This Week in Girlboss News

On this day in history: In 1998, the first Lilith Fair outside of North American took place at Royal Albert Hall in London; the all-female-festival organizer Sarah McLachlan played alongside Lisa Loeb, Sinead O’Connor and Beth Orton, among others. 

 

 

 

 

  • 25 famous women talk about being alone. // New York Magazine

 

 

 

Space Invader: Amanda Chantal Bacon & Moon Juice

Hey there, queens of the universe. Nasty Galaxy drops on October 4; have you pre-ordered your copy of this linen-bound, full-color, brimming-with-advice, cocktail-party-in-your-lap? It picks up where #GIRLBOSS left off and dives into all the inspirational, bizarre, funny, endearing, glamorous (and a few definitively unglamorous) nooks of Sophia’s life. It’s all in there, and we can’t wait for you to see it. 

In the weeks leading up to the release, we’ll be taking you on a journey around L.A. to get to know some of the baddest mamajamas in the galaxy who inspire Sophia on the regular. Earlier this week, we popped by to visit Nicole Katz and Paper Chase Press. Check back in the coming weeks to see where we’re headed next!

Photography by Laura Bertocci

Photography by Laura Bertocci

Amanda Chantal Bacon is the founder and CEO of Moon Juice, a company focused on plant-based alchemy that nourishes body, beauty, and consciousness. Not only do they concoct the most cosmically delicious, healthy juices in the biz, they also make plant-based supplements like Brain Dust and Sex Dust, plant protein powders, and snacks--everything you need to get that plant-tastic glow going (as evidenced by the above photo). With locations in Venice, Silverlake and Melrose, Amanda and Moon Juice have become the go-to resource for healthy, mindful eating in Los Angeles (though there are delivery and subscription options coming soon for non-Angelenos!) We stopped by her Melrose shop so Nasty Galaxy could refuel before making its debut in a few weeks; check it out!


To you, what is a Girlboss?
A girlboss is one that accepts the mission and throws every part of herself behind it. 

Tell us a little bit about your space. What inspired the aesthetic?
I love a functional, minimalistic space warmed with organic elements like copper, crystals, plants, and sunshine.

What role do you see your business playing in the galaxy of LA?
We're elevating all of the girlbossiest Girlbosses out there!

Anything exciting on the horizon?
So much good stuff coming. My book comes out at the end of October, we are launching new Moon Dust products very soon!

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moonjuiceshop.com // @moonjuiceshop

This Week on Girlboss Radio: Grace Bonney, Founder of Design*Sponge

When Grace Bonney moved to Williamsburg in 2003, she noticed a DIY design culture in Brooklyn that wasn't being covered in design magazines. So she covered it herself with Design*Sponge, a blog which originally highlighted the creative design aesthetic we now know as Brooklyn chic. Since its founding in 2004, Design*Sponge has transformed into an expansive lifestyle website, which The New York Times called the “Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials.” On the podcast Sophia and Grace discuss finding your crowd, managing employees remotely, and Grace's new book In the Company of Women.

grace bonney.jpg

To hear the entire episode on iTunes, click here and don't forget to subscribe! You can also find us on Stitcher , Soundcloud, or anywhere podcasts are found.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes—and if you have any comments or suggestions, hit us up on Twitter or Instagram. Tune in every Thursday for another episode of #Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso!

Space Invader: Nicole Katz & Paper Chase Press

Hey there, queens of the universe. Nasty Galaxy drops on October 4; have you pre-ordered your copy of this linen-bound, full-color, brimming-with-advice, cocktail-party-in-your-lap? It picks up where #GIRLBOSS left off and dives into all the inspirational, bizarre, funny, endearing, glamorous (and a few definitively unglamorous) nooks of Sophia’s life. It’s all in there, and we can’t wait for you to see it. 

In the weeks leading up to the release, we’ll be taking you on a journey around L.A. to get to know some of the baddest mamajamas in the galaxy who inspire Sophia on the regular. Check back every week to see where we’re headed next!

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Photography by Tori Borengasser

Photography by Tori Borengasser

Nicole Katz is the CEO of Paper Chase Press—a second generation family-run press and bindery. They’ve been hand-making custom printed goods like books, cards, invitations, and posters in their shop in Hollywood for 40 years, and are the go-to printing source for the most influential creatives and entrepreneurs in town. Whether you’re in search of personalized stationery (we’re in love with the current Hollywood-starlet set designed by jewelry wunder Sophie Buhai), business cards, notepads or just about anything else that can be made with paper, Paper Chase elevates the quotidian to something personal.

To you, what is a Girlboss?
To be honest, it means not being a lazy asshole. 

Tell us a little bit about your space. What inspired the aesthetic?
Our building is literally between a library and a strip club, so my goal was to create an aesthetic for the shop that wasn’t as shitty as the streets of Hollywood. Also, my entire professional career has been spent in the art world, so I think I’ve inadvertently turned our space into a gallery.

Paper Chase thank-you notes + Nasty Galaxy instructions on how to do it.

Paper Chase thank-you notes + Nasty Galaxy instructions on how to do it.

What role do you see your business playing in the galaxy of L.A.?
I like to think our printed matter bolsters the communication efforts of our clients and their businesses, and makes them look good. 

Anything exciting on the horizon?
We’ll be participating in the Echo Park Craft Fair and the LA Art Book Fair over the next couple of months. And stay tuned for a #girlboss x Paper Cuts collaboration in 2017!

Nasty Galaxy + squad

Nasty Galaxy + squad

Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Hayley Johnson lands her dream job with CAMP Collection!

“My husband and I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco a few weeks after our wedding in 2014. He was offered a job in the Bay Area and we decided to make the jump. I was eager to find a job that would build off of my six years of experience working as an assistant designer in L.A., and it turned out I was in the right place at the right time! A recruiter put me in touch with CAMP Collection and the rest was history. 

This is my #girlbossmoment, because it represents how far I’ve come in the apparel industry and how proud I am to be the designer for CAMP Collection. The brand’s inspiration—summer camp nostalgia and girls in groups having fun—clicked with me immediately. I have a collaborative boss and a team that allows me to explore countless ideas and learn things along the way. This is truly my dream job!

It’s been thrilling to watch my designs come to life as the company has grown so quickly in a short amount of time. The 15-year-old me would be happy to know that all that time I spent sketching clothes in notebook margins did not go to waste.”

Three pieces of advice to aspiring Girlbosses:

1. Try to learn as much as you can about what you do and become an expert. All the time I spent trying on clothes and touching fabrics was giving me an education about fit, drape, composition and color. Along the same lines, if you don’t know something, try to learn it! You may develop a new skill that you might not have otherwise.

2. Own up to your mistakes. It’s better to explain something that went wrong when it happens rather than six months later when there’s a domino effect from a coverup. Try to view mistakes as great learning opportunities; most bosses will want to know what you’d do differently next time and then move on from it.

3. Measure twice, cut once. This doesn’t just apply to apparel; it means double check your work! If you don’t have time to do something right the first time, then you better have time to re-do it, because chances are you will be doing it over again. 

(Pssst: CAMP Collection is also available on Nasty Gal!)

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shopcamp.com // @shopcamp

Fall Book Roundup: A List for Inquisitive Women

Last week, we got you all set up with the killer lineup of fall TV shows starring and created by ladies; this week, we’ve got you covered with the abundance of recent and soon-to-be released books out this fall so you can bust out that favorite sweater, make all of the soups, and get in between the pages with some brilliant women on a wide range of topics. 

P.S. You might notice that October 4 is a big day for book releases, and not in the least because that’s the day Nasty Galaxy also drops! We’ll be rolling out a bunch of fun stuff in the coming weeks in preparation for the launch of this beauty, so stay tuned; in the meantime, check out the book trailer, make sure you’ve pre-ordered your *signed* copy, and find out when Sophia will be coming through a city near you!

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, September 6

Margot Lee Shetterly details the little-known story of the African-American women who played in integral part in the U.S. landing on the moon. These four math whizzes—Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden—had been relegated to teaching in the South’s segregated public schools up until WWII, when the labor shortage thrust them into NASA. The film has been adapted into a major motion picture starring, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner, which will come out next year. 

The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs, September 6

Stemming from a deeply moving essay that went viral in 2012, Boggs presents an array of complex stories of women and the culture of fertility/infertility. She draws on pop-culture depictions, famous women writers on the subject throughout history, and what childless-ness means in our society. Published by indie-press powerhouse Graywolf Press, Boggs’ lyrical, empathetic writing will provide resonant insight for an issue that confronts us whether we seek to have children or not.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, September 6

In this day and age of nearly instantaneous access to almost any information you seek, we’ve come to rely on data and statistics as impartial assets that inform our opinions and decisions. But is there a bias behind the algorithms that now determine many aspects of our lives, such as loans, credit, insurance, etc.? O’Neil, a former quantitative analyst on Wall Street, examines how “Big Data” is propping up the well-off and pulling the rug from underneath the downtrodden, and exalts the need for regulation and oversight behind data collection and presentation. 

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach, September 13

Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist and cornerstone of the U.S. women’s soccer program for the last decade and half, tells the story of how she got to where she is. The recently retired star scored 184 international goals—the most by any man or woman—and has been a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights and other social-justice issues. 

Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett, September 13

Journalist Jessica Bennett takes a much-needed whack at sexism in the workplace in this recounting of the women who would come together every month to discuss the gendered discriminations they encountered. Backed up with harrowing research, statistics, and historical context, Bennett’s book lays out the headache-inducing reality of patriarchy in the workplace in a manner that is inclusive, engaging, funny and empowering.

Pussy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauser, September 20

By and large, the word “pussy” still makes most people uncomfortable. But why is that? Feminist scholar and founder of the School of Womanly Arts Regena Thomashauser takes a deep dive into the linguistic history of the word and how we can go about destigmatizing and reclaiming it in order to better tend to our “spiritual, intellectual and emotional health.”

In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney, October 4

Grace Bonney, founder of the influential design blog Design*Sponge, collected advice and insight from more than 100 women across a diverse range of ages, cultural backgrounds and professions. Accompanied by photos of them in their homes and workspaces, prominent artists, entrepreneurs and creatives talk candidly about their everyday lives and provide a sense of community and encouragement for the next generation of makers.

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings by Sarah Cooper, October 4

Writer, comedian and former corporate-world working stiff Sarah Cooper dishes on everything you need to know in order to succeed in an office environment with minimal actual knowledge. Based on her viral illustration 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, Cooper’s hilarious suggestions are meant to be tongue-in-cheek (I think), but the usefulness of constantly asking “Will this scale?” and drawing venn diagrams for EVERYTHING seems pretty legit, actually.

I’ll Tell You In Person by Chloe Caldwell, October 4

Caldwell’s terrific novella WOMEN won fervent praise from Lena Dunham, Cheryl Strayed and Elle McPherson, and was passed around in-the-know reading circles like a secret handshake when it came out in 2014. Back now with her second collection of essays, Caldwell continues with candid discussion of womanhood and what it’s like passing from your twenties into your thirties. Plus, it’s published a badass feminist literary press, Emily Books. 

This Week in Girlboss News

On this day in history: Whip-smart actress and legendary beauty Lauren Bacall was born in 1924.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week on Girlboss Radio: Geena Rocero, Model & Transgender Activist

Model and Transgender activist Geena Rocero understands the power of speaking your truth and taking control of your narrative. At 17 years old, Geena immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. to pursue a modeling career. Over the next 12 years, she modeled for brands like Target, Rimmel, Cover Girl, Marriott Hotels and Macy’s, but she didn’t feel like the people around her knew her full story. So when Geena turned 30, she courageously ‘came out’ at her TED talk as trans to bring more visibility to the transgender community. Since then, Geena co-founded GenderProud, an advocacy and media production company that produces media to elevate justice and equality for the transgender community. On the podcast, Geena discusses her first job as a transgender beauty queen, seeing the 'F' on her driver's license for the first time, and the challenges facing the transgender workforce today.

To hear the entire episode on iTunes, click here and don't forget to subscribe! You can also find us on Stitcher , Soundcloud, or anywhere podcasts are found.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes—and if you have any comments or suggestions, hit us up on Twitter or Instagram. Tune in every Thursday for another episode of #Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso!

Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Molly Berry employs a family of Guatemalan artisans!

"I started Luna Zorro a year and a half ago after deciding I needed a new bedspread (yes, really). Living in Guatemala is a culturally rich experience which, for me, includes being surrounded by handwoven textiles unlike those of any other country. When I moved here, I wanted a neutral bedspread which I couldn’t seem to find anywhere since the traditional colors of Guatemala tend to be bright and bold. I began to immerse myself and get to know the Guatemalan world of weaving intimately. I talked to anyone and everyone I could, I strolled through market upon market, I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there, to ask and to learn. I became more confident, I improved my Spanish daily, and I began to really understand that people are generous and candid with their time and help when you approach them with genuine respect for what they do. Within the first few weeks, I designed a bedspread which was then handwoven for me and it was at that moment that Luna Zorro was born. I saw a sweet pocket of potential in which I could honor the incredible quality and integrity of the handwoven textiles of Guatemala while putting my own modern touch on the colors and patterns. I saw that by living here and involving myself in the process of the art of weaving, I could provide a custom textile design service to others. I also saw the chance to make a positive social impact, which encouraged me to get started.

One day, my phone rang and it was a number I didn’t recognize. I answered and a young but confident voice explained that her name was Delia; she was a weaver from the western highlands of Guatemala, and she had gotten my number from another weaver that I’d once been in touch with. Delia had called me to ask if she could make the 3 hour bus ride to Antigua to show me samples of her work. I agreed, impressed and touched by her courage and authenticity. At the time, I wasn’t sure what projects I could give Delia; I didn’t yet have a big enough workload to take on more weavers, but I was so moved by her initiative that I knew I would find work for her. Today, Delia, her mom, her six sisters and her two brothers are my main weaving cooperative and they're kicking ass at what they do. This has been my favorite #girlbossmoment so far! I am able to give them a constant and sustainable flow of work which they handle professionally and gracefully. Delia made a bold move that totally paid off for all of us. I’m eternally proud to partner with these artisans, entrepreneurs, and real-life Girlbosses. 

Working directly with Mayan weavers is the heart of Luna Zorro and it is what I love most about my business. Today, we do custom orders for interior designers and boutique hotels, and recently we’ve started a retail store online. Everything is designed and woven to order, so I’m in constant contact with the weavers, which total nearly 20 at this point. We work together, we’ve built deep friendships, we collaborate on designs, and we stand in a global marketplace together."


Three pieces of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:


1.    Trust your instincts, because they’re always right. Sometimes we get so oversaturated with outsider advice that it’s hard to hear our inner voice. No one knows you like you do. Learn to turn inward and have faith in what feels right for you and for your own path. Even if you aren’t sure exactly where that path will lead you, that’s OK; listen and trust it anyway.


2.    Use your networks and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s inspiring and humbling how many people want to be involved with someone who is building a business authentically. 


3.    Show gratitude for your experiences. In good times and in hard times, expressing appreciation helps to keep you grounded and real. Building a business is really hard work, but no matter what, it’s a valuable learning experience. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn.” It’s that kind of attitude that will help you to be a true boss!

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www.lunazorro.com // @luna_zorro

 

 

Fall TV Roundup: Six Smart AF Shows Starring or Created by Women

Don't get us wrong. There is still a ton of work that needs to be done in terms of gender equality in film and television (and we can't wait for Geena Davis' documentary on the subject). But can we pause for a minute to appreciate how great this fall's lineup looks? Not only are there many highly anticipated shows starring women in substantial, real-person roles, but they're the creators and producers and showrunners for a lot of them, too. Here are some of our top picks for what you'll want to keep an eye out for in the next few weeks (all while keeping Girlboss on your radar, which drops on Netflix in the spring!):

Divorce
Sarah Jessica Parker returns to HBO in what looks to be an uncomfortably funny series about, well, divorce. Thomas Haden Church plays her (supposedly) soon-to-be ex-husband and Molly Shannon will star as her friend Diane. The show’s creator is Sharon Horgan, comedian and star of the very funny Catastrophe, which she also co-wrote. If the preview seems like it’s only a retread of too-familiar material without much to distinguish it from every other story about white upper-middle-class divorce woes, have faith: Horgan is wildly talented and funny, as evidenced by the first two seasons of Catastrophe. And just for the record, SJP’s wardrobe this go-round on HBO looks to be stylish yet bereft of any puffy tulle skirts.

Premiere date: October 9 at 10 p.m. on HBO. Watch the trailer here

 

via Rolling Stone

via Rolling Stone

Insecure
If you weren’t already hip to Issa Rae via her web series Awkward Black Girl, now’s your chance to bear witness to her fresh charm, wit and talent. Rae stars in this half-hour show that she also co-created with Larry Wilmore; set in LA, it follows two friends navigating the scene and continues with ABG’s themes of examining and upending cultural stereotypes (Rae tweeted “Why did I call our show #InsecureHBO? Because sometimes I'm a weak black woman.”)

Premiere date: October 9 at 10:30 p.m. on HBO after Divorce. Watch the trailer here.

 

Haters Back Off
Also on the YouTube-to-major-TV-deal track: Classically trained singer Colleen Ballinger, whose hit YouTube character Miranda Sings is a talentless model-actress-singer-magician. The adapted series takes place in Tacoma, Washington, where Miranda lives with her mom (played by Angela Kinsey of The Office) and her uncle Jim, and revolves around her maybe-delusional aspirations to fame. Check out the announcement music video, which puts off a very Fred-Armisen-meets-Kreayshawn vibe.

Premiere date: October 14 on Netflix. 

 

Good Girls Revolt
At the dawn of the ‘70s, three female researchers at “News of the Week” (does that name remind you of any particular publication?) band together to get writing positions on the staff when only men were hired and end up suing the magazine for sexual harassment. Based on the book by Lynn Povich, one of the women was the late great Nora Ephron, played in the series by Grace Gummer. Anna Camp of Pitch Perfect fame plays Jane Hollander and Genevieve Angelson plays Patti Robinson. Former journalist Dava Calvo The first episode of the series aired for free on Amazon way back in November 2015, and fared well enough that it was picked up for a 10-episode season.

Premiere date: October 28. Watch the first episode here

 

And ICYMI, a few shows that aired recently that are also well worth your time:

 

Better Things
It took supporting roles in two dude-centric series—Californication and Louie—for the Suits to figure out that if you put Pamela Adlon in a TV show, she’s going to be the best thing about it. Luckily for us all, Adlon is not only starring in Better Things, but she’s the executive producer and co-creator (alongside Louis C.K.). It’s a semi-autobiographical depiction of a former childhood star, Sam, who is now a single mother of three daughters. Season one looks to be rife with frankness about Sam’s sex and dating life, the struggles of parenthood, and the general struggle of trying not to let things fall apart. Plus, how good is the art direction for the promo image?

Premiered on September 8 on FX. Watch the Season 1 sneak peek here

 

I Love Dick
Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent and Six Feet Under, got picked up by Amazon again for a new series based on the lauded feminist novel by Chris Kraus. Chris and Sylvere are struggling married intellectuals hailing from New York who wind up in Marfa, Texas, for Chris’ writing fellowship. They promptly become obsessed with one of the charismatic professors, Dick, played by Kevin Bacon. There’s magic between Soloway and Kathryn Hahn, who plays Sylvere here and also had a part in Transparent (and it’s terrific to see Hahn getting a much-deserved lead role after her consistent excellence in supporting roles). Paired with the forthcoming releases, we’d say that yeah, it’s probably time to break down and get that Amazon Prime subscription, because it’s the only way you get to watch it.

Premiered on August 18. Watch the first episode for free.

 

-Deena Drewis

 

Portrait of a Girlboss: Elena Favilli, co-creator of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and Timbuktu Labs

Elena Favilli (right) and co-founder/creative director Francesca Cavallo

Elena Favilli (right) and co-founder/creative director Francesca Cavallo

Trace the trajectory of Timbuktu Labs co-founder and CEO Elena Favilli back to the beginning and you’ll be brought to a tiny countryside town in Tuscany in the ‘80s, where she spent much of her time alone, reading, writing and roaming the woods with her dogs. “I was really the only child in town. It was a very peculiar place,” she tells us. As it turned out, all that solitary time ingrained in Elena a deeply independent streak, and the reading time, too, was formative; Elena went on to study journalism and media in Bologna, and after taking a trip to California at age 20 (“It was one of those trips; hitch hiking, sleeping in tents,” she tells us, laughing), she fell completely in love with Berkeley and the Bay Area. She then did everything she could to get a scholarship in an exchange program with Cal, where she studied for a master's in journalism and gained a new perspective on publishing and media as it functioned in the states.

After returning to Italy and working at a number of newspapers and magazines, Elena was met with a sense of restless discontent; she knew she didn’t want to simply pick a career and start climbing the ladder, and the urge to start something of her own was persistent. So circa 2010, she and creative director Francesca Cavallo began to work on what would eventually become a children’s media company, Timbuktu Labs, in a tiny kitchen in Milan. 

With their eye on returning to the U.S., Favilli and Cavallo applied to every startup competition they could find. Eventually, they landed a spot in the entrepreneurship program at Mind the Bridge, a one-month residency in San Francisco intended to provide an introductory experience to the ecosystem of Silicon Valley. From there, they were in touch with the venture capital fund 500 Startups and founding partner Christine Tsai, who offered them a spot in their prestigious accelerator program in Mountain View. 

Timbuktu Labs raised its first round of funding in 2012 and made its mark by launching Timbuktu Magazine, the first children’s magazine ever to be produced especially for the iPad. In the years since, Timbuktu has been an innovator in children’s digital media, combining learning  games and progressive thinking skills with an aesthetic that is highly engaging. But their biggest splash yet was made earlier this year with the proposal of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, an anthology of 100 stories of women ranging from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams, illustrated by 100 women from all over the world. Intended to challenge gender stereotypes fed to children at a young age, the book’s campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo have rendered it the most-funded book project in crowdfunding history, with more than $1 million in pre-sales. And with tremendous attention from the press in outlets such as TIME, Publishers Weekly, Forbes, Vanity Fair and Marie Claire, the project is a shining model of how the traditional models dominated by massive companies can be upended by savvy, feisty and dedicated upstarts. We talked with Elena more about what compelled them to create a female-centric kids anthology, how to deal with trolls, and what it’s like starting a creative media company in the domain of tech.

So let’s talk a little bit more about where the idea for the book came from. You were a big reader as a child; were you frustrated with the lack of female characters back then, or is that something you’ve come to notice later in life?
Well, Francesca and I are two female founders. We’ve experienced firsthand how hard it is for a woman to start a business and to raise money from investors. We’ve always been very passionate about empowering women, and on the children’s media side, we’ve witnessed how it is still so packed with gender stereotypes. The kind of sexism that we experience in life is reflected in the children’s products that surround us. In clothes, in movies, cartoons. And in books especially, we were shocked to see how few female characters come out every year. There are so few children’s books that have strong female characters. You don’t realize it until someone points that out to you and you’re like, wow, I spent all my childhood readings books and watching movies—great movies that I love!—with male characters as leaders and female characters in subordinate positions where they need to be saved or rescued. So the idea for the book was really coming from our personal lives and at some point our professional lives began to connect. 

I found out recently that 9 out of 10 New York Times best-selling children’s books feature a male lead characters. 9 out of 10!
Yeah! It’s just crazy. Last February we were at this conference in Miami and Geena Davis was giving a speech and she gave this example about Finding Nemo, which is one of my favorite movies. And she pointed out that the only female characters are the mother, who dies within the first five minutes, and then one other female character. Across the whole ocean. Which is pretty much impossible. The ocean is huge! But you know, unless someone points that out to you, you don’t even notice it. You’re so used to seeing males everywhere! Even if they’re animals [laughs]. It’s just the status quo. And that’s the power of the status quo; it makes that seem normal. 

You wrote a piece called “Silicon valley is more Flintstones than Jetsons when it comes to women” for the Guardian back in February 2015, pointing out the sexism in the tech and VC world, and there was some pretty intense backlash from basement-dwelling trolls. When that’s the environment you are in and that’s part of the reaction you get, how do you keep your focus and keep moving forward?
Ugh. That was one of the main reasons I became so obsessed with this theme of women’s empowerment. It was the tipping point for me, and that’s when I decided I really wanted to do something about it, to do something that could have an impact. And because we were working in children’s media already, we decided to focus on a product that would target young girls. Of course it makes you upset and it makes you angry, and it’s scary; you start receiving these threats on Twitter, in the comments section of the articles. It’s not pleasant. Until that happens to you, you don’t realize how difficult it is to deal with that. But in my case it just gave me more determination and commitment to this cause. 

And on the flipside of that, the support has been massive. You guys are the most-funded crowdfunding book ever, and all the big publishers are trying to figure out what your secret is. What has that been like?
Yeah! It’s been great. We were really hoping the campaign would explode and take off, but weren’t anticipating it would grow so fast in such a short amount of time. We worked really hard in the eight months leading up to the campaign; we did a lot of research and a lot of audience building and customer discovery with our newsletter. So the product was shaped week after week with our user base, which was extremely helpful when we launched. We had a group of people who were waiting for a product to come out. We were expecting the campaign to be successful, yes, and we’d seen successful campaigns that were sort of similar or at least in the same vein, so we knew that we could reach a significant amount of money, but we didn’t expect to become the most funded book in the history of crowdfunding!

A million-dollar pre-sale is a really big number for people working outside the traditional publishing model. Actually, that’s a huge number for people working inside the traditional publishing model, too. 
Well in the past, we had worked with traditional publishers in Europe and we had gotten a few deals. They were OK—not good, not bad. But we wanted to try and break the rules and create a new model. When you have your own audience and you start building something with them, that gives you a big advantage over every other publisher in the world.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as CEO?
The two biggest challenges for every CEO are always people and money [laughs]. You have to find the right people to work for you and your company and that’s extremely hard when you’re just starting. You need to be able to attract the best talent. And then of course when you start the company, you basically spend the first one or two years—sometimes even more—just trying to understand what’s going on [laughs]. You’re going after a new market, you’re creating a new product, you don’t really know at the beginning who your users are. It’s very complicated; there are so many things. And of course, money starts to run out very quickly—much faster than you would like it to! There were many iterations and we made many mistakes over the course of four years before getting to the point where we finally created a product that really resonated with a lot of people and took off. 

Any advice for women looking to start their own company?
In my experience—and this is something that entrepreneurs always say—the best advice is to be persistent. And you can’t give up. The people who succeed are those crazy people who don’t give up and always try one more time. And this is also the message we try to convey with the book! We wanted to feature this extraordinary cast of women who accomplished incredible results despite many, many obstacles and many difficult times. It’s an example of courage and determination. You have to stay focused and trust the process. 

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Pre-order your copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls here and keep an eye out for it in November!

@efavilli // www.timbuktu.me

Interview by Deena Drewis

This Week in Girlboss News

On this day in history: Last year, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the UK.

 

 

  • A new study shows older men who have good sex may be at higher risk for heart disease, but older women aren’t (!) // CNN

 

 

 

 

 

This Week on Girlboss Radio: Melissa Biggs Bradley, CEO and Founder of Indagare + web exclusives!

If life is all about the journey, then Melissa Biggs Bradley is doing things right. The founder and CEO of the boutique travel agency and website Indagare has traveled to over 100 countries, six continents, and can rattle off hotel recommendations at the drop of a hat. Prior to Indagare, Melissa worked at Town & Country magazine for 12 years and launched Town & Country Travel which was nominated for a National Magazine Award for General Excellence by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). On the podcast, Melissa recounts her long childhood plane rides to Australia, gives us some trips for traveling on the cheap, and tells us about her incredible #girlbossmoment.

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To hear the entire episode on iTunes, click here and don't forget to subscribe! You can also find us on Stitcher , Soundcloud, or anywhere podcasts are found.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes—and if you have any comments or suggestions, hit us up on Twitter or Instagram. Tune in every Thursday for another episode of #Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso!

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Further thoughts and advice from Melissa

Advice to girls just starting out: 
Align yourself with people you respect as visionaries and leaders, but also as people. I think your work environment really matters—not whether it is prestigious or not. I worked in the Hamptons one summer as a gossip columnist for a rag that was given to you at the check-out counter at the grocery store. At 20, no one else would give me my own column, and I learned a lot doing it. But whoever is at the top of the food chain will have a big impact on setting the tone of the workplace. Tyrants or people who are only out for themselves will stifle and undermine the potential of those who work for them. Generous, confident, collaborative people are better partners and leaders, and that goes for investors, too. There are people out there who are just looking to cash out quickly. We had the Gilt Group approach us early on, and they were interested in acquiring us for content. They had raised a lot of money and probably believed that our content and community could be really valuable in juicing their traffic and volume, but it was clear to me that they didn’t actually care about the customer; they wanted quantity over quality. And while I wanted to make money, I started Indagare because I truly believed in our mission to give our customers—who I really view as friends or friends of friends or potential friends—an incredible experience in travel and have them share theirs with me. You will learn infinitely more surrounded by capable and generous people than in a cutthroat environment. Take risks and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because they are the best way to learn about yourself and your talents. Listen to criticism; there is usually a real gift in it. Remember that no one but you manages your career, so don’t wait for opportunities; make them.

On the topic of hiring: 
The Stanford psychologist Carole Dweck has published a ground-breaking book called Mindset that I think connects quite directly to the power of travel and to what I look for in hires. She argues that people tend to fall into two categories: They either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. These mindsets can change, and there is a lot of nuance to her research, but in simplified terms, she explains that “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. [However] In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” And I would argue that it’s essential to great joy, too. 

I believe that when we are traveling we are pushed into a growth mindset, regardless of whether we tend to be more fixed or growth oriented, and we are open to new ideas and possibilities, which is why travels often set in motion a change. Over the years, I have had people tell me about trips that set in motion everything from job changes to divorces, adoptions and moves to charity projects. Travel opens us up, and when we are open we can be transformed.     

Thoughts on failure: 
I have made so many mistakes, but I learned from all of them, and I really am a believer that mistakes are there to teach us. I have hired the wrong people and thought that it was okay to have someone on the team who was highly capable even if I knew that they didn’t share a lot of our core values, like valuing others or putting the team over the individual. I learned that one toxic person can pollute a culture, so now we are vigilant about only letting in the good guys. We have a team interview process and it has to be unanimous. We have become really disciplined, and unless we feel like we have found a total star, we pass. 

On why travel is booming:
Today, the consumer is craving a sense of identity in an age that can be really anonymous, where machines have taken over so much of our lives that people want to be uniquely identified or branded and they want to feel alive, not just like passive observers. Travel allows them—or forces them—to be present, and it often pushes them outside of their comfort zone so they look at the world—and themselves—differently. When I was at Town and Country travel, I watched this massive moment of nesting that Martha Stewart had helped to launch, where masses of people began defining themselves through nesting and designing their houses. I believe that we are in the age of questing, where people are using their travels and experiences to define themselves. Rather than identify as wife, mother, lawyer, or doctor, they can use their passion for discovery to help create the identities that are most meaningful to them whether they do that through a biking trip or cooking adventure or girlfriend spa trip or educational family trip. The way that we do that is to make travel really personal and customized. You start with information and then go to planning and then storytelling, which are all elements of our brand. I think people want to be more awake to the wonders and beauty of the world and to living. We want to feel deeply, to stretch ourselves. And in those moments that are distinctly not part of our normal, everyday lives, we are more aware; days are etched more deeply into our consciousness. Whether we are alone or with loved ones, it is those days in far-off, unfamiliar places that stand out in crisper relief in the moment and in memories. 

Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Erika Murdock Balbuena & colleagues own the pitch meeting!

“Four women. All with different skill sets. Pitching a big customer. It was one of those moments where you feel like time and space sucks you out for a split second so you can see what’s happening from a bird’s eye view, and then throws you back into reality. It was a moment to stop, pause, be proud, and appreciate what was happening. I work in the tech industry at a cloud communications company called Twilio, and within our industry, and especially within the Bay Area, diversity is a big topic of conversation. Women in business is a big topic of conversation and it’s something I think and read about a lot. I am the co-founder of my company's women’s group, and I believe that I have a responsibility to help the women around me do the best they possibly can in this world. And as a new mom, I'm even more aware of how we, as women, support each other, and how our workplaces support us. I'm very grateful to work at a place where I feel so valued—as a professional, as a woman and as a mother. So as I sat in this meeting, listening to each of us pitch and each of us shine, I was grateful and proud. Proud of the work I do, proud I have smart women colleagues, and happy we had a kick-ass meeting that is hopefully the start of something much bigger with this customer.”  

Three pieces of advice for Girlbosses on a job hunt:

Erika at the White House!

Erika at the White House!


Write down your Wonder Woman moments.

Remember that email your boss sent you praising your work on a project? Or the note from a colleague thanking you for going the extra mile? Or the tweet that got the world to notice your business? Be sure you're tracking all of these. All too often, people forget to write these moments down. Then, when that recruiter calls or your dream job opens up, you have to spend hours wracking your brain for all of your accomplishments over the past months, years, etc., possibly forgetting a few. Don't let your resume sit rusty while you kick butt; keep it as a living memoir of all the fabulous things you've accomplished. Save a copy of your yearly performance reviews for yourself. Save great emails as character testimonies. Document your Wonder Woman moments not just for your resume, but for you. One day, when things aren't great, you've got a list of at least 10 reasons you are kickass.

 

Hone your story.

I've job searched four times in my life, all while I wasn't currently employed. While I do believe people can be more desirable candidates whey they have jobs, I'm living proof that’s not a prerequisite. Presenting yourself is about storytelling. I've been working in technology for almost five years, and before that I was a nonprofit consultant. If you read that sentence, you realize those are two very different industries. However, the skills I acquired while consulting are completely applicable to all the jobs I've had and applied for in technology (community manager, account manager in sales, and social impact). How did I do that? I picked up the keywords from the job descriptions I was applying for and the companies I wanted to work for and I went back into my history to see where those things happened. Did I have any community management experience? In tech, no, but shoot—I lived in the middle of Idaho for five months and asked an entire community to raise $5 million dollars. If that’s not community management, I don't know what is. Find the connections, weave in your experience, and then show the interviewer how all of your experience is going to do something for them. And practice your story on a few different people in your life to be sure you're telling it the right way.

 

Write your own cover email.

The one thing I always make sure I have when job searching is a great intro paragraph about myself. It’s a short paragraph; no more than five to 10 sentences that briefly summarize who I am, what I'm passionate about, and what I'm looking for in my next gig. I copy that into a fresh email with my resume attached and a few sentences about why I'm interested in X role at X company, and voila; I've now made introducing me effortless! Your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are busy and they don't know exactly how you want to be introduced, what they should highlight about you, etc. Make it easy for them. Plus, there's your cover letter!

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@ErikaDMSF

Intro to Adulting Part 2: Team Girlboss Puts That $ to Work

So Labor Day is over and summer is more or less done for. Come this time of year, your wallet can often be worse for the wear (consuming a steady stream of Aperol spritzes and splurging on that dream pair of white jeans (because you’re a rebel who’s going to wear them all the goddamn time post Labor Day) will do that to you).

If you didn’t catch part 1 of this series, it’s certainly not too late to get caught up and to start on some basic organization of your money. But if you’re already a Master of Mint? Read on, finance whiz: we’ve got all the tools you need to take your money game to the next level.

 

Holly tries LearnVest

First things first: founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel was on an excellent episode of Girlboss Radio episode back in April, and she and Sophia talk all about why it’s especially vital for women nowadays to be super on top of this stuff. LearnVest differs from your average financial organization platform because it offers personalized plans, and you have access to real live humans via email 24/7. You can also take classes and attend events to help you better understand your financial plan. 

Here’s a rundown of Holly’s introductory experience:

1. The young man I spoke with was nice enough but sounded like he was reading from a script the entire time (i.e. lots of "That’s a great question!" and "I can definitely help you out with that!")

2. The first 45-minute call is basically a preliminary discussion to collect information (beyond the initial information you fill out online) that your advisor will use to come up with a customized financial plan, which you will get a week after your call. After the initial call and before the master plan arrived, the advisor emailed me 3 "challenges" that related to our discussion. One was about planning what an emergency fund should be used for, the second was about practicing sticking to the budget we had discussed, and the third was about checking in on my money through their site every day for 3 to 5 mins. All pretty logical, yes?

3. The goals I set for myself related to paying off a credit card, building an emergency fund and saving for retirement, which all seemed pretty sound. Unfortunately, with those three basic goals factored into my income and expenses, I was left with an estimated budget of $167 per week. This is meant to cover any groceries/fun/activities/extras. Anyone who is single and living in Los Angles can attest this is nearly impossible! Considering my debt isn't outrageous, my emergency fund number isn't super high, and the amount I plan to start putting away isn't overly ambitious, I thought the number was pretty disappointing and unrealistic. 

4. The conversation did do a good job of putting your financial choices right in front of you so you can see exactly how you got to where you are today and exactly what it would take to take to get where you want to be. I didn't necessarily learn anything new, but it served as a great reminder to use common sense and implement the lessons most of us learn when we are young. Like, don't live beyond your means; pay off your credit cards every month; and you don't save money by spending it, etc. 

5. I'll be interested to see what comes out of the bigger-picture plan. The conversation definitely left me curious about some things. Like, based on the budget I'm expected to adhere to, what’s the timeline for paying off debt and having a suitable emergency fund? Based on the amount I mentioned saving for retirement each month, what annual income will I be looking at when I retire? A lot of numbers were discussed, but I didn't necessarily feel like there was much in the way of answers. 

6. There was no creativity with how to lower your budget or payments; all the information seemed to be accepted. For example, the interest on my credit card is really high (I don't know why; I have a great credit score. It's random and not good); the interest rate was brought up and the adviser was like, "Yeah, that’s pretty high." Whereas when I spoke to my accountant, she was surprised at the percentage rate and then gave advice on how to lower it (and even offered to call in with me to make sure it came down). It would be nice if the service you’re paying for got creative with ways to nip and tuck your budget and payments wherever possible. 

7. For $20 a month, I'll stick with it for a bit to see how things play out, although that will only leave me with a $162-per-week budget ;)

 

Tori tries Ellevest

Sallie Krawcheck was also on a tremendously enlightening episode of Girlboss Radio where she discussed the importance of the too-little-discussed investment gap. Ellevest is an online platform intended to create personalized portfolios for women and to guide them into the world of investing (a.k.a. making your money make more money). It also manages your overall financial goals and users have access to articles and resources that will help them better understand their financial future. There’s currently a waitlist, so be sure to sign up sooner rather than later if you’re interested!

Here’s a rundown of Tori’s initial experience with Ellevest:

Describe your starting knowledge about stocks and investing prior to this moment in time. 

Not a ton! I have the vague memory of knowing my dad had stocks and investments when I was young, but not how any of that worked or how much he had in it. I peruse the personal finance subreddit on occasion, but more for budgeting and other finance basics. Investing and the stock market always seemed kind of intense to me.


What inspired you to start investing?

I listened to Sallie’s episode of Girlboss Radio and was inspired by what she said about the investment gender gap being as important as the wage gender gap, so I waitlisted for Ellevest back in March. Then maybe three weeks ago I looked through my Mint account, and I saw that I'd been on a bit of a spending bender the last couple of months. Not pretty! At that point I decided I should really sit down and get my money in check, and figured investing was a nice way to make sure I was saving adequately and also teach myself something in the process.

What’s been your favorite part about Ellevest so far?

It made everything really streamlined and had the right amount of information—not too overwhelming, not too patronizing. It had comparisons for portfolio management fees with Ellevest and with competitors, and also presented different ways to save best (savings account, retirement savings, investment account) depending on what your goals are. It also crunched the numbers for me about how much money I'd have by the time I retire based on my current rate of retirement savings, which was pretty cool to see laid out, because apparently I've been doing pretty well so far! I'm starting pretty small with investing at $34 a month, just to test it out, but I'm excited to figure it out more and maybe up that monthly deposit as I go along.

What’s still murky at this point/what are you still hoping to learn more about?

I'm stoked that I have an investment portfolio at all, but I'm still trying to figure out how its composition breaks down and why. Ellevest automatically suggests divisions between stocks, bonds, and alternatives, but I'm not *totally* sure what actually defines those terms, and what differentiates them. Back to Reddit it is!

Relax Today. Read this Tonight. Come Out Swingin' Tomorrow.

Hey, lady: Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing right now, celebrating the hustle that’s made ‘Merica what it is by giving your hustle a rest? You just can’t help yourself, can you? We get it. But if you’re going to be rooting around the Internet looking to better yourself while everyone else is eyeballs deep in Budweiser, at least take it a little easy. The following are inspiring (yet not too heavy) quotes to get you ready to tackle the week ahead. Soak it in before you hit the hay tonight and know that they pair especially well with a goodbye-summer glass of rosé:

“To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.”
-Bette Davis

“When women work together, it’s a bond unlike any other.”
-Victoria Principal

“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
-Ann Landers

“Nothing will work unless you do.”
-Maya Angelou

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.”
-Estee Lauder

“I've got a woman's ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.”
-Margaret Thatcher

“Luck? I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work, and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't.”
-Lucille Ball

“My experience has been that work is almost always the best way to pull oneself out of the depths.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“The only way to enjoy anything in this life is to earn it first.”
-Ginger Rogers

“No one can arrive from being talented alone; work transforms talent into genius.”
-Anna Pavlova

“Work, work, work, work work.” 
-Rihanna

This Week in Girlboss News

On this day in history: In 2013, at age 64, Diana Nyad becomes the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage or swim fins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week on Girlboss Radio: Cassandra Grey, Founder & CEO of Violet Grey

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Hollywood glamour can seem unattainable, but Cassandra Grey puts that glitz within reach with Violet Grey. The luxury beauty company curates the top makeup products in one space. Every product on their website and in their gorgeous Melrose store is rigorously vetted by their prestigious Violet Code, a group of magazine editors, makeup artists and designers who rank their favorite brands. Sophia and Cassandra discuss Cassandra's hippie days in Asheville, North Carolina, the challenges of merging content and commerce, and the brilliant marketing strategies of Beanie Babies.

To hear the entire episode on iTunes, click here and don't forget to subscribe! You can also find us on Stitcher , Soundcloud, or anywhere podcasts are found.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes—and if you have any comments or suggestions, hit us up on Twitter or Instagram. Tune in every Thursday for another episode of #Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso!

Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Sarah Stieber shows her latest collection of paintings!

“There is no set path to becoming a professional artist. The first few years of my career were an evolving, invented hustle. I installed my first art show in a coffee shop: I booked a band, got free drinks for everyone, and promoted the show like it was a bonafide social event. I set up my first “artist studios” inside of retail shops and galleries to gain exposure in exchange for ringing people up. I eagerly drove the three traffic-laden hours to L.A. to exhibit my artwork in a hallway, and after hearing that a gallery owner that had passed through made a comment about one of my paintings, I barged into his gallery to pick his brain. He’s still my mentor six years later.  

Here’s my #girlbossmoment: I completed my newest collection of paintings for my upcoming solo show, “Glow With the Flow,” which is going down October 14th from 7 to 9 p.m. at Le Rendez-Vous (221 Datura St #105, West Palm Beach, FL 33401) in partnership with Lola International Artist Agency Miami.

All of this is to say that in creative fields, you can’t wait for someone to “discover” you. You need to create the reality you want for yourself.

A piece from Sarah's latest collection

A piece from Sarah's latest collection

Three pieces of advice for aspiring Girlbosses:

1. Choose curiosity over fear.  

This idea is stolen from the writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Pursuing creativity and sharing it with the world (or simply with yourself) can be vulnerable and terrifying. Ignore self-doubt. Follow the things you are curious about as a path towards creativity, because you deserve to ride that rewarding wave and the world deserves to hear your unique voice. Make things, make things, make things.  

2. Fake it till you make it. 

Seriously. When I got started in the art world, I didn’t know shit for shit. It was when I took on this ridiculous brazen attitude, like “Oh, I’m going to be a full-time artist painting exactly what I want?  Like, the most impossible career ever?  Well okay, here goes nothing,” that I started to grow some legs. You know the swagger you feel when you clandestinely crash an amazing party with your partner in crime? Channel that chutzpah, and throw in a ton of grit and grace. Please note: I didn’t actually believe the confidence I was wearing at the time. That doesn’t matter. It only matters that you go for it with gusto, and the rest will follow.  

3. Save it for your shrink (or your best friend). 

I know it can be tempting to publicly call out the person who plagiarized your painting, or to bash the haters once you’ve found some success, or to complain on social media about the time your painting got lodged in a U-Haul during delivery and you had to break the painting and the U-Haul to get it out. If you are connected to your brand (or if you are a human being on this planet), STOP IT. You have an opportunity to leave every person you interact with feeling understood or appreciated or inspired. ALWAYS be nice, be gracious, be authentic. This really matters, because people really matter, and you really matter. Those people who you didn’t piss off will help you grow your business. 

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@sarahstieber // sarahstieber.com

Portrait of a Girlboss: Isabel Urbina Peña, acclaimed designer & founder of YES, EQUAL

Portrait © Andreína Restrepo |  2015

Portrait © Andreína Restrepo |  2015

Among the many notable things you’ll notice over the course of a conversation with designer Isabel Urbina Peña, the most pronounced is perhaps this: The world would do well to soak up some of her enthusiasm, contagious as a giggle in yoga class. That, plus a tremendous talent for lettering and general visual magic has landed Isabel a career as one of the most acclaimed book designers in the business. Though she recently made the move to freelancing full time, Isabel’s time with Penguin Random House from 2013 to 2015 resulted in some of the most notable book covers in recent years, such as Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, Dave Eggers’ Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? and Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names, which was named by the New York Times as one of the best covers of 2014. Last year, she was named as one of PRINT magazine’s 15 under 30, and her freelance clients include Philip Lim, Variety and Harper Collins.

But killin’ it in the design and lettering game isn’t all sunshine all the time. Last year, Isabel founded the website YES, EQUAL, an online platform dedicated to closing the gender gap in the design world by providing visibility and access to female designers. The idea arrived after Isabel attended a conference in which 9 out of the 11 speakers were men; after a friend who also attended the conference tweeted about this disparity, a heated two-day Twitter blow-up in the lettering and design world erupted, and as Isabel watched it unfold, the idea for YES, EQUAL was born: “I didn’t want to complain and just not do anything about it,” she said. 

Though it’s still in its nascent stages, the directory now features over 1,500 women designers, many of whom have reached out to Isabel to report that they’ve gotten job offers through it. We talked with Isabel about how she brought her unique and focused perspective to Big Publishing, the struggle of maintaining your own joy and vision, and what’s next for building up YES, EQUAL:

So you were born in the U.S., but moved back to Venezuela with your parents when you were a few months old. What kindled your interest in the visual arts and eventually led you to pursue it as a career?
Both my parents were architects and they had a lot of friends that were graphic designers. I loved to read, and I was always on the computer and using the Internet. I was really a geek about it! But I also did graffiti as a teenager, so the love for letters was always there [laughs]. 

In ended up going to ProDiseño, which was such a peculiar experience. It’s a really crazy place—super beautiful, but at the same time, super chaotic. It was inside a two-story house; like, the bathroom had a tub in it. It was less than 100 students. I was studying graphic design there, visual communications. I moved to New York two weeks after my graduation like, “Oh, fuck it. I’m going.”

What was it like coming back to New York and trying to break into the scene when you had such an unconventional education?
So, this was around 2008. Kinda right around the recession. But everyone else seemed like they were prepared—like, all the kids from RISD, etc. I didn’t even have a portfolio. It was scary. But you know, little by little, I just started emailing everyone I could.

Eventually, the Cooper Type program started. I got into the second class, and that’s where I studied type. It was an accelerated program and I was there for a year. I loved it. You learned about type design, but calligraphy and lettering workshops too. I was working for a firm at the time, but I didn’t love it, so I was trying to take freelance work and go to school and all that. 

How did you get into book design specifically?
At one point, I saw a tweet about a job opening at Random House so I just applied for it, and two months after, someone got back to me. So I went in and it was the craziest interview I’ve ever been on [laughs]. Five people. Three hours. Super intense! But when I got there, I just told myself, “This is your only chance. You have to kill this.”

Well, and clearly you killed it.
[laughs] Yeah, they really loved me. I think they just saw I was really excited and I really wanted it, and they loved my portfolio. And I even got a freelance gig on the side from that interview!

Let’s talk about your creative identity and how that meshes with a company that’s, y’know, all corporate and massive and stuff.
So you go to the editorial meeting and you hear the editors talk about the book. After that, you tell your art director which books you want to work on, and sometimes she would suggest stuff to us. You didn’t always get the book that you wanted, but you kind of had an idea. But sometimes it doesn't go that way. Like for Dave Eggers. No one wanted to take his book! He has very specific taste. But I was like, “Fuck it! I’ll do it.” Because when am I going to be able to design for Dave Eggers again?! And it went really well, actually. One round and it was done, which never happens [laughs].

Dang. Well, you stuck it to all those non-believers.
[laughs] Yeah. But normally, it’s a battle. You want to try and see what will get through. So you’re like, “Well I’m only going to show three things, because if I show more…” Like for example, for All Our Names, we only showed one. I’d made a bunch of other options, but Peter Mendelsund, who was art directing was like, “Nope. Let’s just show this one.” 

And that’s the one that went on to receive all that recognition as one of the best covers of the year!
It’s crazy. Sometimes it works like that. But I mean, for another project, I came up with 20 different ideas, and nothing came of it. It was a paperback and they just ended up adapting the hard cover. 

How do you negotiate the rejection process? How hard is it when something you really believe in ends up on the cutting room floor?
It depends on the book, for sure. Like there was The Book of Unknown Americans, which was a particularly long and intense process and I put a lot of myself in it. The author, [Cristina Henríquez], was writing about immigration, and I really felt connected to it. I was really attached to it, so when it got killed, I was like, “Goddamn it!” [laughs]. But I posted the [killed] cover on Instagram and actually, the author wrote to me. It was so sweet! She was like, “I really love this! Why didn’t I see it?!” And I was like, “Oh my god, noooo!”

It’s almost as if the two people who should have the most say don’t get to make that call...
Well, I responded to her that I get it; they’re coming from the perspective of wanting her book to do as well as it can. You’re just trying to get the best representation for the author.

And so tell me about your transition from Random House to freelancing. What brought about that move?
The first year especially was such a honeymoon! For the first two and half years, I thought I would never leave that job. And people stay there for like, 25 years. But you know, the thing is, it’s corporate. At some point, I knew it was time to move on. I knew I wanted to start my own thing. 

When you started YES, EQUAL last year, you compiled a bunch of data that illustrates the inequity in your industry in a piece called 1+1=2. Aside from being a directory where people can find talented women, what do you have in store for YES, EQUAL?
I’m building a section that will have all of the design conferences and will have channels for women to apply to speak. A take-the-matter-into-your-own-hands kind of thing. The reception has been so great, and I actually didn’t envision it getting this large, and so now I’m trying to make it so that it’s easier to navigate. We’re working on building a content side too, where we’ll cover feminism and equality. But for right now, for the companies that are hiring and say they want to be more diverse: here are people!

Any advice you’d offer to women looking to break into the industry?
Patience. The things you want have to be really clear in your mind. Also, sometimes it’s scary to, uh, leave your job [laughs]. But I’ve done that a couple of times and it’s been great every time. If you feel like you’re stuck, you have to make a change. You have to take that leap of faith and put things in perspective again. Plan to do the thing you’re really excited about. 

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@bellera // isabelurbinapena.com

interview by Deena Drewis