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Meet Trailblazer Mary Otoo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Otoo.

Mary, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
“Tell Ayeley: See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17).

My mother told me that I started singing at a young age. I would sing along to tapes and sing with so much passion even though I did not understand the meaning behind the words. I was born in Ghana, West Africa in Akyem Awisa which is a rural town located in the Eastern Region. My family later moved to Accra where we lived in Sakumono and then Tema where we stayed until we relocated to the United States. I came here when I was about 15 years old and completed high school. I am currently a senior at Oglethorpe University with a major in Politics and a minor in Biology and Public Health. Moving to the United States was very difficult for me because it was a new environment that required me to adjust quickly but it was even harder for my parents. My mom left her prestigious job in Ghana just so I could have a better life. They work tirelessly to ensure my siblings and I have everything we need and more. However, through all the obstacles life threw at us, they never stopped encouraging me to keep singing. Singing is not just a hobby to me, it is a ministry. It is a calling on my life that I kept running away from because I did not understand why God would want to use someone like me for His Kingdom, but the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise and chooses what is weak to shame the strong. He also told Jeremiah to not belittle himself because he was young because God Himself would put words in His mouth (Jeremiah 1:6-7). If this same God knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb, then I trusted He would give me the courage to minister to His people for His glory. I started my Instagram page last year in July – under the username Ayeley which is my middle name – as a platform to post videos with the world. By the grace of God, my page is growing and though it can get difficult or disheartening, I remind myself that the glory is ALWAYS for Him and no one else. In July of this year, I released my first single titled “My God is Great” which is out on all major music platforms. I am excited to see where God takes me in my ministry and I believe 100% that He is preparing me for greater. My testimony is loading and I know that He who began a good work in me will bring it to a complete finish! (Philippians 1:6).

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Before I started my Instagram page, I was always singing in churches so I already knew what it was like singing in front of people. However, I am very shy when it comes to singing in front of a camera. I don’t know if it had something to do with not seeing my audience or that it was the internet, but I felt vulnerable. I would compare myself to others, brood over the number of views I got or even wonder why a friend of mine did not like my post. I assumed that since I was singing Christian music, everyone should love my content, but that was not true, I had to realize that not everyone who is in your corner roots for you, and not everyone who isn’t in your corner is against you. I also had to realize the power of freewill especially when it came to social media. People, even family, and friends have the power to like whatever they want and support whoever they want. No one is obligated to support me and that was a very bitter pill for me to swallow. Under each post, I post bible verses that correlate with the song and encouraging words for my viewers. But sometimes, I would find it hard to take my own words of encouragement because of things I would be going through. It would be a struggle finding what to say when I didn’t believe the words myself. Nonetheless, I have matured throughout this journey and continue to persevere.

Tell us about your work – what should we know?
As mentioned, I have an Instagram page (@itsayeley) dedicated to Christian music. I post mostly on Sundays, but I also have some weekday videos posted as well. I do acapella videos where I sing in parts, solos, and videos with instrumentation. My music varies between English and Twi which is a local dialect in Ghana. However, I plan on doing songs in different languages and trying new techniques to elevate my page. What I am most proud of are the testimonies and random words of encouragement I get from people motivating me to keep going. Even when I do not post a video, I get messages from people asking me why there isn’t one and whether I am okay. Little things like this serve as a source of inspiration for whenever I feel like quitting so I can be reminded that someone needs to hear me. What sets me apart in my singing is how I fuse my personality into my songs. I maintain simplicity when I sing, so I don’t do too much but I am also able to display my vocal abilities. I try to make my songs relatable even those in a different language so that anyone can connect to it. I also connect with my audience so that we are unified as one body before the presence of God. I sing a lot of old Ghanaian gospel songs that seem to be dying off which brings a sense of nostalgia to my Ghanaian audience.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
“Let them tell you no”. I received this advice from my career advisor in high school Ms. Chinn during my college application process. She told me to apply to every school and scholarship I wanted to without fearing what they would say. The worst they could do was to tell me, no, and that was better than not having an answer at all. Simply put, strive towards any goal you may have without fearing what anyone will say. It is better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. You will lose money, hope, friends, relationships and other things that may discourage you. But do not give up on yourself. The vision may tarry, but it will surely come to pass!

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