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Isis Nyong’o- Africa’s new power woman.

 Isis Nyong’o is a prolific citizen of the world and a newly engaged woman. Isis Nyong’o has always been known as an achiever. Google her name and what pops up is Forbes, MTV. Stanford, Harvard, the Wall Street Journal, Top 40 under 40, Africa’s 20 youngest power women…the list goes on.

As Vice President of inMobi, the world’s largest mobile advertising company, Isis heads operations for the entire African continent. When she is not doing all of these and saving the world, Isis is pretty much a regular, Kenyan-American chick.

When she arrived at Tribe Hotel for our interview (Drum Magazine), we were pleased to see that Isis was not alone. Named after an Egyptian goddess, it was fitting that her companion was a dark-skinned
Adonis. The tall drink of water who accompanied her was fiance Christopher Madison. They met earlier this year when Chris moved to Kenya to open an ad agency.

Isis says “Less than one week after he arrived, we were at a friend’s party and saw each other across the room. We got introduced and as they say, the rest is history.” Their wedding plans are still in the works and it will be a destination wedding. “We have quite a large number of family and friends who will be coming in from the States so this will be the best way to cater for all of them.”

Isis’ mother, an American of Russian descent, and her dad the late Professor Aggrey Nyong’o, met on campus in the US.
Their academic discipline and work ethic helped shape Isis and all her brothers. We were not allowed to watch television. ”We had to figure out how to entertain ourselves. My mom is a pediatrician so she always gave us a lot of freedom to be creative. She encouraged us to colour outside the lines and taught us that, we could be anything we wanted.

Her highlight in South Africa was when she met Oprah a couple of years ago. “I was invited to her school to speak to the girls about leadership. She was hiding when we spoke then she came out afterwards.” How did it feel to meet Oprah? “She really is like how she is on television. For the few minutes she talked to me, I really could tell her mind was completely on me. She really lives in the moment.”

Her philosophy is to leverage each life experience in order to grow. Never comfortable with public speaking, she recalls how her business school professors drilled them. “We were called at random and we had to be prepared.” Working at MTV Base in a tough sales job pitching to unwilling prospects, Isis honed her skills even further. Today, on TV, radio or the podium, she never actually relishes being in the limelight but to her it is all in a day’s work. “I try to clear my mind and get really Zen before each session.

Her fiance describes her as a “very centered, very grounded woman.” Isis confides that she is a lot more balanced than she was in the past. “I feel that way now. Some years ago I would work excessively hard, sleeping four hours a night. I look back and think, what was that all about?” She has never given any less than 100 percent but has had to pull back in certain areas. “There were a few people much more senior than me and they were asking, ’Are you sure you can do this? Can you actually handle this?’ The offer had already come.

Being a woman in leadership came naturally when you look at her predecessors. “My mother was one of the only two women in her medical school, one of two in the whole university. She is very stable and always expected us to work really hard. I don’t know any other way.”

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