My Escape to an Incredible New Life: Annprincess' story

By Annprincess Johnson Koffa,
updated on Jul 2, 2019

My Escape to an Incredible New Life: Annprincess' story

A Liberian refugee forced to flee from her tyrannical father and shattered homeland as a child, Annprincess has launched a career in music, inspired by her traumatic experiences

I was born in war-torn Liberia, but my mother and I were forced to flee to survive.

We lived with my father, his eight other women, and their children. But this was not the life my mother wanted for us.

We fled Liberia when I was only six. I remember the house we lived in was huge and white, and always guarded by police officers. Life there with my father was very difficult. He was a politician and had been a rebel warlord in the Liberian civil war in the late 1980s.

My mom never knew my dad on a personal level. She only knows the military side. But I don’t remember him being unkind to his children. I think he loved us; I just come from a family that showed love differently.

His relationship with my mother was a bit different though – I remember my father always sending her to jail because she stood up to him. When my mom was taken away, which happened quite frequently, I was very much alone. The other women in the house didn’t want to live together, and so naturally did not care for anybody else’s children.


Photography | Greger Flak

I remember, around the age of four or five, having to put myself to bed. I was scared of the dark, so I slept with my back against the wall to pretend it was my mom.

I still remember the day my mother decided she couldn’t take it any more. My father had been arrested for becoming aggressive with the police when they refused to arrest my mother again. While he was away, my mother saw this as our opportunity to escape. She took me outside and explained that we were leaving. Being a child, I didn’t know that life wasn’t supposed to be like this, so I didn’t understand that we were leaving forever.

When we got to the large fence that surrounded our house, she told me to jump over. I was too scared – it was pitch black on the other side, and I thought I saw something moving. But my mother told me to listen to her and jump, so of course I trusted her.

We came to Norway with the help of the UN in Nigeria. They had a programme that helped single mothers get away. It took us years to get on the programme, and when we did, we thought everything was going to be OK. But the countries we applied to kept rejecting us.

Finally Norway accepted us, and so began the start of an incredible new life, with some different challenges – but we had escaped and were happy.

Growing up in Africa, the colour of my skin was not really something I thought about. It took Norway to make me aware of it – not just aware, but ashamed. Comments from strangers, and even my so-called friends, about the differences between their skin and body and mine, made me ashamed when looking in the mirror. For a long time, I wished I looked like them, just to fit in and be liked.

The one thing that began giving me self-confidence was singing, after a friend of mine told me I had a good voice. So at the age of 13 I started practising and writing songs, trying to hit those Celine Dion high notes.

At the time, singing and writing music wasn’t an emotional thing for me; I wrote and sang because people around me told me I could, and I’ve always loved writing stories and poetry, so I did because it was fun.

To sing about the emotions I was feeling inside was easier than to talk about them

But as I entered my teenage years, things started getting more difficult. Hormones started kicking in, and the guys started dating these blonde, blue-eyed beautiful girls. I didn’t seem to fit in. Reflecting on it now, I realise that I started doing music so that people would like me. I thought I would be more popular if people thought I could sing.

I played football, and being a tomboy became more my thing. I started when I was around 10 and played seriously until I was around 20. Becoming part of the football team really helped me interact with other people. Joining a team gave me the chance to make good friends in a sport I loved.

But I never really learnt how to communicate my feelings or emotions very well, so I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about the loneliness I was feeling. I cried a lot by myself and also felt so angry.

With all these emotions in my head, I think music then became a way to express my feelings. To sing about the emotions I was feeling inside was easier for me than to talk about them. It’s still fun to write music, but for me music now means more – it’s about expressing my emotions.

I also decided to challenge myself, and so I signed up for Norwegian Idol four times. Unfortunately, each time I was told I was not good enough. One judge even told me that singing wasn’t something I could do for a living. But I was not going to give up on something that I loved. After getting so many nos and so many people telling me to do something else, music became my therapy.

Annprincess and her mum

Annprincess and her mum

I’m now more determined than ever to continue my music career, as I believe in myself – and so do many others. I look to my music to help improve life even more for my mother and me. I want to be able to finally give my mother a comfortable and stress-free life.

I’m currently focusing on performing, and am going to be playing at festivals this summer. I want to find a label to work with, performing everywhere I can, and continue to work really hard to build my fanbase. I’m also working on my EP, featuring about four or five songs.

Looking back on how far we’ve come, I know my mother and I are in a better place now. I am so thankful that my mother saved us, and gave me the opportunity for a new life, and to pursue music.

From feeling like the underdog, I now feel I am making good progress. I balance two jobs alongside my music career, and hope to inspire others to never to give up in pursuit of their dreams.

I don’t have a choice – making it is my only option.

Annprincess’ single ‘Survive’ is out now. You can listen to her music on Spotify and YouTube

Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr, says:

From a remarkable childhood, Annprincess went on a journey few of us can imagine – feeling like an outsider, struggling to communicate, and trying to find her way in the world. Through music, Annprincess found not just a release, but her passion in life. Her determination to use her experiences in a positive way is truly inspiring. Sometimes our struggles may seem insurmountable, but as Annprincess shows us, we just have to believe, make a plan, and follow our dreams!

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