Trail-blazing Black Women in Business: Bozoma Saint JohnJan 21, 2021 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Born January 21, 1977, in Connecticut, Bozoma Saint John has become one of the few Black female trail-blazing brand marketing executives and change agents. She spent some of her childhood in her parent’s home country, Ghana, before then moving back to the United States and settling in Colorado Springs, Colorado when she was 14.
Her father, who was a reverend, was a clarinet player and member of the Ghana Army before emigrating to the United States to attend graduate school. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology in 1977 from Wesleyan University. Saint John said in a keynote at First Graduate’s Cap & Gown 2016 that her father is her biggest inspiration. “People who would have seen him on paper would have said he would never achieve," said Saint John.
When Beats was purchased shortly thereafter by Apple Saint John became the Head of Global Consumer Marketing for iTunes and Apple Music. Her time at Apple Music got the media’s attention when she took the stage at the 2016 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and captivated the audience with her passion and enthusiasm, encouraging the crowd to rap along to The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." Buzzfeed named her ‘The Coolest Person To Ever Go Onstage At An Apple Event.’ She moved from Apple to become Uber’s Chief Brand Officer in 2017 but her time with Uber was short-lived, as she moved to Endeavor as Chief Marketing Officer.
“When I got to Uber I was honest in my desire to go and change essentially what I thought was a challenging environment, especially for women and for people of color,” said Saint John in an interview with Variety. “What I discovered was a lot of people who had a desire to do better, honestly, but couldn’t get out of their own way. At some point, it became too overwhelming for me. It became a good lesson for all of us: You don’t need to be the savior, you can save yourself too.” In 2020, she launched an iHeart Media podcast alongside award-winning journalist Katie Couric called Back to Biz with Katie and Boz which explores the ways that thought leaders, CEOs and innovators are responding to the societal shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July 2020, Saint John took another big step in her career and became Netflix’s Chief Marketing Operator. She is also known for her bold fashion sense and style, and actively encourages Black women to show up to work as their authentic selves. “Advice that I have for us, and for Black women, in particular, is that we actually have to own our unique ability and our unique experiences–and tout them,” said Saint John at the 2020 Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Tech virtual summit. “I am doing it and I would like the rest of us to continue doing it–to push, push, push –not to subscribe to what has been told to us that we are supposed to look like and behave like, but to really be who we are and therefore, make room for others when it’s their turn.”
Saint John is a member of the Billboard Hall of Fame, as well as the Hall of Achievement for the American Advertising Federation. She has received numerous awards for work, including Executive of the Year by Billboard Magazine, and featured on Fortune Magazine’s “Disruptors, Innovators & Stars 40 Under 40’ and Fast Company’s ‘100 Most Creative People.’
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.