Many people tend to take advantage of the country they are born in. They casually walk past the iconic landmarks that millions wish they could see, and experience the numerous benefits of where they live without a care in the world. But for Nishantely Sint Jacoba, she takes nothing for granted and spends much of her time exploring the island of Curaçao where she was born and raised.
“I love travelling around my island. Curaçao is a beautiful place and I love everything about my culture, from the dancing to the music, the food – just everything.”
“One of my goals is to visit all the beaches in Curaçao which is 38 beaches in total,” she shares. “There’s so much to the island and beyond the beaches, the culture is the best part.”
Nishantely thoroughly enjoys taking in everything that Curaçao has to offer – something which she says was inspired by her family’s difficult history and their desire to persevere and make it through their struggles.
“My family didn’t have it easy, they were really poor back in the days.
“They had it hard but they made it happen. Most of the older generation in my family couldn’t finish school because they had to go to work but they made it happen so that their grandchildren including me could have a better life,” says Nishantely.
“Their will to keep going forward despite everything inspires me to go for what I want and to keep fighting no matter what people say.”
This tenacity is something that Nishantely is known for amongst family and friends and her go-getter mentality has been consistent from her time in school right through to her first job working as a waitress.
“I started working as a waitress at 16-years-old while I was going to school at the same time,” recalls Nishantely. “And it was at 17-years-old that I started to bartend and serve alcohol – which was illegal in Curaçao as you have to be 18 or older.
“One day the boss came up to me and said I need you in the bar today and I was like “okay!” I knew nothing about bartending or mixing drinks and I ended up being one of the youngest and best to do it which was a cool feeling.”
Nishantely continued bartending alongside working as a tour guide, but due to COVID-19, work has slowed down as the tourism and hospitality sector remains affected by the pandemic.
To date, Curaçao has had 29 cases of Coronavirus resulting in one fatality. But despite the small numbers, the country’s lockdown measures have been strict for their residents and for those coming into the country, who must be tested in advance.
“Curaçao has been really strict. As soon as it was declared a pandemic, we went on full lockdown with a curfew and everything,” says Nishantely. “You could only leave your house for essentials, only two people were allowed in a car at a time, children had to stay at home and there were cops and the military everywhere.”
The strict lockdown measures have seemed to work as there hasn’t been an uptick in cases. Additionally, the country provided support for its citizens. “The government has been helping people who’ve lost their jobs by giving them a certain amount of money or a pass that you can get food or essentials with.”
While weariness around COVID-19 continues, restrictions have eased allowing Nishantely to travel across the island, which is well documented on her Instagram. From visiting the small fishing beach Playa Piskadó to sampling fresh tropical fruits at Asis Fruits Wagen in Willemstad, carefully curated images worthy of a tourism advertising campaign can be seen on Nishantely’s page as she shows off her megawatt smile and island-style for all her followers to see – something which did not come easy.
“In the past, I used to hate myself and my body. I used to model and I thought now that I gained weight, I didn’t have an “Instagram body” and that guys were not gonna like me,” she admits.
“I stopped posting pictures of myself on my Instagram because people would comment things like “Oh my god, what happened to you?,” “You’re fat, you used to be thin!” “What is going on with you? you used to look so good.”
The cruel comments took a toll on Nishantely and affected her confidence. But over time, that confidence began to return alongside her desire to share images of herself, free of those insecurities which once held her back.
“When I would see my friends and my cousins taking pictures, they’d ask me: “How should I stand? Come, tell me you were a model!” and it just brought that side out of me again and I thought, I don’t care anymore, I want to take these pictures.
“I don’t care what other people think – if you don’t like it that’s your the problem and not mine. And so I started taking pictures again,” says Nishantely.
“It wasn’t easy because I was still getting those comments but I didn’t let it stop me.”
This fire that was instilled in Nishantely from a young age resurfaced again at a pivotal time in her life. In a world which consistently polices women’s bodies – and in particular Black women’s bodies – she rejected those ideals and is living her best life with those she loves as a result.
“I love that I’m a person with so much love and loves to share. I think that’s my best trait and it’s always been there within me.”
To find out more about Nishantely, follow her IG: @sintshng