• Children's author Naomi Kissiedu-Green says it's better to ask "What's your heritage?" instead of "Where are you from?". (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A former model and actress, a beauty entrepreneur and now an author of children’s books, Naomi Kissiedu-Green is a busy mum of three whose mission to simplify ideas of identity for her mixed race children has seen her self-publish a series of books doing just that.
By
Jody Phan

17 Feb 2016 - 11:09 AM  UPDATED 17 Feb 2016 - 5:48 PM

Born in the UK to Ghanaian parents, Naomi now lives in Perth with her Australian husband Matthew Green and their children, where she runs her beauty brand Shea Purity.

SBS spoke to the retired model to discuss her success in business and her mission to help parents of multicultural families address identity with their kids.

What are you hoping to achieve with your latest venture The Colourful Life! book series?

Moving over from the UK, there were a lot more resources that addressed multicultural issues for children. While Australia thinks of itself as a multicultural society, the reality is that it is still catching up to the world in some respects. I like to think that I am helping to bridge the gap with my books by addressing the questions of race and skin colour in a way that is fun and easily relatable. I have already achieved all that I had set out to do in getting the books published — people are discussing diversity with their young ones.

I like to think that I am helping to bridge the gap with my books by addressing the questions of race and skin colour in a way that is fun and easily relatable.

What are some challenges you face writing books and being a mum?
Having the time to make time. First and foremost, my family are my priority. Writing the books took more time than I anticipated as raising a young family takes more than just your time, it takes energy.

The book series is your second business, isn't it? You also have a beauty brand Shea Purity? 

Shea Purity Products came about as a result of my son’s battle with eczema. I was frustrated with the lack of natural solutions in the market that I could use to combat his condition. As a result, I formulated my own using some of my mother’s African methods and was thrilled to see an instant improvement of his symptoms after only a short period. I was encouraged by friends and family to create a product that could be used by the whole family. As a result, Shea Purity Products were born.

And how do you balance this business with raising kids?

The creams are done in batches and my children enjoy watching the process play out. By getting them involved in the production, they are still spending time with me while allowing me to achieve my goals. Creating a start-up business is expensive and time consuming but I do get to be my own boss and still spend time with my family. It’s definitely worth the sacrifice.

Are there any Ghanaian beauty tricks that you can share with us?
The majority of Ghanaian women use products that are Shea Butter-based given its hydrating and soothing properties. There’s nothing that I have found throughout Europe or here in Australia that comes close, hence I chose to import the Shea Butter in Shea Purity products directly from Ghana.

Are there any lessons you learned from your modelling career that have helped you in business?
The modelling industry is a cutthroat business. You are branded and assessed to ensure that you are the most appropriate fit for the campaign at hand. As a model, my exotic African look defined the work that I was able to undertake. As for Shea Purity, there is an opportunity in the market place for a product that will cater to all members of a family who prefer the peace of mind that comes with using all-natural products.

The modelling industry also taught me the value of networking. So many opportunities as a model have come through chance encounters and word of mouth from my previous bookings. I also ensure that I use every resource and opportunity to promote my ventures. Social media has been a big factor in building a following for my brand.

How do your children stay in touch with their mother's heritage while being raised in Australia?

Coming from a very diverse society in the UK, I wanted to make sure that I could still embrace my cultural heritage with my family while over here in Australia. We do this through our cooking and dressing up in traditional Ghanaian outfits. I keep in constant contact with my family through Skype and the children talk to their uncles, aunties and grandfather almost more than I do! During our visits to the UK, they get to bond with all of my multicultural family while also embracing and celebrating our Ghanaian culture. My dad enjoys speaking Ghanaian (Twi) with the children, which adds to the cultural link.

It’s normal for your child to ask questions relating to the colour of their skin. Talk about it and be open and honest.

What tips could you give to parents raising their children in a multiracial family?
Don't force your child to choose which race or culture they should identify with, let them embrace both sides of who they are by educating on both. Teach your child family values and by doing this, you can help them learn their own sense of identity.

Make them aware that people may be curious about their unique mix and ask questions. It’s normal for your child to ask questions relating to the colour of their skin. Talk about it and be open and honest. Children don't understand what colour means, so encourage them to be proud of both unique cultures and give them examples of other people they can relate to. The easiest way to do this is through reading stories, such as The Colourful Life! series.

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What are the biggest challenges of having a multicultural family in Australia?
It’s difficult not having the resources that help with not only the understanding and growth of my own children, but also the children they will have contact with at school. Multicultural families are undoubtedly still in the minority in Australia. While we are unable to change this, we can increase the understanding, awareness and overall acceptance of people that come from a mixed background. We need to start to present a different idea of family!