Emma “Funmi” Ford and her family moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to the United States when she was only 8 years old. Eager to be accepted by the girls at school and in her neighborhood, she used fashion to fit in. Now, she’s using fashion to stand out. Blending her Nigerian culture and unique sense of style into each of her looks, Emma is the style maven behind the blog FunmiFord.com and the Instagram account @funmiford. Around Birmingham, she’s known as Emma or Funmi, names that stem from her full birth name, Emmanuella Oluwafunmilayo.
Emma began blogging just for fun, but after another blogger told her she could be getting paid to create content, she turned blogging into a business. A wife and mom of two, Emma has landed campaigns and collaborations with big-name brands like Target, Walmart, Amazon, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and more. She’s attended New York Fashion Week three times and styled a show for African Fashion Week in London. Along the way, she’s been helping other Black women break into influencer marketing, too.
We’re excited to introduce our newest FACE of Birmingham, Emma “Funmi” Ford!
What inspired you to start your blog and Instagram account?
I started my blog as a way to express myself. I’ve just always loved fashion. I’m from Lagos, Nigeria. I moved here when I was 8 years old. I didn’t speak English, I had an accent, and I ate different foods. When we came here, my sister and I dressed so differently and we used to get picked on all the time. But when I wore clothes that looked like [the other girls’], they would interact with me. So, I used clothes to blend in. But I found out that I really loved expressing myself in that way. Then the girls started coming to me asking how they should style their clothes. I decided to start a blog to show people how to put looks together and how to style their petite bodies and how to make themselves look good no matter what size they were.
With so many blogs and fashion-focused Instagram accounts online, what do you do to stand out?
I try to bring my Nigerian culture into my aesthetic, into how I dress, and into what I talk about. To stand out, you have to have your personality be a part of it. We try to assimilate so much and look at the success of other bloggers and say maybe they’re successful because they’re doing this or maybe they’re successful because they dress this way. We try to emulate that and in the process, we lose our voice and individuality, which is what brings people to us. So for me, remembering my culture, my background, where I come from — that’s what helped me carve out a niche for myself in such an overly saturated market.
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How do you define the word “influencer,” and when did you first realize that you were one?
I don’t like to consider myself an influencer. I like to consider myself a content creator. I create content that makes you feel something — makes you feel good, makes you want to go out, makes you want to dress up, makes you want to look at your body in a more positive way, makes you want to start a business. I create content to move people.
You’ve been hosting classes and making efforts to help other Black women break into influencer marketing. Why is this something you’re so passionate about?
In the influencer marketing industry, it always seems like there can only be room for five or six big Black bloggers. So it makes those Black bloggers that are reaching that higher level afraid to reach back and help other Black bloggers. They think, “If I help somebody else get where I am, they’re going to take my spot.” But if we as Black bloggers would help each other out, then we could create spaces of our own where there can be more than five of us and we can set standards in place. There’s not enough space at the table for us and we’re not creating tables ourselves. But if I get Black women to start a business, then they’re creating a table where other people can come eat. I also don’t want to say it’s all on us because the industry itself has to change, too.
How do you balance motherhood with being a businesswoman?
Lots of prayer and lots of crying in the closet! I’m a mom first and then I’m a businesswoman. I quit working in corporate America to be home with my son. I didn’t quit to start the brand. But like any business, I have to put a certain amount of hours into it. On weekends, I go shoot for brands. Mondays are my workdays — I answer emails, edit photos and reach out to brands. It’s about getting on a schedule. I cook dinner every day! It’s hard balancing it all and some things do fall to the wayside, but where I fail or don’t do the best, I give myself grace. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
When we could freely roam the city, what were some of your favorite places to go in and near Birmingham?
I loved taking my kids to the jump parks. I love Veterans Park in Hoover. I’m a foodie. There are a lot of Indian restaurants I like going to like Silver Coin. I also love sushi, so I like going to Stix. I like Perry’s Steakhouse. And I like Surin 280. They have a lamb curry that’s really amazing.
What’s the best advice you have to give?
I know it’s so cliché, but be authentic. Growing up, I went to a private school and I was one of the only few Black people in my school, so I always tried to be somebody else. I always wanted to be taller, I wanted to be thinner, I even wanted to be white at one point in my life. I always wanted to be somebody else but me, but then I figured out there’s so much beauty in just being your authentic self — no matter what that looks like. The happier you are, the more you start to attract people to you. Just be authentic and the people who are for you will be drawn to that authenticity, and the people who aren’t weren’t meant to be in your life anyway.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Coffee, a good wig, and luxury handbags.
All images submitted by Emma “Funmi” Ford.
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