Today I would like to introduce all of you you to someone very special: My Zumba instructor, IK, who is going to be the latest woman I am featuring in my You Go Girl! Series. If any of you have ever done Zumba, then you know that it is energizing, fun, and powerful. Coincidentally, I would use those same words to describe I.K.. I was fortunate enough to meet I.K last October when my mom and I were invited to her class by my boyfriend’s mom. We were both hooked, and lets be honest – as fun as Zumba is, half the reason we keep coming back was for I.K.’s magnetic personality. Originally from Nigeria, I.K. has lived here in the United States for quite some time now and she works advocating for immigrants at the Quad City Alliance for Immigrants. I asked I.K. who her biggest role model was, and unsurprisingly she said that she was. After you read our interview, I’m sure you won’t be surprised why, and you yourself might walk away with a new role model.
What was your motivation in moving to America?
I moved to America with a dream. I knew I was coming to the land of opportunities, what could go wrong? Plus, I had watched a lot of American movies and thought that is how every American lives. Well you can imagine the cultural shock I had when I arrived at O’Hare international airport.
What got you interested in living such a healthy lifestyle?
I have always loved food, as a child I lived for one thing – FOOD.
I was a chunky, but very active in high school (sports, theatre, debate you name it I was in it) until I was 17 years old. I went to an all girls’ catholic high school, and I was socially awkward around boys. I had a crush on a boy named Nnamdi. Now all the girls in class sat on one side of the classroom, while the boys sat on the other. One day one of the teachers, Mr. Solomon decided to pair a boy with a girl and guess who I was paired with? Yes, you got it, Nnamdi. Well he proceeded to say he did not want to be paired with me, that out of all the hot girls in class he had to be paired with this mountain.
Now I could have changed prep schools but I have always taken the negative in my life and turned it into positive.
So, I went on a diet and started exercising. Now by my 18th birthday I lost about 23kgs, which is about 50pounds. I went to visit Nnamdi and it was a totally different story, he even asked me out on a date. I declined because I no longer had a crush on him.
Nnamdi’s comment that day had a very positive effect in my life. I learnt how to take control over food and my weight. This was the beginning of my healthy lifestyle, which I don’t take lightly even today.
As for Nnamdi he is now one of my very close friends and one of the nicest persons you will ever meet.
How long have you been doing zumba? What’s your favorite part about it?
I have been doing Zumba for about 4 years. My favorite part about it is seeing the happiness on people’s faces when their favorite song comes on and they are smiling and singing along with it. Over all I like the fact that zumba brings a diverse group of people together.
What advice would you give others who want to start living a healthy, active life?
Your health is your wealth – take charge of your health today, don’t say I will start tomorrow because tomorrow will always be tomorrow. Your health is everything. If you are not in good health you literarily cannot do anything. When you live a healthy life today, the less time and money you will spend on it later with doctor visits and medication.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Start with what you are comfortable with, and then slowly build up your stamina and endurance and eventually you will see results.
Last but not least, left to me I could go on but I won’t. Rome was not built in a day. There is no fast rule to weight loss. Eat right and exercise regularly; make it a lifestyle not a diet. I dislike the word diet because it is not a permanent fix, and the first 3 alphabets are D.I.E.
No diet pills! You will lose weight but at what expense to your body, there may be side effects.
You have heard the saying you are what you eat. So, love your body, treat it right and it will reward you, as you get older.
Can you describe the work you do at the QC Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees?
QCAIR is a relatively new and unique organization in the Quad Cities. It was established to handle the influx of immigrants and refugees in the community. We act as a thorough conduit working with local service agencies to assist and guide immigrants and refugees as they transition into their new home. We focus on 5 major areas, jobs and employment, health, housing, Positive interaction with the police and Education and Learning.
You are one of the happiest person I know – what keeps you in such good spirits?
I am always smiling and happy not because things are always going my way, because life is too short. Plus there is always someone who has it worse than me and my smile might just be what that person needs to make his/her day.
What is a fun fact you want people to know about you?
I am a happy person who loves helping people. I am a big kid at heart.
If anything, I hope that I.K. can inspire you to be happier, or live a more fit lifestyle, because she is a superstar at both! If you ever get the pleasure of meeting I.K. then I can assure you that you’ll walk away feeling energized and excited about life, just like she is. Her contagious smile and goofy personality are just two reasons that she was chosen to be featured, although the list of her incredible qualities is endless.