Feyi Fay is a cheerful African fairy who saves the world in a series of children's books accompanied by accessories and apparel.
MRTV: Please, introduce Feyi Fay to the Minority Report readers.
SB: I’m Simisayo Brownstone, an author, entrepreneur and mother of two. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, although I spent a few of my early years in America while my mom was completing her higher education. I later moved to England for University, where I met my husband who was visiting as an exchange student from Los Angeles. We dated for 5 years long distance until I finally gave in and moved to Los Angeles where we now live with our two daughters. I like to think of myself as fun loving and adventurous, even though I’m not the outgoing type. When life permits, I enjoy travelling, meeting new people and learning about new cultures. But most of all, I enjoy intimate gatherings with good people and good food.
MRTV: Feyi Fay is an extraordinary character who seemingly goes on lots of adventures. How did you come to create Feyi Fay?
SB: Growing up, I spent a good chunk of my spare time daydreaming. I’d daydream about going on magical adventures, visiting different lands, escaping assassins, fighting crime, and more. Anything that helped me escape reality, even for a moment. I knew I wanted to turn my daydreams into a book or a movie script one day, but I didn’t take it seriously until I had children.
I now have two daughters who are one of a handful of black children in their schools. As my first daughter got older, she started to notice how different she was from her friends – Her skin was darker, and her hair was puffier. I wanted to reassure her that she was beautiful just the way she is, so I began to be more deliberate about the things I bought for her. I wanted to buy products like books, backpacks, shoes and other things that represented her, but there weren’t a lot of options available and they often weren’t easily accessible. That’s when I decided to start something on my own.
In 2017, I began working on adapting one of my many daydreams into a character for a children’s book that would represent my daughters both ethnically and culturally (we are Nigerian). At the same time, I wanted the story behind the character to be one that any child from any ethnicity or culture could relate to. I also wanted the character to play a role that you don’t typically see Africans or black people in general playing in mainstream media. With all these things in mind, the concept of Feyi Fay was born.
Feyi Fay is an African superhero fairy who travels the world helping kids solve their everyday problems from bullying to making friends. The books use Nigerian folktales and legends to guide kids through their issues and are full of fun, humor, mystery, magic, and suspense.
MRTV: Describe Nigerian folklore and its significance for those who are familiar as well as those who are unfamiliar with the culture and this form of storytelling.
SB: Many Nigerian folktales are stories that explain why things are the way they are, like why a leopard has spots, or why the sky is far away, or why girls have long hair. Many stories include animals. Other folktales and legends are stories that teach a lesson or explain why you should or shouldn’t do certain things, such as steal, disobey your parents, or engage in other bad behavior.
In general, there’s usually a moral behind Nigerian folktales and many of those morals are still valid in today’s world. And I love finding creative ways of incorporating those old folktales into my modern-day stories and creating something new and fresh that any child can enjoy.
MRTV: What do you hope to accomplish by publishing Feyi Fay’s stories and share them with the world?
SB: I really wanted to write a story about a young black girl that kids from everywhere in the world love and look up to, whether they are white or black, a boy or a girl. A story where the young black girl is the superhero. The powerful one. The wise one. The magical one. I don’t see enough of that. I believe that stories like this are extremely important. It not only helps to empower young black kids, especially our girls, but it also shows kids of other backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities that heroes can come in different forms. All our kids will grow up to be future leaders, law makers, police officers, co-workers, and more. And the more they grow up knowing and seeing that we have more in common than not, the better our society will be for them and for the future generations.
MRTV: Share with us your educational and professional background?
SB: I studied Computer Science in the University of Reading in England and my first job out of University was at GE Money as part of their IT Leadership Program. That was a great experience because I learned a lot in a short period of time. But, I soon decided that working in IT wasn’t for me, so I left and got an MBA from the University of Southern California. From there, I moved into Process Improvement and Six Sigma, then later moved into Strategic Planning and Analysis where I help businesses operate at their best ability.
MRTV: In what way did that help you create Feyi Fay?
SB: So Feyi Fay isn’t just about the book. I’ve got backpacks, shoes, jigsaw puzzles and more. My goal is to make Feyi Fay similar to Disney’s Frozen where you see Elsa’s face on almost every product you can imagine :-D! As I started to think through my bigger plans for Feyi Fay, the education I got during my MBA helped give me the framework for how to craft my idea and turn it into a business, not just a book. But I definitely don’t think it’s necessary to have an MBA in order to start a business.
Where do you write your stories?
MRTV: Creating Feyi Fay, writing chaper books, and developing character merchandise keeps you busy! I am sure it all requires organization. Describe your creative workspace.
SB: I always start writing my stories on paper. I guess I’m old school in that way, haha. Then once I’ve got a general outline, I start to write in a google document. I use Google Docs because my workspace is everywhere and anywhere. If I’m in the doctor’s office and the wait is long, I’ll whip out my phone and start writing. If I’m on a long plane ride, I’ll write there. If I’ve got the house to myself, I’ll write there. I’ll write in bed, in the bathtub, on the sofa… anywhere that’s comfortable for me at that moment in time.
MRTV: Besides hard work, what other business skills do you use in an effort to make the Feyi Fay series successful?
SB: I am using almost every business skill there is right now, haha. I am literally the CEO – Chief Everything Officer! The business skills I’ve gained have more than quadrupled since starting this business. And running a business in real life is SO much different than reading a book about running a business. I’ve learned little things like how to protect your assets through copyrights and trademarks, and how to keep your finances in check. The finance part was a tough one because I’ve always disliked finance, but I had to put that dislike aside and become friends with it… at least temporarily . Other skills I use to make Feyi Fay successful include building connections through social media and in person events. Email marketing and paid advertising are some others. I’ve also learned basic photo and video editing for web and social media. And I can even create simple short animated videos now. Wow! I’ve come a long way.
But the biggest skill I now use is knowing when to delegate to others.
MRTV: Along with the Feyi Fay books, tell us about the other merchandise you have available.
SB: One day I was shopping in Target for my kids and noticed they had a bunch of character-based clothes and products. I saw the Little Mermaid, Elsa from Frozen and a bunch of other characters on shoes and t-shirts and other things, but no people of color. At one point there were some Black Panther t-shirts, but they didn’t last long. That’s when I knew that Feyi Fay had to be more than just the books. So, I set out to create a bunch of products featuring Feyi Fay. I now make backpacks, t-shirts, shoes, puzzles, pencil cases, and more, featuring Feyi Fay.
When I think of my product line, I think of joy with a drizzle of African magic. From the colorful patterns to the cute quotes and smiling faces, every product is designed with happiness in mind, which goes along well with the story of Feyi Fay. My hope is that when kids engage with the Feyi Fay brand it not only brings joy to their hearts and smiles to their faces, but it also gives them a deeper appreciation for the world we live in and the diverse cultures within it. I hope that little girls from all over the world feel empowered and know that they too can be the heroes of their own story. And I hope that little black girls see Feyi Fay and feel proud of their natural beauty, kinks, coils, curls and all!
MRTV: What advice do you have for fantasy or folktale writers who want to embed the legends and myths passed down from the previous generations into their stories so they are relevant today?
SB: Be creative. Take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t behind. And don’t be afraid to tweak things slightly to make it more appealing to your audience. Remember that many old fairytales (e.g. Cinderalla, The Little Mermaid and others) had unhappy endings or unpleasant plots but they were tweaked into the stories we know and love today.
MRTV: You also visit schools and share Feyi Fay with children. What events do you have coming up?
SB: I have a few school book fairs that I’m working on securing dates for in 2019. Those tend to be the best time to engage the readers because they are excited about learning about new books. I also attend state book fairs, and I occasionally present at libraries also. It’s always an honor to talk to the kids face to face and hear their thoughts and experiences with Feyi Fay.
MRTV: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
SB: I’m working on a pitch to hopefully get Feyi Fay turned into a TV series… shhhh! I’m also hoping to launch a range of toys – play sets, figurines etc. And I’m planning on creating another character similar to Feyi Fay, but for boys.
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