His nickname at Apple is “Hair Force One,” and CEO Tim Cook calls him “Superman.” Craig Federighi may be stealing all the thunder at WWDC 2016, keeping the world excited with latest technological developments. But it is a certain Bozoma Saint John that the world cannot stop talking about. Who is she you ask?
Saint John is leading Apple Music’s marketing division since April 2014, a short three months after she joined Beats Music and it was acquired by Apple. She took the stage at WWDC 2016 to unveil an Apple Music overhaul that promises to make the app’s media ecosystem easier to use and understand. But all thanks to Saint John’s charisma, what could have passed off as any other address at the star-studded convention turned out to be one of the highlights of the event that the world stopped and took notice. She not only demonstrated the overall developments in the app, but a signature, unmistakable sense of taste.
She turned into a breakout star at this year’s WWDC the very moment she asked the audience to clap along and rap the classic hit, “Rapper’s Delight”.
“We’re gonna make this whole auditorium rock,” she told the crowd. “One, two, three, rock!” This might actually be the first time for a presenter at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
But it turns out that Saint John has always been ‘badass’.
Her path to success was strewn with challenges all along. Born in Ghana, she was 14 when her family immigrated to Colorado Springs, US. She was greatly inspired by her father, who served as a clarinetist in the Ghanaian army and earned his college degree in the US. ‘Boz’, as she is fondly called by her friends, ran for the student council in 10th grade under the slogan “Nuthin but a Boz thang,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, and went on to study at Wesleyan University. She earned a degree in African American studies and English. Before her stint as Head of Marketing, Entertainment and Music at Pepsico, she worked at the fashion brand Ashley Stewart and advertising agencies, Arnold Worldwide and Spike DDB.
“Advertising is an art form,” Saint John told ThriveScribes in a video interview posted on YouTube. In her previous stint where she ran the music and entertainment marketing group at Pepsico, she landed deals with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Eminem. And, wait, the list does not end here, she reportedly convinced Beyoncé to agree to perform at half-time during the Super Bowl in 2013.
Owing to her deep involvement in Adcolor, an organisation which celebrates and promotes people of colour in the ad industry, Saint John became the first recipient of its Rockstar Award. She was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement in the same year. Fast Company included her on its list of 100 most creative people and Ebony listed her among 100 powerful executives. Entertainment media brand Billboard named her one of the top women in music and one of its top 40 executives under 40.
Saint John’s success is not a fascinating one because she is a black executive who is on top. It is simply the way in which she has commanded her life, much like the way she addressed the audience at WWDC.
“She’s singular,” Tiffany Warren, a Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at the advertising and marketing company Omnicom group, told The Wired. She goes on to call Saint John a unicorn, no, not the usual reference to a startup worth a billion-plus. “When you’re an African American woman, and in a very senior role, we talk about how when we walk down the hall, people ask, ‘Wait, did I just see what I saw?’ Because it’s just so rare.” Warren says.
The WWDC 2016 sure wowed the world with it’s path breaking technology announcements, but we are most thankful for the discovery of this hidden gem. It’s about time we address the issue of diversity and inclusion the Saint John way, with sass.