Breakout star of Apple's WWDC calls out developers for lack of rhythm

Commentary: Bozoma "Boz" Saint John, the head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, was like a breath of fresh air on stage at Apple's annual developers conference.

Ashlee Clark Thompson Associate Editor
Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ashlee Clark Thompson
2 min read
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This might be the first year that a presenter at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference has asked the audience to clap along and rap the classic hit, "Rapper's Delight."

That moment of audience participation and self-aware awkwardness led by Bozoma "Boz" Saint John turned the self-proclaimed "head diva" of global consumer marketing at Apple Music and iTunes into the breakout star of this year's WWDC.

The stage at this annual gathering of developers usually features men. There are also few people of color. The lack of diversity discourages me, a black woman in tech who doesn't often see others that look like me at big conferences and shows.

Then Saint John took the stage to discuss updates to Apple Music.

Her name might not be as well known as Eddy Cue or Craig Federighi. That's because Saint John's credentials are steeped in music and marketing. She's been the vice president of marketing for the clothing brand Ashley Stewart. Then, she led the Music and Entertainment Marketing Group at Pepsi-Cola North America, according to a profile from her alma mater. She eventually made her way to Beats Music as senior vice president and head of global marketing, and moved on to Apple when the company bought Beats Music in 2014.

When she took the stage Monday, Saint John unapologetically presented black girl magic on a global platform. Her hair was kinky. Her earrings were huge. Her dress was tight. The music she played during her demos featured black artists: Mary J. Blige, The Weeknd and Sugarhill Gang, the group behind "Rapper's Delight."

Saint John used that hip-hop anthem to show the attendees and everyone watching at home that Apple Music now features song lyrics. After getting the crowd to clap their hands, she told everybody to rap along. A few mumbled lyrics later, she stopped the music.

"We're going to pause this because some of you guys are not clapping to the beat," she said.

She went on to discuss "For You," a suite of daily curated playlists on Apple Music. For Saint John, a "Fashion Runway Strut" playlist was ready to go.

"I could be getting it. I could get my strut on up and down this stage," she said as the beat dropped. "But it's too early for that. I don't want to hurt you guys."

In a presentation mixed with personality, poise and informative content, Saint John showed that it's OK to stand out, that it's OK to make fun of developers, and that the tech world can be (and should be) more than a room full of white men.

See everything Apple announced today at its WWDC keynote.