls are beautiful narrators.
Oh yeah, and they share an astrological sign that encompasses thier love of travel and thought. The mystical and alluring Sagittarius. This year the girls are throwing a joint birthday party with the theme of giving back in mind. SHAKE THAT, GIVE BACK is going to bring people together for the ultimate dance party in support of The NUWAY Foundation, and the Women’s Refugee Commission. All of the ticket proceeds will be split in half and donated to these two charities.
We talk to the girls about thier background, their need to give and how we can give the wonderful organizations that they support.
First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What are your wishes this year?
Meghan: My wish is to continue on this journey of growth and to be able to meet amazing people along the way! I hope to start challenging dialogues for topics that need more discussion and STGB is the beginning 🙂
Olivia: My wish this year is to keep traveling and push myself out of my comfort zone. I love immersing myself in completely different cultures and meeting so many interesting individuals. Not only is it a learning experience but also a life experience that goes hand in hand with pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I believe that it is the best way to grow!
How did you two meet?
We both met during our first New York Fashion week at an Adam Lippes presentation. His presentation was a nice reprieve from the usual craziness since it was inside his own brownstone. He sat Olivia and I together on one of his sofas and told us to act like we were a part of the party. Olivia and I got to chatting and we hit it off, but we knew it was a true friendship when we both sprinted to the back kitchen after the presentation and loaded up a plate of mini-croissants before heading off to our next show together.
You decided this year to throw a “SHAKE THAT, GIVE BACK” themed celebration, what promoted the conversation?
Meghan: Olivia and I have both realized over the years how fortunate we are- growing up in loving, supportive families and having the ability to pursue our dreams to the fullest. We wanted to stimulate a conversation past just us and our birthdays and to issues that we believe need more attention and education.
Olivia: I was particularly moved by a conversation with my mother about giving back but not knowing how to consistently keep it up when we have such an unpredictable work schedule. I have always volunteered since I was younger but I felt as though I wanted to do more this year. With 2018 winding down, bringing people together for one last celebration before the holidays is the perfect way for not only Meghan and I to give back, but also for everyone who wants to do the same!
How are NUWAY Foundation and Women’s Refugee Commission especially close to your hearts?
Olivia: As a first generation Nigerian in America, my culture has always been a huge part of my family. As my mother and father immigrated to Canada and eventually the states, education and hard work drove them every day to be able to provide for our family. Not only for my brother, sister, and I, but also for our family back home in Nigeria. It is an integral part to give back in our culture and I have experienced that ever since I was younger. Discovering The NUWAY Foundation was particularly special because they continue to make an active difference in Nigeria. Their message of Give H.O.P.E. provides Healthcare, Opportunity, Pure Water, and Educational resources and development. The NUWAY Foundation has actually made efforts in Abatete, the village my father grew up in Anambra State, which I instantly connected to. They continue to work closely with the people of Nigeria to understand what they need and provide them with tools that can help them grow and succeed.
Meghan: I came from a family of refugees. My mother and her family had everything taken from them and escaped the communists in Vietnam via a fishing boat and landed ashore on the Malaysian island of Bidong where they lived in a refugee camp for a little over a year. I remember my mom telling me that not only did she and her family lose everything, but that once at the camp, there still was additional risks. Her dad and brother would have to take turns staying up all night to keep watch over the family’s tent to make sure that no other men would come to rape my mom and her sisters at night. Hearing this horrified me since women face the burden of these assaults by having to bear these additional emotional traumas and/or unwanted children in dire situations. That’s why the Women’s Refugee Commission is so important because they not only provide reproductive health services but they also educate other nonprofit organizations of ways to help prevent these dangers to women in the refugee camps. They aim to improve the lives of women within the camp but also, aim to empower them once they begin to start their new lives, with financial education. I am forever grateful to those that aided my mom and her family in the past during their journey to come to the US and their establishment here, because I know, without a doubt, that their trials are what have allowed me to be where I am today, fully independent and in control of my own destiny.
You are both successful models when traveling the world, what do you think is the biggest thing we all need right now?
Meghan: I think now more than ever, people are reluctant to have an in-depth conversation about topics that are seen as “controversial” or “uncomfortable”. But in reality, this dialogue is exactly what is needed. People need to be able to embrace a new consciousness where it’s ok to disagree with one another and to constructively come together to create cohesive solutions instead of immediately closing yourself off to someone/a group of people because of their “differences”. We need to establish acceptance sans judgment.
Olivia: The biggest thing we all need right now is to embrace one another. There will always be negativity spread in this world but what you can do is be that positive light that shines above all.
How do you find ways to help your communities in your daily life?
Meghan: Again, I think it’s so important to be aware. Ask yourself, “what is happening in my community?” “Do I think things could be improved?” “How can I connect on a deeper level?” For me, that means being involved in my community garden- weekly composting- creating awareness of a space that offers a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Olivia: I love to actively volunteer when I am not traveling. I will either go read to children, help out at a soup kitchen, or tutor and spend my Saturdays with a local after-school program. Being a part of my community garden has also been amazing, it is a great way to support local farms, reduce food waste, and come together with my neighborhood.
Do you think the fashion world has empathy?
Meghan: I think that as time progresses, the fashion world is incorporating empathy more and more, but there is definitely a LONG way to go. At the end of the day, we have to realize that it is a business that has the goal of profit, but it’s up to us working in it and to the consumers to use our voices and purchasing power to stand for the causes we believe in. This is how change happens and how the fashion world will only continue to be empathetic or past empathy, hopefully be the drivers for these causes and their conversations.
Do you ever feel guilty with your own good fortune? How do you balance those feelings?
Meghan: For a while there, I did struggle with this a bit- being a model, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to support myself from high school onwards. But finally something in me clicked, this guilt doesn’t do anybody good. Instead, I can use this good fortune as a springboard for the things I believe in and the changes that I want to make.
Olivia: I don’t think it is about feeling guilty, I think it is about what we can do with that good fortune. That is why it is essential to give back; once you are lifted you have the ability to lift others up as well. That is what I strive towards, continuing this cycle of inspiring our future generation.
How do you each stay grounded?
Meghan: I struggle with this ON THE DAILY! Living in NYC is such a hustle that sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the little things. In those moments, I try to remind myself of what my family went through and how what I may be stressed about is completely minuscule compared to their experience. Perspective is everything.
Olivia: Stay true to your roots. Learn and recognize where you came from then accept the world of possibilities that are out there. This can change your perspective even when things get tough.
What makes you the happiest?
Meghan: Being completely lost in conversation with the ones I love- no bearing of time, no worry about what’s coming next, just being in the moment with the people that make life so special
Olivia: Sharing experiences with so many different energies around me. Every day I have the opportunity to interact with various cultures and I truly am amazed by that. It makes me so excited to learn from others and teach others.
What life lessons have your family instilled in you that drive you today?
Meghan: Number one rule in life per my dad: “Life is not fair.” – This has basically taught me to not get caught up in what’s going wrong or not necessarily how I want it and too just be accepting and to instead, put in the work for what’s to come. If anything, my family has taught me that courage and determination can literally create a new life for you.
Olivia: “Everything happens for a reason”. Your path will not always be as planned but you were brought on this ride to learn more about your surroundings and yourself.
What can we all do give back in our own little way?
Meghan: Find your passions and explore them to the fullest! Then with those in mind, seek causes that align with them that you can truly get behind. I really believe that in order to give back, you have to be in a good relationship with yourself and from there, you can start in the smallest of ways to affect other people- be it as small as beginning to be a gentler, kinder person to everyone.
Olivia: We can all be there for each other, whether it is being environmentally conscious, instilling hope in a younger individual, or finding a local organization to volunteer at. Shake That, Give Back! is a celebration for everyone this year that will allow you to do your part in the most fun way; all-night dance party.
Blazer, The Ko. Belt, Maison Margiela.
Coat, Prada.Shoes, stylists own.
On Olivia: Dress, Joesph. On Meghan: Dress, 3.1 Phillip Lim.
On Olivia: Top, Dior. Pants , Jill Sander. On Meghan: Top, Dior. Pants, Celine.
Photos / Jingyu Lin
Styling / Abby Qi
Makeup / Ayaka Nihei using MAC Cosmetics
Hair / Vi Huynh using Oribe
Starring / Olivia Anakwe & Meghan Takahashi