She may be most recognized for her infectious online personality, but the Nigerian-born creator wants the world to know that she, like many black women, is extremely multifaceted. She passionately rejects the idea that women have to fit into stringent, one-dimensional boxes, and she wants the work she does to reflect that. Ibrahim is set to earn her masters in International Affairs and Peace and Conflict Studies later this month (via virtual graduation) and she hopes to use both her platform and her degree to support charity work in Nigeria and beyond—proving she truly has “the range” both online and off.
We caught up with The Odditty to discuss her growing platform, content creation in the time of COVID-19, being a proud “baldie,” dealing with labels and more. Read our conversation below.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Image courtesy of The Odditty.
When did you first start build your online presence?
I started creating content in March 2017. It was super nerve-wracking. I had another friend who was a Venezuelan blogger who pushed me to do it. I wanted to create a community for women to feel confident, inspired, and to truly celebrate uniqueness and imperfections and learn to have fun with themselves. That was the premise.
I’ve blogged for three years now, but I’ve created a lot more video content during quarantine, because of the life we are living in. I used to do all of that craziness on my Instagram stories but I had a lot of folks telling me “we want you to do more on your feed.” That’s what led me to start sharing content on more of a larger scale, in terms of posting my IG feed and on Twitter. It’s been great so far. It’s been exciting.
Why did you decide to call yourself The Odditty?
So I actually have two lives: I’m getting my masters in International Affairs, and in that field you don’t have a lot of fun—[on top of that] I’m a black woman [in that field] so I can’t be goofy, I can’t try on Fashion Nova outfits. I can’t be smacking my head on the video and laughing at myself and then also say, “I’m the program manager for the United States, blah blah blah.” It just feels like it doesn’t fit, so I had to create a moniker for myself and a base for me to celebrate that weird par of me. I need that escape—that’s what it gives me.
How did you be comfortable with embracing your weirdness?
I’m not always comfortable. I haven’t posted a video in about a week or so because I’m still shy. I’m like, “Oh my God, they’re going to judge me for being weird.” I still get those moments where I’m second guessing myself and second guessing being able to show who I am and promote the message I’m trying to share. It’s a work in progress, but I really began to embrace who I was when I graduated from undergrad. I moved to DC by myself and had to make new friends and sort of reinvent myself. It had start owning it, and saying “this is me, I’m the girl who enjoys being who she is. I love having my hair cut. I love doing this, I love doing that.” I think the summer of 2018 was the year I decided to own who I am and enjoy every minute of it.
Speaking of cutting your hair, your “don’t rush” challenge, featuring a group of fellow “bald baddies,” was amazing. What was your reaction to the response that it got originally?
It was honestly surprising. I’ve received very mixed responses to being bald. I always get compliments and I do get a lot of women who have sent me pictures of them bald, saying “Oh my God, you’ve inspired me.” But before the “baldie revolution” and even before the Don’t Rush challenge, some people would be like “Do you have cancer, or are you transgender? Why are you built that way?”
People are really disrespectful. But, all of us in our group just said, “we’ve got to rock it for the bald, girls.” We had girls with fades, no fades, girls with skin-cut bald heads, and with short dyed hair. [We] just showed the versatility in our look. And the beauty in being from different places around the world, all built differently from the skinny, to the thick and everything in between.
Why do you think your content has been resonating with people so much during this time?
I don’t know. I was just like, “why are people suddenly interested in my nonsense [laughs].” I think it’s a welcomed distraction, and that’s exactly what I wanted to give people during this time. Being able to say like, “hey don’t think about the news and everything and Trump and the stupidity is happening all over the world. Look at me, not in my head. Look at me, rocking those dresses, acting a fool, look at me telling you to be confident.” And it helps a lot of women and men, and everyone else, just feel powerful.
If you have a space where you can make people laugh, take advantage of that and show people it’s still possible to exist in a space where you don’t drive yourself crazy worrying so much. I’ve been in such a rut in the past week, catching up on assignments and doing work and all that, but I’m so excited to create some content this weekend cause that’s my distraction too. I don’t do this all the time, but I watch my own videos myself and I’m like, “girl, you crack yourself up.”
Image courtesy of The Odditty.
Would you consider yourself an optimist?
You know what I say, I say I’m a “smile-list.”
Even if I don’t see things in the best, most positive light, every time I think about something negative I remind myself to just smile. I think smiling releases some endorphins that just generally make you feel better. I’m that weird person who is in those [hard] places and I’ll just smile it off, it’s helped me a lot, just to see things differently.
I just remind myself that throughout everything, there’s always going to be something at the end of it. I was super sad about not being able to graduate [physically], but then I was like, I have my degree still and that’s super exciting. That’s something to celebrate. I am going to walk—I’m going to walk across that living room.
For other content creators who may be curious: which platform have you found the most effective when it comes to sharing your content and reaching people?
This is varied. I started off with Instagram and it’s my most engaged community. I’ve grown my Odditty fam through Instagram and we have real connections. I know people when they graduate, when they give birth, when they get married, that’s my community. [Whereas] Twitter has become more instant success, where you post something funny and immediately get people excited. Right. I have a lot of followers on Twitter, but I always say like my most engaged following is on Instagram. I think TikTok, Twitter and all these other apps are quick tools for virality, but at the end of the day, they’re sending people back somewhere. If that’s not Instagram, it can be, a YouTube channel, your website, or a blog. I think Instagram, because it has more of an interface, allows people to connect further. I remember going viral on Twitter and then doubling my Instagram following in less than a week.
I’m assuming you’ve seen a direct increase, in terms of your following, during the quarantine?
Yeah, I think I’ve quadrupled. I went from 2,000 followers on Twitter to 104K. It’s ridiculous how many people engage right now, but everyone’s on their phones. It’s all really fast and people have short attention spans now. No one is trying to follow you intentionally—they’re just trying to get a quick laugh. Being able to capture people in that moment when they need something is important. I just enjoy engaging and being that space for people to find laughter.
Image courtesy of The Odditty.
You’re a professional with an advanced degree now, but given the success of The Oddity, would you ever consider making the full shift to content creation?
I totally imagine being one of the “Tracee Ellis Ross’s” of the world. Someone who does such incredible work around the world with charities, foundations and so on, but you also see their quirky side. She’s unique in her approach to so many things. That’s the kind of experience I want to give people.
If I have the resources from my masters degree and I’m doing work around the world, and I also have this platform, I’m hoping that I can [combine] them together. If I know how to hone it in my platform, I can then share my resources with people around the world. I had my first event, a “Nigerian Story Time” where [all the proceeds] from the event went to the winner’s choice. It’s little things like that where I’m getting this opportunity and I’m going to give it back.
Your bio on your website reads “you must have found me from my goofy videos on Twitter or my fire pictures on Instagram, but I’m so much more than that.” Can you talk about the “more” that you want people to know about you?
I’m struggling with that right now honestly, because when people found me now, they found me through goofy videos. A lot of people don’t know I’m getting my masters. When you’re a woman they push you into a box. I think some people see me as a “cute person, who wears sexy outfits,” but there’s so many factors to me as a master’s student, as a working professional as someone who’s connected to so many different people in so many different ways. So you start to struggle with things like “can I post a video talking about my feelings on the economic impact of COVID-19 on middle-aged folks in America?” [I feel like] people are going to be like”what you talking about.”
It’s this interesting space where you feel like you constantly have to remind folks that, “Hey, I’m cool, but I’m also really smart too.” That “beauty versus brains” thing the women have wrestled with is very interesting. I find myself unintentionally excited about something and then thinking, “well that’s not your box ma’am, your box is this way.” But, I think it’s about figuring out how to make sure people aren’t putting you in that one box when you know you’re able to fit into all these other spaces as well.