Today on Pearls And Heels we interview the multitalented Immaculate Juma. Immaculate Juma is a singer-songwriter and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She is also an entrepreneur and lecturer. This is how she describes herself “For the most part, I’m a bubbly, curious, free-spirited soul that doesn’t make mistakes just one time but makes them several times just to be sure. I’m the last born in a family of five and I’m almost sure I’m the reason for my dad’s ulcer. I’m a lover and creator of art and I’ve found a really cool way to fuse my love for it with my legal background which I think is pretty cool being the Founder and CEO of Kulture Shift which trades as ArtLawKenya.”
What do you do and what impact do you think it creates in your industry or the world?
I find this question particularly difficult to answer for the fact that I do so many things. I’ve always had many interests but to reduce them into as few words as possible, I’m a singer-songwriter and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. I’m also a lecturer at the Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) where I lecture in ‘Music Business’, ‘Entertainment Law’, ‘Media Law’ and the ‘Protection of Intellectual Property’.
I record and perform music under the stage name IMA (an abbreviation of my three names) and I also run a legal consultancy known as ArtLawKenya that works to serve various creatives within the Creative Economy.
Having a background in legal studies, starting the consultancy was informed by a need to help create a more conducive environment for creatives like myself to thrive because I’m a firm believer in knowledge being power. Too many times we’ve seen instances of creatives being taken advantage of for not knowing better. An informed person is able to make better decisions for themselves and the cautious expectation is that this allows them to thrive. For this reason, we also do a lot of workshops and legal aid clinics within the creative industry.
What things would you change along the way if you had a chance to go back to the past?
I’m not sure about changing anything in the past because in some ways, the past led me to my present which I’m pretty happy with. Even the hard bits of it. Possibly though, the one thing I would change would be not taking people’s opinions too seriously and being grounded in the steps I needed to take to achieve my goals.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your current job?
My current jobs*
In music – consistency, business acumen/financial literacy, patience and allowing your creativity to really and truly do its thing. Not packaging yourself into a neat little box.
In Law – you need to have a teachable mind and curiosity. Laws are constantly changing and jurisprudence is constantly developing so you’ve got to be able to put yourself in spaces to learn. You also need to be able to communicate well. This is more of a soft skill but one that’s necessary.
What do you love to do, that makes you light up when you talk about it?
I love love being anywhere there’s music or art – whether it’s a concert, a play or an art exhibition. Being around creativity has a way of inspiring me as an artist.
What motivates you to keep going?
The fact that life is fleeting and meant to be lived and lived well. I see a future for myself and more so in a world I’d like to exist in – so why not contribute to that in whatever little way I can?
How do you define success?
I define success as having the contentment that comes from knowing you tried to do something and you learnt something from it and this lesson allowed you to make a better decision with a better result. So, for me, I’d define success as growth. It also doesn’t hurt if this growth has a positive effect on your bank account.
What is more important for you, passion or purpose or both? Why?
This is a hard one. I think passion is seasonal. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t, and that’s okay honestly. I believe purpose is the thing that comes to you naturally, and it could be the simplest of things – like being good at solving problems, or creating, or helping others.
Now, this purpose is what will find its way into your life’s work, whether you’re a singer, a lawyer, a dancer, a techie – anything you choose to be. For purpose to be actualized, I believe it requires both passion and a work ethic. Why? Because when the passion lacks, the work ethic still forces you to know to either show up, or to take a break, but it doesn’t let go of the vision that informs the purpose.
So, I would say both passion and purpose need to mutually co-exist.
A lot of people like to talk about success but not failure. We are told to embrace failure on our road to success. Is there one time you failed at something you were working on that taught you valuable lessons that you can share? What lessons were those?
I’m coming to realize the necessity of failure. I’ve been averse to it and for the longest time, it’s been my biggest fear. I think it still is.
But I’m also coming to learn, again, that what we think of as a ‘failure’ is in many cases a lack of appreciation of a lesson; a perception that our minds have created because of an unmet expectation, not realizing that this failure has taught you something. A lesson that should be taken as just that, nothing more. It isn’t going to, nor should it define your entire identity.
My most notable ‘failure’ would be getting into business with people I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know. I was so caught up in the glamour of the vision that I didn’t stop to appreciate if at all we shared the same values as I did in terms of honesty and authenticity. Of course, this isn’t to say that the blame for the business going sour was all on them, I also had a part to play in that I grew non-commital because I wasn’t communicating nor articulating my worries or concerns with how the business was running. I did what we’re now calling ‘quiet quitting’.
I now run a business and the biggest takeaways from that ‘failure’ were – never to accept an idea I don’t fully believe in and never to do business with an individual I do not share the same values and work ethic with.
In the words of our lordess Rihanna, never a failure always a lesson.
Have you ever faced imposter syndrome? How do you deal with it?
Let me tell you, Maina, being your biggest critic is so real! I think I’ve faced imposter syndrome since leaving the schooling system. You see the schooling system graded us, so at any one point, we knew how smart, how talented, and how good we were, based off of grades. Then you grow into an adult and there are no longer grades so you’re not sure of how well or badly you’re performing in life and so the majority of the time you’re just winging it while comparing yourself to others!
This shift causes me to constantly wonder about whether I’m even qualified to be doing certain things. Almost every day. To get over it most times I have to invent an alter ego that believes she can do anything she sets her mind to – like a person so out of touch with reality that they believe firmly that the world is their oyster and everybody else is a supporting character in my movie.
I also remind myself that the fact that I’ve made a career out of the things I love to do, and the fact that I have clients and get booked for gigs means I’m actually doing something right.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
First of all – and I know it sounds so cliché – but just start. If it’s music, just start. Record and put out the song. If it’s law, again, get into school, get into practice even. You won’t have it figured out from the get-go, nobody does, but you’ll learn by doing. And hey, if you can, get a mentor. They could help you avoid mistakes they made so you don’t have to make them.
Are there specific books or movies or podcasts you would recommend to somebody for them to get a better sense of what success is or what success could be like? This is an auntie moment to pass wisdom
Haha. Auntie watches and listens to Ted Talks and Engage Talks, but I’m slowly getting on the podcast wagon. For books though I’d say ‘I’m too Pretty to be Broke’ by Joan Thatiah and ‘Smart Money Woman’ by Arese Ugwu.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Catch up with series/movies, try out recipes, journaling, having one-man concerts in my house and spending time with family and friends. I also take lots of naps and I’m trying to go back into painting. I once had dreams of becoming a revered fine artist. Bado tuko pipeline with this one lol.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That she created timeless art and that she supported the creative industry so much that she left a mark on at least one generation.
Find Immaculate Juma on her social media handles.
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