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Streets ahead: meet the new generation of female bosses

Interview

From tech to fashion, music and art, young people are setting their own agendas. Here, 10 ambitious women tell Bemi Shaw what really inspires them

Izzy Steven

26, co-founder of Bossy LDN ‘We called the agency Bossy as we wanted to flip the stigma on the word bossy. Being bossy is positive; women need to be bossy. If a man can be a boss women can be bossy! We felt there weren’t enough women being heard in the music industry and they were constantly being put down. We wanted to build a community for women to be heard as well as seen. My family inspires me the most – especially my nana: she is fabulously strong and independent.’


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Nylo Beeharry Mian

22, writer and author ‘My confidence comes in waves. When I’m confident I’m in full ownership of my body and the way I look, unapologetically myself and holding my head high. I started writing at a young age, documenting moments my own way. However, as I grew, writing gave me time to reflect on how I felt, as I didn’t feel I had anyone to talk to. After I had my first exhibition I saw the response I got and it really encouraged me to publish my diary – as honest and raw as it was. If people then resonated with my writing it made me feel a little less alone.’


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Alizé Demange

27, stylist and creative consultant ‘Fashion can give you the power to become any character you want or express any facet of your personality, and that was always a really magical thing about fashion for me ever since I was little. Clothes are a huge part of my confidence because I use what I wear as a statement about myself and how I feel each day. Working on the Maya Jama x Pretty Little Campaign this year has been a career highlight for me. From being asked to consult on the collection to flying to LA to style the campaign, and seeing the ads on the tube – it makes me beam.’


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Kesang Ball

25, co-founder of Trippin ‘I didn’t have any female role models in the tech industry, but as the co-founder of a startup I can create a culture that promotes equality. This isn’t the case for all women, especially those of colour. Tech is still a man’s world, but I feel positive. I started Trippin with two friends. We believe if people travel more and travel better, the world will be a better place. Travel forges connections, opens our minds and reminds us that our differences are what make the world an exciting place. I wanted to put my life and soul into sharing that.’


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Yasmin Shahmir

29, Co-founder at Trippin DJ and artist ‘There was no go-to app or source for the kind of travel I was interested in and I realised I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. The travel scene needed something that felt human, something that represented the wild, magic, spontaneous and unpredictable nature of travel – that’s Trippin. My advice for young women is to stay inspired, read, watch, listen, observe, experience and acquire skills. Picture yourself doing the kind of work you want to do. People want to be around that kind of energy. It’s infectious.’


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Zahra Swanzy

33, publisher of Roadfemme ‘For me, growing up in London I had a certain sureness of myself and my feelings. I was an angsty teen. I felt a freedom in going against what people thought of me. Those qualities of self-assurance, dissent and empowerment are a few things I try to instil in others. Society attempts to conditions us to be passive – especially the youth and especially young women.’


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Babirye Bukilwa

26, actor, poet, playwright, and co-founder of Sistren ‘As a young black woman in this industry, you have to speak your truth, always. The industry will pull you apart. Your face, your talent – even your personality. Reading books and essays from black women has given me validation when the industry has been in denial about being the va-va-voom.’


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Helene Selam Kleih

23, writer, model, presenter ‘I’m currently working on a project titled HIM + HIS. It’s more than a book: I want it to be a means to open and continue discussion on men and mental health. I’m looking for HIM + HIS to be a longstanding platform and forum for men of all ages and backgrounds to discuss and share their feelings of themselves and of life, to celebrate both the highs and the lows; championing their strengths and their weaknesses.’


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Alexa Kesta

23, creative director and co-founder of Wavemag ‘I always knew I had a place in fashion and music, I just wasn’t sure where I fitted. My dad was a tailor. My brother is a music producer. I had both influences around me growing up. I studied and worked in both industries, sometimes for free, which helped me find my feet. I created Wavemag as a lover of both music and fashion. I am completely obsessed with print magazines, from the texture of the pages down to the unique art direction each publication has.’


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Erin Corrian-Alexis

24, designer and artist ‘I’m always thinking about what’s next. I’ve had so many times when I have doubted myself. These are hurdles, but having the bigger picture in mind is key. The best advice I can give is to decide what it is you want and make everything you do contribute to achieving it. Speak about your goal to anyone who will listen and don’t be scared to really want it. Study your craft. Learn as much as you can and ask questions.’

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Words
Bemi Shaw
Photography
Andrew Woffinden
Publication