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Bozoma Saint John Learned the Importance of Standing Out From Hot Pepper Soup

October 23, 2019, 4:09 PM UTC

Marketing star Bozoma Saint John says her success has come not from assimilating to match the cultures she’s encountered but by staying true to her roots.

After moving to the United States from Ghana as a child, Saint John, the chief marketing officer at Endeavor, the holding company for talent agencies WME and IMG, learned from her mother not to de-emphasize her upbringing and culture. When school friends came for a sleepover, Saint John said she wanted to order pizza to fit in, but her mom served homemade hot pepper soup.

“Throughout my life and then throughout my career, I have been able to move into spaces in which maybe it was expected for me to assimilate into a culture,” Saint John, who has also worked at Apple and PepsiCo, said on Wednesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. “Whereas, I said no…and made sure it felt like I was showing up and not dimming it down for anybody else.”

Saint John left Uber last year to join Endeavor. She had previously worked at Apple, focusing on the company’s streaming music service launch, and at Beats (which was acquired by Apple), PepsiCo, and Spike Lee’s advertising agency SpikeDDB.

In marketing, Saint John said she is trying to connect with the authentic emotions of consumers, whatever they may be. “I certainly lead with my heart, lead with my gut, sometimes in ways which people don’t agree with or don’t trust,” she said.

Saint John, whose Twitter handle is @badassboz, moved from Ghana to Colorado Springs, Co., at age 12 and grew up as the eldest of four sisters. “My mother in her power was very conscious of making sure we knew what and who we were and how unique and special and wonderful that is,” she said.

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