meet the mama: instyle’s digital director on raising a girl during the rise of #metoo
The list of companies Leslie Price has led digital strategy is pretty much a list of your computer’s bookmarks: Racked.com, Manrepeller.com, InStyle.com, Luckymag.com (RIP). It’s her written word that first got our attention, she’s never shied away from tackling controversial subjects with honesty and insight. So we couldn’t wait to spend a day with her, hearing her thoughts on motherhood and how she feels about raising a girl during a time when femininity has never been more openly complicated.
Hi Leslie! Can we talk about your epic publishing career? Share how you got your start and how you ended up being InStyle’s digital director.
I always knew I wanted to work in women’s magazines. I moved to New York City after college and set an ultimatum for myself: I’d get a full-time job at a magazine within two years. I worked retail and at a restaurant to support myself. I lucked into an internship at a weekly magazine when someone was out sick, and eventually parlayed that into an entry-level position.
I was writing about food but really wanted to get into the fashion space, so I founded a blog called Racked. From there I went to Conde Nast to work at Lucky Magazine, then I went back to Racked, then to Man Repeller, and now to InStyle.
Publishing is a tough industry. Two of the magazines I’ve worked for have folded. You really have to love the work and be comfortable with lots of change and uncertainty.
Tell us about Frankie. What’s she like (besides adorable)?
Frankie is exuberant and emotional. She’s super-smart, loves talking and is obsessed with babies and balloons. She hates sitting still. She’s terrified of an orange neighborhood cat that we sometimes see prowling around our yard but fascinated by squirrels.
Frankie had bad reflux when she was a baby, so it’s been exciting to see her happy personality emerge, though I think we’re all still pretty emotionally scarred from that period. She’s just starting to make decisions for herself—what she wants to eat, what she wants to wear—so that should be...interesting.
Do you have any family rituals?
Our standard morning routine involves a ridiculous Chemex coffee brewing situation that has to be done before I can do much of anything else. It always takes way too long.
Mornings are when we get the best hang-out time. The dog goes out immediately because he’s on diuretics and then Frankie feeds him. I’ve been working on this chore with her because she really loves it and I’ll do anything to try to improve their relationship (he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her). Then we usually make smoothies for the adults and an omelette for Frankie, or she’ll eat banana with nut butter. Sometimes we’ll read books to her while we are at the table to try to distract her so she’ll eat more.
We’re still working on big rituals. I would love to have a space big enough to host family for the holidays or have an annual trip planned, but we aren’t there yet.
What’s been the most surprising part of motherhood thus far?
Being called a “mom” always surprises me. It’s not that it isn’t a huge part of my life, but I don’t label myself that way. It always throws me off. How long it took to start feeling like myself again was surprising. But it’s always changing. The current “surprise” is just how much food we need to have at all times to make sure she gets three good meals a day.
You're an incredible honest and open writer (and have tackled some controversial subjects with a great deal of insight). At this moment when #metoo is TIME's person of the year and social media makes cyber bullying an epidemic, how do you think a parent can approach these subjects with their children? do you have a plan as to how to address with Frankie when she is older?
I have strong feelings about this one because I’ve experienced bias in my career and I know how crushing and undermining it can be. There is an element of hoping/wishing that everything will be better when she is older.
There’s so much I want to discuss with her, all sorts of issues around race and class and gender and privilege. I think our generation of women was raised with this vague, blanket “you can do anything you want” attitude, which isn’t bad per se, but also doesn’t prepare you for the realities of what you’re going to encounter in your career. I don’t want her to be surprised by it.
I want to encourage her to be self-sufficient and independent. I’d like to be able to help her navigate some of these issues in her own career, just how to document things properly and protect yourself. (I have no idea what the working world will look like then or if everyone’s jobs will be replaced by robots.) Having her dad involved in these conversations is really important; these aren’t just “women’s” issues.
I’ve already realized that you can’t just tell your kid to do something, you have to model the behavior. I think a lot about how we are modeling behavior that will set Frankie up for success.
She already has a major leg up in this world and I guess I expect to have a lot of age-appropriate conversations about that and about the type of behaviors she should be wary of. I DO have a greeting card from President Obama that we got right after she was born, which I want to get framed. She was born when he was in the White House and I want her to have that little personalized piece of history. It was a different time.
Do you believe parents have a role in mediating this conversation between the media and their children?
Well, I definitely want to. I’d never presume to tell other people what to do, we’re all figuring this out as we go. I’m hypersensitive to this sort of thing, but I also know I have my own blind spots. I love reading and that’s how I get my news; hopefully she’ll inherit a love of being well-informed and we can all discuss.
Finally, what are the wisest words that have been uttered to you by a child?
“This is Frankie [hitting herself in the stomach with both her hands].”
Thank you, Leslie!
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