Paula Goldstein - Empathetic and Opinionated
What are your “and” words and why? Empathetic and Opinionated. I have spent most of my career trying to balance my empathy for humans and my strong opinions on what works and what doesn’t creatively.
I started working in fashion magazines at age 19, but it was while working for a French magazine called Purple that I really sharpened my creative claws. Our editorial team was very passionate and it was a “high energy” and unconventional environment, where you really had to push for your ideas to come to life. (I’m really good at cursing in French now). But in all seriousness, so much of fashion is personal judgement and opinion. Your conviction on what is “chic” or what is “cool” is the very DNA of everything you do, and if you aren’t prepared to talk tough on occasion, it means that you are never going to create something you are personally proud of.
I have always tried to balance this conviction with empathy; be that taking time to listen and teach more junior colleagues, saying no to collaborations with brands that don’t hold themselves accountable to certain working standards, or like my current project “Born Free,” trying to turn my honed sense of storytelling to shine a light on something I think matters way more than shoes. In this case America’s maternal mortality crises.
What you are known for saying/a quote from you. What does this quote mean to you, (or if it’s from someone else, why does it inspire you)? My quote has always been “make friends and they will show you the world.” I have been lucky enough to have been extended so much support and education through a global network of friends of friends and particularly badass womyn, like Joanna herself. It’s helped me do things like travel across India alone without being alone, make art, or even more excitingly, given me space to ask for help for women who aren’t always able to raise their own voices. The most amazing words to hear or to share are “I can help.”
Which other Ladybadasses inspire you and why? Gosh this is so hard. There are so many but I think some of the women who inspire me most are those totally unsung and unrecognized heroes. A friend of mine, Emily, has two children under 4. She has a son with nonverbal autism and a daughter with a serious heart condition. She and her husband work opposite hours so they are able to each be home with their children. Things for her are exhausting and it never stops, and no one ever thanks her, yet she loves those children fiercely. She is a great friend and has an amazing sense of humor. So I want to say she and all the underappreciated ladies putting their children first and smiling through, day after day without ever being told how strong they are, they are the ones that inspire me most.
When did you first realize that you had some Ladybadassery in you? The first time I realized I had to have it as a skill was when I was a very junior editor. Some model agent sent us a model for a nude shoot and she didn’t want to do it. I told the model to go home and that she shouldn’t ever do anything she wasn’t comfortable with. She told her agency and the agent called her in front of me and told her she should do it as her “career was on the line.” I took the phone from the model and told the agent in no uncertain terms if she threatened the girl again or sent any other young women out on jobs they didn’t want to do I’d publish a story about it and we’d see whose career was on the line. The model went on to have a great commercial career... I don’t hear much about the agent these days.
But I really come into my own on the Ladybadassery front when I had my daughter and when I realized that my birth was something that could have gone so differently had I not had the privilege or support network that enabled me a certain type of agency over my healthcare. So many women in this country don't have that, which is why we have the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world, why we are the most expensive country in the world to give birth in, and why we are the only nation bar Papua New Guinea and Lesotho that doesn't have mandated maternity leave. I felt it was really important to highlight this story as a moral issue for all Americans to discuss with my film "Born Free" and not just leave it for new mothers to whisper to their friends over coffee. I was outraged and you should be too.
What keeps you motivated on days when you aren't quite feeling like a Ladybadass? My husband. Male allies are the best and in a time when we all roll our eyes at white men I think it’s important to thank those who are helping us grow by using their privilege. I know I’m a cheeseball but whatever.
What is your advice to other women who are trying to tap into their Ladybadassery? Stand by your convictions, but be nice. Having courage to stand for what you believe in doesn’t mean destroying someone else’s hopes or ambitions. (Unless they are a bigot. Then please feel free to steamroll them).
Paula is a creative consultant and founder of Voyage D'etudes, a platform to inspire and educate female travelers, doers, and thinkers.