The enormous crystal chandelier that hangs in the foyer of Bozoma Saint John’s Los Angeles home gives a dramatic first impression, but it’s no less dramatic than the homeowner herself. Almost six feet tall in bare feet and wearing her signature bright prints with matching fuchsia lip gloss, Saint John (Boz to her friends) is every bit as striking giving a tour of her new home as she was onstage being honored as Executive of the Year at Billboard’s 2016 Women in Music awards last winter.
When asked about the hot pink curtains in her master bedroom, Saint John, 40, a woman whose résumé name-checks her tenure at some of the world’s biggest brands, explains her reasoning. “I’ve worked hard for my life,” she says. “No one gave me anything. This house is a reflection of that. It belongs to me and to [my daughter] Lael, so I can make it as feminine and bold as I am. Because I can!”
Saint John’s new role as chief brand officer for Uber makes her a unicorn in Silicon Valley: She’s one of the very few black female C-suite executives in tech. But to earn her place in the pantheon, Saint John has overcome challenges that would have stymied most mortals.
When Saint John was five years old, a coup d’etat forced her family to flee their native Ghana and seek political asylum in the States. They ultimately settled in Colorado Springs, and Saint John developed an encyclopedic knowledge of all things pop culture to make friends. Landing a job with Spike Lee’s advertising agency after graduating from Wesleyan University (where, as an undergrad, she taught a course on Tupac Shakur), she went on to develop a relationship with Beyoncé that eventually resulted in Saint John initiating a complex $50 million deal for Pepsi to sponsor the singer’s 2013 tour and the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show.
But Saint John’s professional triumph was accompanied by personal tragedy; her husband died of cancer that same year. Needing a change, she jumped to headphone company Beats. Shortly thereafter, Apple acquired Beats, and Saint John became the head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes. Now she’s on to beleaguered super-brand Uber.