Tanyka Reneé: The Girl Who Knew She Could Fly
Scrolling through Tanyka Reneé’s Instagram feels like flipping through covers of Condé Nast Traveler. The only difference is she looks like me, my mother, and my sister. Her dazzling brown skin reminds us that anything is possible, even if we can’t envision it ourselves. And meeting her was a solidification of that philosophy. Reneé's open eyes and smile welcomed me for all the alluring questions surrounding how she’s achieved such incredible feats, the journey and road of self-motivation, and the transparency of being the “It” Black girl travel guru.
PHOTOGRAPHY @SKINNYWASHERE / STYLING @GIRLINTHEWHITEGLASSES
Amazingly, you are not only a travel influencer but also a pilot. I don't know many black women who are pilots. What inspired you to go full depth into taking pilot classes and further this aspiration of flying beyond traveling?
TN: Traveling to me was my outlet. I didn't realize that it was escapism. Yes, travel was my way of healing because I would go out and spend a lot of time in solitude, exploring these places, which was my way to heal. But I also realized that I wasn't dealing with my shit. If something happened, I would just get on a plane. So when a pandemic hit, I was actually in Morocco for a friend's birthday, and Trump closed the borders. I took a connecting flight in Spain, but they canceled my flight. There was no flight moving in and out of Spain, and I had to get home.
So I had to sit still and deal with my ISSUES, issues that I thought I had HEALED from.
TN: I found a new therapist, and she asked, "what would it be if you could do anything in the world right now?" I want to become a pilot. I'm thinking, I want to get on a plane. I want to leave. I want to be able to fly myself, right? She encouraged me just to do it. At first, I thought she was joking. I felt like it was impossible for me. I felt like there was no way I could become a pilot, but I went to the closest Academy, Heritage Flight Academy. I signed up. I did it. I became a pilot. Representation matters because if you don't see anyone who looks like you doing it, you don't believe you can.
I know you have two programs right now, the Global Citizen Mentorship program and the Take Flight program. What are your greatest rewards from both of them?
TN: I also have a nonprofit called Teach One Teach Many. I grew up in foster care. While I was blessed to still have my biological family in my life, it was still hard for me. I needed that guidance. So I went out and decided I wanted to do many things but I didn't have anyone to show me how to do them.
"I had to figure it out ON MY OWN. I came from TRIAL and ERROR, and I messed up A LOT."
I'm not even going to lie, I'm not perfect. When trying and not having a blueprint, you do mess up. So I created my programs to help others from similar backgrounds avoid making the same mistakes I did—a little blueprint and advice. I share everything I've learned along the way because that makes me happy. I like to see others win.
I love that. What has been the biggest surprise from each of these programs?
TN: I had many people on social media that would hit me up, like, "Oh, how did you do this? How did you do that?" Trying to provide answers I created My Global Citizen mentorship program but I didn't think anyone would want to participate. To my surprise, I've worked with over 323 individuals through my programs. Some amazing brands also jumped on board. For example, I just finished a collaboration workshop with Canva, where we taught creators how to use Canva. Canva was a massive part of my creator process, whether that was creating media kids or rate sheets. I remember starting and getting a job, and they said, "Okay, send me an invoice." And I'm googling, what is the invoice? How do you make an invoice? I found a template on Canva that designed and helped me produce my first invoice. Sharing the knowledge, having amazing brands believe in my ideas and passions, and even getting able to collaborate with these brands has felt amazing.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION, NYC 12/22
So what is something you have found in common with many of your clients across the board?
TN: We are all looking for a community. I've realized that everyone I've worked with is also trying to figure it out. They're looking for a community to support them; acknowledge them because we're all dope in our own ways. A community to push them positively. They want to see the world; they know there's more for them, but they're just wondering what that looks like.
What would your audience and people in your program be surprised to know about you?
TN: I have no problem being transparent, but I am an aesthetic-based creator. So my content is polished. People sometimes think that I'm not chill. I'm actuallly laid back. I'm a little awkward. Because I'm shy, I can be awkward at times. I'm an introvert. Like I don't like leaving my house.... but I love traveling, and I'm not into partying. I'm very, very, very spiritual. I'm very much into tapping into within, tapping into the universe, and always connecting with God.
How has your fashion evolved with all the places you continue traveling to? And how does that inspire what you bring when you travel?
TN: When I travel, yes, my style has changed. I'm West Indian. So coming up, I wanted to avoid wearing bright colors because I wanted to avoid getting teased.
So I didn't want to wear BRIGHT COLORS because kids would say, "you look real JAMAICAN," like our bright colors.
Now, you see me in nothing but color from traveling and going to different places. I love buying pieces during my travels. I love buying jewelry at local markets because I value handmade items and love the work people put into creating these items. So I have eclectic pieces. I'm very much into utilitarian dressing and dress comfortably if I'm exploring. My looks are based off of the aesthetic, vibe and my mood. I don't follow trends. I do what I want to do when I want to do it.
What is your favorite piece you've gotten when you traveled? I'm talking all-time favorite, hands down. You can remember the exact place exact moment you got it.
TN: Visiting a new country and exploring its culture is such an amazing opportunity - especially when it involves clothing! On my travels to Rwanda, I had the incredible experience of visiting a local market and being able to purchase some beautiful articles of clothing. Not only was this my first time being exposed to the bustling market culture, but I also had some pieces tailored and customized in under 24 hours! It was so exciting to be able to put on something that was created specifically for me in the same country I was standing in.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY/BRYANT PARK, NYC 12/22
When and where is your next trip?
TN: So I just got back from Curaçao but I plan on taking it slow. I moved a year ago, but I haven't even put my TV up yet. I need to work on my house and make it my home. I want to spend time with my family. I usually would go home for a day and leave the next day because I was jumping on a flight but my grandmother she's getting older. I didn't realize how fragile she was until she had a stroke a couple of years ago. I wanna spend time with her, and really connect. So, I'm not sure right now. I want to be present. I'm gonna spend time with family and friends and really tap into that.
MS.RENEÉ is wearing a MEDIUM in all her looks. Shop them HERE.