Leandra Medine on Making the Internet More Honest, Stylish and Frankly, Fun
We’re over the moon for Leandra, Abie and their family of two new baby girls. Frequent readers of Man Repeller, we’re sure, will share in the celebrated culmination of her open and honest journey through infertility, and as for those who have yet to be introduced to Leandra’s engaging wit — not to mention her killer style — keep reading.
Below we’re sharing Leandra’s interview from Darling Issue No. 18. (And Psst! Don’t miss out on completing your Darling collection. Our massive SPRING SALE is going on right over here!)
“The Woman Behind Man Repeller”
Interview by Teresa Miller Archer
When scrolling through Leandra Medine’s popular fashion (and many other things) blog, “Man Repeller,” titles begin to catch your eye that make you wish for solitude, and then two hours and a forthcoming dinner party where you can share your newfound information:“6 Times Solange’s ‘A Seat At the Table’ Perfectly Articulated My Black Girl Feelings,” “How Bad is Cheese for You, Really?” and “Miuccia Prada is the Most Important Designer in Fashion” (to which my bridal flats attested a resounding, “Yes!”) are just a few that had us at hello.
She’s savvy, fun, under 30 and thriving in the fast lane with her well-articulated opinions and expansive interests. Medine has seemed to put her finger—or typeface—on the pulse of what a growing population of women really want from a multi-faceted website, and honesty is at the top of her obvious concerns. “Man Repeller” receives more than 11 million page views a month (and counting), and we are fascinated by the mind and drive of this woman who is running her own business, and having an apparent blast in the process.
Teresa Miller Archer: When you first started Man Repeller, did you have any idea how popular it would be?
Leandra Medine: No, of course not. I started the site as a complementary product to hand in with my resume for when I would apply for jobs the following year at the end of my last semester of college.
TMA: What do you think it is about the site that has attracted so many followers?
LM: The timing was integral to the ultimate success of Man Repeller; fashion blogs were just cropping up, but very few of the bloggers who represent Man Repeller’s competitive set were actually trained writers (though they deserve to be credited for the other great, unique stuff they brought/bring to the table), so there was a distinct sense of opinion/point of view, and I was very, very serious about how honestly I would present all of my stories. I didn’t want to add noise to the conversation so much as I wanted to add value.
TMA: What gives a story or article value, then, from your perspective?
LM: A large portion of it is honesty—sincerely tuning into a frequency that either reflects your own experience or truth, or one that you feel like you are in a position to talk through, and then hoping that this perspective is also reflective of the popular opinion. That took me a moment to actually realize, that the reason people like honest writing is not because they yearn for the truth, it’s because in some ways, we all want to be validated, or told that how we feel is normal, or see that someone else feels similarly about a situation/circumstance.
Writing style is important but clarity, I think, is the key. Breaking down complicated opinions and making them feel simple is so much more impressive than convolution by way of fancy words.
TMA: You have said that the name “Man Repeller” came from the concept that fashion is not for men, but for women … but why did you end up naming your site that specifically, over other titles?
LM: There was never really another title. Man Repeller is so great and so catchy and really makes you stop to think.
TMA: Man Repeller has an interesting pairing: you take the everyday style-conscious woman seriously, and treat her as a thoughtful person, while also maintaining a playful and irreverent tone. Is that a part of your personality?
LM: Yes. When I started Man Repeller, I inadvertently built a place online to represent a manifestation of my own identity, and of course that has changed to reflect the identities of everyone who engages with and therefore owns a piece of the Man Repeller ethos, but one of the cornerstones of our mission is that being interested in fashion doesn’t minimize your intellect. Ditto that for not being interested in fashion—you’re still welcome to come and engage!
TMA: Your success as a businesswoman in a younger-than-average age bracket is phenomenal. What kinds of goals are you setting from where you are now?
LM: Without meaning to, I deprioritized my personal life to build Man Repeller, so as I peek into my late 20s and start to think about my 30s, I have family on the mind. But this, of course, will not mitigate my plans for the future of Man Repeller either.
One of the cornerstones of our mission is that being interested in fashion doesn’t minimize your intellect. Ditto that for not being interested in fashion—you’re still welcome to come and engage!
TMA: Any goals or new plans that you can share with us for what’s coming up?
LM: Well, we’re thinking a lot about what growth looks like in an industry that did not exist just five or 10 years ago. It’s unique to be in a position where you don’t quite have competitors: you’re smaller than the big guys, but operating differently from some of the other smaller guys, so I am just trying to be extremely cautious about getting too caught up in following other proofs of concept and trying to recreate them. That is the opposite of what I want to do.
What has always worked for Man Repeller is that it’s not like anything else out there and I strongly believe that our business goals should align with that totem. When I think about where we’ll be in five or 10 years, I don’t think the answer is just producing more and more and more content. I think we’re a real brand with real gravity and that brand deserves to have its prongs lifted up off the ground and dipped into multiple different pots. What does a Man Repeller store look like? What do we look like in print? Is there a product label? How are we present on college campuses? Is there a venue, a sort of safe haven for our community members? These are some of the questions I am asking myself more and more frequently.
TMA: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your success in business, as a woman or just in general?
LM: Voice. Success infers a louder voice and that voice is powerful. I am very comfortable speaking candidly on personal issues and private topics and thus feel a moral obligation to be as explicit as I can be, and I have enjoyed that—specifically noting the impact that normalizing otherwise shameful conversations (difficultly conceiving, dealing with anxiety, etc.) has had on the people who listen.
TMA: How do you see your relationship with other women who are “power players” out there—is there camaraderie or competition or a balance between them?
LM: Camaraderie as far as I’m concerned. Business has really changed and there is enough to go around for all of us.
TMA: Where do you look to get inspiration for your themes and articles?
LM: I’m an endless fan of T Magazine—Deborah Needleman is an incredible editor-in-chief as far as I’m concerned. I also read a lot of books, mostly non-fiction culture-based stuff, but some novels too. If you’d believe it, most of my inspiration comes from print. I’m constantly figuring out how to metabolize print for web.
TMA: So then what books have most influenced you in the past year (and why)?
LM: Past year is hard to say, but over the course of my adult life, I would say that two particular books stick out: “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris taught me the important of injecting humor into your writing. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion healthily intimidated me into thinking that I needed to know more to develop a strong and pointed opinion, but also showed me that the way I develop that opinion is entirely at my own discretion and that writing to scare an audience into thinking you are really smart is so stupid: Just to be clear what you mean.
What has always worked for Man Repeller is that it’s not like anything else out there and I strongly believe that our business goals should align with that totem.
TMA: What’s your primary goal for yourself as a businesswoman, writer, stylist and spouse?
LM: Remain kind, honest and straightforward.
TMA: If you could deeply influence and impact one group of people, who would they be?
LM: Women in their formative years of development—so figure ages 14-19. These are such important years for a young woman and they are extremely sensitive; so much of the stuff that goes on to define our psychic architecture is built during this time, so I’d like to make sure the foundation is strong because later destroying and rebuilding is really, really hard, if possible at all.
Find the rest of this article in Darling Issue 18. The instant digital download is yours when you become a Darling subscriber here. And don’t miss out on completing your Darling collection: Our massive SPRING SALE is going on right over here!
Images via Krista Anna Lewis