Soho House Mentorship: Fisayo Olajide and Alea Kristal

Two women smiling and laughing sat on a sofa

We caught up with the Soho House New York members about overcoming career challenges, the meaning of a successful mentorship, and how to define success

Photography by Justin Oppus

A great idea can come from anyone, yet not everyone has the opportunity or tools to turn it into an entrepreneurial enterprise. That’s why in 2018, we launched the Soho Mentorship scheme. The 16-week programme connects Soho House members with young people from underrepresented backgrounds to grow their connections, confidence and experience, helping them to make the next steps in their careers. Since its inception, we’ve helped more than 300 young people around the world break into the creative sphere.

Fisayo Olajide, also known as Fiz, is a New York-based film-maker. Currently, Olajide is working on a feature-length documentary called Untitled Underground Railroad Ride, a candid portrait of five young Black and brown cyclists, who attempt to ride a route inspired by the Underground Railroad. 

Throughout the mentorship programme, Alea Kristal, Olajide’s mentee, realised how integral writing is to the film-making process: ‘I rediscovered that writing is film-making, and that film-making is storytelling. I could make stories without my camera. I began questioning how to apply that way of thinking to protest spaces. My mentor made sure I had access to a laptop to keep me connected to the outside world, and helped me work through my anxieties about our uncertain future.’

Below, Olajide and Kristal share their experiences of Soho Mentorship.

Fisayo Olajide

What have you enjoyed the most about collaborating with Alea?
‘Alea is a super-talented artist who is both skilful and intuitive, and really cares about curating beautiful visuals with purpose. Their energy when bringing ideas to life is refreshing and inspiring.’

What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when starting out? 
‘Invest in Apple. No, in all seriousness it would be: “Stop trying to be who they want you to be, and always bet on yourself.”’

What does a successful mentoring relationship require? 
‘A personal connection is key. Sharing stories allows you to open up and show a vulnerable side of yourself, which lets the other person know that you’ve either been in their shoes or you can listen without judgment.’

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? 
‘I have a deep love for the art and craft of documentary film, so in 2020 I made the leap from a full-time position that I held for almost 10 years to work on my own projects.’

What do you do to switch off?
‘My guilty pleasure is reality TV. I have no idea why I’m hooked, but I love watching it, even with the bad continuity in the editing. It’s an escape from my world and a lens into someone else’s.’

 
Portrait of two women

'I went on a mission to find the spaces and communities I needed to thrive as a storyteller. I became a mentee, because I wanted to find creative peers with similar interests'

Alea Kristal

Why did you want to become a Soho House mentee?
‘When I found this mentorship programme, I was a recent college grad thinking about what “access” would look like for me. Moving back home to Brooklyn estranged me from the creative resources I’d been using at college. So, I went on a mission to find the spaces and communities I needed to thrive as a storyteller. I became a mentee, because I wanted to find creative peers with similar interests.’

How valuable has your Soho House mentorship been?
‘It’s really encouraging talking with my mentor, Fiz. Her experiences and questions helped me understand how to hold on to my core values while navigating my own unique path. It’s been amazing to witness how she pursues her own career and experiments with her craft, as well as celebrate the wins with her.’

What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
‘I enjoy the flexibility in my schedule. Also, the freedom I currently have to make my own hours and focus on independent projects.’

How did you choose your career?
‘I’ve always been into visual arts, and I later fell in love with how films made me feel; it made me wonder if there were stories from my own life that I could honour with a movie. I got formal training in painting, photography, and film-making. This led me to seek my current freelance opportunities in both the arts and the film and television industries.’

What challenges did you face in your career prior to having a mentor?
‘Well, my career has just begun, so many of my challenges have been what I’ll call culture shock. I’ve been lucky to find mentors every step of the way. Fiz has been great at teaching me to have patience for my journey. But, she’s also shown me how to use entitlement to hit my career goals, and challenge my imposter syndrome when I find myself in studios and film sets where people like me have been historically excluded from.’

What do you think the long-term values of having a mentor are?
‘Having someone else rooting for me and guiding me as I go on a creative path fills me with a sense of comfort and support.’

What does the future hold for you?
‘I’m sure it holds a lot of change and transformation, but I’ve been working on staying present.’

How do you define success?
‘My success looks like putting my ideas into practice, and enjoying my journey to making the images and films I want to see.’

Applications are currently open to Soho House members to mentor in: London, Oxfordshire, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Sign up here.

 
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