There is no other way to ring in being back to writing about bad ass African women that inspire me, than to write about Bozoma Saint John! Yesterday. Jan 21st was her birthday( that she shares with my mum), and we all live to witness the greatness of this woman! Turning 42 and looking fire and slaying at Paris Couture week, Bozoma St John or as you will all get to know her by her social media handle @badassboz is a force to be reckoned with!
Bozoma Saint John is the most high powered black woman in Silicon valley. I first learnt of her when she ascended to the role of Chief Brand Officer of Uber in 2016. At a time when the company was in crisis over reports of sexual harassment, mismanagement and an overall toxic culture, Uber hired a black woman to help clean house. She stepped into the role defiant and that is when I started following her obsessively. I am in awe of her as an African woman, a black woman and a marketing professional
Born to Ghanaian parents, Bozoma’s family moved to Colorado when she was 12. , Bozoma proceeded to chase her own dreams in pop culture despite the way African parents breathe down your neck to be a caricature of their dreams i.e. be a doctor. After an illustrious pre-medicine career at Wesleyan college, she tricked her parents into taking a gap year before she was supposedly going to apply to medical school, and instead headed to New York City where she took her first job as an assistant to Spike Lee. Bozoma has never looked back since.
With a penchant for story telling she turned into a marketing maverick at Pepsi and was famously instrumental in inking the deal that brought Beyoncé to the Super Bowl with the brand in 2013. She was then snapped up by Beats by Dre which led to a position as the global head of consumer marketing at Apple Music. In 2016 she famously dazzled the audience at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference when she, stepped on stage to introduce the redesigned Apple music and included a rendition of “Rapper’s Delight” in the keynote address. This then led to the famous Uber job and a year later Bozoma has taken her marketing talent to Endeavor, the talent agency that represents a bevy of top hollywood stars. Enough about her resume, let me tell you why we will remember Bozoma St John into the future.
Bozoma Saint John on the Apple stage in 2013
I have a personal practice that I call channelling my inner @badassboz every time I am about to walk yet into another meeting at my current very white company, Philips. This is because her presence in the upper echelons of the tech industry, that is also a famously white male environment, is everything to aspiring black women executives like me. It is a place you do not see black women often and Bozoma not only thrives in that space but speaks boldly from it. She is a champion of inclusion and diversity and challenging the narrative of who gets to lead in her industry. Most importantly she understands that her presence is necessary because pop culture influences everyday society and she gets to infuse diversity into it with her work, the same way I feel about my bid for a seat at the most powerful tables in the healthcare industry is necessary.
On getting hired by Uber, one interview challenged her on whether she felt her hiring was a public relations “token,” a black woman cast in the role to give Uber a PR boost. Bozoma did not think about that, otherwise she would be angry all the time. She instead chooses to continue to raise the bar for women, and in doing so, she take the responsibility of being a woman in this industry very seriously and works her absolute best to make sure her presence is recognised accordingly. I have in recent years, have had moments of questioning why doors opened for me to certain rooms, but Bozoma taught me it does not matter how I got here. The point is I am in the room and my voice will be heard. Bozoma embraces challenges and the Uber job was on example of this awe inspiring fearlessness.
Secondly, Bozoma Saint John steps onto all of these stages, while towering over everybody around her as an unapologetically 6 foot 4 black woman with big hair, in ankara African fabric, sequins and stilettos. In an industry famous for its hoodies and sweaters, she chooses to walk the halls of Silicon Valley in drop dead outfits that are a personal expression of her creativity and who she is everyday. When she stepped onto the Apple stage in 2013 in the appearance that shot her to stardom, she showed up in a body skimming pink dress by Ghanaian-American designer Mimi Plange, pom-pom-trimmed Christian Louboutin pumps, and her curls styled in a loose updo.My favorite piece on her was one done by Vogue where she expressed how her fashion sense is part of her brand. She talked about how she used to try to fit into corporate dress code in her first job at Pepsi, wearing khakis and but did not feel good and her ideas were therefore not as great Directly quoting from the article Bozoma said,
“ I think it’s crazy when people say fashion is superficial, because I think it’s part of what makes me comfy in my own skin; it’s part of what makes me me. And I’m unapologetic for all the things that I am.”
Me and my buzzed blonde hair show up to work all the time channeling this type of energy!
Lastly Bozoma Saint John is the epitome of the strength that women hold, especially black women. Having experienced immense personal tragedy, including losing a child and her husband, she chooses to hold her head up high and live to create great memories. She also shows what it is like to be a working mum through her instagram feed where she constantly talking about her only daughter Lael, who she had to raise by herself since her husband passed in 2013. Bozoma lives to set an example for Lael about what she can achieve in the world. I love seeing the amazing stories of her adventures with her daughter that she adorably captions #mommyandmini and the realities of being a high powered female executive while being the best mum she can be. I am yet to cross the motherhood chapter in my life, but Bozoma gives me a screenshot of what that would be like, and I am appreciative of that!
Bozoma Saint John endlessly inspires me in so many ways and I live to chase my dreams and reach heights as unapologetically as she does every day! Happy birthday @badassboz and we are all so blessed to live in the same timeline as you.
I cannot wait for the docu series about her that will come up on Starz soon!
To read more on this incredible woman bless yourself with her instagram @badassboz and the following articles