With its exclusive eye-catching photography, stylish design and thought-provoking interviews, entertainment and creative arts magazine Flavour manages to stand out in the over-crowded magazine market.  CEO and Editor of Flavour Annika Allen reveals there’s more to Flavour then what meets the eye.

What do you get when you combine sheer ambition with a knack for writing and a head for business? Annika Allen of course. When most girls were carefully accessorising their Barbie dolls at aged eight, Annika was carefully mapping out her career in journalism.

On paper, she looks like an impressive figure having written for: Street Cred Magazine, The Voice, newspapers Sister Sister and New Nation, Positive People Magazine, Pride Magazine plus she’s had a slot on community radio in Birmingham (where she was born and bred). And in person? Meeting Ms. Allen for the first time, I take an instant liking to her. Dressed smartly in a pale jacket and slacks with her Blackberry in hand she appears confident and her infectious personality has the familiarity of an old friend. Speaking of her career plans, the 26-year-old says: ‘I never wanted to be staffed somewhere, I wanted to be able to do my own thing.’

So it is no surprise to learn that by the age of 16 Annika had already interviewed the likes of Total, 112 and Tatyana Ali. It was luck and her ready-for-anything attitude that landed her an exclusive interview with the latter. Bumping into a radio colleague in Birmingham’s city centre, she discovered he was on his way to interview Tatyana. ‘I’ve always carried my dictaphone and camera with me. I was given about 15 minutes with her. I was obviously nervous, but at the time I used to buy all the music magazines so I could think of questions off the top of my head. She was really sweet, which made it easier.’ Anything else? ‘Yes. A personal invitation to the concert later that evening.’

Working in television
For some of us, the experiences thus far would make us feel as if we had already arrived. Not so for Annika. ‘I felt I needed more experience in other areas of the media, so I went into television production.’ Starting out as a runner for Richard and Judy she was not completely satisfied with the role and moved on to TalkbackThames in 2004, where the experience proved invaluable. ‘They were a really good company. They let me work on a lot of the projects I wanted to work on and trained me up as a researcher. I learnt a lot about television while I was there, in terms of producing and camera operation and how to work until the job is done, because in TV you don’t have set working hours.’ Being mentored by Ash Attalla, the award-winning producer of The Office, was a bonus. ‘He was always very supportive and encouraging. Observing the position he was in made me want to be in a position of power where I could command a certain respect and I could get my ideas on screen.’ Coupled with further experience from working at RDF Media, Annika was able to work on a number of popular television shows including, Holiday Showdown, House of Tiny Tearaways and 60 years of RnB (aired on MTV Base).

Entrepreneurial spirit

With Ash Attalla recognising her drive and talent and often telling her: ‘You’ll be running the place soon,’ it was clear that Annika was destined to be the boss of her own projects. Rolling forward to 2006, she teamed up with Leonard Foster to create Flavour, blending their passion for music and entertainment with their entrepreneurial spirit. They each brought varying talents to the table (Annika’s skills in editorial content and Leonard’s skills in publishing and art direction) to form a truly harmonious working relationship. Though Flavour started out as a lifestyle magazine for men, it only took a short while for the magazine to change direction and find its feet in its current form of being a platform for showcasing creative talent – and after only its first year on the shelves, Flavour Magazine was nominated for an Urban Music Award, by the general public.

Flavour has seen many of the UK celebrity elite grace its cover, but despite having interviewed a long line of celebrities, Boyz II Men, Twista, Outkast, Ciara, Jamelia, Ashley Walters and Musiq to name a few, our Annika is not star-stuck. ‘We all have different gifts. It’s just that some of our gifts have manifested themselves in different ways and not everyone can be famous by using them.’ Although the level-headed beauty does have her favourites. ‘Stephen Marley – he was just really cool and down to earth. As you walked into the room it smelled of weed and it was just like ‘Yep, I’m interviewing a Marley’. Akon was very open and honest. Anything I was asking he was quite happy to answer.’

The magazine is only the tip of the creative iceberg. ‘Flavour was never going to just be the magazine. It was always going to have different aspects,’ she assures me. The Flavour brand also hosts events like the annual live music and beauty pageant, to discover and crown Miss Flavour and Flavour Goes Live – an event that showcases creative talent from music artists to fashion designers; while Breaking the Ice is a popular monthly rnb and hip hop karaoke night. On both projects Annika’s production skills come in handy when organising, hosting and shooting slick video content. This year, expect to see Flavour at the Notting Hill Carnival.

Annika says yes she may met celebrities, go to parties and get free CDs and concert tickets, but is keen to point out that the media industry isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds, and if you work on a freelance basis, you never know where your next pay cheque is coming from – or even if you’ll have more work from one week to the next. ‘It’s not easy,’ she says. ‘There have been times when I have thought of training as a teacher for more stability, but I really love it and just can’t see myself doing anything else.’

New York is one of Annika’s favourite cities in the world and like the Big Apple, she never sleeps. Continuously on the computer writing and researching, Annika is determined to succeed, but still manages to find time to play her favourite sport netball and offer advice to others coming up in the media industry but wishes she had more time to spend with her family in Birmingham. Despite being one of the busiest people I know, Annika stays tightly focused. ‘I’m going to be the UK Oprah, a media mogul like Simon Cowell. They are my two idols; that’s the end goal.’ Her sights may be set high, but it’s not so hard to imagine Annika fulfilling her dream one day.

Words by Rachelle Hull
Photographer Azza,
Make-up, Pandemonium Make-up Artistry,
Hair, Nibras Alwasiti,
Styling, Neesha Sharma,