Neneh Ada Yang – China’s Black First Lady Is Living Well
Neneh Ada Yang (Ada) is an internationally known celebrity. The world has seen snippets of her spectacular intercultural wedding in China to Yan Yang, a renown Chinese landscape artist. From whirlwind romance to a spectacular star status wedding and beautiful baby, Ada is living a dream life. On faith, Ada chose to move thousands of worlds away from her African birthplace of Sierra Leone. Little did she know that she would some day be hosting diplomats, other distinguished guests and honored friends in her new home.
Because of Ada and Yan’s unique marriage, outgoing personalities and talents, and philanthropy, they are a constant presence in the Chinese media. They have been the subject of countless television shows, Internet posts, newspaper articles and radio interviews. Ada is now seen all over Africa, Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States as well as Asia. Anyone can see that their love is strong!
Being the true humanitarian she wants to help those less fortunate through charity. Ada through her Queennak Foundation (website being reconstructed) donates to select organizations all over Africa, China, Europe and the United States. Not surprisingly, Ada was particularly moved to take action when the Ebola virus epidemic took many lives of her native countrymen in Sierra Leone last year. The rest of the world watched in horror as Ebola claimed the lives of so many. The Queenaak Foundation provided special hazmat outfits for those caring for Ebola patients. In addition, she provided food and other necessities for families quarantined and stranded unable to get food and supplies for daily living.
Ada along with the world rejoices that Time Magazine and other media are reporting that Sierra Leone has just celebrated a week of no new Ebola cases. Ada is a true inspiration and role model to not just her siblings and other family members, but she also inspires women all over the world. Her fairy tale love story has done so much to change attitudes and give single women hope.
Ada Yang and I got together for an in-depth look into her life, love and marriage. Read Ada’s fascinating story, and be inspired by China’s First Black Lady.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Lunsar City, northern province of Sierra Leone, West Africa. I went to Freetown the Capital city, when I was about 3 three years old. I grew up there and stayed until I was age 24.
What is your husband’s ethnicity?
My husband is Chinese. He is also Muslim. He was born in Nanjing the first capital city of China. He later moved to Beijing, China’s capital where he resided for about 20 years.
How did you meet?
One day, lying down in my bedroom, I received a call from a friend asking me to go out on a dinner with their new friend from China. I replied no, because I wasn’t feeling too good. They forced me to come and I later decided to just bind with them for a little while. When I arrived, I saw this Chinese man and I was looking at him for a while because it seemed to me as if I’ve known or seen him somewhere but did not really remember. I was trying to figure out from where I knew him and later I noticed he was looking at me as well. I was a little shocked and took my seat.
After some time passed, Hamza interpreted what this man had said. Yan said he wanted to marry me. I thought he was joking and replied: “Yes I wanna marry you too!” This man was so exited and asked me to stay a little while longer. Conveniently, Hamza was too busy taking care of his business and kind of asked that stay with Yan and take him around and show him some attractions. While we were going around, I realized that Yan liked to mingle with black people. He wanted to see go everywhere and see everything. This included unsanitary places. Yan played with children, interacted with the elderly and comforted the sick and disabled. I realized Yan was such a nice human being and I love nice people. He touched my heart and that started my attraction to him.
I took Yan back to his hotel where he introduced me to a woman named Maria. I found out that they were once engaged. He wanted to marry her in China but she declined because she wanted to stay near her father. So she introduced him to one of her relatives but things didn’t go well. Maria introduced Yan to several other women but it none of those worked out. Then he met me. Mari said to me: “He’s a good man, please treat him nice.” To which I replied that I would. I felt like I was dreaming, I don’t know how it all happened so fast and the next thing you know, we were married.
And how long had you known him when you got married?
We were married in about 5 days after meeting in Sierra Leone. We had a white wedding in China.
When were you married?
We got married in May 2011.
Was this your first interracial relationship?
Yes it was.
How did you feel about interracial marriage and relationships before you were in one?
Before, I wasn’t thinking about getting married to a white man or someone from another race, it just happened. It’s just a surprise to me. I had no idea how it could be at first but I do know that the children can be smart and beautiful. Others were telling a lot of negative and positive stories about marrying a foreigner so I guess it’s something a little different from the other marriages I’ve seen.
Do you feel any different about interracial/international marriage and relationships now?
I have never married before so I don’t know much differences, but what I know marriages are all the same. We have good and bad ones. It is for two people to decided whether they deserve to be happy or not. Or I should just say, pray to God to give you the right partner? General difference is that the people you surround yourselves with or the environment you two will be living can it will help or affect it somehow.
Did you face skeptics and criticism from friends and/or family about your interracial/international marriage?
Yes, I’m still going through a lot of that.
Do you recall how you first informed your friends and family of your interracial relationship and subsequent marriage and decision to move to China?
Yes, when I first told them, they did not accept it because they did not know this Yan. They were afraid that something bad would happen to me living in foreign country. They were thinking of the negative race relations, cultures, traditions and even differences in the weather. My family and friends were concerned for my safety. I understood and appreciated that. But I came to think of the person I met. I’d only known Yan for just few days, but I felt in my heart that he was special and I made the decision that I would be happy with him. I followed my heart, went on faith, and ignored all negativity. I paved my own path or blazed my own trail so to speak.
What about your husband’s family, did you or he face any criticism from them?
Yes, quite a bit. Especially when we first came back here together. It was mainly because I was not Chinese. They were scared and I also appreciate that. I won’t go into too much detail but it was a similar reaction as my own family and friends. In fact socially, we could say the world reacted the same so it seemed.
How was it handled?
I used to cry a lot and felt alone and that no one could understand me. One day I sat down and pondered my situation. Then I had to figure a way to make everything better. I thought to myself, “I should immerse myself into Chinese society, learn their language, cultures and traditions. I should try to assimilate thereby get used to them and them to me. I’ll overlook small and petty people and things and remember that I made a decision to be happy with my husband. I’ll even take the unhappy moments and laugh.” There will be times that not even a spouse can profoundly understand what you are going through. I came to realize that sometimes the people don’t even know that they are treating you unfairly. Ada did not sit around feeling sorry for herself. She started learning Chinese of which is now fluent – able to speak, read and write Mandarin.
Yan shared his gift of artistry with Ada and she became artist herself. Ada does such outstanding work, that she is holding her own art shows all over the China and the world. She is that good! Ada has also become quite the musician. Not only does she sing Chinese Opera, but Ada became a professional on the Guqin, a seven-stringed plucked instrument. That is a rare talent as only a few people can play this instrument. Ada is the only foreigner to become professional.
Have you ever felt pressure or experienced a significant difference between your non-interracial and interracial relationships?
I think we have the same problems in all relationships, being with someone different depends on the way that person treats you. Yes there are differences but the differences are that we have different ways we were raised, different cultures, different traditions and beliefs. But love have no difference, it depends on the type of partner we meet and how we try to make it positive.
Do you feel that there are societal criticisms in China or Africa and pressures concerning interracial relationships?
There is, in fact not only in China or Africa, but in the whole world. Sometime it is a test from God. Sometimes people criticize out of jealousy, some people do not even know why they will criticize your relationship. I assume some people criticize due to their own past experiences. I think if you feel happy with your life then you should do what makes you happy because at the end of the day no one is going to stand in your shoes.
Do you attribute or connect it to negative images of Africans perceived globally or something else?
No. Now there have been times that I have had to educate some people. Some people I have just had to ignore because I sensed they were irresponsible and possibly troublemakers. See, if you have a job and have a family to care for, you should be concentrating more on that job and family. There will be no time to waste on unnecessary criticism and gossip.
Do you have children?
I have a beautiful 2 year 5 months old son and I’m pregnant expecting a baby girl. I love little girls (Ada says smiling).
Does race figure into child rearing for you?
Well, people do love mixed kids. But I guess my baby won’t be facing a lot racial issues just yet. But when and if it does happen, it will not matter because we are happy and full of love.
When your child/children first experience racism, what will be your advice will be to him/her/them?
I will not hide the truth. I will first let them know that racism does exist and that they will not be reared to be racist. We will advise them ignore it and laugh because most likely the issue will be from irresponsible people. But if your own family is causing the problem, you will have to educate them. No one was born hating the other races. They learn to hate and therefore they can be taught to love. It may not be easy, but the effort should at least be made.
Are your families different religions?
We are Muslims.
What about politics, are you both on the same page politically?
I’m not into politics and same as my mother. But my father has politician friends. We just don’t get into it much at all.
Where do you live in China?
Do you think Beijing in general is a good place for interracial couples and families?
Yes, Beijing is one of the best places for all kinds of families.
I know that you have mastered motherhood, artistry, and music. Are you now planning your own designer clothing line, or cosmetics for black women and hair extension lines? Yes. I have already started several luxury lines of top quality hair, clothing and shoes called QUEENNAK LUXURY. More luxury items coming soon so stay tuned!
I understand that German and American producers Chris Silber and Dr. Misee Harris are interested in you acting in a film. Would you like to be an actress in addition to all the other wonderful things you are doing?
YES! I would love to act in a movie (she says smiling!)
What do you and your family do for fun?
We do things as a family, attend art shows, go out to dinner, travel, go on tours, hot spring baths, body massages, movies, TV shows and red carpet events and so much more. We are a very busy family but we like to relax too.
What do you recommend for women who are considering moving to a different country for marriage?
It is good to move and mix with different races, but you should be ready to face negativity as well and learn how to handle it in a good way. Many Africans thought that Yan would sell or traffic me for money upon arriving in China. They are now ashamed that they thought such things. Some Chinese people did not think that I would last six months, or even have a baby because they thought I wanted Yan’s money. But today, they are ashamed of themselves as well. So don’t listen too much naysayers and those who hate you for no good reason. Work hard to assimilate yourself into the language and culture. Learn the ways of local living. And remember to stay positive no matter what.
Do you have any suggestions for black or African women just entering or considering an interracial relationship?
My sisters, marriage in general is not easy. There is sweetness and bitterness. It is good to marry a man who makes you happy. Another thing my beautiful and precious sisters, Do not just wait around for a foreigner. They can be good or bad as with every race. You may find a good man right where you are. So don’t waste your time thinking that foreign men are better. If you’re marry a foreigner, please treat them in the ways our African mothers taught us. You never know the reason why that foreigner left their own race to marry you. So be patient and make sure he loves and treats you well. If any race is giving you grief, ignore them and look into your marriage.
For me, marrying a foreigner is not the point, the man God gave me is the best for me. I never planned my life to go this way but I appreciate God and the ways He has planned it for me. I advise you to pray hard before entering into any marriage.
Thank you Ada for sharing a chapter of your life with us. You do indeed lead an exciting life and we are excited for you! Watch for more news from Neneh Ada Young. Ada has just opened two new businesses in China, she loves the people of the world and appreciates all your love and support!
Visit Ada’s Queennak Luxury website for more information.