Nikki Igbo, the Writing Goddess, took time off from her heavenly writing to share her story with me. She is the Features Editor at Radiant Health Magazine and the co-host of the fun and enlightening podcast, Rappin Atlanta.
1. What is your profession?
I am a freelance writer and editor. While I produce journalistic content for print and digital publications, I also provide copywriting and copy editing for small to large business clients. In a nutshell, I tell stories of people and brands.
2. Why/how did you get into this profession?
In undergrad I majored in Political Science and the most important lesson I learned is that people who want power or who want to connect with the broadest audience make sure that their story is the most relatable, the most compelling. I also learned that changing the power dynamics by supporting and uplifting true social justice in America is more likely to be accomplished through art and mass media than within government corridors.
A year out of a college, I found myself working in advertising selling on-air radio campaigns for businesses in Las Vegas, and I was applying the same writing skills I learned in Political Science to my radio copy. After winning several awards for my radio copywriting (I once wrote a commercial for a medical spa about a woman who was hit on by a chimp because her legs were super hairy), I moved to a boutique public relations firm. The more I wrote for business and political clients (I worked on local and state political campaigns in Nevada), the more comfortable I became with telling personal stories of the things I did and witnessed while living there.
Las Vegas was wild---but also complex. I began blogging about my nights on the town and was surprised to get readers and followers from all over the globe. One of the most touching comments I received on a blog post was of a father who was not able to see his daughter perform during a music recital I attended at UNLV. With that comment and the growing popularity of the blog, I realized the power and reach of my own perspective. From there I started researching how to become a professional writer who could make money independently while producing my own stories. Time and circumstance led me to the writing program at SCAD where I received my MFA and learned more about the resources available to get my personal writing out into the world.
3. What did you hope to get out of this career as a professional and on a personal level?
What I still hope is that I can present a perspective and a story that isn't being told often or broadly enough. When I watch television or read popular books, I very rarely see myself in those forms of media. I believe that this is slowly but surely changing online with the rise of social media and the proliferation of people of color expressing themselves through social media--but there still seems to be so much misinformation (or very little information at all) about what it is to be a black woman, a black woman in love, a black wife, a black mother, a black female entrepreneur, a black female literary artist, a black female political activist. I've had the pleasure of attracting clients and opportunities whose stories I can craft to communicate some of these messages but I sincerely believe the world is waiting to hear my personal story. I hope to leave behind a collection of writings that give an honest and inspiring account of the black female experience, and I hope that those writings don't fade or pass away with a history that seems to want to ignore women of color and their unique contributions to our world.
4. What is something unique (ex: perspective, skill, personality) you bring as a writer or professional in the industry?
No one else has lived the life I have lived. Yes, any person breathing can and does have the right to say the same BUT the story I have can't be told by anyone else in the way I tell it. My voice, the humor, the bluntness, and the words I choose to communicate an idea, memory, place, feeling, event is truly individual.
5. What do you wish you would have known about your profession before you started working in it?
Personal writing is hard. Not because stringing together a sentence has its challenges but rather because telling a true and raw story can be emotionally taxing. It is a big and necessary responsibility to express the human experience with vulnerability and clarity; it is not for the shy or faint of heart.
6. Do you feel you are compensated fairly for the work you do?
With my personal writing, no. As I stated previously, personal writing is hard. Good personal writing that reaches and connects is practically a miracle, and exacts a heavy and expensive emotional toll.
7. What are some obstacles you have faced in your profession as a woman of color?
I would say that every woman who chooses to have children, regardless of color or profession, must contend with the challenge of juggling career and child-rearing. Writers are sensitive. I am sensitive. I always want to go and give my best to who and what I love but I only have so much time, so many arms, and so many places to stash unwashed laundry.
8. What are some opportunities you have come across in your profession as a woman of color?
As I briefly noted above, I have had the fortune to attract other women of color as clients. And because I am a black woman with dark skin and kinky hair and a lifetime of experiences that can only have happened to a black woman like me, I've been the right writer to communicate these messages.
9. What advice would you give to women of color who want to follow your career path?
If you truly want to do this thing I do, it's got to be a passion. Ain't no half steppin'. You have to love it even when it's not quite loving you back the way you want it to. You have to be willing to fail and be humbled while still knowing that you will continue to rise. And even as you are being humble, you have to have the biggest ego and the strongest audacity to turn your whisper into a resounding shout.
10. Anything else you would like to add.
If you are a woman of color who writes, support other women of color who write. They aren't your competition--they are your fellow sisters in arms, and they understand the struggle like no other can or will.
Thank you Nikki for sharing your wisdom and experience with us!
You can learn more about Nikki on her website www.nikigbo.com and find her on Twitter @nikki_igbo.
If you’re a fan of the hilarious T.V. show Atlanta on FX, you need to go listen to Nikki’s podcast Rappin Atlanta right now.