“Believe in your instincts and do not listen to negativity!” – Nicholle Kobi

{First appeared OnMogul.com}

The opportunity for this email interview was one that I truly thought would not happen. I had literally plucked up all my courage to send an email to Nicholle Kobi…and waited. When the response came, I could hardly contain my excitement. You see, I took a chance and the Universe came back with a “Okay then, let’s see what you got…”

It was a moment that I must admit ranked high on my “Couldn’t possibly happen”, so when it did, I took it as a quietly powerful affirmation.

Ever since I came across my first Nicholle Kobi illustration, I found myself looking for more of her work and along the way, stumbled across more fashion illustrations by Nicholle and other illustrators. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it was to see such images! There are so many talented illustrators out there and they all have their very unique voices.

The beauty about her work is that it’s all about positivity – sisterhood – having open and honest relationships with one another as women and in turn other relationships we have with those around us. A friend of mine, Ntombi, has also recently been enamoured by Nicholle’s work, so when I plucked up the courage to send an email interview request, you can imagine my absolute euphoria!

Artwork: Nicholle Kobi
  1. Who is Nicholle Kobi? And how did you career begin? 

Nicholle Kobi is a 36 year-old Congolese-French woman. My career in art began when I least expected it to. I was working in a corporate company in Paris and I was not feeling accomplished. When I fell pregnant and sick, the doctors advised me to stop working and I was put on bed rest at home. I was so worried that I would be bored and so I decided to do the only thing I loved and always love to do…drawing. Then I decided to put my illustrations on my Instagram account, and “Nikisgroove” was created.

  1. What have been the greatest lessons learnt throughout your journey? Especially when you had to go and work because of life’s circumstances instead of studying further (i.e: your father going through a divorce)?

Looking back, I am very happy about my journey. My father always told me “When you reach 18 you will go to “The Beaux Arts” (the biggest art school in France). I grew up with this vision. So even when I was 18, my father was going through the separation and divorce things, this vision never left me. I knew that I have art in my life.

I worked in various companies in financial, commercial, assurances, banking and other sectors. I realised that in these different companies I learnt more than at school. I learnt everything about business…so I know there are no accidents in life, just apprenticeship. Everything I learnt in my different jobs I just applied in my own brand Nikisgroove by Nicholle Kobi.

  1. I couldn’t find information on when you moved from the Congo – What was the transition like from living in the Congo to being in France, and Paris itself? The cultural differences?

I left the Congo as a child to follow my father who was a French Marin’s student, so I do not have a lot of memories about my birth country. My father’s home is in Normandy, a small city and that is where I grew up.

As a child I did not see a lot of differences, you just do what adults think is better for you. I do not remember if there were differences. Everything was normal to me, I was just a child who was joining her father. I actually didn’t have bad experiences in my hometown, it was my place. I knew everybody, all the places. I did not experience any racism.

Racism came when I grew up and when I moved to Paris. For me the biggest racism that I came across was from the minority towards other minorities, as well as European French society towards other races in the minority – but I felt that minority to minority racism is rude!

When I arrived in Paris, I discovered the other France, the Parisian or French ghetto – “les cites.” Majority of people who live in central of Paris are white and in the Parisian suburbs there are a lot of people of minority, for example Arab-French and African-French people who live in the suburbs. Some of the suburbs are the most cheapest places in France and the poverty is so high.

The people speak differently, they have unique accents, and some words come from other languages such as Arabic and other times, the people create their own words and phrases. When I arrived in Paris, at school some of my white friends would love to talk me and use some of the words from suburbs and when I didn’t know what the word was, they would say things like “You are black you are from the ghetto and must understand these words.”

I used to spend my time trying to explain to them not all African-French people are from the suburbs. The kind racism I also discovered and was exposed to was the ordinary racism. When people would use racism to be funny! People think because we are all in the minority we can laugh about our cultures.

Most of time this kind of humour is directed against black women, about our hair, the way we do this or do that. I also discovered that because as a black woman, people called me by the name of “Fatou.” Fatou is a name from West Africa or African Muslims mostly used in France. So when you do not have this name you feel very shocked! To many black women, fatou has become a very ugly name. When you are not from West Africa and you know nobody in your family with this name, you soon understand that people put all black women in the same bottle (category)! Like you are all the same! This does create some animosity between black women.

Nicholle Kobi – personal album
  1. From your illustrations, can one say that you are a strong and very vocal advocate on the importance of women of colour being unafraid of being who they are: natural hair, curves and women supporting women? How did this happen?

My illustrations are just a reflection of who I am. It’s much easier to draw to explain what I want to say than to speak. I am very passionate woman and sometimes I get very active and noisy when I speak. With my drawing I am able to channel my energy and better explain what I wish to say.

I want to support black women every day because we need it! It must become an everyday thing! An ordinary thing not an extraordinary thing!

We must see black women in positive way everywhere in media because we are positive and strong! I am so tired of some of the bad images that people have about being a black woman. I want to show to the world that black women are beautiful. Our hair is. Our curves are, even some of us who do not have curves – we are beautiful as every other human being.

  1. How did you identify your area of specialisation in terms of illustration? What drew you to fashion?

I just draw black women in the big cities, because we all know black women are so fashionable! From Paris to London to NYC to Lagos. We can call my artwork fashion illustration sure.

  1. What or who inspires you?

My inspiration is black women. Their strength, our different beauty, our shades…absolutely everything about black women inspires me.

  1. What have been the challenges in your career thus far and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge has been to be recognised as a real artist. Some people do not get that this is a full time job. Every post, every artwork is a sign of my engagement to ensure that black women have a respected and recognised place in society.

  1. Do you want to – and are there any plans for collaborations with other illustrators?

Actually not, to collaborate with someone you must be very mature in your artwork and I think it’s maybe too soon for me. I have not thought about it but we never know…

  1. What is next for the business, and for yourself? 

Every plan must be kept secret but I have so many plans in my head for 2017. Stay tuned!

Artwork: Nicholle Kobi
  1. Do you have any words of wisdom or key learnings that you can share with other people considering pursuing an entrepreneurial life or even pursuing a side hustle / an opportunity that helps them fulfil a passion (that may fall outside of their 9 – 5 employment)?

They must start somewhere, before they become an entrepreneur. I started to draw as hobby. Then I quit my job when knew that Nicholle Kobi is almost or was already a brand.

I never hesitate! I just do what I want to! I am an Aries.

So to everyone, just have courage and start somewhere. Believe in your instincts and do not listen to negativity! Do not be worried when you feel alone or if you have to start alone!

  1. Any plans for a visit to South Africa?

Is it an invitation? *LOL*

I would love that so much … it’s definitely on my list of countries to visit.

Artwork: Nicholle Kobi

Thank you so much your time Nicholle and sharing so much of your life journey and work, may you keep doing what you do, you’re truly inspiring and a really amazing individual!

I would encourage you, if you don’t already, to follow her and have a look at her work – I mean really look at her work, I dare you to tell me that you do not see yourself in her images, the woman you are / can be, because you are more than capable of being that woman – the woman you choose to be.

*Since this piece was first written and published, Nicholle has been to South Africa for an exhibition. I was sad to not have been able to go…but I’d like to think that I put it out into the Universe that she found her way to SA…I know, a bit of a stretch, but I’m going with it.

2 thoughts on ““Believe in your instincts and do not listen to negativity!” – Nicholle Kobi

  1. This spoke to me in many ways including growth and personal development particular working and thriving in silence and allowing your work to speak for itself. I’m only seeing this now and I’m in awe and appreciative of it. #POWERTOWOMANITY. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s