“We must continue to show up as our authentic selves.” – Bozoma Saint John
This is the story of the high-powered marketing executive, Bozoma Saint John.
Saint John’s early years
Bozoma Saint John’s early years were marked by big international moves. Her family made several big relocations, from the US to Ghana to Kenya and back to the US. By her teenage years, Bozoma was not new to being the new kid on the block. She found music and pop culture an avenue to relate to new schoolmates in each new location. Although she delved into pop culture as a way to fit in, she didn’t know at the time it would become a passion and a foundation that would later serve her well in various entertainment and media roles.
“As a first-generation American, my parents expected that I would go on to have pretty tactical higher-education-type jobs — doctor, lawyer, engineer. Those were the three options.” – Bozoma Saint John.
But Saint John chose none of those options. After studying pre-medicine in University, feeling sure she was meant to have an alternative career, she ventured to New York. She landed in the big city, unsure of where she would work and what her future would hold. All she knew was she had ambition and drive.
A spectacular rise to the top
Saint John took a temp position at Spike DDB, Spike Lee’s office. With her bold voice, hard work, and entertainment and culture savvy, she rose in the ranks. There she learned a lot about the industry and flexed her muscles helping with Pepsi and Beyonce brand campaigns over the next 10 years. She also held the role of Vice President of Marketing at Ashley Stewart.
After enduring harsh personal difficulties, including the tragic loss of her husband and father of her child, Saint John went to work at Beats, which was later acquired by Apple. During those years she encountered numerous criticisms in the workplace and expectations that she should tame her self down, fit in, and conform to a certain mainstream prescription. But Bozoma stood her ground and remained unapologetically true to her own sense of style, vision, culture and self.
After three years at Apple, she took the position of Chief Branding Officer of Uber. And one year later, she became Chief Marketing Officer at Williams Endeavor, the Los Angeles-based multi-billion dollar company.
One of the first black female high-powered marketing executives
Marketing and advertising now is a $1.2+ trillion dollar industry. It shapes business and buying culture. And even though (in the US), black buying power is over a trillion dollars per year, black people are usually invited to sit at the marketing table. Marketing executives and boardrooms are typically whitewashed. This leads to marketing campaigns that are one -sided and often even oppressive. Enter marketing executives like Saint John. A black woman – with a bold voice at that – who can bring a community voice to the table to be heard and respected.
Bozoma inspires women, especially black women to take up space, to be proud of who you are, and to be fully true to yourself first. In a society where the black woman is typically portrayed as obnoxiously loud and aggressive (amid other things), Bozoma’s bold success encourages us to not shy away from standing strong in who we are. To showing up and to being real, instead of hiding and ‘taming down’.
She also impacted the brands she’s worked with. As brand manager at Uber, Bozoma had the unique opportunity to bring credence to the black voice and be heard. These are spaces where the authentic black voice is unheard or stifled. This impacts the company culture, decision making, and has a trickle down effect to affecting the customers and clients. This is the power of true inclusion. And Bozoma is the perfect example of what happens when a company doesn’t just ‘get’ inclusiveness but actually puts it into practice.
Bozoma’s story is unfinished and her future career path unpredictable. This is because, as you see, Bozoma is not afraid to change directions, shift, and pivot. She’s bold, adaptable, and accomplishes greatness wherever she lands. One thing we can predict is we’ll get to bear witness to even more pivoting and inspiration from her in the future.
Update: On July 2nd, 2020 Bozoma Saint John was appointed Chief Marketing Operator at streaming giant Netflix, Inc.