Interview and photographs by Yinsey Wang.
Naomi Nightingale did not always feel like she knew where she was headed in life. She felt as if she needed to fit in with her peers during her younger years. With the exception of some time in a different secondary school, as one of the few people of colour in her boarding school circles growing up, she is no stranger to the struggle of finding oneself. Eventually, Nightingale unlearnt many of what she felt were society’s expectations and since then, she has pursued many passions in forging a path that is right for her. A senior communications and PR executive at an international law firm, she is also a conscientious and passionate storyteller and writer. Yinsey Wang interviews Nightingale on her journey of self-discovery, touching on her experiences interviewing some of London’s most marginalised, entering the world of fashion and working in the exciting world of corporate communications.
Who is someone who has had a meaningful impact on your world view?
I would say Maya Angelou, an absolute inspiration to me. She was a singer, dancer and writer - a woman of many talents and loves. I am not attached to the idea of being known for just one thing - I want to try everything that interests me.
How did you end up where you are? How do you live a life that is true to you?
Initially I wanted to become an actress. However, I made a decision to explore other paths in my search for security When I left university, I felt that I did not really know where I was going in life. Nonetheless, I found myself immersed in the fast-paced world of fashion, interning at Vogue and working with magazines Red and Asian Bride. It occurred to me that if I wanted to excel at PR, a way to hone my skills and expand upon opportunities would be through exposure to a corporate environment. So, here I am! I think that if I had pursued acting, I wouldn’t have had such a varied set of experiences, so I am so grateful for that. In addition, I have not needed to give up my love of theatre, as I’m writing a play too! I think that ultimately, for me, life is about engaging with as many interests as possible and taking as much as you can from each one.
Tell us about your blog, A City Speaks?
I found it fascinating that so many people have such interesting lives that we just have no idea about. I chose Shoreditch as a starting point for this project, as it was where I grew up. I recall that in earlier years, Shoreditch was not the hotspot it is today - I would interview those with compelling stories, particularly marginalised individuals who often have their voices drowned out in the noise of the City of London. They included prostitutes, homeless people, individuals that have been released from prison looking to rebuild their lives and young people who have been exposed to knife crime. It was fascinating to share these perspectives and I was honoured to be featured on London Live for the work on the blog.
You also write. Tell us more!
I started feeling quite strongly about the portrayal of sex in the media - the hype behind it all and the intense pressure that young people feel when faced with the act of losing their virginity. This led to my first book, so stay tuned! I am in talks with publishers, so it is all very exciting.
I am also in the process of writing a play alongside a doctor. The screenplay focuses on mental health issues and the way in which society treats those who suffer with these, often-silent illnesses.
Watch this space!
Tell us about your current role.
Of course! I love being able to push myself to explore the limits of creativity in working for a law firm - developing visual content, pushing stories and ideas in innovative ways and collaborating closely the staff and fee earner networks. I am also acting as an executive committee member of the firm’s Multicultural Network as diversity is something I feel strongly about. Overall, the role is challenging but also extremely rewarding! I value being able to take a lot from multiple roles I have had in my journey so far and adding to my inventory of skills and experiences. Learning definitely keeps me coming back for more - the aim is to become a master of many trades. So we are back to Maya Angelou!
Diversity - tell us your thoughts.
There is a lot to be said for the need for greater diversity in today’s world and you would be easily forgiven if you think things seem to be going backwards.
A lot of younger women are taught not to embrace their differences. During my boarding school years, I hid parts of myself that I took for granted and lost a sense of who I was because I was very much caught up in the need to assimilate. Today, I realise how much there is to be celebrated about one’s uniqueness and that of others.