It’s not everyday you come across a qualified accountant who’s now a creative and independent artist – this is the story of Onyi Moss. Born and raised in Nigeria, Onyi grew up surrounded by inspiration from the likes of Onyeka Onwenu and Tracy Chapman whom her parents would have playing on the radio and television over and over again.
Speaking to Onyi it would appear she always had a passion for the arts as she reminisced about her mum’s rose gardens and tie and dye projects which she got to experience as a kid. But the practicality of succeeding socially and financially back then in the creative industry seemed quite farfetched to her hence her decision to pursue a career in accounting.
Having gained a BSc in the subject matter, she successfully took on a role in one of Nigeria’s top leading banks after completing her NYSC. Two years in her banking career, she chose to seek out more for herself unbeknownst to her what the future had in store.
At the age of twenty-two Onyi caught a flight from Abuja International airport to the UK to begin her studies to qualify as an ACCA chartered accountant. Something she was able to achieve within a couple of years. However, things didn’t go as smoothly as she anticipated as she struggled to get a job in finance which saw her unemployed for over a year. It was in that time that she decided to expand her horizon and reconsider her love for the arts.
Stuck at home with very little to do, Onyi began drawing inspiration from other women on her television screen just as she did as a kid. Only this time, these women were self taught photographers who told beautiful visual stories. Rather than pay her rent that month, she took what I can only describe as a bold step to purchase a camera to begin teaching herself photography. She had seen her dad document their family life as a kid using his film camera. Something he was eventually forced to give up when it got stolen.
That was the extent of her experience with photography. But as I got to know Onyi while chatting to her, I realised she’s not one to shy away from what one might class as a scary decision. She took on the role quite literally and began taking self portraits. She learnt about photography and editing by watching YouTube tutorials and made sure to put her new skills to practice. And even when she eventually got a job in finance in a bank, she still carried on with her photography. Sometimes staying up until the early hours of the morning, editing images she had captured after a long day at the office.
Her hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed as big name brands began discovering her work on social media and offered to pay her to shoot editorial campaigns for them. Eventually she left her role at the bank even after doing very well there. She managed to gain three promotions in her first eighteen months. But she knew if she didn’t take a chance on herself to see where her new creative passion led, it wouldn’t sit well with her, especially giving the opportunities that had come her way. It turned out it was another great resolve as she puts it.
Onyi went on to win multiple awards for her work and even became a brand ambassador for a top leading UK jewellery brand. She felt the need to not just focus on still images but also delve into film by telling visually pleasing stories. You can truly see the passion in her work. Some of her short films have gathered hundreds of thousands of views on social media. In creating film, she rediscovered her love for writing music as she knows that music plays a key role in storytelling. This is what led her to begin working on her EP.
Her debut single ‘In Your Eyes’ was released a few weeks ago and is currently being played in radio stations across the UK including the BBC. When I asked her what the song was about she described it as “the glimmer of hope that can sometimes be found in loss”. Onyi is very much a dreamer and a romantic at heart. Something that is visible through her work. The meaning of the song does hold true to her. Her music has been very much inspired by the likes of Tracy Chapman and Asa. ‘In Your Eyes’ has an acoustic introspective foundation with elements of folk blues.
Onyi is unsigned and intends to remain that way. She’s the sort of creative who wants to stay true to her soul in her own words. She doesn’t want to get wrapped up in other people’s dreams but instead share hers with the world. She believes not many women have been able to succeed independently in this industry on their own terms and if she can be one of the few examples of women who manage to do so, then hopefully it paves the way for others to take charge of their creative career how they deem fit.
When asked if she had any final words for our readers, she said and I quote “it is important to tell your story because if you don’t, others might do it for you and you might not like the character they make you out to be.”