OVER time, Africans are waking up to the reality that until we begin to raise our voice to tell our own story, the negative narrative the West is pushing will never change and one such person is Glitz Africa Chief Executive, Claudia Lumor, whose need to tell the positive stories of the continent pushed her to make a drastic career change.
Having worked in the UK as a financial advisor for a reputable bank, she returned to Ghana in 2011, with big dreams; to quickly climb up the corporate ladder and be this hotshot banker, and Claudia actually set out to fulfill that dream when she joined Stanbic Bank but all those plans went out of the window when she found herself drawn to the fashion industry.
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“I’ve always loved fashion, it used to be a hobby and I must say I never set out to do this, I didn’t think I could work for myself but circumstances pushed me here. I love magazines and I used to read all those glossy ones in the UK, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and the others.
“When I lived in the UK, anytime my friends came home to Ghana, I would ask them to bring me magazines from Ghana but the ones they got me did not really have what I was looking for; they were mostly about events and photos and not about the wonderful things about the country.
“When I returned to Ghana, I started to look for those kind of magazines but I couldn’t find anything like that. I knew about people who were doing wonderful things in the country and I wondered why nobody was telling those positive stories so I just said I was going to start a magazine,” she told Showbiz.
That is how the idea of Glitz Magazine was born but for Claudia, her biggest motivation for bringing out the publication was to change the narrative about Ghana and the continent at large.
“When I was in the UK, I was sick of people always looking on Africa like it wasn’t the place to be, I didn’t like it because I knew it wasn’t what they were describing it to be.
"When I decided to move to back to Ghana, many people discouraged me asking why I was returning but I wasn’t fazed because I knew it was possible to make it here.
“It is time we take charge of our own narrative and tell the positive stories about our continent; we have to inspire young people to be better by celebrating those who are doing well by telling their stories and that is what I want to do,” Claudia said.
It wasn’t an easy journey getting the first publication out, in fact it took well over two years. Although she loved fashion, she was coming from a finance background and had no idea where to start from so she schooled herself.
“It wasn’t easy at all. I realised that it was going to be hugely capital intensive so I had to do my research and for two years I studied. There were other challenges as well; it was difficult to get the kind of skilled people I wanted for the concept I had.
“For instance getting Graphic designers was hard because most of the those I met had not done the kind of work I wanted them to do so it was a lot of back and forth trying to get people to understand my ideas and execute them.
"But I am a very stubborn person, I don’t like to be told it is not possible, I would try and give it my all and that’s what I did,” she said.
The first edition of Glitz magazine featured actor John Dumelo on the cover and Claudia recounts how hard it was for her to approach him.
“A friend recommended John to me but I was so nervous when I got his number that it took me about two hours to pick up the phone and call him.
“I wondered if he would be willing to talk to me, if he wouldn’t dismiss what I wanted to do but he was very humble and willing and over time we have gotten so close. I really appreciate him for the risk he took with us,” she stated.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the saying and Claudia made it real as she poured her savings into getting the first edition out.
“I wanted to tell a good story, come out with a tasteful product that focused on people doing well. I felt we had to rebrand personalities and make their stories inspirational.
“I was very careful with everything I did for that first edition from the artwork to even adverts, i made sure to select tasteful brands to compliment our overall objective.”
Since that first edition, it has been nothing but a forward march for Claudia and her team; it’s been eight years and 22 publications and Glitz Magazine has spread to include other brands like the Glitz Africa Fashion Week (this year’s edition starts today), the Women of the Year Awards, She Summit and the Glitz Style Awards and she couldn’t be more proud although it’s been a lot of hard work.
“It’s been very tough I must tell you but I was very much aware of what I faced. I had to work extra hard to win the trust of people and corporate brands but I am proud of the reputable brand we have created.
"Corporate brands have warmed up to us and our brand has become not only inspirational but aspirational and that for me is very humbling; to have gained the respect of Ghanaians.”
Although Ghanaian fashion had made some inroads on the international market, what Claudia has done for Ghana’s fashion industry is amazing.
Through the Glitz Africa Fashion Week, which she started in 2011, she has provided opportunities for emerging brands to get noticed on the international front, while designers from across the continent who have taken part in the shows have gained new clients.
“I am proud that we have started something that will last for a long time. When I started out, I couldn’t even find stylists to dress those I featured but today, we have an abundance of stylists and designers.
"We did not have this and I am glad that our industry has gotten to this point where it cannot be ignored.
“We have provided employment for a lot of people across the fashion spectrum and that is exciting for me. I see people being much more creative now, young people are not afraid to express themselves and when I see them wear amazing things, it makes me very happy.
Claudia receives an award from former Electoral Commissioner, Mrs Charlotte Osei
Apart from fashion, one of Claudia’s passions is maternal and child care and through the Glitz Africa Foundation, she has been doing a lot with mothers, something which caught the attention of the UN which has appointed her as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNFPA.
“This is such an honour for me, to be involved in this because it tells me people are watching, you may think you are doing something in your small corner, but people are watching,” Claudia added..
As an ambassador, Claudia advocates for Maternal Health and they have also launched a project to tackle, Obstetric Fistula in the Northern regions.
“There are thousands of women who are living with Fistula and we try and support them with surgery which is very expensive but we are working on getting funding for this project,” she said. Claudia also tackles sexual and reproductive health among others.
Claudia was born in Kumasi to Mr Charles Kwarteng and Mrs Vera Kwarteng and is the second born of five children. She attended Christian International for her basic education, Anglican Secondary School and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
She left for the UK after KNUST and attained her Masters Degree from Westminster University.
She has been married for over 10 years and has three children.
She credits her very supportive family for her ability to effectively combine her very demanding career with marriage.