Jacob 'Ba' Blackstock:
Illustrator and Creator of Bitmojis


This is part of Northern Notables, a collection of interviews with NSS Alumni who have made an impact in their personal and professional lives.

by Sam Laskaris

When he was a Northern Secondary School student, Ba Blackstock had a pretty good idea what he wanted to do with his life. “I wanted to make all kinds of cool, crazy stuff, with entertainment and art,” said Ba, who graduated from high school in 1994.
Fast forward to today and there’s no denying Ba, who manages teams in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles, has fulfilled his dreams. Ba is the CEO and founder of Bitmoji. He co-founded Bitstrips, the company that makes Bitmoji in 2007. Snapchat bought his company for $100 million in 2016. But he stayed on as an executive and is now the CEO of Bitmoji, which is a subsidiary of Snap Inc. and is traded publicly.
“I really liked to draw when I was a little kid,” Ba told an audience at Tech Open Air, one of Europe’s leading technology and innovation festivals a few years ago. “It was my favourite thing to do. It really brought my imagination out into the world in ways that nothing else would let me do.” Ba kept drawing as he got older whenever he could. This practice would occasionally get him into trouble yet he persevered.
Interview continues below
More than a quarter century after graduating, Ba speaks highly of his years at Northern. “I had a great time at Northern,” he said, adding his high school days were the start of some friendships that have continued on. Ba said he’s frequently in touch with about 10 of his former Northern classmates. “We all met in Grade 9,” he said. “And those are still my close friends.”
It’s really been quite a rollercoaster since high school. The last 25 years were an incredible grind of pushing and pushing to make things happen.
–  Ba Blackstock
Ba was heavily involved in the Northern’s Drama program, starting when he was in Grade 10. He acted in Northern’s main stage production of The Bourgeois Gentleman. In later years he was involved in set design, and and wrote and directed three one-act plays.

“We started a philosophy club,” Ba said, adding he believes there were about a half dozen members. “And we created a policy that every member of the philosophy club would be the president so when we were applying for university we could all write that we were the president of the club.”

Ba, however, was never involved with any of the Northern athletics teams. “I managed to somehow graduate without ever taking a gym class,” he said. Ba said it wasn’t until his final year of high school that it was discovered he did not have a mandatory physical education credit yet.
“I was 6-foot-4,” he said. “And I said are you telling me as an 18-year-old you want me to take a Grade 9 gym class? They realized how ridiculous that was.” As it turned out, Ba was able to substitute his lack of a physical education course with one of his Drama credits and was able to graduate on schedule.
bitmoji games
Using Bitmoji for Games, developers can let millions of players everywhere instantly connect their favorite 3D avatar.
His life plan to make “cool, crazy stuff” did not always go according to plan. Ba took a gap year upon graduating from Northern and then went to Montreal’s McGill University to study general arts and sciences. But he only stayed there for one year. He later had stints at Toronto’s York University where he studied film and video production.
“It’s really been quite a rollercoaster since high school,” he said. “The last 25 years were an incredible grind of pushing and pushing to make things happen.” Ba thought he was well on his way to success a few times with a TV show he had pitched. As it turned out, some of that “cool, crazy stuff” that he yearned to create ended up being Bitmoji.

Ba also offers advice to today’s Northern students. “I think the main thing is you have to keep going,” he said. “Don’t give up. It sounds obvious when I say it. You have to know yourself and chase your dreams.”


Interviewer, Sam Laskaris, is a Toronto-based freelance writer and joined the NSSF board in early 2021. His wife Kathryn (Defries) and their two sons, Michael and Adam, are Northern alumni. Sam has been a long-time supporter of Northern where his sons were key contributors to the school’s drama and athletic programs.