Bobo Matjila, known on Instagram as @thisFashionFiend, is a true renaissance woman whose titles include social media influencer, photographer, model, consultant, and podcast host. She uses brands, ideas, and products to promote self-love and affirming attitudes towards body image and wellness on her social media platforms and podcast show Afrolit.

Since her digital beginnings in fashion, Bobo has worked with global brands including Coach, Sephora, L’Occitane, Nordstrom, Lucky Brand, TopShop, and Glossier in a wide range of digital content capabilities. Eyitemi Popo, Ayiba’s founder, met up with Bobo at Maison Pickle in New York City to learn more about her creative journey.

Have you always been a creator?

When people ask me “when did you start?” it’s so hard to pinpoint because for a long time I was just being myself and unwittingly gained a following. I did a lot of art growing up. Then, I picked up my first camera a few years ago for one of my college art classes. Most recently, my mom bought me a camera as my graduation present and ever since I haven’t been able to put it down.

You have quite the following on Instagram. How did you get started on the platform?

I got on Instagram in college, which was about three or four years ago, because I was going to do an internship in London and my friend suggested it. I was very anti-social media, but my friend insisted saying “how else are you going to communicate? No one uses Facebook.” London has all these colourful walls, which inspired me to take pictures. Also, I’ve always dressed colourfully. I guess it’s my thing. I started to shoot in colourful clothes against colourful backgrounds and people started following me. When I got back to LA, I decided to start a blog because I had so many pictures and not enough space on my phone. Ultimately, blogging was just a lot of work. So, I decided to reassess my situation and focus on instagram.

At the time, I was also a broke student looking for a side hustle, so I started going to auditions and on casting calls in LA – just for fun; to network – and I actually started booking shows. By putting my work on Instagram, designers and photographers wanted to collaborate. I think that’s when I started taking it seriously. It’s been two or three years now, and that momentum has just continued to grow.

That’s really smart. What kind of shows did you book?

I got two bookings on the first few calls – one of them was a hair show. My favourite shoot that I did in LA was with an up-and-coming, underground, androgynous gender fluid designer – Anika Perkins. We met at a casting and she was like “I love your look, let’s shoot together” and that sort of catapulted everything. We did the shoot all over LA. We shot probably five or six looks. It took fifteen hours, but I loved it; it was really fun. We kept in touch and actually went on Project Runway together last year. She didn’t end up going on the full season because she had a conflict with her other business, but yeah – cool things like that would happen. After I got the gig with her, I started collaborating with other designers who reached out to me. I guess that’s what happens when you put yourself out there.

Do your parents understand what you’re doing?

Oh my god, they have no idea. I don’t even know if it’s possible for me to explain that life. It just feels like they’re so far removed from that realm that they don’t really get it. I think now they accept it. They wanted me to be an accountant for the longest time and I was going to comply. I even interned at Ernst and Young in my freshman year of college. I hated it so much! That’s when I decided I can’t live for other people – I have to live for myself. That was a huge turning point for me.

Why did you leave LA for New York City?

For a lot of reasons. For one, I felt like I’d gotten everything that I needed from LA. Look, I’ve been moving around my entire life, so it’s not natural for me to permanently be in one place. I had grown as a person: spiritually, mentally, and physically. I just felt like New York was the next step for me; professionally, but also as far as getting out of my comfort zone.

“I think for me home isn’t defined by geography. It’s just defined by where I feel most fulfilled, where I find most meaning.”

How have you found being an entrepreneur in NYC different than LA?

For one, it’s just a lot easier to hustle in New York. You can get things done. You can go to like 3 or 4 meetings in one day.  You just can’t do that in LA. 

Obviously, in LA you need a car and then there’s traffic and everyone is just really chill in LA. It’s not the same vibe.

I feel like New York is where I really started working with bigger brands and high fashion companies and sort of perfecting my skill.  I think there’s been a lot of business learning for me. So I’ve honed in on what my value proposition is. It forced me to be a photographer because when I moved here I couldn’t find any photographers to work with. So it forced me to really hone in on my skill and my creativity. I do a lot of networking in New York because that’s what this city is about.

How did you figure out what your rate was? For aspiring influencers and bloggers, how can they know what to charge?

That was a process, but also shout out to business school for teaching me that! Basically, I do it through a CPM which is cost per every thousand impressions. It is also important to note that every brand wants different things. Some brands purely want good quality content, and they don’t really care about the numbers. Some brands, that’s all they want. They just want to reach twenty thousand people and how you do it is up to you.

Some brands monitor every single thing like what’s in your caption, the angle that you take your picture at, the type of lighting, they monitor what it is you say in a video that you make. Others are just like here’s a product, create something. It really just depends. The more specific a company is, the more they tend to pay. You just need to factor in all of those things. Also, if your engagement rate higher than the industry average, you can charge more.

Where an hourly rate is appropriate, then you can start from $50 an hour, for example. There are so many different things to consider. Honestly, there is not one set formula, but by googling standard rates and also from my marketing and entrepreneurship classes, I’ve figured out formulas that work for me. Additionally, I also have packages where I can do one to two of a certain promotion for $X and three to five for $Y.

Tell me about your Youtube channel. How does it fit into your brand?

YouTube is sort of like a new thing for me. It’s not my main thing just yet. My goal in life isn’t to be a Youtuber. However, if I can use YouTube to get where I want to be – which is to have my own talk show and to have my own production company – then that would be amazing. It’s a means to an end – which is kind of how Instagram is as well. I genuinely enjoy creating content so whether Instagram existed or not, this is what I would be doing. Right now, Instagram is just the platform that gives me the most visibility.

Tell me more about your long term plans. Where do you ultimately see yourself. What’s the dream?

My brand is all about women. That’s my passion. I’m really passionate about women…about liberating women. I’m not really attached to the way in which I do that, but I know that throughout my entire life everything that I do as far as my purpose and my career will always be oriented around women. It may not always be fashion or media. Just women really. That’s it. I’m going to say more specifically black women. Although I do think that all issues are intersectional, so also queer women, as well as women of colour (even though I hate that term.) And I say black women specifically because that’s the only experience I’ve lived.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m working on my on-camera presence. I feel like I’m still a little bit awkward when I get in front of the camera, so I’m just working on that. And then I want to feature on more shows like the Grapevine TV. I also have a podcast and we’re expanding that to video. All that will help me build up my portfolio.

I’m just going to move in the general direction of what I’m trying to do and I’ll let the universe orchestrate it. It seems to work out better that way.

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