Meet Tess! Tessa is "Creative Collaborator" at The Upspeak Collective and my very first employee. I've known Tessa for a few years now. We first met when I hired her to work for me at a yoga studio and since then we've become friends. She's been a supporter of my podcast and my business from day 1 and recently attended my pink sky workshop. When it was time for me to hire my first employee, Tessa was a no brainer for me. She shares many of the same values that I hold of feminism, activism, love for creativity, and empathetic communication. She's also super organized and a fan of rainbow colored spreadsheets which makes me so happy I could cry. Tessa's full-time job currently is as a campus outreach specialist for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and then, on the side, she supports The Upspeak Collective in a hundred tiny ways. the biggest thing she does for me is act as a sounding board and cheerleader for my business so that I can turn around and do the same for others. I can't wait for you to meet her.
When did you first know you were a creative person?
I have a distinct memory of a first grade project wherein we were asked to draw a hand on paper, and then add onto the drawing as to recreate it into another image. My hand ended up as a something close to a barbershop quartet of mice hanging out on a string. I started writing and drawing all kinds of goofy things after that... I would say the calibre of creativity in my work hasn't topped that since!
What do you want to spend most of your time doing?
Since we are all about dreams at The Upspeak Collective, I will share that in my dream world, I would spend most of my professional time illustrating independent comics and images for the sappiest magazine editorials, and producing podcasts about love and that funny category of things we call "the human condition" (because Car Talk is untouchable now). This probably goes without saying, but I cry at Story Corps every. damn. time.
In my current world, I'd love to spend most of my time with my beloved "framily" (family by blood, and family by friendship, time, and association - sorry, you're all stuck with me!) cooking amazing meals and laughing about nothing [mostly]. I'd like to learn about the things that shift my framework: religious experience, oppression, liberation, and often in my wikipedia reads: soviet history. Oh, and listen to all those podcasts I cry about.
What gets you up at 6am?
The alarm clock known as sheer anxiety, hahaha. Sometimes, that's a good thing! I am very much a fan of my bed, but if work calls, or someone needs that airport pick up, I'm there.
Who inspires you to be better and why?
I am really, very lucky to be surrounded by folks who are doing important and admirable things often, and with passion. So, friends and family out there pursuing your dreams, your power, your justice - thanks for leading the way! In my other life, I work with folks who have experienced considerable trauma and their resilience reminds me of all of our potential - that there can always be a next chapter, however we choose it to look.
Tell us about your favorite piece of art (song, book, painting... whatever!)
This questions feels loaded and I love it! Something that has encouraged me, frightened me, empowered me, reminded me... for many years is Warsan Shire's poem, "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love" : https://vimeo.com/36289832 I think the work speaks very clearly for itself. Warsan's words move me in all ways, every time I read or hear it... and yes Beyonce utilized her amazing work in Lemonade and I couldn't have cheered harder for her.
Tell me about a book you read that changed you fundamentally.
Oh... now this one gets me. I would first like to concede that I am the type of person who read Catcher in the Rye once every too often from 7th grade on. So admittedly, that's probably the one. But, I have mixed feelings about that, so I'll say that being made fun of for reading Jessica Valenti's "Full Frontal Feminism" in the 9th grade led me to sink my teeth even deeper into the power of that book and advocacy for gender equality.
Where did you go to school, what did you study, and why?
I studied anthropology and religious studies at Case Western Reserve University. I went in thinking about nursing, then I decided I wanted to pursue a liberal arts degree, and for a second I thought I would do social justice work through theology, and I ended up writing my thesis on American appropriation of Indian philosophies. It is very important to me to be engaged with the world around me, and the causes that move myself and others - for better or for worse.
Why Upspeak? There are so many side gigs you could have. Why this one?
I will try to make this short: I love being a part of the creativity, encouragement, and realness of Upspeak. Upspeak, by name and by brand, is a feminist organization about embracing creativity and passion of folks of all genders and elevating them to the next level of whatever they are pursuing. I had a thought the other day: if I had been born a boy, would I have had the confidence to pursue a creative professional life first, instead of a helping one? While I won't ever know for sure, what I am learning through my work at Upspeak is bringing me closer to job joy and creative fulfillment, which I value immensely.
Describe the laziest, most delicious Saturday in your world.
This is my favorite question!!! My laziest and most delicious Saturday would be one cool, summer Saturday (70 degrees, folks). I'd wake up when I felt like it and stumble into a cozy shower. I'd take my time getting dressed and walking to my local coffee spot, to read the latest copy of Mincho and sip away at some sugary latte (I am not cool at coffee, friends). I'd likely fall into some plans with friends, to walk around the beach or drink some bloody mary's and shoot the shit. Of course, there would be a nap somewhere in the late afternoon, which would prep me for a pizza dinner and lovely night of miller high life and live music - preferably a band I don't know and don't have any expectations of, at a place in walking distance from home. All of this would be at the very leisurely pace of "who cares when we get there" and it would end with me back in bed, with just enough energy left to wash my face and brush my teeth to perfection right beforehand. Sprinkle in some nice candles and probably a lot of snacks. Stir.
What else should we know about you???
Well, let's see... I listen to Sean Paul unironically and periodically produce a comic about my fictitious best friendship with Lebron James. My favorite color is grey. [Insert humble brag about being able to drive stick.] That's all there is!