Jackie Aina on Forevr Mood and his favorite smells
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Brandon Lundby
Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In “Scent Memories”, The Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives.
Next up is Jackie Aina, Nigerian entrepreneur, beauty YouTuber and advocate for people of color. With FOREVR Mood, Aina created a brand of self-care fragrances for black women, urging them to prioritize care and put themselves first. With cheeky candle names such as “Grown Folks Business” and “We Not Linkin,” the line also recently entered Zipporah. In honor of her birthday and the brand’s first anniversary, she launched sumptuously Jackie, a collection containing a set of “Old Money” and “New Money” candles. The Cut caught up with Aina to talk about the smell of oud, the headache-inducing body spray, and her scent layering technique.
My first olfactory memory: By browsing my mother’s collection of perfumes when I was 9 or 10 years old. My mom and I both have hyperhidrosis, so we sweat a lot. One of the ways I tried to mask the smell of sweat was perfume. I would go to her room to cook up and steal whatever she had. I remember she always had a bottle of Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue. She hated flowers. We pick up on a lot of our parenting habits, so naturally, as I grew up, I thought I wouldn’t like flowers, but I actually do. She likes fresh, lemony scents. I like the most edible sweet or greedy.
Happiness can feel: A kitten, a friend you remember, the university you went to, the country you lived in, your first job. Happiness smells warm, comforting, sometimes spicy. It can smell fruity and floral.
I remember going to school and drowning in one of my mom’s scents (like three pounds of light blue), because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was sweating so much. I was out for physical education, wearing a puffy jacket in the spring, not in the winter, to hide the scent more. I remember Mr. Abernathy, my elementary school teacher – one of my favorite teachers to date, looking at me and begging me to take off the jacket. It was like, You can safely remove your jacket. Everyone is sweating. It’s good. It was one of the few times in school where I wasn’t ashamed. I remember how this teacher inspired me to step out of my comfort zone.
I also associate a particular type of oud with happiness, which reminds me of when I lived in Kuwait. I have many positive memories of my life in the Middle East. Oud and perfume are an integral part of Arab culture. I have no idea what the oud name is, but if I’m shopping or in a tourist area in LA, I can smell it and tell myself, Someone is not from here.
Love smells: Comfort, welcome, familiarity. Ironically, my fiance doesn’t like to wear like cologne at all. It’s like, How did you end up with me? I’m the biggest perfume snob. But he’s very open to letting me create a scent wardrobe for him and play with different scents. It’s really sweet because he’s willing to do something for me that he usually doesn’t really care about. Love smells like it all and just being open.
Grief or loss smells like: Familiar surroundings, a funeral home, or maybe even someone’s car. Or even someone’s body chemistry. It could be like the smell of the moment my ex left the gym. Or a scent you associate with someone you’ve cut ties with, and now they’ve ruined that scent for you.
Friendship feels: Someone you can count on. I think of something airy or playful, non-judgmental or endearing. When I hang out with my friends against my fiancé, I wear something fresher and more exciting, rather than sultry.
Success smacks: Sometimes a little inaccessible. As if I might be the only one wearing this. It smells unique, individualized, sometimes a little heavier. Maybe it’s an oud because you want to stand out. Maybe you want to emit something that will make you feel noticeable, spicy, or intense.
i feel like: Nine times out of ten, if I want to stand out, I layer the scent. My mom taught me how to do it and I’ve been doing it since I was eleven. I’ll start with a heavier scent like an oud, then something spicy, and on top of that I’ll look for something with a tonka, vanilla, patchouli or sandalwood vibe. I try to stay in this family during my “Boss” days. When I want to smell the quintessential Jackie, I do something sweet and spicy and also a little heavier. I’m not afraid to go really, really. It’s experimental and trial and error, but I really, really love to feel like me.
There is nothing worse than someone else stealing your signature. I don’t mind sharing the hair plug, makeup plug, if i have a discount code i will share it too. But there is something in the scent – it’s me and it’s personal. Years ago, I was working in a company and I wore this shower gel (I couldn’t really afford a lot of perfume) every day, and a coworker asked me what I was wearing. I told her and she went out and bought it, which was good, but then she started to come to work and drown in the smell. It was to the point where I was like, Girl, my head hurts now. I couldn’t even enjoy it anymore. So now if someone asks me, I might be wearing three scents, but I will only tell them which one I am wearing.
My ideal vacation: It really smells like Bora Bora. So coconut, spicy flavors, and vanilla, like monoi. If I go on vacation in the summer, that’s what I want to feel. Almost like a Tom Ford Soleil Blanc.
My house smells like: It depends on the time of year. We are still burning like everything from our Valentine and Spring collection. The common areas will be more fruity or fresher flowery. For the bedroom, I like heavier, creamier scents. When I go to sleep I think these are the ones that I find the most heartwarming and romantic.
The first thing I like to smell in the morning: Well, I am biased. But we have a coffee scented candle called Hey Bighead. To me, it looks like coffee in the morning. But I also like to smell the fresh citrus. My favorite morning candle is probably Cuffing Season or Spring Fling, it’s more of a white peach coconut musk.