Literature continues to shape the world that we live in. It reflects our political, economic and cultural status through the work of past, present and future writers narrating the story of who we are. One writer in particular, Sophia Thakur, spoken word artist, poet and author, is bringing the niche facets of literature into the commercial space: recognised and celebrated by wider audiences.
Sophia debuted her literary talents to the world at age sixteen, and has since amassed both offline and online acclaim. From selling out live shows to working alongside conglomerates to further storytelling initiatives, Sophia’s work is bridging the gap between how creative and corporate industries communicate with people.
Yet, the ways in which literature is consumed is changing. Over the past decade, online communities such as BookTube, BookTok, Bookstagram and others have altered what it means to be both a reader and writer.
How has your work developed against the landscape of the rise in use of social media?
“Social media is brilliant but it’s also easy to lose your individuality. You have this immediate metric that’ll tell you whether people like what you create or not, and that can push people to create things that people may relate to, but the art stops relating to the artist. Not always, but the pressure is real sometimes. I don’t focus too much on engagement. I’ve worked really hard to build a career offline, and one that still deeply connects with people. I made a decision quite early on that I wanted a career that didn’t NEED me to spend so much time online. I found it was stifling my art and even my confidence at times. It’s not the same for everyone but for me, it’s easier to stay true to myself offline, and then a cool thing happens where your community slowly finds you online. And these are my people that I don’t need to do back flips for, for them to understand or appreciate my messaging."
Despite the shift in how literature is being commercialised and digested, Sophia is sure that the key to her online success is due to authenticity and how true she is to her work offline.
The multi award-winning writer has reached many milestones during her still flourishing career, but her success in bringing spoken and written poetry into corporate spaces, especially, is an accomplishment to be highlighted and celebrated. Having taken literature to the doorsteps of Channel 4, Vodafone, Nike and others, Sophia assists in bringing their stories to life as well as connecting with new and existing audiences.
“I’ve been commissioned to do a lot of different things for brands and companies. I’ve written poems for campaigns and I’ve produced content, it just depends on what the company wants to communicate and who they are trying to reach. In recent years, I’ve been asked to do a lot of corporate talks and workshops, which is such an interesting expression of my work, but a lot of companies genuinely want to learn how to better and effectively communicate with their customers.”
Recently, Sophia took to social media to share her work with Google Pixel. Having debuted to the world as a spoken word artist, this campaign – which saw Sophia being the voice of a national advert echoing the hype of the World Cup – is not only timely, but extremely full circle. Although Sophia’s role in the advert was not as a writer, it’s clear that her beginnings as a spoken word artist continue to launch her into new spaces, with voiceover credits including Expedia, Jordan and Acer. When asked further about her schedule, it was disclosed that Sophia is - for lack of a better word or term - booked and busy.
During the thick of the pandemic – a time when live performances were impossible – Sophia shifted her focus from the stage to the page, working on her second and third books. In total, Sophia has published four books, the most recent being her anthology Wearing My Mother’s Heart, which explores intergenerational relationships, womanhood, resilience and more. Coming from a mixed African and Asian heritage, Wearing My Mother’s Heart pays homage to the sacrifices of the women who fought for Sophia to live the life she lives presently. Focusing on intergenerational relationships, Sophia’s anthology is a beautiful and lyrical look into the differences that oddly connect us.
What was the inspiration for this particular collection?
“My mother as well as my two grandmothers, who taught me everything I needed to know about strength and resilience. I really wanted to pay tribute to everything that these women sacrificed and endured so that I can live the life I do now. It was also important to me to celebrate my faith, heritage and culture throughout the collection as these are all parts of me that make me, me.”
Sophia’s career trajectory is impressive and admirable to all those who are currently trying to carve out unconventional careers, particularly careers centring around literature and the literary sphere. It is undeniable that Sophia’s efforts as a spoken word artist and poet predate the existence of popular online book communities that are aiding newer generations in the shaping of their work. However, as we’ve migrated into a space where authenticity is on the decline as more people enter creative industries, many are finding it difficult to break into spaces that could take their careers to the next level. Having achieved longstanding success in both the corporate and creative space, Sophia advises:
“Be yourself and you’ll naturally and gradually attract people who support your work. There’s a lot of pressure to blow overnight, but creating a dedicated community trumps going viral. I’ve always aimed to be my truest self on and offline because my art is an expression of who I am and where I’ve come from. Stay true to your work and you will find your tribe. I was writing and performing spoken word poetry for years and then everything just aligned.”
In being authentic, Sophia has attracted the opportunities and partnerships that are conducive to growing her brand online and offline. And for those particularly interested in becoming bestselling authors one day, as many greats have advised before her, writing your truth is paramount in developing a unique literary voice. Sophia, having dedicated much of her work to the very experiences that have made her who she is now, ensures that these personal experiences, which translate into niche stories, find resonance with real people seeking voices that echo their own truths.