GRL Talk: Girls & Glory

We sat down for a virtual chat with Girls & Glory, to delve under the hood of their platform and the people who founded it. Ana Jayme and Amy Beecham may be based on opposite sides of the world, but their visions are very much aligned. Here at FGRLS CLUB, it’s always so refreshing and supportive to find a community like ours, with similar values. This online and IRL platform serves to empower womxn and nonbinary folks in the creative arts, giving them a place to share their voices and work. Want to find out more about how Ana and Amy have grown a community, and themselves in the process? Keep reading.

Tell us a bit about Girls & Glory for those who may not know?

AJ: Girls & Glory is a place for girl-identifying and nonbinary folks to come together, create, and collaborate safely and authentically. Initially, G&G went by another name and I really had no intention to make it an empowerment website besides the first issue we put out being themed “strong as hell” dedicated entirely to the women creatives who were inspiring me at the time! After that first issue, however, going full-time on supporting womxn seemed like a no-brainer – it’s where my heart was, is, and will remain.

AB: What we do is all about empowerment and celebration. We want people to be proud of their identities and the communities they belong to in a space that encourages acceptance, creativity and expression.

You and Ana are internet friends, how did you decide to partner up and create Girls & Glory?

AB: We met on the internet around four years ago and had always stayed in contact via Twitter and Instagram. In the summer of last year, I saw that she had posted something about a website she was starting and, having worked with her on something like that before, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. She is an incredible creative, even better editor and even more amazing friend. Finally meeting her IRL at the beginning of this year was the best thing ever. G&G is about bringing womxn together, and it’s certainly done that for us.

AJ: I met Amy through a publication that I co-founded several years ago – she used to write for us and we ended up becoming internet acquaintances for the years in between. When I put out a call for team members to join G&G (when it wasn’t G&G yet), Amy was there, already bubbling over with ideas and suggestions on how we could really make this thing speak volumes – not just to us, but to everyone. To me, her passion for telling stories about her own life and to provide solace for others was endlessly inspiring. It truly happened organically and I wouldn’t want any other person by my side. We’ve become close friends and sisters- that’s something that means more to me than being business partners.

What made you want to create a safe space for the creative arts?

AJ: I’m an artist by trade – I write, sing, play instruments, and create art – so empowering creatives is something that has been in engrained in my heart since I was 4 years old. But it wasn’t always so easy to express myself. Growing up, I moved all over the country and had my fair share of horrendous experiences with my peers during middle school and high school. As cliche as it sounds, I felt like a big fish in a really tiny, tiny bowl. I constantly felt misunderstood by my classmates in the way that I chose to manifest my emotions and experiences through my art. The internet ended up being a beacon of hope for me, where I could connect with other young creatives, and meeting these people – like Amy – was a necessary reminder of how vital community is for people like me and so many others. I found friendship in this online ‘safe space’ that I didn’t have with the people who surrounded me in real life and, who knows, maybe G&G will be that community for another 12-year-old girl who feels misunderstood, lonely and uninspired where she is now. If we can provide that safety and that place to create for anyone, we’ll have done our job.

AB: The arts are something I’ve always been passionate about and, for a while, I was guilty of taking my privilege for granted. I could write and perform feminist plays, publish my controversial poetry without repercussion, and I didn’t really give a second thought to those whose voices are marginalised and are brushed over. When I started to educate myself, I realised that so many important voices get lost because they don’t have a safe and supportive environment to share their stories in. I wanted everyone to be as expressive as I could, hence G&G was born.

You put on an amazing Period Party event – tell us more about this mission?

AJ: The Period Party was our second official G&G event held in Albuquerque where I currently live. We have a large homeless population here, but my city loves to refer to it as a ‘problem’, which dehumanizes the thousands of people on the streets who call Albuquerque home (just as I do). In the past few years, I’ve had homeless folks come up to me asking for pads, tampons, and even tissues, to manage their monthly period. It’s infuriating, more than anything, to know that even though shelters exist, these items are not prioritized or made affordable. It’s a basic necessity that should be made accessible to all – free menstrual products are where it’s at. But that’s not the reality, and so we hosted this Period Party to combat this human rights issue in my neighbourhood. I only expected 10-15 people to show up with donations and help us put the menstrual hygiene kits together, but we ended up with a crowd of 45+ people, 400+ kits, and 10+ large boxes of donations left over to donate in bulk. It was astonishing. In the end, all of the donations and work of our volunteers were sent to three organizations – Enlace Comunitario, Street Safe NM, and The Barrett Foundation – and have benefited Latinx survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking victims, and homeless women in Albuquerque. Period parties are something you can do in the comfort of your own home or within a Fortune 500 company so, if you can, host one! If you need some inspo, check out the incredible Fem Project.

AB: Ana did an amazing job over in the US, so it’s now up to me to replicate that success and awareness in the UK. Period poverty is a huge problem here and has really been brought to the forefront of people’s minds by amazing campaigns from people like Amika George and Bloody Good Period. It’s terrible that girls, in any country, should have to skip school because they have their period, let alone in one as “developed” and “advanced” as ours. Our period parties not only aim to provide help to low-income families that cannot afford sanitary items, but also break the stigma around the discussion of periods. They’re not gross or something to be ashamed of, as we’re often taught in school sex education.

Side hustles are something we’re very passionate about here at FGRLS CLUB (for obvious reasons) – what advice do you have for women and nb people wanting to start their own project?

AJ: As much as I would like to say, “just do it,” I think that’s a bit naive. What I would say is: take your time. I had a bad habit of rushing into my creative endeavours in the past and I would be burnt out before the project could even get off the ground! Rather than pushing yourself to a limit that isn’t sustainable, take a few weeks or months to collect your thoughts, formulate a plan of execution. Surround yourself with a supportive friendship group or team, and then reveal to the world what you’ve worked so hard on, when your heart feels it’s right. My second piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Perfectionism is great, in theory, but in reality, it’s unproductive. If you need assistance with emails or press releases or brainstorming, asking for a partner in crime doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that the work won’t be just as good as you doing it yourself. We all need our people. And sometimes we need help too. That’s okay.

AB: You don’t have to be 1000% sure of yourself and what you’re doing. As Ana said earlier, G&G didn’t always take the form it does now, but you do have to set the idea out and stick to it somewhat. Starting something takes a lot of work, and if there are setbacks it’s easy to take them personally. Girls & Glory is our baby – we spend so much time working out all the smallest details, that if they don’t pay off, it can feel a bit disheartening. That’s where you’ve got to have the passion and be sure that what you’re doing and the story you’re trying to tell is worth the hassle and is important. It’s not about changing the world as much as it is changing your world. Aim big, for sure, but remember that it’s the smaller things – the personal connections, the one reader that DM’s you to say that an article you’ve posted has made her day – that count for the most.

Where do you see Girls & Glory growing in 2018? Any big plans you can let us in on?

AJ: We’ve hosted a few events in the US but our next step is to branch out internationally. Since Amy is based in the UK, that’s naturally where we’d like to head next! It’s important to me that we’re as much of an IRL platform as we are online, and that we’re giving back to communities that mean a lot to us. It’s about building a connection between girls everywhere and hopefully, 2018 is the year we do that.

AB: We’ve achieved amazing and unexpected success so far, so of course, I’d love our site to keep growing with writers and contributors, as well as readers. The bonds and relationships we’ve formed are so much more important than page views. We have a little internal community amongst the writers that goes on behind the scenes. We’re all so supportive of each other, even though most of us have never met and live thousands of miles apart. We have the strongest girl gang, which we hope continues to translate into our presence online and IRL.

Has there been a piece you’ve published that’s particularly stuck with you, and why?

AJ: For our first issue I had the chance to interview artist/photographer, Samera Paz. She gained recognition for her period blood art a year or two ago and since then I’ve admired her fearlessness, candour, and spirit as a girl artist. Speaking to her about her creations was a reminder that women of colour are capable of so much that we’re not given credit for, and if we are it’s paired with intense scrutiny and sometimes violence. We deserve to be free from those constraints, to speak freely and to see our stories told in truth. That’s definitely resonated with me and so many others.

AB: Our #glittergurls piece, where we interviewed photographer Anita Cheung, was all about making porn empowering and redefining an industry that’s so dismissive of female pleasure. It felt really special to be part of reclaiming something that is often very toxic, and refocussing it to the female gaze. Interviewing Girlgaze founder Amanda de Cadenet was a real milestone, too. The internet community she created has been a huge inspiration to us, so having the chance to pick her brain was a personal indulgence for us, as well as inspiration and encouragement for our readers.

For a question we ask everyone on GRL Talk – what advice would you go back and tell your 16-year-old-self?

AB: You don’t have to prove yourself to the world. I spent a lot of my teens asking myself “how can I make my mark?”, “why haven’t I done any significant yet?” because I felt like I had to earn the right to feel proud of myself. I put way too much pressure on myself and drained myself creatively – just as I was about to start a degree in Creative Writing at the best university in Europe! G&G helped me get my creativity, and my confidence in my art back.

AJ: Don’t give up. There are moments when loneliness and mental illness feel like they’re winning, but they’re not. The opinions people have of you don’t dictate who you are, you do. You will find your voice, and it will move mountains! Just don’t give up.

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