I first knew of Omar as editor of the Black History Month website; I contacted him early on in my writing career to write a piece for the site. I was struck by his kindness and encouragement to help me publish an article. Since then, we have kept in contact and it brings me great pleasure to showcase his talents now on my own website.
How Did It All Begin?
Omar told me that his talent for writing was first noticed when he was at primary school. Although it “took me a while” to get started on a writing exercise, he had a supportive teacher who noticed and encouraged his talent. He was subsequently invited to join a writing club which was mainly for students in the older year groups. Omar found that he was particularly good at and enjoyed writing fictional stories.
He was first published in a poetry anthology at just 8 years old alongside his classmates, but stopped writing when he entered secondary school “because there just wasn’t support for it” after accounting for his new study load. However, by the time he was fourteen, he was working with his friends on a YouTube channel as a scriptwriter and voice actor where they showcased their creative ability in the form of three to four minute animations centered around video games. This would continue for the rest of his time at school until they parted ways to attend their respective universities. Despite this, working on these projects gave him the idea to get back into writing short stories.
During his time in sixth form he did not do as well as he hoped in his A levels. Omar feels this is because he did not dedicate enough time to his school work. “In the end, I was doing too much. I did five subjects at AS level then three at A2, plus my EPQ and YouTube channel. There was too much to do and not enough time to match the expectations I had for myself in all of them.” Despite this, he achieved an A* on his Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in creative writing. This meant his overall grades were “good enough” for him to gain a place at Birmingham City University where he studied Fashion Design. Omar says he chose fashion over writing in an attempt to fill the shoes left by his Grand-uncle, a Tailor who came to the UK during the Windrush era. This would prove to be a foolhardy task and he left university after his first year in order to pursue a career “better suited” to him.
A Realization Of His True Potential
After leaving university he started looking for work. He told me that he had a “knock in confidence” as he struggled to find a job: “nothing was jumping out at me”, and realised that Fashion Design was not for him. He kept writing however and self published twice more, ‘Christopher De Bono: I Hate Christmas’ & ‘Showcase’, though it was ‘Anderson I: The Acute Case of Anthrax’ which caught the attention of Sugar Media, who contacted him to set up a meeting. This culminated in them taking a copy of the book manuscript, leading into a job interview. He told me that this was such unfamiliar territory for him. So much so that he was invited to meet the CEO At a BBQ and attended in a suit which made him feel out of place and incredibly nervous. After speaking to the CEO in more detail and essentially pitching his ideas, he was offered a job as a writer at the Black History Month (BHM) website.
Whilst working for sugar media he was asked to interview someone famous- Glenn Ligon – one of Barack Obama’s favourite artists., with some of his artwork was in the White House at the time. The interview took place at the Tate Modern in Liverpool. He utilized his fashion design knowledge to ask questions which impressed Glenn and the CEO Of Sugar Media who then offered him a more permanent role at the company. He worked on the BHM website and magazine for two more years but felt “vastly under-qualified” when promoted to editor after three months. He clearly enjoyed his time there as he was able to improve his writing skills and meet inspirational people. He mentioned that I am also one of those inspirational people, which is incredibly humbling!
He was also editor at the Student Times newspaper where he recruited writers to write about university events. He says that although the opportunities were great, working as an editor for two large publications simultaneously was quite stressful. Despite selling over fifty-thousand copies in the second year for the BHM he was subject to “double the scrutiny and attention”. After receiving targeted abuse for two years without much support, He decided that it was all “too much” and departed from Sugar Media to pursue his own ventures.
A Change In Direction
During January 2017 he began a new venture: Going on a Date. Targeted at making date ideas for existing couples, he wanted the website to be more trustworthy than the user-generated content that exists on platforms such as Google Reviews or TripAdvisor. It might be difficult for those looking for somewhere to go to actually trust reviews; how do we know if that person actually went there? The reviewer could also have an negative agenda against the company. He therefore used his experience as a writer, curator and reviewer to create a website that has one opinion on something. In the first year the website accrued 10,000 monthly readers with readers in twenty-one countries from across the world.
After a stint in the Financial sector as a cryptocurrency marketer and educator, he now works as a communications officer at a local charity, Hope in Tottenham. The charity, (which was born out of the 2011 Tottenham riots) aims to combat the allure of gangs and crime by offering residents between the ages of four and twenty-four alternative things to do and places to work. Interestingly though, it is through this charity work that Omar has been able to better himself, with the firm allowing him to finish his degree at Coventry University where he aims to graduate with a Bachelors in Media and Communications in 2022.
I asked Omar, like all the Spotlight Interviewees to provide us with a few words of wisdom. Here’s what he said:
“Do what you enjoy”, your job will never be a job if you enjoy it… however, you can still draw experience from the paths you may not necessarily have enjoyed or thought was for you. Fashion Design helped me with my first interview which began my media career!”
“You may think that it is the end of the world, but it isn’t! Realise that nothing changes if you fail. Do not be afraid to fail!”
So, there you have it, Omar is a multi-talented and inspirational individual. He has achieved so much at a young age and has so much more to achieve! He has shown us that you can have multiple careers and do what you enjoy AND be successful at it. I wish him all the best in his current and future ventures whatever field they may be in!