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Influencer & Entrepreneur | Upcoming book published by National Geographic | 2021 Black Women in Food Honoree

Anela is an influencer and writer who focuses on embracing nuance, imperfection, and joy on her platform Feed The Malik through explorations of food, travel, identity, history, and more. Anela is also working on a book about the deep and enduring contributions of Black peoples to American cuisine for National Geographic.

Lia Mechelle Photography

Where did you land in Northwest Arkansas?

I live in downtown Bentonville and I love it! I can walk to almost anything I need and there are great trails nearby.

Where did you relocate from? Tell us about the journey.

I moved to NW Arkansas after getting frustrated with life in Washington, DC. Google told me that this area offered the right mix of nature, activities, and growth that I was looking for and a visit confirmed it! Somewhere along the line I even left NW Arkansas for the west coast and ultimately decided to move back. I love the lifestyle here.

What are a few of your favorite things about the region?

I love that there are so many cycling groups here that are working to make the cycling space more inclusive like All Bodies on Bikes and Bike.POC. Crystal Bridges and the Momentary have great exhibits and events ongoing. More generally, my favorite thing about this region is that there’s always something going on and people are really community oriented.

Someone that has never been to the region is coming for 24 hours, what should they do, where should they go?

They have to hit Conifer in Bentonville and Heirloom at the 1907. Those two are my absolute top dining experiences here. I also have to shoutout Khana in Fayetteville for a casual lunch. They should definitely bike or even walk for a bit on the Greenway, since it’s such a well-developed trail and connects so much of the region. And then go to the Onyx HQ in Rogers, get a coffee from their seasonal menu, and walk around downtown Rogers which has some cute shops and such character.

What do you do in your free time?

I’m a very casual cyclist. I love to read romance books and sci-fi thrillers. And most days I’m happy to just catch up with friends, especially over a good meal.

Tell us something about yourself folks might not know.

I’ll never remember your name the first or even the second time I meet you, but I will remember the random details that you share like what you love to do and how you feel about your work.

What causes are you passionate about? What inspires you?

I’m so inspired by the creative community here and elsewhere. I often see folks create masterpieces with such limited funding and resources, and continue to also show up for marginalized communities and issues they care about. Personally, I’m very much concerned with issues of diversity and equity, LGBTQIA+ rights, women’s reproductive health care, and abortion access in Arkansas and beyond.

If you were to give the region a tagline, what would it be?

Small town vibes with big city amenities.

What is it like being an influencer?

Most days my work and professional life are pretty mundane. As an influencer, I sit in a lot of meetings, write captions and posts, and it’s not as exotic as many folks expect. But at the same time, I do get to do things for work that I would have never imagined. I’ve interviewed James Beard Award winners, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and more for my job. I’m thankful for those opportunities every day.

Any projects or initiatives you’re currently working on or planning to work on that you would like to tell us about?

Much of my work involves telling stories about other people and other places. I’ve begun this year telling more of my own story and that has been really exciting. The first piece of that ongoing project was a video about my grandfather, which was really fun to create.

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Can you tell us about some of the most rewarding local projects you’ve been a part of since relocating?

I helped coordinate the Black In NWA Newsletter behind the scenes and have been so excited to see that develop. It’s a great resource for locals to get a rundown of everything that’s happening for the culture this week in the region.

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Lia Mechelle Photography

How would you describe NW Arkansas to someone thinking about relocating here?

It’s a fast-growing region with a lot going on, lots to do, and great access to nature. Though I’d also say the region is still defining its identity.

Describe Northwest Arkansas in 3 words.

Communal, outdoorsy, relaxed.

What is your hope for the future of the region?

That the region continues to grow, but thoughtfully. Affordable housing and transportation are going to be huge hurdles for a place growing this fast.

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