Meet our Soho Works workmate, Priya de Souza

woman leaning in armchair next to curtains.

The London Works member and former Dazed Executive Director shares how she’s balanced being a freelance brand consultant and a mother of one during a more than challenging year

Local Soho Works: 180 Strand, London

How did you get where you are today?
‘It was a lot of luck really. I couldn’t afford to intern, because I needed to pay my rent, so I made up a CV and lied to get my first job at i-D magazine, as an account manager. I thought I’d got away with it and confessed months later to the financial director, who told me they’d known all along. I started at i-D before digital was a thing, so I got to see that tipping point of print and digital, and how commercial partnerships in media were changing. 

‘I moved to Dazed magazine in 2010. It was very much anything goes – as long as you had a great idea and a vision of how you were going to make it work, they were happy for you to try anything. I went freelance during lockdown, which was probably the most bonkers thing I’ve ever done. It’s been challenging but wonderful governing my own schedule and not having to be in front of my laptop at 8am every morning.’ 

What are you currently working on?
‘A few different things. I’m working on end-to-end brand and media partnerships with the likes of Dazed and Beauty Papers, as well as brand strategy with a range of start-ups and growing businesses predominantly within health and wellness. It’s such an interesting sector at the moment, especially considering the year that we’ve had. Everything I work on is rooted in culture marketing and trying to create impact in all the noise out there. So, I’ve been doing a lot of research recently into how people’s lockdown experience has affected their mental health.’

What challenge did you face this year and how did you overcome it?
‘Making the jump to go freelance was a challenge in itself, but COVID-19 made it really difficult. I had no clients and no ability to go out and hustle, because we were in lockdown. I hadn’t really told people I was going freelance either, as I was just dipping my toe in it. Then, all of a sudden, I had to look after my son full time, so I didn’t physically have the time to properly commit to anything. I’ve got so much respect for single parents, people with multiple children, and those who have got children with special needs who didn’t have support over lockdown.  

‘This year has taught me to just chill out a bit – that it’s fine to take things slow and not be as busy, and trust things will happen in their own time.’
A woman in a black blazer stands in front of a painting
A woman in a black suit and sandals
It’s been a tumultuous year – what’s inspiring you at the moment?
‘I don’t think anyone can fail to be affected by the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements. There are things that I grew up with that just aren’t acceptable anymore, and that’s really refreshing to see. On a totally different note, I’ve recently bought a new house and I’m obsessed with interiors. As we haven’t been able to go out as much, I’ve been hosting more dinner parties, so I’ve been buying tableware. I’ve made a lot of Picantes over lockdown, and I even bought crystalised ginger so I could make a Soho Mule.’ 

Favourite quote or words to live by?
‘I always say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. I’m a control freak and my weekend is made up of to-do lists. If something throws that off kilter, I can have a massive flap, but I have to remind myself to look at the bigger picture.’

What’s your hidden talent?
‘I can’t do the splits or sing or anything, but I’ve discovered over lockdown that I can bake, which has brought me a lot of joy. I can whip up a marble cake without looking at a recipe now. Oh, and I can dye my own hair, which I didn’t realise I could do.’

What are your three essentials for a productive working day?
‘Childcare (if I have to look after my son, nothing really gets done), a charged phone and a to-do list – you can’t beat the satisfaction of ticking things off.