Lovetta Conto, 15, grew up in a refugee camp in Ghana after fleeing a war in her native Liberia. Now this bright entrepreneur has a mission and a message of hope for other kids growing up in darkness. “I want them to know that life can change, that good can come,” she says. “As my dad would say, ‘Keep walking. Press on. It's going to happen.’” We asked her five quick questions. When and why did you leave Liberia? I left Liberia when I was a little girl, with my father. We lived in many surrounding countries as refugees. Finally we ended up in Ghana, where I grew up in a refugee camp outside of the city of Accra. When I was 14, I came to America as part of a Strongheart Fellowship to study. I'm currently living back in my home country of Liberia, which is finally at peace.
Growing up with war all around you, what inspired you to find beauty and hope? I always imagined myself as something more. The power of imagination is incredible. No matter how dark things get, seeing yourself in a brighter place can carry you through. It carried me through.
Where did your love of fashion come from? From deep within me. It was always there. My father is also very stylish. West Africans have an incredible fashion sense. Even in the refugee camp, women would buy cloth and make clothes, sell jewelry. Fashion is just a deep part of who I am. I love how you can express who you are through the way you dress.
What are your goals with your jewelry line, AKAWELLE? I want to do so much! First, I want the world to learn about it and also to sell enough jewelry to open the Strongheart House in Liberia, which is a home for other young people affected by difficult life circumstances like war and poverty. I want to expand into a full design line of more jewelry, clothing, shoes--everything!
What does the name AKAWELLE mean? The first part "a.k.a." is "also known as" and the second part "welle" is from a Kpelle word, which is my tribal language. The word "wel'le" means "love." So literally, it's "also known as love." It has multiple meanings for me. "Love" is my nickname, short for Lovetta.
Is it any wonder we love Love? See how she gives melted bullet shells new life at AKAWELLE Jewelry.