For graphic designer Akeem King, self-care was key to success


On his Instagram page, graphic designer, colorist and special effects artist Akeem King posted drawings of black women with locs and afros. They are usually not from Earth, but their bodies exist in other worlds. One of his most poignant pieces is of a woman who has a big red afro and face, with the universe on her chest and a white glint in her eyes.

King raised darkness beyond the realms of earth after being bullied as a student for being dark-skinned. His vision of himself prevailed over collective hatred and gave his art imagination and flight.

“I do not have [have] a lot of friends. I was that nerd in school. [I] used to being bullied and all those different things. I had no self-confidence, no self-esteem, nothing,” King told Stabroek Weekend in a recent interview.

Akeem King’s “Galactic Herald”

“Why were you harassed? Because you were nerdy? I asked.

“Yeah basically…and, and black, like racism was a crazy thing back then,” he explained. “I remember once a girl told me I’d be desirable if I wasn’t so dark. So it was serious things that were happening. He said children often take away his things for no reason. The experience made him believe he was unattractive and led to jealousy from the fair-skinned boys, who attracted the attention of the girls. The trauma of being bullied because of his skin color has shaped him as a person and an artist.

King showed up to our interview wearing a pressed t-shirt, khaki sweatpants, and sneakers that looked like they had been recently purchased. Her hair was combed. I thought he had a really good sense of fashion. Turns out I was meeting the current Akeem King. Her fashion was self-love and self-acceptance. He said he stopped accepting the way others saw him and started developing a fashion style by wearing clothes he liked. He also began to tell himself that he is not unattractive and used affirmations to confirm his feelings; leading others to confirm how he felt. This love has helped him develop healthy habits, like not eating late at night as it can lead to fatigue the next day and less production on his part. As an independent artist, this is important to King. It’s another form of self-care. A change in his outlook brought opportunities for his career and he began to network. He enjoys working with people online and is slowly gaining the confidence to get to know them on a more personal level.

King also said a friend of his in college made him realize that a lot of his negative feelings were internal. The bullying had stopped since primary school but he continued to carry it out. It was this perspective that showed him that he can be more than his self-perception. Sometimes we give too much power to people who feel it is their right to define us. We forget that we have the power to define ourselves and that we don’t have to live through the prism of others. This is unfortunate and requires reflection to see the power we have over our minds to shape our future through our thoughts and actions.

Fortunately, King also had support growing up. He described his parents as very supportive, especially his mother, who showed his drawings to her friends. He remembered it as encouragement and support to keep doing what he loved.

King’s story reminded me of the quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Calling himself attractive was a once-in-a-lifetime action that led him on a journey of self-care in other aspects of his life. He took a holistic approach and it had a ripple effect. Every step was important and loving his skin despite the animosity of others provided him with a basis for a better future.

King’s approach to work shows the importance of self-awareness for productivity and creativity. One negative thought can lead to another and make us feel worthless. Seeing every aspect of ourselves in a positive way can help us make better decisions for our present and future lives.

King’s biggest project to date was the design for the Curl Fete held recently. He had tight deadlines and many deliverables. To agree to this project, he had to divide himself into two temporal halves – past and future Akeem Kings. Past Akeem accepted the responsibility and future Akeem had to face the decision. He benefited from this line of thinking. He had wanted to work for Curl Fete, but wasn’t sure given the scale of such an event and the amount of work. Past Akeem ended up taking the job and future Akeem had to deal with the decision. The decision prompted Past Akeem to plan meticulously so that future Akeem could meet deadlines and deliver their deliverables. This is a deceptively simple way of thinking. He has the foresight of how past decisions can change the course of his life. It was self-care for a time that didn’t happen.

Often there is a romance of the artist as tortured people with mental illness. But mental health issues, which can manifest as melancholy but also insomnia, poor memory and diminished critical thinking, can lead to a lack of productivity. Art is not just pure emotion. There are often organizational aspects and logical thinking when creating. Lack of self-care can hinder this.

You can visit King’s Instagram page at


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