Black Girl Fest CEO Nicole Crentsil Is Creating Community, Opportunity for Black Creatives


It’s not easy being the first, and it’s not easy to make space for yourself to exist and thrive when everyone around you wants you to conform. But Nicole Crentsil, the founder and CEO of the U.K.’s first festival celebrating Black women, girls, and non-binary people, has done both.

Black Girl Fest, which she created in 2017, grew out of an exhibition Nicole curated in 2016 called “Unmasked Women.” Featuring art from Adama Jalloh and Juliana Kasumu, the project opened up room for the Black community in Britain to discuss mental health, but it also planted seeds for her future work. She tells Teen Vogue that it became a “magnifying glass,” a way to process her own experiences and build a foundation for more expansive ideas. “I was like, okay, this has been a help, but what about education, healthcare, arts, and creatives?”

Born in Ghana and raised in London, Nicole realized early on that she had a knack for assembling IKEA furniture and nailing her woodshop class in school; that talent sparked her dream of becoming a spatial designer, which she took to Nottingham Trent University to study product design. However, as most of us have had to learn, many professions — including in the design industry — are less than welcoming to Black women. But like many Black women who have come before her, Nicole not only found a way to break into the industry but also ensure that many women are able to walk in after her.

In addition to leading Black Girl Fest, Nicole is also on the Members Advisory Board for the Tate, and a VC Scout and angel investor with Ada Ventures. Meanwhile, she also started Big Sis, a platform that supports the personal development of Black women and nonbinary people in creative industries through grants, networking events with Black entrepreneurs, and more.

After navigating a difficult 2020 for live events, Black Girl Fest is now becoming a major platform that aims to help the Black community thrive in social, educational and economic spaces. The organization is split into two parts, the academy and the festival, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic created events such as workshops around Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming in addition to the annual marquee fest. So far this year, Black Girl Fest has hosted an intimate in-person Women Rise networking link-up in Accra, Ghana, and with a redesign under its belt, is looking toward the future of what the Black Girl Fest ecosystem might look like.

Teen Vogue spoke with Nicole about her dream dinner party, how Black Girl Fest has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her aim to empower not only Black people in the U.K., but across the globe.



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