Bozoma Saint John’s ‘badass’ Billboard speech affirms unsung Black women

Bozoma Saint John (IG: badassboz)
Bozoma Saint John (IG: @badassboz)

Bozoma Saint John is a rock star. Heading Apple Music’s global consumer marketing division, Saint John had all the “sistahs” doing holy ghost dances and slapping high-fives this past weekend. Boz, pronounced Bōz, is a “badass” boss. You ain’t her friend if you call her by any other name. And as for being badass, it’s a self-proclamation that no one can challenge. The tech princess, whose family hails from Ghana via Colorado, was named the 2016 Executive of the Year by Billboard Women in Music and she received her well-deserved standing ovation and songs of praises this weekend. The video of the speech she delivered at New York’s Pier 36 went viral ahead of Lifetime airing it on Sunday night, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. It placed the spring back in this writer’s step all day on Sunday.

“I’d really like to accept this award for the s-i-s-t-a-h-s,” she says emphatically. “The sistahs at Apple — the smart, tech-savvy, pop culture experts — who boldly defy the Silicon Valley stereotype every single day to be heard,” she says after she marched on stage to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

Saint John is the hidden figure behind the greatest Apple Music commercial of all time featuring Taraji P. Henson, Mary J. Blige, and Kerry Washington. The three-part promo was #blackgirlmagic at its best. She also worked behind the scenes in arranging Beyoncé’s performance during the Super Bowl in 2013. The 39-year-old, who stands tall at 6-foot-1, was once the head of music and entertainment marketing for Pepsi.

The world took notice when she became the first Black woman to present at an Apple event. She commanded the stage at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, grooving along to “Rapper’s Delight.”

Here’s her Billboard acceptance speech in part:

A Girl is a Girl’s Best Friend

“Don’t let the myths make you believe that women don’t support other women. People might tell you that you have to wait your turn, but I’m here to tell you to say no. We’re knocking these dudes out of the way to make room for you.”

Prayer Changes Things

“To the sistah who I call ‘mama.’ Ma, your prayers have covered me my entire life. I know it’s the reason I stand here today. You create protection over my life and you pray to block the haters. That’s a lot of prayers. You also prayed that doors would be open for me. I am here standing as a testimony to your faithfulness.”

Love Conquers All

“I want to thank the sistahs who chose me. They are the ones who dance all night in celebration when I am in my highs and they will fight you if you say anything about me; they have my back. They are the ones when my husband died who camped out in my living room. They cooked in my kitchen. They slept at the foot of my bed and they spoon-fed me back to life on the strength of their love and I thank you so much.”

(Saint John lost her husband Peter to cancer three years ago. This past weekend also marked the actual third anniversary of his death.)

She Makes No Apologies

“Regardless of the political climate, we’re not waiting ’till next time, This is our time — I ain’t sorry.”

Saint John has been inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement. She majored in English and African-American studies at Wesleyan University and has one daughter, Lael.

Check out the video on the following page. 

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