Activist and Influencer Kara Roselle Smith

Words by Sara Harowitz

Photography by Kara Roselle Smith

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Kara Roselle Smith is a shining example of using one’s influence to make a difference.

With a sizeable Instagram following—22,100 people and counting—she educates her audience on issues related to race, the environment, and democracy in the United States. The New York City-based beauty also posts about the wellness brands she loves (including vitruvi), but amongst the lifestyle photos are original infographics detailing topics such as how to be a better ally, Black voices to follow, and the dangers of qualified immunity. Combining her love for aesthetics and her passion for activism, Smith is able to communicate important messages to her followers, who have come to trust her as a valued source of both inspiration and information.

It all kicked into gear a few months ago, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when Smith was laid off from her job at a music startup.

“I was feeling a little bit lost, but then realized I was learning so much—especially with the social justice movement that picked up this summer—and I wanted to be able to share that information with other people,” she says via phone from New York. “I was trying to think of the best way for people to digest that, and started making infographics and using my creativity to share my learnings and really publish something that I’m proud of and that people can learn from.”

As is so often the case, what initially seemed like bad news—losing her job—turned out to be just the thing Smith needed to find her path. “I feel really grateful,” she admits. “It now feels like such a great opportunity that I got laid off.” As her own boss, she’s been able to create meaningful work that speaks to her many interests—because we can care about fashion and beauty and intersectionality and anti-racism all at the same time.

Race is a big topic for Smith; she is Black and also Indigenous, and educates her followers on both these aspects of her identity. More recently she has become particularly involved in her Indigenous culture. “I’m Chappaquiddick Wampanoag of the Wampanoag Nation. We are from an island now well known as Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts,” she explains. “We’re a tribe of first contact, so when settlers first came over we were kind of that first wave getting hit on that eastern shore.” Her mother is the tribal leader and tribal historian, and Smith runs the nation’s Instagram page and helps with its website. “Right now we’re just focused on trying to get federal recognition in the eyes of the United States, and we’re trying to reclaim some of our land,” she continues. “I’m going to be drafting some petitions and things like that in the near future for the general public to help out.”

Doing all of this can be tireless, to say the least—especially when your office is also your home. The blurred boundary between work and downtime can make it difficult to practise self-care; for Smith, she acknowledges some days are better than others.

“I’m starting to learn that I’m not able to reply to every DM or message as much as I want to,” she says. “I try to get through a handful a day. I’m grateful for anybody who has reached out, and I’m working through them slowly but surely.”

That self-kindness is key. She also sees a therapist, and makes sure to have days that aren’t scheduled so that she can take a long soak with bath salts. “We have the diffuser in our bathroom, so mixing a scent together really helps me feel calm,” she adds, mentioning that she’s loving Sleep and Boost, as well as a mix of Spearmint and Basil from vitruvi’s limited-edition Home Refresh Kit.

She and her partner have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to nest, too: hang shelves, frame photos, grow an herb garden. She gets outside when possible (even just for a quick walk), and credits her relationships and her work with helping keep her motivated though this time of global uncertainty.

“I think that right now I feel like I’m at a decent place in my life with the relationships I have, so a lot of it is the people I surround myself with that keep me going and that get me out of bed in the morning,” Smith says. “Also I think that the prospect or promise of making something and creating things that people can relate to—that invigorates me so much.”