Oxford university student and award-winning vlogger Varaidzo Kativhu, commonly known as Miss Varz, has over 19,000 subscribers on YouTube; she uses her platform to address educational inequality and share advice with students, especially those hoping to secure a place at Oxford.
Now 21, Kativhu is determined on working to increase the number of black and minority ethnic students at top universities. It was a pleasure to be able to get in touch and interview such an amazing young woman. The passion for what she stands for was truly palpable.
From an early age, Kativhu has always been drawn to the camera. She would always create little videos of herself speaking, imagining herself being on the big screen.
These little moments fuelled her passion for wanting to pursue a role within the media industry, through presenting and just being able to share pieces of advice to others. Born in Zimbabwe, Kativhu moved to the UK around the age of 6/7; her ability to learn quickly and integrate easily made the transition and adapting to the new environment a lot smoother for her.
Having achieved 3Bs at A-levels, her dreams of getting into Oxford almost seemed impossible, but later became a reality as she was instead accepted through one of the widening participation programmes. She decided to take up a degree in Classical Archaeology and Ancient Histories due to her interest in wanting to study the past, understanding human beings and where we’ve come from.
“In terms of pursuing your happiness, I never thought of wanting to study something that is just going to get me a job. It was never the way I thought, I never thought I needed something that’s going to pay bills for me because I’ve always believed that somehow, someway you’ll be fine. So, I always thought it’s important for me to pursue something I enjoy, what makes me want to get up and study, what puts that passion and fuel inside me.”
Kativhu was keen on helping others who may have been in the same position as her, this led to her starting a YouTube channel in an attempt to help students with revision and exam tips, application tips for getting into Oxford or any other Russell group university.
Lack of representation within mainstream media:
Her breakthrough into the media industry, although just the beginning has been a huge success so far. She has been featured on a few media outlets such as the BBC, ITV and The Times discussing various topics she’s passionate about, sharing her journey and experiences to the world.
“Within the media industry I’m keen on bringing representation in terms of on-screen talent – we need more presenters and more faces that are black, especially dark-skinned so that our voices can be heard.”
SOOOOO your girl is now a REGULAR guest speaker on a NEW SHOW airing on BBC RADIO OXFORD? 💃🏾🎊
First TV, now Radio? Wow this God I serve is really working overtime
It’s called ‘ Generation Y‘ and is all about young people & the issues we face
Can’t wait for you to hear it 🎉 pic.twitter.com/j2skzCrskb
— ✨Vee (@missvarz) October 10, 2018
“It’s important that we try to bring forth black representation within these industries because you can’t aspire to be someone you can’t see. It would also prevent the recent racial blunders that have been happening within major brands. Due to their lack of diversity, they start to make decisions about a culture they don’t understand.”
Just a few months ago she was invited over to Downing Street to meet the prime minister, along with other young inspiring black students like herself. She recently held her first Ted talk touching on a topic she highly resonates with: the power of words and its impact on students, especially young black students.
Challenges and obstacles:
Being able to get a place at Oxford wasn’t the only struggle she faced, the transition to a new environment also came with its challenges. Kativhu recently opened up about her struggles with imposter syndrome, the effects it had on her and how she was able to overcome it.
Students are surrounded by those that have similar academic abilities and educational backgrounds as them; for many students like Kativhu, you begin to feel like a small fish in a big pond.
A sense of inadequacy becomes persistent because of who you’re comparing yourself to. For this reason, she’s working on being more concerned about her own personal goals and aspirations.
“It’s easy to downplay whatever you do and forget the magnitude of the spaces you’ve entered, the glass ceilings you’ve broken and the moves you’ve made. So, I think it’s important to step back and reflect. When I don’t do that, I sometimes take what I’ve done for granted.”
Being able to reach so many milestones quickly at such a young age, Kativhu defines growth as working to become the best version of yourself.
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#Repost @bbcnews ・・・ Meet Miss Varz – an award-winning vlogger who posts videos about her life as an Oxford University student. She has 4,000 followers on YouTube and is using the platform to try and encourage more black and minority ethnic students to apply to study at top universities. #oxford #oxforduniversity #studentlife #students @missvarz #bbcnews
Quite a few Russell group universities have been heavily criticised for their lack of representation. She believes this is still going to be an issue for a very long time, further explaining that a lot of these universities need to do better in terms of improving diversity, and not just ticking off a quota but for the sake of society moving forward.
“It’s important that we’re effectively representing the society we’re currently living in today, England was not just built by white Anglo-Saxons. It wasn’t just built by white men’s hands, it was built off the back of slavery and migration, people coming from all over the world. Our teachers also need to be more encouraging and be trained better on how to get students into these universities as a lot of them don’t know how.”
I’m SOO grateful. Last night I was on Al Jazeera news (@aljazeeraenglish) interviewed by the wonderful @BarbaraGSerra, discussing my YouTube channel, my access & Outreach work, the racial abuse I encountered & most importantly my urge to get more BAME students into Oxbridge. 👏🏾 pic.twitter.com/XmZ5sie5ws
— ✨Vee (@missvarz) March 30, 2018
Kativhu learnt to grow a thick skin, having recently been featured on Al-Jazeera and ITV News, talking about the racial comments she received for speaking up about universities needing to do more to encourage diversity.
“Whenever I put a video out or go on air. I know that there’s going to be a backlash and its always going to be racial, especially when you’re a black woman doing something good. In the beginning, I used to get upset because you take it personally but then I realised that it could be someone like Michelle Obama sitting there and they’ll still have something negative to say, so I don’t take it personally anymore.”
She shared her experiences with meeting a few influential women over the years, such as Malala Yousafzai, a political activist for the right of all children to education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Kativhu has featured Malala on her channel on a few occasions, “It just felt like sitting with any other friend of mine and enjoying a normal conversation. She is a very phenomenal young lady and I think she’s done an incredible job in helping make this world a better place. We owe her a lot, as a society and as young girls we owe her a lot. She’s done a lot more than we realise and she’s impacted a lot of us without even realising it.”
Having recently done an interview with Malorie Blackman and meeting the former first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, she described the encounter as being very open and welcoming; you really get to see them in their natural habitat and understand that they’re not just a figure you see on TV.
Creating a generational change:
“I want people to remember me for bringing change whether it be small or large, but it must be impactful. I don’t want what I’m doing to be in vain or be a waste as soon as I’ve graduated from university. I don’t want me going to Oxford be the only reason why people are listening to me. I want to create a generational change. I want to be able to help girls within education and media break down doors, gain access and have a seat at the table. That is the only way to have a say on how our culture is represented on a wider scale. I want girls to be able to go into these top sectors and create a change.”
A man who interviewed Nelson Mandela on the day of his release? covered the inauguration of Barack Obama? & longest-running presenter of channel 4 news? Sir, I am in awe of you. Such an incredible journalist, presenter, reporter & documentary-maker. Gr8 to meet you @jonsnowC4 pic.twitter.com/REeiPxOs8l
— ✨Vee (@missvarz) April 28, 2018
Vee is working on a few secret major personal projects that’ll replace the Ted Talks. She is also in the process of writing a book something that’s raw from the heart, empowering and inspiring. She is yet to sign another presenting contract however she has plans to continue just doing normal student things, applying for internships, travelling abroad, expanding and exploring.