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Interview with Malik Mbaye

March 8, 2017

All photos of Malik Mbaye taken from @malik.mbaye 

 

Malik is a blogger, photographer, and writer currently living in D.C.

 

To start off, can you tell us a bit about a day in the life of Malik Mbaye?

 

I don't have a real answer to that. My days are honestly a juggling act. Day in and day out I'm trying to find the balance between my passions, work, school, and personal life. So if I'm not in class, studying, or working, I'm focusing on my creative pursuits. Whether that's research, consuming good content, or planning my projects.

 

But even with all that craziness, I try to find time to just think and reflect on myself and my decisions, life as a whole, or what's happening around me. That’s probably the only thing that’s constant.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your blog, ForTheLove.US, and what your overall mission is with it?

 

The mission is to help people open their minds by having a platform that focuses on intellectual and emotional well-being through reflectiveness. The blog is trying to answer the questions of how do you make being a good person cool? How do you make self-reflection sexy? I think these are the most important questions facing our generation as we grow more into the information age, we have to be able to unplug and see things for what they are.

 

So on the blog I have more than just my writing and photography, but I also have an entire section dedicated to motivation, another section dedicated to literature, and another dedicated to quotes, and so on. I want it to be somewhere people go when they’re feeling curious, needing inspiration, or feeding their intellect.

 

It seems a lot of people are drawn to your Malik Monologues that consist of your daily experiences and thoughts. Why do you think that is?

 

I try to talk about things that people need to hear or things that people are feeling deep down but don’t articulate. I try not to sound too preachy, I just share my journey and the lessons I’m learning along the way. The good, the bad, the embarrassing. I think people appreciate the vulnerability. So many people live a double-life on social media, only looking to feed their vanity -- it can be refreshing to see something that’s honest, relatable, and maybe even interesting or helpful.

 

What has been your favorite piece you have written so far?

 

My favorites depend on where I am in my life. Right now I think my favorite piece is one called 4:29AM, which is about what would a letter from your future self read. I love this piece because right now I’m honestly going through the struggle, and I need to remember that it all leads somewhere. Although everything is not working out right now, I need to remember why I got into all the things I did and where I want to go. And everyone always says if they could go back in time they would work harder and do more -- and that piece reminds me that now is the time to work harder so you don’t ever have to look back with regret or disappointment.

 

As a blogger and photographer, how would you describe your creative process?

 

Filtered self-expression. With everything I do I try to tell a story, whether that’s visually or with words. The stories come from a mix of my personal experiences, things I’ve learned, and things I observe in my environment.

 

So if I want to do a shoot or write a piece, I don’t force it. Instead, I just decide to start paying closer attention to the world at large. If I have an idea for a location or theme for a shoot, an important lesson to share, or something that made me think twice, I’ll write it down with in my notes. Then I go home and explore the idea further and after I spend a while thinking, I go shoot or write or whatever.

 

Where/who do you get your inspiration from?

 

Life honestly. I treat my creativity as a discipline. I love studying others’ work and trying to understand what makes it so great and impactful. I love to sit and analyze everything. Whether it’s a photograph, an outfit, a book, a speech, #YouNameIt. I think that when you’re trying to find your voice, analyzing other artists from an academic perspective can help you understand your likes, dislikes, and goals, and ultimately how you position yourself as a creative.

 

Outside of that, I just pay attention to the world around me and that gets my mind going 0 to 100 real quick. Most of my inspiration either comes from conversations I’ve had with people, moments of reflection, or books that I’ve read. Like Saul Williams said in his Breakfast Club interview, as a creative, you have to watch your diet -- and that’s more than the food you eat. It’s the conversations you have, the media you consume, the things you listen to, the things you say, the people you surround yourself with. All of that feeds into you as a person, and eventually your work. So I try to be conscious of my environment, and my inputs, to make sure I can make my best work.

 

Instagram is becoming more and more of a platform for young creatives to share their work and mind with others. How do you use your Instagram account as a creative space that invites others?

 

I try to use my account to share messages that move people to think. Sometimes those messages are positive and inspirational, sometimes they’re messages of struggle and hope. I live to positively impact those around me. So my goal is to use what I’m good at (photography, writing, fashion, etc.) to do what I love. Instagram creates an opportunity for me because such an enormous amount of people spend much of their day on the platform. So why not use that to add value to the people who follow you?

 

You mention that you took a year off social media to begin a “search”. Can you tell us a bit about this search and what you discovered?

 

I woke up one day and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was empty. And I was empty for a while. I kept hoping to find myself in other people’s perception of me, and of course that’s an aimless pursuit. It got to a point where I was lonely, needy, and depressed all at the same time. And throughout all of this, I still tried to pretend everything was okay on the internet and I used social media as a coping mechanism.

 

So I did what I always do when I lose focus, I unplugged completely. I realized that if you’re unhappy with your output, you should re-evaluate your inputs. And everything from the music I was listening to, to the “friends” I had, was mentally and emotionally unhealthy.

 

I was searching for sanity, peace, myself, purpose, and so many other things. And I don’t know if I’ve found any of those to be real. But I do that on that search I got the chance to go back home to Senegal. And it was then that everything changed. I realized that my priorities were wrong and that the world didn’t revolve around me. I realized that life is about service and helping others. So at that moment I pledged to myself that no matter what I do, no matter how I’m feeling or where I am in my life, I have to positively impact my community.

 

What is your favorite city you have traveled to and why?

 

Senegal. Because it’s home and the amount of natural beauty in the country is breathtaking. There really is no place like home. Senegal has culture, opportunity, and adventure. While I was there I would wake up and just explore and make my way around Dakar, and I never felt more at peace than I did there. The lifestyle, the culture, the people, everything is different.

 

I really think everyone needs to have some kind of international experience. The world is changing quickly and globalization is real. When you travel outside the U.S. and you live in a society that’s totally opposite from what you know, you learn and grow so much. Your world view and perspective on life change too. It’s really something beautiful.

 

What final advice would you give to young entrepreneurs and creatives? What is one important thing you think they should know when starting?

 

Our duty is to serve the people, so the most important question a creative can ask themselves is how does their work help, inspire, or benefit those around them? How do you create value for others? You get back what you put in. If you want to make a million dollars, go and help a million people.

 

Be your best self and know that good things take time. Nowadays, we live in a world of instant gratification and imitation. Everyone is copying each other, nobody wants to be themselves, and most of all patience is a lost art.

 

Even for me, I find myself getting frustrated when things aren’t happening as quickly as I want them and I’m not seeing results. But what’s most important is the process of materializing an idea or vision, because that in itself does something powerful to you. We have to trust the process and fall in love with the grind, because it only gets more difficult. And if we’re in it for the wrong reasons, we won’t be able to survive the pain of trying to make it. You really need to have a 'why?', something that drives you. Always look to see how you can grow, but know that growth is a process and it takes time. But it’s always worth it.

 

And being yourself goes without saying. There are so many creatives now and it’s so easy to create and distribute content. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and lose sight of how you fit into things. But we all have something unique to offer the world, we just have to spend time with ourselves to find out what that is. And once we find it, be comfortable being yourself and staying in your own lane. That’s the only way you can outlast the trends that we see day in and day out.

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