#BlackGirlMagic, the hashtag coined by Cashawn Thompson, is used to celebrate and illustrate all that is glorious about black women. Search the term on any social media platform and you’ll find images and stories of success, brilliance, and pure beauty.
So to celebrate UK Black History Month, we spoke to 10 black women who are magical in so many ways.
Women’s boxing champion Nicola Adams is truly magical. She walks into the room flashing her beautiful smile and it’s hard to believe that someone this small (she's 5'5") can contain a fast shuffle and a knockout punch. “I started boxing by accident when I was 12," she says. "My mum took me to an after-school boxing class after she couldn’t get me a babysitter, and it all kicked off from there." Twenty-two years after that class Nicola has an MBE and a place in history; she was the first female boxer to represent Team GB in the Olympics and the first to retain the title. To add to that, she is the first boxer, male or female, to have won European, world, Olympic, and Commonwealth championships.
In contrast to her dynamic energy in the ring, Nicola is more laid back in person. She speaks very humbly of her success, and credits her mum for where she is now. “When I started boxing it wasn’t an Olympic sport, so I have no funding. My mum paid for everything. The training, boot camps, the kit – it was tough. But it was all worth it.”
Julie: Ask me if I’m an orange.
BuzzFeed: Are you an orange?
Julie Adenuga’s introduction to our interview is just what's needed to put everyone in the room at ease. “That’s my favorite joke ever,” she explains. Julie is funny, open, and relentlessly upbeat. She is a presenter for Beats 1, Apple’s 24-hour radio streaming service. “I love to talking to people – it could be an audience, a stranger, or an artist. I just love talking to people, and I love music, especially British music."
Julie’s radio career kicked off at the pirate turned legal station Rinse FM. While DJing there she also worked part-time at the Apple Store. “I feel like working at the Apple Store was a turning point for me," she says. "It was a place where I could start again, and be me. It was such a fun place for me to work." The irony of going from Apple’s shop floor to hosting its first radio station is not lost on Julie. “It’s funny, really, going from work in the store to presenting. The opportunity was insane for me. And for it to be an Apple radio station was amazing. I was so happy at Rinse, and if it was another company that approached me, I might not have taken the job. But I knew I would be in good hands with Apple.”
Julie credits her mum for her magic. If you don’t know about Mrs Adenuga, you really should get to know. “My mum is nuts and she taught me to always be a better me, to not be comfortable and to work for better. I’m always trying to be a better version of myself."
Just scroll through Bolu’s Twitter and a couple of tweets in you will see what she is: smart, funny, and really good with words. Which helps when you're a writer. Having made huge strides working as an assistant producer for BBC Three comedy, Bolu decided to fully commit herself to writing. And with her short story "Netflix and Chill" being shortlisted for the B4ME Guardian competition for unpublished BAME writers, this proved to be a good choice.
Within the first few minutes of talking to Bolu, I realise how truly magical she is. Her positive vibes and energy fill the room; she is confident and unapologetically black. “Let your voice be louder than the voices telling you no," she says. "Be a noisy black girl. Force people to recognise your presence.” And this is her response when I ask what advice she has for young black girls: “When I worked in television, I was the only black girl and almost all the TV shows I was working on had a white narrative. This made me realise that my black voice, and black views were very important and shouldn’t be silenced.”
Bolu prides herself on being audaciously herself, and when I ask her why she's magic, she replies: “I do not adhere to what people say or think I should be. I am comfortable in my skin. I used my voice as a tool and I refuse to be silenced.”
At the age of 16 Maya moved from Bristol to London hoping to reach her presenting goals, and she has done just that. “I started presenting really young and I missed out on what my friends were doing," says Maya, now 22. "I had to leave my comfort zone and chase my dreams.” She is a TV, online, and radio presenter, and she can be found on shows for 4Music, Rinse FM, Vevo, and CBBC. She is an entertainer and this is clear from meeting her. She is down to earth and fun, and she loves a chat. “It wasn’t till I left my part-time job in retail and was able to present full-time that I realised I was doing okay. It was then I felt comfortable to tell people I’m a presenter. I still have a lot to do, so I won’t say I have really made it.”
Maya is made for television: She has a presence that fills the room, she is beautiful, funny, and really smart. At just 16 she wasn’t afraid to follow her dreams and be herself. “I’m very sure of myself and I have been from a very young age. I got told no a lot and I never got disheartened, I just kept at it.”
“I defend vaginas.” That is Nimco’s response when I ask how she defines what she does for a living. Having personally gone through female genital mutilation, Nimco has made it her life’s goal to end FGM. She founded Daughters of Eve, a nonprofit organisation that protects girls and young women who have gone through FGM or are at risk of it.
“I’m Muslim, black, from a refugee background, and I’m a feminist. I have faced a lot of struggles doing what I do. A lot of what I do is in the public, so I face backlash from social media a lot, I deal with it by reminding myself of the girls I do this for.” Nimco was 7 when she was mutilated. She went from her home in Manchester to Djibouti on what she thought was a family holiday. She remembers being in a small room and a woman dressed all in black standing over her, and then she remembers waking up confused. “For me I’m magical because of my strength," she says. "I have been through so much and I keep on carrying on. I keep surviving."
You can’t help but feel motivated around Nimco. She is passionate about helping young black girls around the world, and she encourages them to be strong and not to be silenced. “Speak up, even if it’s with a shaky whisper, speak up, and be kind to yourself. That’s what I will tell black girls: Love yourselves and be kind to yourselves."
You know the saying "jack of all trades, master of none"? Well, that doesn’t apply to Mercedes. She works on a range of projects and she does them all so well. She's a social media manager at Google, a music curator, a gig promoter, a DJ, and the founder of Future SNDS, a platform designed to support emerging music artists across the UK. “I like to call myself a renaissance girl," she says, "so anything I’m passionate about, or I want to know more about, I will end up doing it.”
In her own right, Mercedes has become one of London’s biggest tastemakers. She embodies effortless coolness, in her style and in her flawless mermaid green hair. “I love people, I love connecting people together, especially people that share my passion and interests," she says. "I appreciate people’s individuality and I get inspiration from it.”
You can’t doubt Mercedes’ magic. "I get so excited by black girl magic; it’s about owning who you are, owning your passions, your ambitions, and actioning them. For me I’m magical because I have brought all my dreams to life.”
Gina is a fit woman. She turned up to our interview in an Adidas jumpsuit, showcasing a body I could only dream of. She has the confidence of someone who is proud of the body she worked for, and rightly so. Gina, or JustGeen, is a personal trainer and the owner of a food prep service.
She started working out as a way to cope with a bad breakup, and what was once an emotional outlet is now a business. “I started going to the gym to get over my ex and I just got obsessed with it. I had always struggled with my weight and seeing the difference working out made was amazing. So I started learning about health and fitness, I trained as a PT, and I got myself educated in food and nutrition. I posted my journey on Instagram and I received good feedback. So I turned it into a service and the brand JustGeen took off from there."
Of course the journey wasn’t plain sailing – “Some people didn’t take me serious, and people didn’t understand my vision,” Gina explains. “I got told I shouldn’t lift weights, I got told I look too manly and that I wouldn’t get a husband. I overcame all of this by reminding myself that people are not meant to understand my vision and dreams, because it’s not their dream.” And with a grin on her face and an air of determination she says: “I will keep on working out and I keep on building my brand. I have no plans of stopping.”
“First and foremost, I’m a mother. I also run a PR and marketing company, Sightracked, I’m a journalist, and I'm DJ on BBC 1Xtra.” Sian Anderson has a lot going on, and she does it all brilliantly. She is well respected in the music industry and as a publicist, having worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, and P Money and helped bring them to the attention of major record labels. She is also the go-to girl for upcoming and established grime artists. “I love grime music and I play grime on my radio show. I am also a '90s baby so I love hip-hop and R&B, so I love to mix the both.”
Sian worked at Rinse FM before moving to the BBC and it was then that she started taking DJing seriously. “I have done so many DJ gigs since I started taking it serious," she says. "I did Warehouse Project, which was a massive goal for me, and I did Glastonbury, which was huge for me.”
Sian is basically bossing it at life and she dismisses anything and anyone who tells her she can’t do anything and everything. “I work really hard to be good at what I do, I am mentioned amongst great DJs like Madam X, DJ Flavour D – actual amazing DJs – and it’s great.” Sian is very humble when talking about her achievements; she knows she has done amazing things and is determined to do more. “There is not enough time to do everything I want to do, but every so often I sit down and think about all that I have done. Sometimes I just think, You DJ'd at Glastonbury.”
Like many graduates, Lola finished her studies and found herself with a degree and no job. “I had a degree in creative writing, and I wanted to get my work seen, so I needed a website. But I was on jobseekers' allowance and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to build it, so I taught myself how to do it.” It was while building this website that Lola realised how much she enjoyed coding and building, and it was the website that prompted her career change.
After getting trained and securing a job in technology, Lola realised that although the word "diversity" was used a lot in the tech world, black women were missing from the conversation. This is the reason why she decided to start Blackgirl.tech, a space for black girls and women to explore and learn about technology. “I grew up in a predominately black area, the kids in my community were black, the kids in my school were black," she says. "So I’ve been in a place where people were not challenged or exposed to certain things and career options, and I want to do my part to change that. I want to introduce black girls to the world of tech.”
Kay Davis is an artist and textiles designer, and she embodies just that. Her earrings, which she made herself, make me squeal with excitement. Her art is bold and it represents a part of black culture and identity. “I went to Central Saint Martins and it was being there that I realised how black I was, and I embraced that with my art," she says.
Kay oozes coolness, and it’s hard to imagine her being anything but an artist. “My mum didn’t see being creative as a job. It was a real struggle getting my parents to understand me as an artist. I had to teach my mum to support me and my art.” Since deciding to follow her dreams as an artist, Kay has made huge leaps, including selling her work at Afropunk in New York and London. “New York Afropunk was huge for me," she says. "It was the first time I had sold my art. I had gone from having my art in my bedroom to actually selling it.” You can see from the smile on her face that this moment meant the world to her.
Kay’s art alone is proof that black girl magic is real. “My magic is a feeling; it’s my superpower. It’s being in a system that tells me no, and still doing it. It’s being a good person and sharing my light."