An Interview With Sophia Tassew a Riotgal and a Uni Dropout

Meet Sophia – a uni drop out who became a creative director at 19


People are always going on about, ‘stay in education’ and ‘make sure you go to university’ but in this day and age the question that needs to be evaluated is, ‘is university worth it?’ where more and more students are leaving university to pursue retail jobs due to their degrees not being equivalent to hands on experience, therefore finding it difficult to pursue a career in their field of study.

As a woman coming from a black background there was one saying that resonated with Sophia, ‘You have to work TEN times harder than the white man to achieve anything in this world’ if the fact that she is a woman isn’t enough, she is a black woman. From the ages of 5/6 Sophia wanted to be an author, writing short stories as a child and English being her strongest subject she then wanted to be a film director, so she had always wanted to work within the media industry, it was something she always had a keen interest in.

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Sophia Tassew, a nineteen-year-old from London, left to go to the University of Canterbury to study Media and Communications. When asked the question, so what made you go to university? Her response was shamelessly simple, ‘I went to uni because I felt that, that was the normal route. So my mum wanted me to go to uni, all my friends were going to uni. Like in school, my teachers told me to go uni and then you get a good job, you get a husband, a dog and a nice house and then that’s the end of your life.’ University was simply encouraged as the only route to a successful career.

Little did she know a few months later she would jump on a train straight back home with a suitcase containing the essentials she had brought with her plus her dreams and aspirations, leaving everything else behind such as her lamp shade, duvet and other items she had brought with her.

‘I didn’t tell’

‘I didn’t tell anyone that I was gonna come back home, I didn’t tell any of my friends, I didn’t tell any of my lecturers…it was just like an in the moment decision.’ without a second look back she bumped a train back to London with her suitcase and jacket without saying a word to anyone about her leaving or in her mother’s case of her early arrival back from university. Leaving because she felt it wasn’t for her and although it was the only path presented to her during her former education there were other ways of getting to where she wanted to be.

‘I wasn’t turning back’

After months of applying to apprenticeships and being rejected over and over again, Sophia found an event on Eventbrite hosted by FCB Inferno called, ‘The Girlhood” which was aimed at women of colour in order to get them into the media industry by allowing nine women to go on a 5 week course to learn the ropes of an advertising agency, then at the end of it one of the nine women would be able to have an entrance level placement at the agency hosting the event.

After making a late arrival and spilling a glass of water, she refused to be remembered as ‘the girl who came late’. She now had to sell herself and show her potential.

Now working for FCB Inferno, Sophia is the youngest to be hired as an art director for the agency.

With influences such as Grime, Hip-Hop, film and art which all circulate to form a culture she has been raised in and around. Sophia uses them as her main focus as she hasn’t seen much fine art which relates to and represents her as she has grown up. Sophia curated her first exhibition 140BPM on the 26th of October 2016 at the Converse HQ.
The name 140BPM which is the typical number of beats per minute that a producer uses in Grime, so clearly knowing the audience she was aiming to attract.

Why an exhibition of Grime Sophia?

‘Well 2016 has been like a peak for Grime, so I thought it was a great time to do it and because it hit so close to home as well, growing up around it, from secondary school till now and having friends who resonate with it. I just wanted to curate an exhibition where a lot of people my age could resonate with fine art.’
With the capacity of the venue at 80 to 100 people maximum, the RSVP list had well over 300 people, with the queue for those who were attending and waiting outside to get in spiralling around the building and down the street, so the exhibition as her first was more than a huge success. Her more recent exhibition this year was Riotgal, the reasons why we need feminism and why mandem need it.

Sophia can more recently be spotted in Stormzy’s new video for his latest release, ‘Big For Your Boots’ where she stars amongst many other women such as Vicky Grout and Grace Victory who are making big moves. What is that? Girl power.