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BoF VOICES 2022: Live Your Best Life

In the final session of BoF’s annual gathering, speakers from model Dennis Okwera and Coty chief Sue Y. Nabi to Nike’s Larry Miller and activist Malala Yousafzai reflected on their personal histories and inner powers.
Malala Yousafzai speaks at BoF VOICES 2022 at Soho Farmhouse.
Malala Yousafzai speaks at BoF VOICES 2022 at Soho Farmhouse. (Getty Images for Business of Fashion)

On Thursday evening, speakers from model Dennis Okwera and Coty chief executive Sue Y. Nabi to chairman of Nike’s Jordan brand Larry Miller and activist Malala Yousafzai reflected on their personal histories and inner powers in the fifth and final session of BoF VOICES 2022.

Adversity as a Superpower

Growing up in war-torn Uganda, model Dennis Okwera faced atrocities carried out by the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, which terrorised his town and recruited his peers into violence. At age 9, the now-model became a refugee, moving to the UK. Okwera, who collaborates with designers like Grace Wales Bonner, had a key message for the audience: “If you asked me if I wanted to leave my home, my family, everything I’ve ever known, and [not see] my mom for 24 years, I would say no. So, let’s just be a little bit kinder to each other.”

On the other side of the world, Larry Miller spent decades hiding from his past as a gang member on the streets of Philadelphia, where he murdered someone at age 16. He went on to become a senior executive at Nike, where he helped to turn the Jordan brand into to a $5.5 billion powerhouse and ultimately revealed his dark past to Nike co-founder Phil Knight and Michael Jordan himself. “For 40 years, I hid from that story. I avoided it. I put it out of my mind,” said Miller. “But I’m a perfect example of how people can change if given the right opportunities, the right chance.”

Embracing Differences

What’s the secret to success at a $7 billion beauty conglomerate? Be different, said Coty chief executive Sue Y. Nabi. “Being different in business is the best asset you can bring to the table,” she said. “It requires less money to stand out.”

For Fecal Matter, a multidisciplinary artist collective based in Paris, going against the grain is a way of life. The duo, Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran, met in art school, bonding over their shared alienation before channeling the social pressures they felt into their aesthetic platform. “Our mantra was provoking society, which really is just being out in the world being yourself,” Dalton said. “By provoking society, we take in power rather than feeling put down by it.”

Finding Resilience

Malala Yousafzai, the women’s rights activist and Nobel Prize winner, was nearly killed by the Taliban when she was just a child. But that didn’t stop her. “One thing I learned at that time was we were not living in the best conditions and I could not see a future for myself under the Taliban government,” she said. “And here I am today fighting for the rights of all girls around the world. The 130 million girls out of school today can have access to safe, quality free education.”

Resilience was also key to Victoria Beckham — first as a pop star, and then an aspiring fashion entrepreneur. “I came from a working class family. I wanted to be on stage, I wanted to sing and dance but I was never the best. It was about hard work,” Beckham said. “I’ve always had to prove myself. In school, in fashion.”

BoF VOICES 2022 is made possible in part through our partners McKinsey & Company, Shopify, Flannels, Brandlive, Lenzing, ShopRunner, Snap, Canada Goose, Invisible Collection, Soho House, and Getty Images.

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