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Grass-fields International Women's Month: Nekoda Smythe-Davis

Grass-fields International Women's Month: Nekoda Smythe-Davis


Grass-fields is happy to introduce Nekoda Smythe-Davis, an Olympic judoka and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner. We spoke to the judo champion as part of our series on inspirational women for International Women's Day.

International Women's Day has been observed since 1910 as a worldwide celebration of all the things women have achieved - and continue to achieve - socially, economically, culturally and politically.

We sat down with Nekoda to talk about life, fashion, and what it means to be a woman in the often macho world of competitive sports.

What makes you get up in morning?

The need to better myself and the world around me. Either to get some extra training hours in to get one step closer to my sporting goals or to find something productive to do that will help to better myself and the world around me.

What is your heritage?

I have Jamaican heritage, something I have always been very proud of.

What in your life has brought or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfilment?

As a sporting person there have been many sporting achievements I never thought I could have achieved which have bought me great joy but, if I had to choose I would say passing my driving test and being able to buy my first car. I just never thought I would ever be able to do it let alone afford a car.

What personal struggles have you had related to entering womanhood?

Being very sporty from a young age I struggled with manly muscles as people would say. As a teenage girl having muscles was not deemed attractive and boys especially would make fun of me. I found my muscles empowering and decided to be bold and stand out from the crowd because my mum told me the boys were just jealous that I was stronger than them. Growing up I have realised that it is so much harder for a woman to gain respect compared to a man in the same field. But as a stubborn, strong independent woman now I see no boundaries, I believe you make your own fate. Be so amazing that you demand the respect you deserve.

What are your trade-offs for success?

Balance and sacrifice are paramount in being successful. I have to balance my social life with my training and work. I have to sacrifice living away from my family and friends to pursue my sporting dreams.

What is success to you?

Success for me is achieving something you never thought could be possible. Success is affecting one’s life in an irreversible way for the better.

What are your signs of weakness?

I am a hopeless romantic.

Even as a fit sporting person I am body conscious sometimes.

I can not leave things alone. A stubbornness to be thorough and to get things done sometimes leaves my stressed or frustrated. Basically I have no chill.

What is your biggest fear?

Being called a bad person or being a failure.

What empowers you?

I want to be able to provide for myself, my family and my future children.

I believe I can inspire people to believe in themselves so I try to do this as much as possible.

As a ‘sporty girl’ is fashion important to you?

Fashion is really important to me. I mean I want to look good! Who doesn’t right? I love dressing up and looking pretty! Because of my sportiness I don’t suit all things current in fashion so I like to mix it up. I would say my fashion is unique, a trendsetter rather than a follower.

How important is the way you look important to you? Why?

The way I look to me is so important. I want to smile at myself when I look into the mirror. Impressed with the way my hair looks or the way I’ve done my makeup. If I can be confident in my own skin and the way I look then that confidence will be noticed by everyone I speak to or meet.

How accurately are black women portrayed in the media?

I think black woman are portrayed as empowering, on the rise to banishing oppression and are backing the fight for equality. I think that is pretty accurate.

How can ‘we’ as women support each other? Personally and professionally?

Personally we can be nicer to each other, compliment more, back each other’s causes more, be more proud, try to be as good as rather than bringing down. We can appreciate each other more.

What kind of person are you in 3 words?

Determined, Sassy & Thoughtful.

Do you ever wear African print?

No I don’t but I do like it. I am not a massive one for prints. I’m more of a Plain Jane when it comes to matching colours together.

(Rocking the Atsu African wide leg pants.)

What does the term black-owned business mean to you?

It means owned by a black person or black culture to me.

Who have been your role models? What about them do you admire?

My judo coach for teaching me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. She as a woman has been overlooked so many times in her role but she has never stopped trying to prove them wrong.

My mother for being so brave when she came to England to start a better life for her family.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Why? What options seemed open or closed to you?

I wanted to be a doctor because I always wanted to help people. I never felt like any options were closed for me but growing up with little money probably did limit a lot of options for me. I only did judo as a kid because it was the cheapest extracurricular activity to take part in so it is no wonder that I have made a career being a judo athlete.

With the Hollywood #MeToo movement and calls for equal pay all over the world escalating recently, has being a black female in judo affected you or your career?

I have always stood out from the crowd and been stereotyped as a troublesome kid because I am a black London estate girl. All in all, I don’t think being a black female has limited me though. I feel that when you are destined for something nothing will be able to stop you. As a woman I have definitely experienced sexism in my sport. Treated differently because I am a woman and subjected to derogatory statements daily. All the negative things I have experienced have only added fuel to my desire to be successful though.

(Rocking the Lola African print dress.)

What advice would you give to your younger self?

When they say you can’t say to them that you can.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Celebrating what it is to be a woman. Celebrating the rise of female equality and those special women at the forefront of changing the world as we know it for the better.

Read about more inspirational women right here on our Grass-fields blog, as we celebrate International Women's Day. Don't forget to check out our Twitter and Instagram for exclusive clips!

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