It’s hard to believe Yossy Akinsanya is only 22 years old. When you look at her personal style and her photography, she seems like someone who has it all figured out. Her personal style is ethereal and charming, and her photography looks like it should be on the front pages of every fashion magazine. Just look at her work from London Fashion Week and you’ll see what I mean. I get so excited when I think about how she is just getting started. If you’re a budding creative or balancing a day job, you’ll love Yossy’s story. So let’s get on with the interview!
People call me: Yossy
Currently living: UK / London
Occupation: Full-time in digital public relations, but also a content creator, freelance photographer and owner of a small accessories brand.
IG Handle: withloveyossy / yossyakinsanya
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
I’m a 22-year-old creator, born in the UK, but I’m from Nigeria. I studied psychology at university but funnily enough, studying for three years at university is what led to me realizing that I don’t actually want to be a clinical psychologist but rather a creative.
How did you get started with photography?
So as mentioned before, my degree led to me realizing what I want to do in life. During my first year of university, I struggled a lot with finding my feet in my degree and looking after my mental health. One day, I decided to ask my friends to model for me and something snapped in me—from start to finish, I loved the whole process. I found myself smiling from ear-to-ear when my friends told me the pictures made them feel beautiful, I then realized I wanted to create that feeling over and over.
Your style is so ethereal and beautiful, where do you find inspiration?
Thank you so much! I draw from so many places. A lot of it is Black culture, Pinterest and random bursts of creativity at 3 a.m. With a lot of my recent work, I’ve tried to tap into creating work that not only is nice to look at but makes you feel something. At the start of my photography journey, I focused a lot of my time on creating content that people would think is “pretty and aesthetically pleasing,” tap and scroll kind of content. However, recently I’ve been working on coming into my own style and trying to evoke feelings and memories with my work.
At the start of my photography journey, I focused a lot of my time on creating content that people would think is “pretty and aesthetically pleasing,” tap and scroll kind of content. However, recently I’ve been working on coming into my own style and trying to evoke feelings and memories with my work.
Our theme this month is all about embracing your individuality and celebrating “your weird.” What does that look like for you?
For me, when it comes to photography, it’s all about visually telling you as much as I can about my subjects. When choosing my models I work with, I love working with people who to me, have unique features because as we know, society has this “look” and if you don’t have it, it’s very easy to feel like you’re not beautiful. From wide noses, to gap teeth, darker complexions, males in makeup, I love embracing all the things that make my models who they are. What someone else may think is weird is what makes you beautiful to someone and that deserves to be celebrated and captured.
What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self about the importance of individuality?
If I could go back, I would tell myself that I am gifted, beautiful and wonderfully made, and I don’t need to be like everyone else. I spent so much time wanting to change so much of myself because it was far from the norm, my name, my facial features, my skin color. But all these things that I worried about are all the things I love about myself now, I mean how many other Yossys do you know? There is nothing wrong with being different, it’s not a bad thing so embrace it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me? Staring at a screen from morning to evening. I work in digital PR and I do that as 9-to-5, most of my time is spent typing up press releases and sending emails at the speed of lightning. When I clock out of that, it’s straight to answering my content creating emails with one hand while balancing dinner with the other. I’m constantly typing and trying to maintain a presence on social media as that’s where most of my work and opportunities come from.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Evening! I’ve been living for golden hours and that nice summer evening breeze that flows in. I’m still currently working from home most days and so is my sister, so one thing I’ve really come to appreciate is preparing our dinners together and then binge-watching Netflix together—we’re currently watching “Schitt’s Creek,” which I really recommend.
How would you describe your personal style?
A hot mess! I’m someone whose style changes with what comes in and out of fashion currently. Right now, I’m in a cottage core but Parisian, with a sprinkle of monochrome phase—yes, it’s as confusing as it sounds. As I’ve struggled with body confidence since I was young, I’m still learning what looks good on my body and working on finding my own personal style.
If you could only save one item from your closet what would it be?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my yoga pants. No I don’t wear them to work out, but they are the comfiest things in the world! I love wearing them everywhere, while working from home, going to the supermarket and even on shoots. I love comfort, it’s my brand, it’s life.
Do you have any favorite designers or brands that you’re loving right now?
Where do I begin? KAI Collective is one of my current faves and seeing Fisayo win and get the recognition she deserves has been amazing! Also, We Are Kin, another black-owned fashion brand created by the amazing Ngoni. Her pieces are so simple yet elegant. Lastly, Peju Obasa—the craft and effort that go into her hand-stitched bags? Incredible. I’m putting money aside to get one at the end of the month as a treat to myself.
Current beauty routine?
As someone who has recently discovered the amazing skincare by Hyram, I’ve been trialing Cerave Foaming Face Cleanser to wash my face, then I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid, followed by the Dermologica Biolumin-C Serum. Then to finish the Cerave Moisturizing Lotion and Glossier Bubblewrap. I’ve run out of my niacinamide and salicylic acid, but usually I also have that in my routine.
Shop Yossy’s beauty must-haves:
Do you have any self-care rituals that you swear by?
Lighting candles is a must, as there’s something about being in a warm, cozy room that smells nice that helps me feel more relaxed. Also, I dedicate my morning showers to blaring my favorite songs on my speaker—it just helps me shake off any bad feelings and start the day off positive. Baking is another self-care ritual I like to indulge in. Finding a recipe that I know once done will fill me and my stomach with joy just always work. It’s foolproof and once you get stuck into the baking, it can be so calming.
What are some of your all-time favorite, must-read books?
Wonder by R.J. Palacio made me cry like a baby back then and so did the film. I got my sister to read the book and she cried, also got three of my friends to watch it and they all cried. It can be described as a children’s novel, but honestly, it’s a really moving story about a boy with a facial abnormality. The other one is Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I didn’t expect to love this book that much, as I was going through my John Green phase thanks to The Fault in Our Stars, but I loved every page of that book.
Shop Yossy’s favorite books:
Any favorite podcasts right now?
Where do I begin? From The Receipts Podcast, to No Money Mo Problems and The 3 View, all of these have me in tears. I wasn’t a big fan of podcasts until I landed my grad job last year, now I find myself listening to them during my lunch breaks and on my commutes. What I love about these podcasts is the nostalgia they can stir with their personal anecdotes and the triggering belly laughs that come with some of the dilemma people send them.
What’s your sign?
An Aries, which I definitely feel is obvious. Moody, impulsive, creative, yup that’s me.
From wide noses, to gap teeth, darker complexions, males in makeup, I love embracing all the things that make my model who they are. What someone else may think is weird is what makes you beautiful to someone and that deserves to be celebrated and captured.
Are there any causes or movements that you’re particularly passionate about?
100% the Black Lives Matter movement. As someone who has been subjected to racism, change is needed and it starts with us. From raising our voices and using our platforms, to having difficult conversations in our circles and to being willing to listen and learn, there’s so much to be done. It blows my mind every day that Black people all over the world are being attacked, bullied and killed just because of the color of our skin? Because we look different? How crazy is that?
It’s been so nice to see people rallying together to bring change because it is 2020 and we shouldn’t have to be having these conversations still.
Anything cool on the horizon for you?
Not at the moment, but I do have a lot of personal projects I’m excited to start working on as lockdown has given me so much time to plan things, moodboard and draw inspiration on the direction I want to take my work in.
“Give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come.” I’m someone who can get easily overwhelmed when things go wrong and this quote just reminds me that I have come so far. I’ve overcome things I didn’t think I would, I succeeded at things I thought I would fail at, there’s always something to celebrate and be grateful for, you just have to look a little harder sometimes.