Influencer [@theayoabigail] Talks Heritage, Style and Building Her Brand

As a self-proclaimed awkward black girl, being an influencer may not have been the career choice Ayo initially saw for herself but as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons…

Before lockdown, Ayo decided to drop out of school due to the financial strain of studying in America. During that time Ayo pivoted to focusing on utilising social media and growing her 3000 followers by consistently sharing her personal style.

Fashion became a productive outlet for Ayo to channel her creative energy into and connect with her audience on topics like mental health, love and beauty.

Seven months later, Ayo has cultivated an engaged following that is ten times the size it was when she began to take social media seriously, firmly establishing her influencer status.

I spoke to Ayo to discuss all things influencing and working towards her goal of going back to school.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background

I like to describe myself as a coconut oil drenched, extra Hot Cheetos obsessed, thrifty but nifty Naija baldie from the MidWestCoast. 

I was born in Wisconsin but found myself, my fashion, and love for performance in LA. (We’re getting Oscars all 2020, baby!) I grew up in a Nigerian household, where my parents would always say “we might be in America, but when you walk into this house, you’re in Nigeria.” So knowing who I am and embracing every aspect of it, has always been the goal. I’m a self proclaimed 90’s baby and my art is my life.

How do your experiences growing up in the US as well as your Nigerian heritage influence your style? 

I have the privilege of being a part of one of the most colourful cultures in the world. From the flavours in our food to the cadence in our music, to the ebbs and flows in our innumerable languages and of course our clothing. Have you ever seen a traditional Nigerian wedding? You will witness colour combinations that you didn’t even think were possible. That’s what I grew up with; watching my parents get ready for church was like front row at fashion week. 

Being Nigerian myself, I know my parents don’t fully understand what I do although they are supportive – Do your family understand your job and how do you share what you do with them?  

Oof, I’ll be honest, my parents are on a very need to know basis when it comes to my career. I learned long ago that living for the understanding and or approval of others just isn’t sustainable. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have a support system. I lucked out with my sisters who I have been living with and been fully supported by since I was 15. Without them, I literally would not have the courage to be who I am today.

My parents are still a big part of my journey and I’ve had some really great conversations with my mom, we don’t always agree and I don’t think either of my parents fully understand but there’s a respect there for sure.

Being regularly active on social media can have an impact on mental health and your profession depends on it – do you have any tips for finding a healthy balance when using social media?

I’m still trying to find the balance to be completely honest. Especially in this day and age, where so much of the information we receive and share about the world and our lives is online. There’s this delicate line we have to tow with wanting to be informed but not wanting to be overwhelmed with the information. 

I wish I had this amazing list of ‘must do’ ways to relax but I don’t. Some days it’s staying off my phone completely, other days it’s limiting what I take in, and occasionally it’s just taking comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in what I’m feeling. Most importantly, I remind myself that I’m not selfish for needing a break, I’m human.

You’re aiming to go back to school, what do you hope to achieve on that journey?

Monetized learning is a scam. And while it’s slightly cheaper in the UK an education is still too expensive for literally no reason.

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My personal educational journey was challenging all on its own; money shouldn’t have played such a pivotal role in my experience…but it did and coupled with the onset of COVID, going home and pausing on school just made the most sense. During quarantine I was able to focus on my brand and my art. I began taking my socials more seriously and using it as a way to discuss the things that are important to me from fashion to fragilities.

I was able to be vulnerable in ways I never thought I could…and people actually resonated with it. Of course there is a part of me that really wants to get back on campus and be in that world again but I understand that there is no expiration date on that part of my life. I’m building something important, right now, that can very well provide me with the support I need to get back to that chapter in my life. So as far as achievements go, I just want to see where this path takes me.

Influencing is still a new industry that many people have come to see as a viable career. There aren’t really standards or transparency on how being an influencer works. In your experience what should be made more apparent about being an influencer?

It’s not you. It’s the algorithm. I’ve seen a lot of people get discouraged or take it personally when they don’t see growth, or their engagement declines, but honestly social media is hard and the algorithm is constantly changing; a lot of time not in favor of creators of color. You just have to keep at it. Don’t stop creating, if it’s something you really enjoy doing, keep at it. The numbers don’t define you. Share your art, find your community, connect with them and appreciate them. 

Can you tell us about any projects you have coming up?

One thing that I’m really excited about is building the lifestyle side of my brand. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing Black owned businesses, some gorgeous hotels and amazing clothing brands so I’m really excited for people to see that. Stay tuned on my page and be on the lookout! There’s a lot more to come.

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