003 The Yvonne Philes

Yvonne has always had her head buried in a book. As an avid reader and lover of literature, it was no surprise that she ended up a Publicist at Pan Macmillian Australia. Even so, choosing a career that follows your creative dreams can be a daunting one, especially as a Black Woman, our families and society all have ideas and expectations which can be hard to live up to.

We followed Yvonne on a beautiful spring morning as she explored her favourite bookshop near her home in Milsons Point and shared with us her life, career and how she follows her passion.

 Images by  Teniola Komolafe

Tell us about your job? What has the journey been like?

I’m a publicist at Pan Macmillan Australia, so I get to work with some amazing writers and create publicity campaigns for their new books.

If you’re watching a TV program, say The Project, and an author, actor, CEO or anyone representing a brand is being interviewed, or you’re reading a magazine and come across a story about an upcoming event or how a certain company’s products changed someone’s life, chances are a public relations (PR) professional helped make that happen.

Describe your typical weekend.

I work long hours Monday to Friday, so the weekend for me, is everything. It’s when I reboot for the next week. A typical weekend involves catching up with my partner, a lot of life admin, reading, trying to make time for friends…and most importantly, myself.

How do you navigate culture and tradition while living in Australia?

It’s important to find your tribe... find friends who get it and will help you remember it.

It’s both easy and hard, especially since I don’t have family here. When you have your family around you, it’s easy to keep traditions alive because everyone gets it. That’s why it’s important to find your tribe. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I’m a Muganda from Uganda”, I mean find friends who get it and will help you remember it.

 Images by  Teniola Komolafe

What is your definition of self-care and how do you make time for it?

Self-care is any activity that you do to take care of your mental and physical health – activities that keep you sane and centred in this chaotic world. I can always tell when I need some self-care because the stress, the fatigue, the anger seeps into everything.

Boxing is at the top of my self-care list. When I box, it’s like I’m literally punching the stress…as if it’s this physical being. I come out feeling like a new woman.

I’m obsessed with movies and TV shows and love movie dates with my partner.

My partner got me into hiking, it’s a good way for us to reconnect while being disconnected from everyday distractions. I started walking to and from work. It’s about a 40-minute walk each way which is enough time to listen to a lengthy podcast. I have found this so rejuvenating, my new favourite is Jesus and Jollof!

Where did you grow up and what are some memories of your childhood?

I grew up in one of the most beautiful countries on the earth – Uganda. And I don’t think I have that many childhood memories that don’t involve family. And when I say “family”, I don’t mean the western meaning of family (i.e. nuclear). I’m talking about my extended family. I have at least 50 first cousins and God knows how many second cousins, and what I love about my culture is we don’t stop there… my dad’s closest friends are my uncles and aunts and their kids are my cousins. So you can imagine what family functions (particularly weddings) are like…

Like most African families, mine is big, loud and in each other’s business…and I love it!

Like most African families, mine is big, loud and in each other’s business…and I love it! I have one sibling, an older brother, but our house was ALWAYS full of kids – cousins everywhere! We spent holidays together (so many sleepovers), Christmases together, Easters together…almost every weekend together. And many of these weekends were spent at my paternal grandparents’ home, which was only a 10-minute drive from our home.

What tips would you offer to someone who wants to do something similar to what you do?

Do not undervalue internships. When I started my Masters degree, I had no PR experience but knew that upon completion of my course, I would be competing with younger graduates who studied communications in their undergrad days. I decided to do internship after internship after internship while I studied, so that I’d have experience when it was time to job hunt- and it paid off!

Stay on top of the news and understand the media landscape. I find the more you do this, the more you understand what kind of stories certain media, both online and offline, are interested in.

 Images by  Teniola Komolafe

What 5 books/authors are you loving right now?

  • Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu blew me away.

  • I just love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work. Americanah will stay with me forever.

  • Tomi Adeyemi has taken the world by storm. Her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, has been called “the black Harry Potter” and with good reason. I can’t wait for book #2 – Children of Virtue and Vengeance – next year!

  • Sisonke Msimang

  • Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes

What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?

One word: gym. The gym is my safe space; it’s my sanctuary. It’s where I go to let off steam, to get rid of the day/week’s stresses. It’s where I go when I’m happy. It’s where I go when I’m sad. It’s where I go to focus my energy.

Black womanhood is strong and beautiful.
 Images by  Teniola Komolafe
August Inc.