Young, creative and socially savvy artists and entrepreneurs who are African or of African descent are finding unique and innovative ways to express their worldview. They’re called Afropolitans, and they’re making major moves in several fields—from fashion to technology to film—and starting to get the recognition they deserve. Get familiar with these 10 creative movers and shakers who are squashing stereotypes and repping the Diaspora.
1. MaameYaa Boafo
MaameYaa Boafo, a Ghanaian actress, print model and screenwriter living in New York City, is known for her lead role in the popular Web series An African City. The multitalented actress has also appeared in an off-Broadway production of Walter Mosley’s Lift and the film Bus Nut, which recently screened at the New York African Film Festival.
The avid traveler, who is fluent in three languages, is currently working on her first screenplay, which will be filmed later this year. Her sense of style and use of colors are also impeccable. Take a few scrolls through her Instagram page and try not to fall in love.
2. Blitz the Ambassador
Blitz the Ambassador grew up in Accra, Ghana, where he listened to the sounds of Afrobeat, highlife, jazz and Motown. But his life changed when his older brother introduced him to Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back when he was a young boy.
Inspired by the sounds of hip-hop, Blitz began to shape himself into the rapper he is today. He continued honing his musical skills after moving to the U.S. for college and is fast on his way to international stardom at the intersection of boom bap and African rhythms. In 2014 he released Afropolitan Dreams, which NPR described as a “global party.” His forthcoming Diasporadical EP is expected to drop any moment. Meanwhile, check out his latest single, “Juju Girl":
3. Esosa E
Esosa E is an award-winning producer, writer, actress, health advocate and model who proudly rocks regal, envy-inducing dreadlocks. The stunning Nigerian American plays the role of Ngozi on An African City, and when she’s not working in film, she’s advocating for health and wellness.
Esosa demonstrates the benefits of living a raw vegan lifestyle via her website, Raw Girl in a Toxic World. She is also the author of just a few books, including The Acne-Free Diet, Raw Girl’s Guide to Staying Acne-Free for Life, Parasites Be Gone! Raw Girl’s Guide to Cleansing the Body of Parasites and her latest, Got Veg? How to Thrive on a Plant-Based Diet.
4. Folasade Adeoso
Folasade Adeoso is an artistic Renaissance woman known for stunning images, whether she is the muse or the creator. The Nigerian artist, who grew up in Toronto, is a model, style blogger and graphic designer who is rapidly expanding her repertoire. When Adeoso isn’t traveling, she can be found in New York City displaying her digital artwork or chatting about the latest classic at her Book Club Brunch Series.
5. Kelechi Anyadiegwu
Kelechi Anyadiegwu created Zuvaa because she wanted to see a change in the fashion industry. Growing up in America, Anyadiegwu was hard-pressed to find trendy gear that represented some of the things she loved about her Nigerian heritage. Today, after one year in business, Zuvaa is on its way to becoming the premier online destination for unique African-inspired pieces created by designers from across the Diaspora.
6. Jason Njoku
Nigerian Jason Njoku bears the distinguished title of co-founder and CEO of iROKOtv.com, also known as the Netflix of Africa. IROKOtv.com distributes movies from Nollywood to viewers around the world. The successful entrepreneur didn’t score overnight. After suffering previous business failures and having to move back in with his mother in his late 20s, Njoku regrouped, moved forward with a new idea, and voilà!
7. Abaynesh Jembere
Looking for cool, one-of-a-kind shades? Then look no further than Jembere Eyewear, created by Abaynesh Jembere. The New York City-based designer creates shades influenced by contemporary chic aesthetics fused with inspiration from her Ethiopian heritage.
8. Yagazie Emezi
Yagazie Emezi is a writer, vlogger, cartoonist, photographer and travelista. The Aba, Nigeria, native went to college in the U.S. but is now settled in Lagos, Nigeria, where she runs an eponymous website and YouTube channel, where she offers colorful insight on her personal experiences with traveling, dating, dealing with anxiety and more.
9. Taiye Selasi
Taiye Selasi—who coined the term “Afropolitan”—is the author of Ghana Must Go, a critically acclaimed novel published in 2013 that tells the tale of the complex relationships between members of a Ghanaian family brought back together after their patriarch dies. The author recently partnered with Dove to write a digital book around the beauty brand’s Love Your Curls campaign.
10. Evelyn Ngugi, aka Evelyn From the Internets
Evelyn Ngugi is a hilarious Kenyan-American vlogger and social media maven also known as Evelyn From the Internets. The Austin, Texas, native is popular for her hair tutorials and random videos about the happenings in her life, shot in a way that makes viewers feel as if she’s a close girlfriend. To date, Ngugi has amassed a YouTube following of more than 30,000 subscribers.
Starrene Rhett Rocque is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer who often fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting, B movie heroine. Follow her on Twitter.