The ‘Ladybrille Woman of the Week’ is a feature on Ladybrille that celebrates women who empower themselves and others, through their contributions and actions, in their local and international communities. These women are intelligent, courageous, confident, and innovative. They strive for balance in their personal lives (whether emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), are persistent, and when they fall, they get right back up. These women honor and stand in their truths. They are business and community leaders, visionaries, and game changers. They are our sisters, aunties, mothers, friends and so much more. They are “Ladybrille” (brilliant) women.
If you are a woman or know of a woman who should be celebrated as a ‘Ladybrille Woman of the Week,’ please feel free to email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This week, we celebrate Phiona Okumu Editor for AfriPOP! Magazine and Music Content and PR/Communications Consultant.
LADYBRILLE: What do you do professionally and what have some of your accomplishments been to date?
PHIONA: I am a music content and PR/communications consultant. My day-today is filled with digital content marketing projects for brands ranging from corporates like Samsung Africa to non-profits such as the British Council in South Africa. I started out as a music journalist but over the years, thanks to the infinite options that the internet has opened up, I’ve been able to leverage my passion for music and understanding of the mechanism of media to expose incredible and deserving talents, often in spaces where they might not get a look-in automatically.
My single proudest accomplishment isn’t mine alone. Afripopmag, an African popular culture website which I edit is the brainchild of an amazing team of African writers and culture enthusiasts based all over the world. We’ve grown slowly but steadily where a lot of blogs and sites that started out along with us 6-7 years ago have kind of fallen to the wayside. My contribution leans towards mostly music-driven content, which is generally well received, and has hoisted the brand AfriPOP! to a sort of rare tastemaker status if I do say so myself (Jay Z voice).
I have professional relationships with music artists whom I genuinely consider some of my favourite ever – a true blessing in itself. Last year I was in Nairobi with Belgium-based Central African DJ Boddhi Satva to participate in “Coke Studio Africa” – a groundbreaking TV show filmed in Kenya, featuring leading African musicians and broadcast in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria. That wasn’t our first visit there. Boddhi had played for a hugely successful gig for the first time to about 2000 people less than a year prior. In the short time since then we managed to launch and raise his profile to such an impressive level for an artist whose music videos are not in mainstream rotation in Africa.
LADYBRILLE: What drives you to make a difference in your community the way you currently are, and have?
PHIONA: I’m a naturally competitive person for better or worse so I’m always going to want to be the best or not take part at all.
LADYBRILLE: What is the positive talk you have with yourself on days you find thoughts and feelings of self-doubt trying to creep in?
PHIONA: Sometimes, all the talking in the world won’t get you out of the funk. What works better for me is to do something, whether it’s something completely unrelated to the source of my fear just for the distraction, or to pour all my energy into something within my power to make happen.
LADYBRILLE: Health is so important but often many brilliant women simply neglect self because they are always so busy serving others. How are you taking care of your health (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual)?
PHIONA: It’s true. I’m in my thirties now and one of the most humbling things this decade keeps showing me is just how real mortality is. Last year I fell really ill and more than the actual sickness itself, it was the emotional vulnerability that got me. How was I supposed to look after myself? How did I go from never being in hospital to not being able to leave my bed for weeks at a time? These types of questions laid bare my utter discomfort with needing people. Until then I was used to living a self-contained life. I try and do all the things everyone does to stay fit: I run a little or work out at least three times a week More importantly, I am trying to be more aware of my thoughts so I can shake the less pleasant ones before they take hold now that I know that health flows from how you think.
LADYBRILLE: What is the conversation you believe that we as women, and particularly African women, need to be having collectively?
PHIONA: I think what matters more is that more of the talking happens. We – or should I say I – generally don’t as much about the things that bring anxiety because of the fear of the “crazy lady” judgement.
LADYBRILLE: Please share with our community of young women entrepreneurs one empowering piece of advice/ message?
PHIONA: I recently read a story about Troy Carter, who is someone I admire. He led the team that made Lady Gaga an unstoppable force worldwide and then parted ways with her quite abruptly. This story talked about how he has continued to be successful in both music and tech businesses. Apparently, when the news of his split from Gaga broke, Madonna’s manager messaged Troy this quote by Steve Jobs: “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” That’s stuck with me because I have had to start over several times and I suspect I will have to at some point again.
LADYBRILLE: Tell us how you define yourself, the Ladybrille (brilliant) woman?
PHIONA: A giver but I ask questions. A tough but loyal lover. (Smiles)