When Sandra Appiah, 23, and Isaac Boateng, 28, met in New York City and discovered they shared similar challenges in accepting their African heritage, the two decided to team up and attempt to rebrand their continent's image by sharing the positive stories being left untold. Through their biannual publication Face 2 Face Africa magazine, which just published its premiere issue, Appiah, who serves as editor-in-chief, and Boateng, the magazine's publisher, cover everything from politics to lifestyle, entertainment, African fashion and beauty, and issues facing the latest generation coming out of the African diaspora and across the globe.
Here, Appiah and Boateng sit down with BET.com to talk about the challenges they've faced to bring this magazine to life, what's on the horizon for the company and why it's important that these stories be told.
What made you want to start the company?
Sandra Appiah: A few years ago, I met Isaac Boateng and as we shared our experiences growing up in New York City, we realized that we had the same reprehensible story. As a result of the negative portrayal and perceptions of Africa, especially among our peers in school, we weren’t always embracive or proud of our African background. To grow up ashamed of who you really are is the most self-inflicting pain anybody could do to him/herself, so it was a very challenging time for both of us. As we spent hours sharing this experience, we concluded that we must do something. It was our responsibility to redefine Africa and change the story for the generation coming after us.
In 2011, we launched Face2face Africa with the goal of being the pivot for a global movement to rebrand Africa. We started with an award show, the F.A.C.E. List Awards, which has become our annual event where we honor a few iconic afro-descendants and friends of Africa who have made a notable impact in the world. We launched the print magazine, F2FA earlier this year and we are very proud of the reach, demand, and impact it’s already making. We are very proud to be filling the void of a luxurious, contemporary, and holistic pan-African magazine serving as the voice of the emergent generation of afro-descendants.
What are some of the highlights in this first issue?
Isaac Boateng: As a multi-niche publication, we focus on everything from politics and development, to lifestyle, empowerment, entertainment, fashion and beauty. Aside from our stimulating and riveting content, F2FA is really an artistic endeavor that provides something unique and intriguing for every one. Simply put, you wouldn’t want to put it down once you get a copy. It’s a beautifully produced product.
What have been some of the challenges in trying to get this publication off the ground?
IB: We’ve faced the same challenges that any new company without much financial backing is bound to encounter. This was really a social movement for us, driven completely by passion. Investment is essential, but it should not always be a prerequisite for pursuing your dreams. We utilized all our resources to the best of our ability and were not afraid to ask for help. We have a team of dedicated members who all work pro-bono. They saw the bigger vision. So it has been a very long journey for us, but seeing the great impact that we are making makes it all worth it.
Why do you think a magazine with stories like these hasn't been published before?
SA: There are a few African focused mainstream publications that have set the precedent for F2FA. They are all doing fantastic at polishing up the image of Africa. What makes us different and unique is our all-inclusive approach. We are more like the bridge that is connecting all the interesting things happening within the African Diaspora. People are married to the idea that print is dying, and so they see any venture in that arena as a risk. We do also realize that, however, we also realize that the magazine industry is inundated with too many options. You could have more than 20 titles with a similar mission targeting the same demographic. For a publication like F2FA, there is nothing currently out there with our approach and target demographic. We are filling a very important void, and we simply believe that for as long as magazine stands are around, the pan-African community should have a strong presence on there. Also, our focus was not only on creating a magazine, but rather building a brand. We do several events throughout the year, and also have a very active online platform and social media presence.
What's on the horizon for the second issue?
SA: We actually have the cover for the second issue and you'll be very surprised who the cover is. The theme for our next issue is Sankofa: The Surge of Afro-descendants tracing their roots in Africa. We will explore this phenomenon and talk to some of the individuals who were transformed from this rite of passage. The cover is a major African-American star whose life changed after returning to Africa.
Are there plans to promote Face 2 Face digitally?
IB: As a major part of the brand, we are working on building a strong digital presence so we can better serve all audiences across the globe. There should be an app for the magazine soon. Our online division www.face2faceafrica.com is doing extremely well and has become one of the go to sites for news and developments as they happen. We are also very active on social media. We can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @Face2faceAfrica.
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(Photos: Courtesy Face 2 Face Magazine, Courtesy Sandra Appiah)