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Season 2 Finale with Marketing Guru Bozoma Saint John

Welcome to Episode 60, the final episode of Season 2.

Bozoma “Boz” Saint John is the Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor, a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion with a portfolio of companies including WME, IMG, and UFC. Before joining Endeavor, Saint John served as Chief Brand Officer at Uber, Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Apple Music & iTunes and Head of Music and Entertainment Marketing at PepsiCo. While at PepsiCo, she signed their first ever deal with Beyonce.

Boz was inducted into Billboard’s Women in Music Hall of Fame in 2018, and the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement in 2014. She was recognized on The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100 list in 2018 and as Billboard’s Executive of the Year in 2016. Boz has also been featured on the cover of Adweek as “one of the most exciting personalities in advertising” and on many lists like Fortune’s Most Influential CMOs.

During our chat, we explored a number of interesting areas like confidence and how to develop it, the importance of cultivating your personal brand and how to do it, and the reality of stereotype threat and how to handle it. We also talked about the value of practicing all sorts of behaviors necessary for success, from speaking up to switching off. I especially liked how Boz is evolving her own personal brand to move from “success to significance”.

Bozoma Saint John is the Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor and has held executive positions at Uber, Apple, and PepsiCo.

You’ll also find awesome nuggets on stage fright, faith, pop-culture and her big, crazy dream.  There were so many fantastic quotes I could share here, but I’ll limit myself to two: “It’s not self-promotion if you’re adding to the conversation,” and “I’m really brilliant, but I don’t have to be brilliant in every meeting.”

A little behind the scenes from the episode.

Bozoma’s book recommendation is Elaine Welteroth’s More than Enough

If you’d like to follow Badass Boz you can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank You

This episode marks the end of Season 2. It’s been an emotional journey and as I look back on all the incredible women this season and all of you listening from around the world, I can’t help but be humbled and honoured. Season 3 will return in Fall 2019 and we’ve got a whole new lineup with a few surprises in store.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know what you think of this episode or the show in general on Instagram, Twitter LinkedIn, or good ‘ol email.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)
Ladies and gents, boys and girls. Welcome to episode 60, the final episode of Season Two. I came across Bozoma Saint John two years ago when she became the Chief Brand Officer of Uber. At the time, things were bad for Uber. Fresh off a “delete Uber campaign,” there were loads of sexual harassment claims and scandals about driver treatment and just generally loads of negative press about the company’s toxic work environment and I wondered who is this lady who would take that job? So I did some digging, Bozoma turned out to be distinctive in a million different ways and when she went to Uber, the job that she left behind was the Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Apple Music and iTunes, where in 2016, she had delivered a keynote speech that rocks the world. What do our bias minds think of when we ask them what a technology executive looks like? Probably a white dude in a hoodie and glasses and many of them are. Women and people of colour are grossly underrepresented in tech firms, especially at senior levels. My guest on today’s show is a serial-C sweeter who is tall and black with big hair, long nails and a loud personality. She wears bright colours and is unapologetically authentic. Oh, and she’s one of the best marketers on planet earth. Bozoma Saint John is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor and Global Leader in entertainment, sports and fashion with a portfolio of companies including WME, IMG and UFC. Before joining Endeavor, Boz was at Uber and Apple, as I mentioned earlier, and also had served as the Head of Music and Entertainment Marketing at PepsiCo, where she signed PepsiCo’s first ever deal with Beyoncé. We discussed some meta-themes like confidence and how to develop it, the importance of cultivating your personal brand and how to do it, the reality of stereotype threat and how to handle it and the value of practice, practicing all sorts of different behaviours from speaking up to switching off. I love how Bose is evolving her own personal brand to move it from success to significance. We talked about faith, stage fright, pop culture and her big crazy dream. There were so many amazing quotes, but maybe my favourite one was, “I’m really brilliant, but I don’t have to be brilliant in every meeting.” So let’s get into it.

Rana Nawas: (02:34)
Boze, thank you so much for coming on When women Win. I am thrilled to have you on the show!

Bozoma Saint John: (02:42)
Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here! I mean what a perfect title!

Rana Nawas: (02:48)
When is it okay to be yourself unapologetically? And I ask this because not all authenticity is likable, right?

Bozoma Saint John: (02:57)
Oh Gosh, that’s such good question. You know, because my immediate answer is, well, of course we should be unapologetically ourselves all the time but you’re right, that is not always likable and that’s why we have to be tempered in some situations, right? It’s common sense. Most of the time, I think of it as, you know, be kind, be thoughtful, even in your unapologeticness. To me it’s like, listen, we all want to show up and say what we want to say and be our truly badass selves. But when you do it at the risk of somebody else being able to be themselves or you offend because of what you are saying or how you’re saying it, that’s problematic. Let’s, then, be apologetic.

Rana Nawas: (03:53)
Now you’re very open, a big badass and very unapologetically yourself. Has this always been the case or has this developed over time?

Bozoma Saint John: (04:03)
You know, I think it has developed over time. I mean, I feel that I have always had a very loud personality. I think I was born that way, but I think my confidence and the way that I move around the world has sharpened over time. Life has taught me a lot. My experiences have sharpened some of my confidence because I know that I can do something right. It’s not just sort of blind faith. And so I think that over time, I’ve certainly gained more confidence. It’s the same reason why I really love old ladies. Have you ever met a 90 year old woman? She’s usually really incredible. Oh man, listen, they’re out here doing whatever the hell they want to do. You know, it’s the most incredible thing that’s coming from confidence, the confidence of a life well-lived of experiences that they’ve been able to go through and overcome. And so I think confidence at 20 is very different from confidence at 40 and very different from the confidence at 60.

Rana Nawas: (05:10)

Bozoma Saint John: (05:10)
For me it’s absolutely true.

Rana Nawas: (05:12)
A lot of people talk about this confidence gap between men and women and that we know that women’s confidence grows over time and lack of confidence can be an issue. What tips do you have for women to develop that self-confidence?

Bozoma Saint John: (05:23)
You know, what’s incredible is that I think all the studies show us that it’s essentially the way that we are talked to, right? The way that girls are spoken to is what either helps build our confidence or break it down. Boys are given the ability to just do it immediately; go ahead, jump off the jungle gym, run as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter if you fall down and scrape your knee; brush yourself off, get up and keep going. While girls are told to be pretty, make sure that your dress doesn’t slip and wipe that mud off of your face so that it doesn’t look bad, you know, like those types of things; sit like a lady. All the things that we’re told then make us question ourselves, make us question even our physical being. You know, you get into a space and immediately you start fixing how you’re sitting so that you’re sitting like a lady – that was told to us when we were little. And that’s how we are then taking and even absorbing how we approach everything in life. And so as I look at the world and I look at the way that women interact, even myself, when I’m walking into a room or I’m sitting in a room, it’s a lot of self-talk. I’m talking to myself all the time, reminding myself to be bold. You might need myself to speak up. I mean, if I’m sitting in a meeting and I mean I don’t want to have useless chatter, but if I’m sitting in a meeting and I haven’t spoken and the meeting is going to end in 10 minutes, oh, I’m going to find something.

Rana Nawas: (07:03)
I see. You’re very purposeful and intentional about it. You have like a checklist in your head.

Bozoma Saint John: (07:08)
Absolutely! Absolutely! You know, add something, even if it’s just to cheer on somebody else’s statement. You know, I’m really brilliant, but I don’t have to be brilliant in every meeting.

Rana Nawas: (07:21)
I love that!

Bozoma Saint John: (07:23)
So sometimes, it’s the self-talk, the talk that reminds me that I am great, that my voice should be heard in a meeting, that going to meet somebody new that they will like me, you know? So to me, it all comes out of how we are spoken to and the biggest, the loudest voice and the most consistent voices are wrong. And so I’m very conscious of that. I always advise women to just practice that. Practice yourself talk, make sure that you’re encouraging yourself and you’re saying the right things to yourself. We have so many negative voices in our heads, so if we’re able to train ourselves to speak in a more positive way, more encouraging way to ourselves, much like somebody told you to do this or do that, we will build confidence that way.

Rana Nawas: (08:07)
Yeah. And get a coach, if you need to.

Bozoma Saint John: (08:09)
Yeah, yeah.

Rana Nawas: (08:09)
Or recruit a buddy, you know, a partner to help each other through the process.

Bozoma Saint John: (08:16)
Absolutely! Absolutely! There’s no better cheerleader than your best girlfriend. And if you don’t have one who encourages you, who tells you you’re incredible, find a new one. Dump the old one.

Rana Nawas: (08:30)
Dump her. Now, we always advise people in the corporate world, men and women, that in order to rise, they need to cultivate their “personal brand.” What does that actually mean? What actionable tips do you have on cultivating your personal brand?

Bozoma Saint John: (08:45)
Well, that’s the amazing thing is that as a brand builder, the same tactics that I used for building Apple, building Uber, building Pepsi or the same tactics that I use for my own personal brand, it’s what are the things that are unique to me that nobody else has, right? It’s not necessarily about mimicking somebody else’s success or somebody else’s personality. What are the things that are unique to me? And let me try to find ways to display that, find ways to let other people see those unique capabilities, those differentiating factors. And so for me, that’s what comes across when I am in a room or I walk in or someone talks about me when I’m not around. I hope they’re talking about the things that make me so unique that they’re like, “oh my Gosh, you have to meet Boz.” Or like, “have you talked to Boz? Because she said those things are the brand pieces that are important for us because it’s not so much about the experience or the resume or the thing that you’ve done. It’s about how people talk about you. What are the things that they think when your name is? It’s otherwise known as “the reputation,” of course. There are lots of words to describe it, but the personal brand is going to exist, whether or not you create it or cultivate it, it’s going to exist. So why not then be in charge of it? Why not then pay attention to it and find ways to make it that much better, you know?

Rana Nawas: (10:16)
What are the ways that somebody could get the word out? So assuming a professional has this self-awareness, knows what they’re strong at, what makes them unique and they want to push the word out so that that’s what people are saying about them when they’re not inside the room. What are the ways, especially for women, because you know, self-promotion is difficult for many.

Bozoma Saint John: (10:37)
Well, you know what? Here are some tricks I love, especially in the workplace. So, there are a couple of things. One, obviously a lot of people have a boss, most of us have a boss and every week I have a status meeting with my boss. Every meeting I go in prepared with an agenda, right? The things that I have to cover off the projects I’m working on, updates…etc. There is a portion of my agenda that I call “personal.” Sometimes I write it down so he can see it and sometimes it’s just for me. Those are the points that I want to make about what I have done that I want him to walk away with; the great things. And sometimes it could even be softer, you know. They don’t always have to be metrics driven. It could be a story about someone I met who had amazing things to say about me.

Rana Nawas: (11:32)
You would tell your boss that? You would end the meeting with that?

Bozoma Saint John: (11:35)
Oh absolutely!

Rana Nawas: (11:36)
I love it.

Bozoma Saint John: (11:37)
I say all kinds of things. Like if I met someone that he knows and that person said, “oh my Gosh, you know, I love working with Mark! He was the most amazing. I can see why you guys get along. You have such a great personality.” I will tell him that. I will absolutely tell him that. And I think it’s really important because what happens is that we assume that people know things about us and sometimes it’s even the personal stuff that we don’t talk about that adds to the reputation. Sometimes I talk about the things that happen on the weekend that I think are important for him to know. You know, a concert that I went to, maybe an art gallery, maybe even an article that I read that I found some points out of because I think we assume that people know that we’re smart or that we are interesting or that we like fly fishing on the weekends, but often people don’t know those things. And you would be surprised at how much richer your brand becomes because it’s much more complex, you know? So I like to open the book and that might sound like self-promoting. But it’s not self-promoting if you find that you are sort of just adding to the conversation, you know that it’s colouring. Think of it as a colouring book. You know your work is black and white; all of the other things about your personality are the colour. So add those in, fill those in, fill those in for everybody around you; fill it in for your boss, fill it in for your co-workers because even your co-workers are sometimes the biggest advocates for your personal brand. I mean, we know people talk in the office and they walk in the hallways and say “did you hear that Boz went to blah, blah, blah…” Yeah, exactly. I want you to know that. And what happens is it’s actually how I feel my reputation as a pop-culture expert began. You know, I was the one at PepsiCo who my co-workers and my colleagues would come to find out the cool thing that is happening the following weekend. Or my opinion on anything, name anything. It could be fashion, it could be music, it could be sports, it could be anything, food, anything. They would say, “I have friends coming this weekend, what restaurants should we go to? What’s the new cool restaurant?” Because I talk all the time about the things I did over the weekend or the piece of music that I heard, they extrapolate that to mean that I know everything that’s cool. And so now it’s like even some people that I haven’t seen in 15 years…I talked to one of my co-workers from 15 years ago, he’s in the market looking for new job. And he literally said to me, now again, remember I have not talked to him in maybe 15 years, “you’ve always been the cool one so if you hear anything that’s going on, I would love to be in the mix. Let me know.” That’s from 15 years ago. He still thinks I’m the cool one, you know?

Rana Nawas: (14:44)
Are you still cool, Boz?

Bozoma Saint John: (14:45)
Hell yeah! I’m the coolest. You’ve never met anybody cooler.

Rana Nawas: (14:48)
I know, I know. I follow you on Instagram. I know. So what are the other aspects of your personal brand?

Bozoma Saint John: (14:57)
I hope that people say that I’m not just cool, but that I’m considerate, caring, nurturing and that I care about women, diversity and inclusion. Those are the things that I’m working on right now, as part of my personal brand, that I a mom who really loves her daughter, immeasurably. I love those parts because for me right now, my brand is not just about my work. I would say that for the last 20 years it’s been about my work, I’ve been extraordinarily ambitious, right? I wanted to get all of the awards, I wanted to get the promotions, I wanted to get the next job. I wanted all of those things; I wanted to climb and that was my brand for a long time. But now, I’ve changed it, it’s evolving. And that’s the beautiful thing about brand development; it doesn’t have to stay static. It can change. You can look at your life and say, “okay, well now I want to be something different.” And for me, the different isn’t that I am going to totally abandon everything that I’ve been. It is that I’m going to evolve it. And when I joined the Henry Crown Fellowship, which is an incredible fellowship, one of my good friends who you know, Carla Hassan Zakhem, is a part of that too, the tagline for it I felt like really changed my life. It made me look at the world differently and now it’s that I want to go from success to significance. I want to be significant, you know? And so I’m looking at ways in which my success and my platform can now be turned into something that is more significant, whether that is change for women and how we are appreciated in the corporate space or whether it’s about more diversity and inclusion across our spectrums. And for me, that is going to be the significance, at least for the next decade.

Rana Nawas: (16:54)
Yeah. And the work that you’re doing with Ghana?

Bozoma Saint John: (16:57)
Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. Well for me, that falls into some of the diversity and inclusion, right in that I want to change and evolve the narrative of Africa and the way people see Africans. The President of Ghana also said something really significant that also really inspired me. He said that until Africa is respected, people of African descent won’t be respected. That is a crazy thought. But it’s true, especially in the US. Last night there was another shooting, a deadly shooting of an African American woman, who was yelling and screaming that she was pregnant and the officer opened up five shots and killed her.

Rana Nawas: (17:44)
Oh my God.

Bozoma Saint John: (17:45)
And when you think about it, people ask “well, why is it that all these police brutality and police killings are especially of an extraordinary amount of African American?” And the truth of the matter is that African Americans are just simply not respected, you know? And so I feel like if we can help change the dynamic, there are lots of things. I mean, it’s a much more complicated matter than just about Africa for sure. But I do feel like that is part of it. And while that might sound so serious, you know, I do take it seriously. I mean, I have grown up in the US since I was about 12 and I know Africa has not been respected. All of the names that I was called and you know, all of the crazy questions, a lot of them ignorant question, is not because people are stupid, but because they just don’t know better. And so for me, part of my mission in working with Ghana, working with the president of Ghana and taking my friends on a trip to go and see it themselves is to help change the narrative. It is about making sure that people understand the complexity, the beauty, the richness and the economic opportunity of Africa.

Rana Nawas: (19:01)
I’ve always wondered this, Boz. You had a fantastic job at Apple. Why did you leave it to become the CMO of Uber? Like, you couldn’t have picked a worst time to join Uber. Why would you do that?

Bozoma Saint John: (19:19)
Man, let me tell you something. You know, this is actually really funny because I don’t think that there’s been a job that I’ve taken where people have said, “that’s a great idea. Yes! Go and do that thing.” Never, like never ever! And we can probably come back to that because that also has some lessons in it. However, I was sitting very comfortably in my office at Apple where I had two offices by the way – aha brush my shoulders off – one in Cupertino and one in LA – both very nice offices. And you know, I’m a marketing nerd at the very centre of it, right? I just love brands. I love storytelling. I love the behaviour of people. You know, I’m a people watcher. I love it! I’m so curious all the time as to why people do the things they do. And so I was sitting in my office when the #DeleteUber campaign hit, right? I think I was on Facebook probably and I saw people saying “I’m deleting the app. Delete Uber now!” It was crazy. It was just taking over. And so of course, I started doing a little digging to find out what was going on. And clearly there was a lot of conversation, political conversation around the travel ban and all these other things that had inspired this delete Uber moment. But what was the most interesting to me was that other taxi companies, like Lyft, there were lots of companies that were behaving the same way as Uber. So why was Uber taking the brunt of the hit, right? And then it starts to get worse, it was snowballing. It was no longer just about the travel ban because right now if you ask people why they deleted the app, very few people say it was a travel ban. They’ll say things like, “well, because of sexual harassment in the company, because there’s lack of diversity in the executive ranks.” Like, they’ll say all kinds of other things. And I’m like, so do we think that there are more women employed in executive ranks at some of these Silicon Valley companies or more people of colour? Because they’re not, okay? So I was like “why is it that Uber took the brunt of it?” Very long story short, I asked these questions to my good friend, Arianna Huffington, who happens to be on the board of Uber because like I said, I’m a nerd at night, literally called and I was like, blah blah blah blah blah, you know, I had like a million questions and she was like, “Boz, I would love to answer these questions for you, but you should probably talk to Travis Kalanick who’s the founder of Uber. And I was like, “yeah, exactly. Put him on the phone. Exactly. I want to talk to him.” And she, true to her word, got me a meeting with him. He was coming to LA and I was in LA, so we were supposed to meet for an hour for coffee. And the hour for coffee turned into 8 hours of me and him talking. I definitely badgered him, you know, peppered him with a lot of questions and then the questions started turning into me suggesting things that I thought he should do and ways to fix the issue. And he was really receptive. It was a surprise to me how receptive he was. And so literally after the whole day of talking to him, the next day I’m in my office at Apple and I was literally sitting there and I was like, “dammit, I think I have to go there.” You know, I liken it to falling in love. You know, it’s like your mom told you not to like the bad boy, right? And then all of a sudden, you’re sitting there, you’re like, “oh man, I have a crush on the bad boy.” You know it. So that’s what happened. But it was also for bigger reasons. I had thoughts about how to fix the challenges that they were having. I mean, listen, like I said, I have a lot of confidence, you know, I really do think I’m the best marketer in the world. I really do. It was a really tough job and I knew that I could do it, that I was absolutely set up. I had the right ideas, I had the right experience, I could do it. And then for the bigger reasons of knowing that if there are questions about women or people of colour’s ability to be in C-Suite in these Silicon Valley companies, than we have to start somewhere. Somebody has to go in and that somebody could be me and then I could have an effect and an impact. And that it wasn’t just Uber, it was everybody. Everybody has the same problem. So let’s fix those things.

Rana Nawas: (23:55)
And do you ever feel the stereotype threat? You know that that burden of if I don’t perform, then everyone’s going to think that women are no good? That black women are no good? Or how do you deal with stereotype threats? Because that burden feels heavy.

Bozoma Saint John: (24:11)
Yeah. Oh, it’s extraordinarily heavy. It’s unfair. It is annoying. It is frustrating. It can be demoralizing. All of those things. And I feel them; I mean I’m a human being. I feel them and it’s real, you know, it’s not in our heads. It’s not something that we made up because people say that all the time. You know, it’s like when I worked with Beyoncé in 2013, our negotiations started in 2012 with the NFL for her to do the Super Bowl halftime show, one of the best performing halftime shows of all time. By the way, the conversation was around the fact that Janet Jackson had been on stage and that she’d had her “wardrobe malfunction.” It has been a decade and no other black woman had been on that halftime show stage since Janet Jackson. That is the stereotype threat, you know? And so for me, it’s like you can’t go into these conversations and pretend like they don’t exist. Of course they exist. When I was getting ready for the Apple keynote and I was to present the new designed UI of Apple Music, representing the 2000 Engineers who had helped build this platform and I knew that there were millions and millions of people who were going to be watching. I knew for sure that if I didn’t perform well, another black woman would not get the opportunity to for a long time because the thoughts are things like, oh well you know what? All of these white men are the ones who are on stage for presenting the tech people, understand them and they’re comfortable with them. And you can imagine all the data that goes into what colours to wear, what words to use, where to stand on the stage, how to use your hands and gestures, all of those things. And so if we’re thinking that a black woman, for the first time, is going to present on that stage and that I don’t perform well, or that the information that I am presenting does not perform well, what do you think happens? Another black woman will not be on that stage. And so yeah, I feel the burden of that, but it doesn’t stop me from attempting to do it.

Rana Nawas: (26:29)
Well, let’s go back to that speech because anyone giving a speech like that on a topic like that to an audience like that would normally be nervous and scared and white men doing that would be nervous and scared too. And there you have, compounding that, is the stereotype threat, knowing that if you don’t perform well then there will be big implications. So, how did you deal with that? How did you get yourself up there and rev yourself up to perform?

Bozoma Saint John: (26:54)
You know, it’s funny; I have extraordinary stage freight. People don’t know.

Rana Nawas: (27:01)

Bozoma Saint John: (27:01)
Yeah, I do! I do. I have stage fright, my armpits itch. I feel ill. I get thirsty, my throat gets dry and I get a little dizzy but here’s the real crazy thing. It happens everywhere. It happens in meetings when I am getting ready to say something, a whole 45 minutes go by and when I have 10 minutes left and I haven’t said anything, I still get that feeling right before I say the thing I’m supposed to say. You know what I mean? Like my armpits itch. I get a little dizzy. I’m like, Oh my God, my tongue gets tied. Like all of those things happen, even if it’s with 10 people. So imagine a crowd of like 8,000. And then knowing that there are millions is still the same to me, it doesn’t matter how many people. So the only thing that I can do to prepare for that is practice. Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. I try to do it as often as I can so that whatever I’m saying is almost wrote, you know, it’s like preparing for a play. And then on top of that, I pray. I’m a very spiritual woman. I believe in God, very much so. I think God has ordained my steps. I don’t believe there’s any stage, any room or any place I’ve ever been at that was not preordained or that I don’t have, you know, the power of God with me. I believe that very strongly – the Grace of God. It’s like “I love the same and there, but for the grace of God go I.” I say it all the time so that I understand that this is bigger than me. I’m protected. And so yeah, preparing for that moment at the Apple keynote was about practicing, making sure that I actually understood the information that I was about to present and knowing it better than anybody else. I’m telling you, at that moment of time, I knew that product better than anybody and I felt the confidence of that when I was walking up onto that stage. I also understood that there were going to be so many women who are going to cheer me on. I knew it. They weren’t in the room, I could not see them, but I knew they’d be on Twitter. And I knew that when they saw my face, when they saw my curly Afro, when they saw my pink dress and they heard the afro beats I was going to play and they heard the fricking “ahip, hop, ahepate,” I knew that people were going to sing along. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Therefore, I had more confidence going in knowing that I was not by myself. For sure.

Rana Nawas: (29:32)
So you really do have your finger on the pop culture pulse because you knew that it was your time, so to speak. It was time to introduce these Afro hip-hop beats and you knew people would respond to it.

Bozoma Saint John: (29:46)
Yes! But I also knew it because it’s true to me, you know? I wanted to play something that I would react to. That’s what we sometimes forget about with authenticity; it’s the best because you have the reaction and if you have the reaction, there’s got to be at least one other person who’s going to have the same reaction. And maybe if there’s 1, maybe there are 10 and if there are 10, maybe there are 100, you know? And that’s the thing that I keep reminding myself, especially in my work because it can be very tempting to say, well, you know what, let’s just make this as as vanilla as possible, pun intended, so that “everybody can like it,” right? But the thing is that then that thing becomes boring. It’s not interesting and I won’t disrespect any artist, so I won’t name names. I could have played a lot of different songs. There were 3 options or 3 time slots for songs that I could’ve played and I chose black artists for every single one of them. The Sugar Hill Gang was the first one because I was like, yo, they are like the birth of hip hop, that is true to me. I love that. The second one was actually my good friend’s daughter who is a new artist. Nobody really knew who she was except for a very tight group of people. She has a strong fan base now, but at the time, she was starting out and I played her music. And then last song was some Afro beats because I love Afro beat. So hell yeah, I knew there’d be other people who like.

Rana Nawas: (31:25)
So Carla and I grew up in Sharjah, which is a little town in the UAE, in the Middle East. And I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and we grew up listening to hip hop and RnB. So what I’d really love to know is: is pop culture truly global or were we in anomaly listening to it in the Middle East desert?

Bozoma Saint John: (31:49)
No, I don’t think you were an anomaly. I think pop culture is global and it’s becoming increasingly more global. As our technology improves, we’re able to reach out and touch each other in ways that we couldn’t have before. You know, you and I being able to have this conversation right now is a miracle of technology. I love that I can see your face on Skype and I’m like, oh look at her spiral. It’s so bright. And when you laugh at my jokes, I’m like, ah, I get a response from that. I think the same thing about all of our different types of connections, whether it’s food influences or it’s books or ideas or music. I think we are speeding up the way that we are connected, which is so fantastic, right? Because then we’re able to really understand each other in a much more empathetic way. But I do think that this has been happening for quite some time. I think that when you look back to jazz and the influences of the talking drums from West Africa in jazz beats, you know, where do we think that came from? Of course it travelled with the people, so when Africans were captured and brought to the Americas or to Europe or anywhere else, those sounds came with them. And so then you had the birth of other types of music that were then developed because of that. Or we take, you know, flavours of food and you look at the spices from India that were traded and therefore made their way into different dishes. I mean, it’s like it’s everywhere, right? And so I don’t think you’re an anomaly, although you’re probably a very pop culture sensitive person. And therefore your taste was probably searching for something outside of maybe your immediate culture and therefore you found hip hop.

Rana Nawas: (33:40)
Yeah. Nice! I still listen to hip hop.

Bozoma Saint John: (33:43)
So, yeah, exactly. Exactly!

Rana Nawas: (33:45)
Boz, what is a question you wish people would ask you more often?

Bozoma Saint John: (33:51)
That is a tough one. What is a question that I wish people would ask me more often? You know, I get asked so many questions. I think maybe more about my faith. I don’t think we talk about that enough.

Rana Nawas: (34:07)
Given what happened with your husband, did that strengthen your faith or cause you to question it first?

Bozoma Saint John: (34:17)
Yeah, this heavy, this heavy, very heavy! You know what? I love talking about faith and I love talking about my own faith for a number of reasons. One, I think we should talk about faith more often, not that we all need to believe the same thing, I actually don’t believe that. I think we can all believe different things, but I wish we would talk about it more because again, I believe in empathy, I believe in understanding each other’s motivations for why we believe certain things and that we would be better people if we could see somebody else’s experience and therefore understand why they believe some things. You know, your own journey with faith is something that I could turn the camera around and ask you some questions about it because I just want to understand it better or anyone who has a different faith than me, that’s okay. And I feel like that’s why I would love it if people asked me more about that. I think it’d be better for us to understand our faith. Now, my own faith, to the question, has been tested a lot, with a lot of different things that have happened in my life that make me question whether or not there is a God. I have absolutely had a complicated relationship with God in times when I’ve been very angry, disappointed and unbelieving – lots of things. But it’s almost like any other relationship, where it’s a long-term relationship, you’re not always happy with the other person, you’re not always in love and God knows, Listen, and God and I, we talk. God is my homeboy. We talk.

Rana Nawas: (35:56)
You talk and finally come back to each other.

Bozoma Saint John: (35:56)
Oh yeah, we come back to each other. I definitely have a complicated relationship with God and absolutely, when my husband was diagnosed, I was extraordinarily angry with God because my husband was a super religious guy. You know, he was a super catholic. I’m not so much a super religious person. I’m more spiritual in nature but he was super religious. I mean, That man went to mass. He had confession. He, you know, took his communion. You know, like some days he’d be like, come on, let’s go to church. I’m like, yeah, go ahead and pray for me. I’ll be sitting right here when you get back,you know what I mean? And then this super faithful guy was diagnosed with a rare cancer that could not be treated. And I was like, how dare you God, how dare you? There are some horrible people out there in the world. Why can’t they get cancer? Why does this have to be my husband? You know, this incredible man who loves his daughter, who loves his wife like, why? Who’s never done a bad thing to a human being, why him? And it took a lot for me to work through that to understand it. And by the way, no, let me take that back. I still don’t understand it. I don’t understand it. I won’t pretend like I do. But I have forgiven God for doing that to us.

Rana Nawas: (37:23)
Okay. I’m going to shift the energy a little bit.

Bozoma Saint John: (37:25)
Okay. Alright.

Rana Nawas: (37:26)
Thank you.

Bozoma Saint John: (37:27)
This is a fabulous conversation, by the way, You are phenomenal. You’re phenomenal.

Rana Nawas: (37:31)
You’re so kind. What is your big crazy dream?

Bozoma Saint John: (37:36)
Oh, my big crazy dream. God, you have such great questions.

Rana Nawas: (37:41)
I’ve known you for less than an hour and I know you only think big.

Bozoma Saint John: (37:46)
My big crazy dream… I have so many of them, I have so many of them. But you know what’s so funny is I feel like sometimes I feel like I don’t dream big enough. Sometimes I feel like I should dream bigger because I didn’t even dream this right now; this moment right now, I didn’t dream it and I wish I had the capacity to, but I do dream of big things. I dream of having a really significant influence on the world and on people. And I don’t know if it’s fame necessarily, although I can imagine that it probably would have something through that because if you have a lot of influence, people know who you are. And I want to do it in politics. I also want to do it through my philanthropy.

Rana Nawas: (38:38)
Wait, wait, wait, wait. You’re going into politics?

Bozoma Saint John: (38:40)
Yeah. Oh yeah, for sure. At some point.

Rana Nawas: (38:42)
Amazing. I mean, that’s a fantastic plan. I think you are much needed.

Bozoma Saint John: (38:46)
Yeah, at some point. I don’t know where or how, but at some point I will. But yeah, that’s my big dream. You know, I said that I want to have a much more significant impact on the world. I want my name to be unforgotten and so I want to do that.

Rana Nawas: (39:07)
Those are two different dreams?

Bozoma Saint John: (39:07)
Are they?

Rana Nawas: (39:10)
I think so.

Bozoma Saint John: (39:10)
Maybe they are. Maybe they are. They’re somehow tethered, but yeah, maybe they are two different dreams.

Rana Nawas: (39:18)
Yeah. Well, what can listeners do in one minute to help make your dreams happen?

Bozoma Saint John: (39:22)
Ooh, well, Gosh, these are hard questions.

Rana Nawas: (39:28)
I’m sorry but if I can help make them happen, I’d like to.

Bozoma Saint John: (39:32)
Yeah, I love it, I love it!

Rana Nawas: (39:35)
Tens of thousands of people listening right so if you have as ask, go for it.

Bozoma Saint John: (39:35)
Yeah. Well, I think if there’s anything that a person has heard me say or felt touched by, I would love for them to share it. A simple as that: share it – and attribute it to me.

Rana Nawas: (39:53)
Lovely! Brilliant! Thank you. How do you switch off when you feel overwhelmed? I mean you do so much. I follow you on Instagram. You’re always traveling, you’re in fashion, you’re in pop culture, I mean you’re all over the place. How do you switch off? Do you?

Bozoma Saint John: (40:10)
Yes, I do. I do. I love to switch off. I love switching off. Switching off, actually, is also a practice thing for me. It’s not easy, but I do practice it. This is going to maybe sound so simple, but one of them is sleeping. I can escape when I sleep. I don’t often dream that much and so I really find that as an escape and I can sleep at a switch, you know, it’s like all I have to do is tell myself I need to go to sleep and I’ll be out.

Rana Nawas: (40:39)
Oh my God, I hate people like you! I envy you!

Bozoma Saint John: (40:42)
Yeah, it’s a gift. I’m telling you, it’s such a gift but I think it’s also because there are things that I do which have now helped me switch off and calm down, before going to sleep. You know what, I feel like a lot of people who tell me that they can’t sleep, it’s usually because there are things running through their mind or they’re thinking so much that they can’t really fall asleep. And for me, I do active things so that I can go to sleep, like I don’t sleep with my phone near my bed, so it’s elsewhere.

Rana Nawas: (41:13)
This is Arianna Huffington, isn’t it?

Bozoma Saint John: (41:17)
Yes, for sure. She actually bought me a phone bag for my 40th birthday.

Rana Nawas: (41:23)
I’ve seen them, I’ve seen them. They look so cool!

Bozoma Saint John: (41:23)
Yes! So she made me put it in my home office. So I started, and by the way, I had my daughter start doing it too, so that we could do it together. She’s much more of an accountability partner than I could ever be for myself. And so, you know, we put our phones to bed or our devices and I also now read. So, I’ve always been a big reader but I wasn’t doing it before going to sleep. I’d always have the TV on and then “falling asleep to the TV,” which is actually an impossible thing to do for me anyway. And so now I read and it’s usually fiction. I really like historical fiction based on women. And so I’m reading a story about some amazing empowering woman and it usually transports me into some other world where I’m not thinking about my own world. And that usually calms me down enough, where I have now stopped thinking about the work, I’ve stopped thinking about the thing I need to do tomorrow and I’m transporting into somebody else’s reality. And then I don’t know, slowly but surely, out I go.

Rana Nawas: (42:29)
Lovely! So my big takeaway out of this chat is practice confidence, practice speeches and practice sleeping.

Bozoma Saint John: (42:39)

Rana Nawas: (42:39)
There are no accidents, everything requires practice.

Bozoma Saint John: (42:42)
There are no accidents. That’s right. Doctors; I remember when I first realized that their work is called practice, I was like, wait, what? It’s like, wait a minute, so they’re practicing also? They are supposed to be the experts but it’s true. They practice, lawyers practice, lots of people practice. So I practice too.

Rana Nawas: (43:02)
You mentioned reading. What’s a book you’ve recently gifted someone?

Bozoma Saint John: (43:05)
Gosh, you know, I do give books all the time. One that I’m really looking forward to gifting now is a good friend of mine, Elaine Welteroth, just wrote a book called “More Than Enough.” She’s about to go on her book tour. Actually, I think she started yesterday. But in any case, her book is just a collection of learnings about her own journey and she’s a fabulous, amazing young woman and I’m so excited about her. But all of us should know that we’re more than enough.

Rana Nawas: (43:39)
Beautiful! Thank you so much, Boz. This has been really enjoyable. Where can listeners find you?

Bozoma Saint John: (43:45)
Oh, it has been! Well, I’m all over the gram, all over social media – @Badassboz – on Twitter and on Instagram. So find me there.

Rana Nawas: (43:53)
Great! Thank you!

Bozoma Saint John: (43:54)
Thank you so much!

Rana Nawas: (43:55)
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. I’d love to hear from you, so please head over to to give feedback. While you’re there, you can find all episodes and show notes and sign up for our monthly newsletter. Wherever you’re listening right now, do remember to hit the subscribe button to be notified of future episodes and please write a review when you can, to let others know what to expect. Thanks, and have a great day!

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