The beginning of summer symbolises a period of transition for many of us. For some it’s the start of the summer holidays, or a degree, whilst for others it marks the start of a new job. However, what happens when, what should be a celebration of a new beginning, ends up being disrupted by failure?
This summer I spent some time catching up with various people, and a common topic that came up was one of failure. Inspired by this, I decided to document these conversations, whilst enjoying a few bites across London. Moments like this remind me that food is deeper than just simply eating, it actually helps break down barriers and enables people to share their own stories. That’s what this week’s post is about.
In today’s post I talk about dealing with failure, disappointing loved ones and faith, with junior apprentice journalist for the Evening Standard Abbianca Makoni. Reporting for BBC London, the 18 year old has already produced a documentary on Uganda’s failing system, and plans on smashing the industry’s current affairs scene. But, outside of all the success, she shares a story of overcoming several hurdles.I hope you enjoy.
Essie Eats x
Life Bites is a series that aims to inspire through the art of storytelling. Each story is a reflection of the experiences, lessons and successes of the people I meet along the way.
On a sunny breezy Wednesday morning, Abbianca and I stroll into St.Paul’s Haz, a cafe and restaurant conveniently located a mere two minutes away from the station. Opting for the Hot Chocolate and the Freshly squeezed Orange juice, she begins to share her story.
5,000 miles from home, Abbianca Makoni never knew just how much of a roller coaster she would embark on when she arrived in London. Born to successful mother, a practising radiographer, and an academic father, her future was pretty much marked out for her. Convinced that their daughter would also practice medicine, her family would be in for a shock, when she decided to go in the complete opposite direction. “In college I was studying Biology, Psychology and English. At that time in my life I realised I was interested in media and designing things – graphic design”. Coming to this realisation, she decided to act on it, and created her first ever fashion magazine at 15, three years later, in 2018, she had created a total of three magazines. Flicking through the pages of her first magazine, one can see the impressive progression in quality. “I worked with a small team of people, I literally found the models, sorted the advertising and writing from scratch.” As she flicks through the third magazine, she looks up and laughs saying: “Going through each magazine you can see the improvements!”
Convinced that their daughter would also practice medicine, her family would be in for a shock, when she decided to go in the complete opposite direction.
Embarking on her passion
Abbianca felt a deep sense of conflict once she started to realise that a career in medicine seemed less likely, and wasn’t sure how to break this to her family. “They knew about my magazine, but I felt that my family thought it was a hobby, little did they know this hobby would open many doors”. However, for Abbianca the growing conflict could no longer be ignored once she noticed that this was more than a hobby and something she could pursue. “I noticed that the process of making the magazine was something I enjoyed, so I started going for presenting auditions, and applying for journalism internships. I knew my family would have a hard time accepting this, so I actually didn’t tell them about any of the work I was doing outside of my studies for three years!”
I knew my family would have a hard time accepting this, so I actually didn’t tell them about any of the work I was doing outside of my studies for three years!”
Yet, despite feeling the pressure from her extracurricular activities, this didn’t stop her from obtaining good grades in her studies, but little did she know that she would come face to face with her biggest epiphany. “During Year 13, my teacher made sure I attended a trip to the BBC. I met one of the producers who worked at BBC Three and showed her my magazine. She was impressed! For me, that made me realise that I was more talented than I thought and I could reach for bigger places.” She did not lie, Abbianca would go onto achieve bigger things, going on to report for the BBC, work and train with the Evening Standard as well as working with fellow journalists abroad in India and Uganda.
Combined with her faith in God and pure hard work, following a summer of applying for internships, she finally got her first breakthrough. “I got my first major work experience in London Live News. I was persistent until I got a response. After harrassing the information desk, they finally passed on my details and I got a one week internship. During this time, I noticed that journalism wasn’t a joke, it’s about editing, writing and finding stories at the same time. I also learnt that I had to look for work whilst in the office, so I volunteered myself to do various tasks.” Though she learnt so much, she was yet to learn the harsh reality. “I remember walking around and hardly seeing anyone that looked like me, it was a huge reality check when I walked in, it felt like everyone was looking at me, I felt uncomfortable.”
Halfway through her hot chocolate, Abbianca shares the day she finally revealed all to her family. “I spent a long time planning on how to tell them – three years!” She continues, “I compiled a list of the different types of journalist roles and showed them the salaries. I wanted my family to see that money could actually be made in this industry, not just medicine. I just wanted to show that I had thought this out well”. Taking a sip from her warm chocolate, she pauses then blurts out: “They said no”. We both laughed, simply because as an African, this is an all too familiar situation many of us find ourselves in. Despite their initial resistance, her parents eventually gave her the blessing she’d been waiting for.
I feel that another concern for my family was the lack of diversity within the media the fear of will she get a job will she not. And I guess we’ll see haha.
Though it may be easy to attribute her parent’s reaction to ignorance, her mother’s concern was coming from a place of genuine care. Abbianca explains: “She wanted to pass her knowledge of radiography down to me, because she felt she could help me achieve the best and that this was a secure route. Although she wasn’t wrong and radiography is a perfect route for someone who is certainly interested in the hospital and physics field. It just wasn’t for me. I feel that another concern for my family was the lack of diversity within the media the fear of will she get a job will she not. And I guess we’ll see haha.”
On being a creative and a Christian
From the beginning of our conversation, Abbianca was very open about her faith, and spoke about the conflict she is often confronted with when making creative decisions.”When you’re a creative and a Christian you need to find out what your boundaries are. I remember showing my mum my final magazine, she took one look at it, then asked me: ‘What are you representing?’ It made me think and re-edit my magazine, I had to realise that I’m not just representing myself, but my faith also. It made me realise that as much as working with big names is important, staying true to God is more important to me.”
On facing failure
“If I failed before I would dwell on it, I’d tell myself ‘maybe I’m not good enough.” After facing disappointment her view on failure has shifted quite rapidly. “Now, I have an inner peace knowing that if I don’t get that opportunity, then it just isn’t for me, and God has something better.”
For a young woman that has achieved so much at the age of 18, age seemed to play a role in a lot of difficulties she faced. “When I would work with people on the magazine, once people found out about my age, some would undermine my work and doubt me.” Encouraging younger creatives, she added: “Age is nothing but a number, so don’t sell yourself short because you’re the youngest person in the room.”
As the waiter came to collect our empty cups, Abbianca leaves me with a few handful of tips which I will leave with you:
- If you’re a Christian, trust in what God is telling you.
- Be willing to take risks: Send that email, call that company, put yourself out there.
- Believe in yourself and ability: Just because you care about your project or business doesn’t mean others will, so believe in yourself.
- Make a plan, but trust your instincts if things change and don’t go according to plan, learn to adapt.