03.08.2016

Fortune's 100

Farah Fortune is the local rap game's PR pitbull turning bars into gold

Words: Oratile Mashazi | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga

Often referred to as "PR's pitbull in heels", Farah Fortune is wearing customised Nikes today. The media mogul has passion pouring out of her and the ability to work the camera like a pro. Sporting a denim jumpsuit with her sneakers, she is beautiful, composed and, let's not forget, highly accomplished in her field, which made her a shoo-in for the Superbalist 100.

Her story begins in Cape Town, with a coloured family that Apartheid tried to tear apart, and so the Fortunes left the country for Belgium and then England.

"My parents wanted us to grow up with freedom, and while I do feel like I missed out on culture, I got to see a lot of the world."

Farah's changed a lot since her return to South Africa. She now gives TedTalks and owns a company that's central to the local hip-hop industry. Business is in her blood: her grandmother was the first woman of colour to own a mining licence in South Africa, and Farah is pioneering on a daily basis.

"I've always had an entrepreneurial side, and have a very enterprising father. I put myself through law school in the UK with four jobs and a cleaning business on the side. I got that spirit from my dad but it definitely came out more when I had to push for it."

Push she did, and African Star Communications was registered in June 2008. Not that it came without its challenges, Farah being evicted and having to live in her car, but perseverance brings us to our current juncture, sipping tea in a leafy northern Johannesburg suburb.

Farah speaks with such conviction that it's easy to see why AKA chased her for months to be his publicist. She’s real, and the glint in her eye reveals something powerful within. Something strong – which is evident as she tells her story with humour and sincerity, and all the grime and grit it takes to get to the top. 

It all starts with a pipe dream: to somehow work in the hip-hop industry. A love for the music was inspired in her by her brother Fuad, who put her on to the likes of Missy Elliot and MC Lyte from age 11. Fast forward to Farah registering her company and one Kiernan Forbes sitting her down after hot pursuit and winning her over with his ambition.

The rest is history. African Star was central in creating the AKA we know and love (to hate, at times), and their combined passion culminated in them playing a central role in building hip-hop into an industry that can support the German-auto-dreams of the talent within it.

"When I got into PR it was about helping rappers live the lifestyle they were rapping about. At the time no-one was living it. There was so much skepticism, but no one in PR had tried to make it happen yet."

Now she empowers others to do what she does, while continuing to unearth new talent. Her staff is all female, as are her suppliers and lawyers. Farah has created a space for other women of colour to thrive and succeed. It's kind of revolutionary how Farah is the director and owner of a company that handles celebrity PR, corporate PR and specialist event management, specialising in taking unknown artists or businesses to the public and turning them into household names. The client list is hella impressive, and they continue to grow and break new ground in entertainment. 

"I love that I've been able to forge the love of music into a business, and as much as I appreciate all the talent out there at the moment I want to empower people like me, who are going to expand this industry and nurture its talent."

South African entertainment is a growing industry, and there's room for even more than what we see before us. The visionaries of the game know this. They also know that we need a national awakening in terms of supporting local talent.

In our current permutation as an outpost of western culture, South Africans go hard for Americans but the successes of our own are contested. African Star has a Nigerian office, and the contrast between their market and ours is telling of South African’s lack of patriotism. But how do we change this? What is there to be done?

"You just have to keep pushing. People don’t like change but we have to keep pushing and being that element of change."

Believing in something you can’t yet see and working towards making it material with strength and perseverance is the model of most major success. Embodying true vision and passion for what you do is also key in the come up. All that's left is for destiny to come through and play her part in the making of the mogul, most aptly named Farah Fortune, whose future is surely paved in gold bars.