Roxanne & Kara: Local Fundraisers

We can all attest that some of the best AND worst ideas occur when hanging with our best friends.  Kara and Roxanne met in college and have remained bosom buddies ever since. They decided to throw an event to raise money for Planned Parenthood after a typical night together with wine discussing the current state of the world.  

During a time of unprecedented challenges for Planned Parenthood, women’s health, and reproductive rights, all funds raised from the event will help PPNYC to continue its vital mission of providing reproductive health care, comprehensive sex education, and advocacy to the tens of thousands of women, men, and teens who turn to our health centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island each year.               

How did you guys decide to support Planned Parenthood?

When we decided we wanted to throw a benefit, we actually mulled over supporting a lot of different organizations and causes – while we are all from Indiana, we come from diverse backgrounds and partial to various issues. What we finally arrived at was the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, namely because we had personal experience with their clinics, both as patients and supporters. When you can testify to a group’s services – maybe even feel in debt to them because of the quality experience you received when you needed it most – it provides that extra motivation. 

  For the past 100 years, Planned Parenthood’s work has enabled progress: women completing their education, parents deciding when to start a family, teens healthier with each new generation. We must maintain New York as a bastion of rights and access for all the women here and from around the country who will be calling on our services. Even in this dark hour, nothing can shake the power of our mission and what we can accomplish when we face it together.  

How do proceeds help Planned Parenthood?

So in case you ever want to throw your own benefit for the PPFA – they make it really easy for you to start a fundraiser, in which you can specify which parts of the organization you want to support. Since the fundraiser was already our way of advocating and spreading awareness, we decided to send the proceeds to the local clinics in NYC. With funding in jeopardy, it’s the patients who are most at risk, so ensuring that clinics are able to operate on the day to day is priority.

What would you tell yourself when you were younger, or what is advice you would give other women?

When I was younger, the only advice I really gave myself was “listen to your mother” – this wasn’t just because she made the rules or held me accountable, but really, because I trusted her.  She along with a many of her peers are advocates for women’s rights, and were part of the fight when frankly, we had less. So the advice I would give to women today – albeit obvious -  is that when you feel lonely, scared, or defeated as a result of the way people treat you because of your sex or gender identity, try and find inspiration in the women who carried the flag before us. Because there are so many who felt the same, but used their talents to push forward regardless – their methods can be repeated and revised for success. They primed us to keep it going.

Where do you get your inspiration?

The two of us are incredibly social people – I mean, our way of giving back was to throw a party with booze, and it doesn’t get that much more social than that– so it goes without saying that we get much of our inspiration from people. And I’m not just referring to those people that love and support us, as inspiring as they are – I’m including those we don’t agree with or even dislike. All people can motivate us in their own special ways, whether they are lifting us up or lighting the fire.

Why did you throw the event at Eva Jean's in Brooklyn?

We incepted the idea to do a fundraiser on a Friday night, at a busy restaurant, accompanied by a bottle(s) of wine. Our friend knew Sam Ware, the manager of Eva Jean’s, and enthusiastically texted him to see if he could help with a venue. Almost immediately and enthusiastically texted an affirmative, on his own shift’s peak hours, so we knew he was serious. Then we saw the venue, met Sam and Elie Anderson, a graphic designer who provided all the beautiful designs for marketing, were wowed by everything, and set the date. The restaurant is centrally located in Brooklyn too, which we thought would be good for commuters.


Women in Film: The Cast & Crew of Unicornland

In an industry dominated by men Unicornland breaks standard molds.  Writer/Producer Lucy Gillespie states, "When I made Unicornland, a series about a woman exploring her sexuality post-divorce, I committed to the cause of promoting #womeninfilm. Our 60% non-white cast and crew was also 70% female, and included many independent female rising stars. I am honored to feature their work, and through that, their politics and causes."  

Unicornland is an 8-episode series about Annie, a type-A New-Yorker who thought she had the perfect relationship--until her husband leaves her. Suddenly single, Annie decides to start again from scratch to learn about love, sex, and what it takes to make a relationship work. So she dates couples. Annie’s journey takes us on a wildly intimate tour of modern love in New York City. Below is a series of interviews with the women of Unicornland regarding their role models and experiences.  Our girl crushes talking about their girl crushes :)

NANA MENSAH (Actress/writer/producer, “Julianne” in Unicornland): My role model was my high school boyfriend’s mother, Billie Tsien. She’s an architect who’s won the National Medal of Arts. I come from a conservative African family, where the expectation was always to be a doctor or a lawyer. Meeting this woman who followed her passion into a successful career in the arts gave me the courage to pursue storytelling for a living.

Billie is also Chinese-American. She told that “if you ever forget that you are black or Chinese, leave it to someone else to remind you.” What this means to me is — your job is to do your work your way. Let your color, gender or ethnic background be someone else’s problem.

LAURA RAMADEI (Actress/Producer, “Annie” in Unicornland): I was a tomboy who grew up thinking the phrase “like a girl” was a bad thing. Being “one of the boys” gave me an implied confidence and natural self-awareness that men more often have in older life. For a long time, I resisted the word “feminine”. It took a long time to evolve into a woman who could proudly say “I’m a feminist”, and not worry about offending guy friends.

But as a performer, it wasn’t productive to reject who I was. There were a lot of frustrations against the limited assumptions — and opportunities — based on my gender. You’re constantly confronted with the question “should I take this job as a dumb underwritten female role, or turn it down for the sake of feminism? “

I talked to Judith Light — who has been a role model — after one awful experience. My director had said “my job was to make people want to fuck me,” and I’d swallowed my rage to get the work done. Afterwards Judith helped me see ways I could have educated the director, to better my surroundings with grace, dignity and self-respect. Biting your tongue isn’t the best thing to do; nor is throwing a fit and storming off set.

Through trial and error, I have learned not to accept things as they were, but to enhance the status of my gender through my work.

CLEO GRAY (Actress, “Veronica” in Unicornland): I’m adopted, and Asian. My family is white, and so supportive — especially my dad. Growing up, my perspective was skewed — I knew who I was and didn’t care who the world thought I was.

I was lucky in that the first theater companies I worked with in NYC were the Flea, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Both have a lot of diversity and equality in their communities of playwrights, directors and actors. Because the theater community is so open-minded, I’ve been shocked this election to see women tearing down other women. I’m not surprised when men do this out of ignorance or arrogance, but for women to get competitive, and to use shame shows such deeply ingrained misogyny.

I admire Lena Dunham for speaking freely against social conditioning of women’s experiences. And Madonna, who is just f***ing great. Also people I know, like Laura Ramadei, for her work with Lesser America and the American Playwriting Foundation.

MARCI MUDD (Production Designer on Unicornland): I grew up in a very gender neutral environment. My mother did all of the hard work with my dad in his construction business. Not just the books — she was up there on the roof. She raised three daughters, and never allowed us to pull the “woman” excuse. She wasn’t a feminist in voice, but she was in action and spirit.

In my career in film, I view all the women I work with as role models. It wasn’t so long ago that the only women on set were secretaries and actresses. Marielle Heller is the director of my current project, and she’s an inspiration. She’s personable, really intuitive with the characters, collaborative, and still very much at the head of the film. I respect that while she’s unassuming, she knows what the hell she’s talking about.

ARINA BLEÍMAN (Director of Photography on Unicornland): I’m inspired by legends like Reed MoranoMaryse AlbertiEllen Kuras. My biggest role model is my friend Chananun Chotrungroj, for her unparalleled work ethic and stunning, raw cinematography.

I’m fortunate to be in New York, where talented, in-demand DPs like Kate Arizmendi, and Jendra Jarnigan are revolutionizing the way young female cinematographers gain exposure and find work.

DIANA OH (Writer/Actress/Musician, “Samara” in Unicornland): Erika Lustdoes an incredible TED talk on how women need to get involved in porn so that they can steer people’s perspectives on female sexuality. I couldn’t agree more. I’m tired of being fed the belief that femininity and sexual prowess are signs of weakness.

I’ve also known Unicornland writer/producer Lucy Gillespie for years. Watching her growth as a human, and the art she’s making now is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She has an awareness of how women could be represented and treated in film, and is awesome at making people feel empowered and sexy. She’s the kind of woman who makes you want to say, “fuck it.”

ERICA ROSE (Assistant Director on Unicornland): I grew up in the 90s, when lot of new queer cinema was centered around “coming out” to explore sexuality for the first time, or “the taboo relationship.” Both themes are centered on repression, and mostly end in tragedy. In that era (the 90s), gay people weren’t fully able to feel love in the way they wanted to, and the way straight counterparts could, so this work was highly relevant then.

While I was appreciative of those films, I’m more inspired by Steven SoderberghPedro Almodovar,Wong Kar-WaiJane CampionDavid Lynch. Many of their films have a heterosexual narrative, with homosexual undertones. And a lot of those films dealt with female sexuality in an interesting/complicated way that didn’t exist in the mainstream.

ELLEN ROBIN ROSENBERG (HMU / Stylist on Unicornland): Other kids teased me when Ellen came out (because of our names). I admire Ellen DeGeneres, but I couldn’t relate to her. The word “lesbian” always bothered me and I never knew why. Now I realize it’s because I’m not a lesbian.

There was never a cool bisexual role model I could relate to as a femme-but-tough womyn who tends towards non-female traditional work and roles. I was always more defined by what I didn’t want. There was a theme throughout my childhood of opting out.

Christan Summers: Grow Wild

Nestled in the industrial part of Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a lush green oasis called Tula House founded by Christan Summers and Ivan Martinez.  Get lost with palms that kiss the ceiling and befriend cacti of all different shapes and sizes.  We developed a girl crush instantly after meeting Christan at a friend's birthday party.  She has planted a green staple here in Brooklyn.  In less than a year she has been featured by Barney's planting her roots in both the Plant, Design and Fashion world.  You may have seen her Truck "Tulita", a greenhouse on wheels driving around Brooklyn.  Visit Tula House and read her interview below.

1.  What inspired you start Tula?  What is Tula about?

Tula is a plant and design company with a mission to inspire city dwellers to fall in love with the natural world. We sell plants, handmade planters, plant accessories and home decor. We're currently based out of a showroom in Brooklyn and our storefront is a mobile greenhouse that we drive to various markets and neighborhoods in Brooklyn. It's an old 1987 Chevy box truck that we custom designed to look like a greenhouse, we've named her 'Tulita'. It's a total trip for people stumble upon! I've co-founded Tula with my partner, Ivan Martinez.

The inspiration to start Tula came from a need to literally get my hands dirty again, step away from in front of the computer screen and learn something totally new. Horticulture is a fascinating subject, there are endless facts to learn and so many things to share with others. So I chose to dive in, and apply my years in fashion and advertising to co-create a brand based upon something I truly love and respect. The best part about starting Tula is the positive impact I see it has on our customers. It's such a happy exchange. 

2.  Where do you get your inspiration?

So many things... Books, the ocean, design, films, etc. I will say though that none of this inspiration turns to anything unless I give myself time to relax and daydream. My daydreams are where everything begins.  If I don't put everything away (including my phone :), my brain doesn't have the chance to imagine and let that inspiration in. 

3.  What are you currently most excited about?

In the next phase for Tula Ivan and I are working on our first collection of prints and home decor products. We also have a few holiday pop-up shops that we're really excited about. One of which is in collaboration with Patagonia and we'll be taking over their 3rd floor at their Soho location on Wooster st.

4.  Describe your perfect kind of day in Brooklyn.

This normally involves pancake breakfast at home, a bike ride to the park with a new book or magazine and a late lunch out. All of this alongside my favorite partner in crime, Ivan. 

5.  Favorite Brooklyn Spots

Lella Alimentari, Okonomi, Blue Stove, Spoonbill & Sugartown Bookstore, Prospect Park, and Tula, Plants & Design ;)