Chinazo Enigwe tells untold stories of women in African culture

Chinazo Enigwe (photo provided)

Publisher Chinazo Enigwe, 24, created KAMSI magazine because she wanted to see herself. Dubbed “The Black Woman’s Bible,” its where you’ll find the latest trends in African fashion and culture.

In August 2017, Enigwe launched the web series, “Seat At The Table,” a roundtable featuring millennial women who have candid conversations on relationships, feminism and hot topics.

Enigwe says, “Think ‘Living Single’ meets ‘Girlfriends,’ with a splash of ‘Insecure.’ The series is based in the heart of Philadelphia.”

In one episode, the ladies discussed body dysmorphia, toxic relationships and society’s obsession with plastic surgery.

A Nigerian-American, Enigwe graduated from Temple University, earning a degree in psychology. She says she started KAMSI “to tell the untold stories in African culture that not only inspire but lift the community as a whole. To share is to learn is to grow and they encourage others in the community to do the same.”

During a recent interview with rolling out, Enigwe shares how she switched lanes to pursue media arts.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
This career choice has always been a desire of mine. I’ve always been passionate about the entertainment industry – more specifically, acting. In fact, when I was younger, I had dreams of being a famous actress. My parents weren’t big fans of this dream- they wanted a more practical and stable career path, so I decided to put it on hold for a bit. As I grew older, I realized I wanted to leave a legacy; I wanted to be able to leave something meaningful and inspiring behind after my time on earth expires. It all clicked when I heard the someone say, “Be the person you needed when you were younger”. I knew I should do something that empowers. So, one day I was randomly scrolling through my time feed when I saw, yet again, the Kardashians were in some heat for appropriation. Kylie Jenner was posing in a wheelchair for the cover of Interview Magazine. She was criticized because instead of the magazine booking an actual model with a disability, they hired an able-bodied model posing as disabled. I literally thought to myself, “We should just make our own inclusive magazine instead of looking for inclusivity from a brand that refuses to listen and see us”. This became the perfect opportunity to combine my passion for media with my purpose to empower.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
I serve a niche market; that’s what makes KAMSI magazine. To start, there aren’t many magazines (different from a blog) that are dedicated to highlighting African fashion and African creatives. Also, we focus on representing all types of Black women through our web series, Seat at the Table. We try to be as authentic as possible and challenge narrative that black women’s stories can only be told if they live an extreme lifestyle, for better or for worse- usually for worse. Not every black girl is an Olivia Pope or a Cookie Lyon. Although, we still acknowledge people who identify with those characters, there’s also a whole other group of black women that don’t quite fit in either of those boxes.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
One skill to master is patience. When we’re bombarded with everyone’s “overnight success” (that doesn’t really happen overnight, by the way), we assume that our business will take off immediately. That was a mistake I made in the beginning. I later realized that success takes time. I remember seeing one tweet that read “the longer it takes you to get to the top, the longer you’ll stay there”. I firmly believe that. The more time you take to master your field, the more you more you grow as a professional and reach new heights. Trust the process.

Also, what is very conducive to success is having a mentor. You’re not in the business alone and you didn’t create the wheel. Reach out to people who have done this before you and are where you aspire to be. I still struggle with finding a mentor, but in the meantime, I’ve reached out to people for advice.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I’m inspired by what’s happening around me. I watch other people, look at photography or read others peoples work. I get most of my creativity from looking at editorial photos and reading peoples stories. Oh, and definitely music.

Do you think there are widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I’m not sure what misconceptions there are about what I do, but I get hints that people believe that I live a life like Anna Wintour– that my work and life is glamorous but because of the stage KAMSI is in, that’s not exactly the case. This is hard work, long nights, reviewing, editing, planning, rinse, wash, repeat. Glamour is a very small part of this whole thing.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I map out my goals by, first, writing them down and then detailing out what I’ll need to accomplish them. It’s funny because I was thinking about this recently, but it’s hard for me to measure my own success. I have an issue with feeling that I’m doing enough. So, when I do accomplish something, I celebrate, but I also think about how I can be better.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
Even though they aren’t magazine editors like me, and they are a few steps ahead of me, I would still consider Asiyami Gold and Issa Rae peers. Asiyami Gold is a blogger, creative director and all around amazing person. Her vision is similar to mine in reference to photography. Her story is also inspiring. And everyone knows Issa Rae. I truly appreciate her story, where she is now, and all the possibilities of where she can go.

I draw inspiration from the those ladies.

Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
It’ll be hard to narrow it down to two, but I would say my role model is Issa Rae. She penned her first web series Awkward Black Girl and grew to become a critically acclaimed actress, writer and producer. According to her book, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, she pretty much grew up similarly to me. So, it’s always amazing to see a dark skin girl on the forefront in pop culture.

My second role models are a tie between my sisters. Each and every one of them have taught me useful skills that I can apply to my business and my life. My eldest has taught me the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. My second eldest sister taught me to be mentally sharp and resourceful. My sister right above me taught me the practicalities of setting and accomplishing goals.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
It’s not necessarily a book, work or a performance, but it was a class. While I was a student at Temple University, I took a class called “The Black Woman.” During that class, I was introduced to notable women beyond the few that I’ve learned about in high-school. I was also enlightened on the double jeopardy of being a Black woman. That is to be Black and a woman. Black woman are the least protected beings in society; we face racism and misogyny simultaneously. When this enlightened me, it became my duty to put Black women as a priority.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
Whether it’s academically, through life experience,or philosophically, continued learning is important because, until you leave this earth, you are never done learning. There are always new goals to accomplish and you must learn techniques to achieve them.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
I am able, I am enough, and I am loved.

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
My magazine and web series live on technology. KAMSI is a digital magazine and Seat at the Table is a YouTube web series, so I have to constantly be well versed with technology to keep my businesses relevant. For example, I used Google Analytics to understand my demographic and where they come from, so I could better understand how to speak to them.

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
Instagram and Twitter, but mainly Instagram. That’s my brand’s second home, besides our website. Instagram is also where I connect and network with a lot of the people that helped make some of my projects possible.

Please define your personal brand.
My personal brand is intertwined to a degree with the KAMSI brand; the camaraderie of black sisterhood. I emphasize the importance of the nuances between each Black woman and how we are not easily or universally defined. That’s especially because I never fit in a box easily. My brand is also a nod to African creators. Africans are one of the influences within fashion and entertainment industry, but are rarely recognized for that. Because of that, I want to tell our stories.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
Anywhere warm. I always knew that I was not built for the cold even though I’m an east coast girl. I can’t fathom living in a place where cold winds hurt my face. So, I love traveling to places that are generally warm. Like, 70°F or higher.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I want Black Women to win. I mean, we are, but I don’t want us to constantly be under attack and ignored. I want people to see us and recognize that each and every one of us has earned a right to exist the moment we were born. And that there’s no condition to us receiving respect.

If you could change one thing about you, what would it be?
Nothing. Ha! Kidding. I would change my obsession with trying to be perfect. Sometimes being a perfectionist can be helpful with my vision, but sometimes it’s hard for me to be satisfied with the result….sometimes.

What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
I still question what makes an icon. Off the top of my head, to be iconic you have to be charming, relatable, human and most importantly, influential. Beyonce, Rihanna and Oprah definitely achieved this status, in their different ways.

What keeps you inspired?
Understanding God’s purpose for me keeps me inspired. The passion for creative arts, which helps a lot for my brand, music and the love I have for black people.

What scripture(s) are you leaning on?
“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” [Romans 8:23]

I was actually introduced to this scripture fairly recently and it perfectly embodied what I went through and what I expect to come. Last few years have been spiritually and mentally difficult for me. When I went to church and heard this scripture, it was explained that our suffering is to transform us into the person that God intended us to be. It made sense because of my suffering, I’ve gotten closer to God and myself. I was aware of the type of person I wanted to be. This scripture also reminds me that because our suffering is used to transform us, we shouldn’t run away from it. Embrace it, face it and get through it.

How do you stay connected with fans?
I’m still shocked at how random people express their admiration for my brand, but to stay connected I listen to them. I engage with them and listen to why and/or how KAMSI has inspired them.

What’s on your playlist?
Whew! I have a lot of playlists depending on my mood. I have an Afro beats playlist, indie, hip hop/r&b, etc. I have other playlists that includes Sza, Beyonce, Sabrina Claudio, Janet Jackson, Bruno Mars, Cautious Clay and many, many others.

Where did you vacation this summer?
My last trip was Costa Rica. It was amazing experience, needless to say. This summer, I hope to go to the Essence Festival. It’ll be my first time, so I’m really hoping that I go.

For more information on KAMSI and a preview of the next episode of Seat At The Table please visit kamsimag.com

Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

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