Apple Music executive Bozoma Saint John was like a "tumbleweed" when she and her family emigrated to the United States from Ghana. She was 13 and the same height she is now, the company's head of global consumer marketing revealed during a chat Tuesday at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in Laguna Nigel, Calif.
The experience of sticking out in a place like Colorado Springs, Colo, where her parents and three sisters moved, was obviously a life changing experience, but Saint John said it taught her to embrace who she was.
"I couldn't hide," she said of her teen years in Colorado. "So, there wasn't a choice to do that. The choice was, do you try and do what everyone else is doing… I mean, I couldn't be blond. I couldn't be white! It's just not possible, you know? I just couldn't be anything else, so that meant I had to become all, everything that I have."
She added, "What a tremendous age to learn that lesson. At 13, I learned what it meant to walk into a room and not care when everyone else turned around and looked at you. So here I am."
The Wesleyan University grad worked in music marketing at Pepsi, then went to Beats Music, months before Apple bought it in 2014, and now runs marketing for iTunes and Apple's streaming service. Earlier this year, she made the list of the music industry's most powerful marketing executives.