…Paid parental leave for everyone. No one should have to leave their child after giving birth because they have no other choice. There’s a critical need for legislation that supports all people and families in their endeavor to be the kind of caregivers they want to be from the start. Paid parental leave should be a right, not a privilege.
We had the distinct pleasure to interview Christene Barberich. Christene is the global editor-in-chief & co-founder of the award-winning women’s media company, Refinery29. She is also The New York Times best-selling author of “Style Stalking” and the creator and host of the acclaimed podcast UnStyled. Her writing has appeared in T Magazine, Dwell, Domino, Travel & Leisure, and Amuse, among other titles. In 2017, Christene became the first ever Mentor-in-Residence at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and was also selected as a fellow for the Edith Wharton Writers-in-Residence program. She was named a top female in media on the Adweek Disruptors List and recently its Creative 100 list, one of the 30 Most Intriguing People in Media by MIN, and has also been honored as a pioneer in media by Folio 100. Christene holds an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, SUNY Oswego. She lives in Brooklyn.
Thank you so much for joining us Christene. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was little, maybe 3 or 4, my father lost his job, and my mom, as a result, had to get a full-time job fast. Since I wasn’t in school yet, she had to put me into a full-time nursery school down the block from the law firm she was working for. I still remember the experience of her dropping me off for the first time being incredibly frightening, but over a few weeks, I adapted and grew to love the whole routine and community there. Teachers told stories frequently throughout the day, and I think it was that very early touchstone that made me associate stories with feelings of comfort, adventure and fantasy. All I ever wanted to do was tell stories in some shape or form, so becoming a writer and an editor of other people’s stories was sort of destined.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many, but I think the environment we’ve created within the UnStyled podcast production is very special to me, and I believe it is special to the guests I feature too. From the very beginning when we launched the series, I wanted to create a safe space for women to share their experiences, perspectives and very personal journeys in the most honest way they could — to not feel judged or ashamed to talk about things like a painful divorce, getting fired, turning 50, being ridiculed or stereotyped because of one’s body, gender, or sexuality. There is so much deep stuff that comes out of these conversations that ultimately becomes so relatable to everyone, and connecting us more through women’s struggles and transformations has been a tremendous growth moment for me.
Can you describe how Refinery29 is making a significant social impact?
Refinery29 is a space we’ve built for and with a very powerful generation of women who want and need to see themselves reflected in the content they consume, as well as the issues that matter to them most. Recent initiatives that really demonstrate that mission include partnering with AARP to combat ageism; launching the Fertility Spectrum, an ongoing series aiming to shift the language and education around fertility and a path to parenthood; and Shatterbox, our award-winning short-film series dedicated to spotlighting female filmmakers.
This year, we’re honoring the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride coming to the U.S. with a set of six articles by special guest creatives that tackle a variety of timely issues within the LGBTQ+ community, from a riveting essay by poet Arisa White on where we’ve come since Stonewall, to an interview with bisexual congresswoman Katie Hill on LGBTQ+ rights under the Trump administration. The team also created a map of LGBTQ+ rights around the world and interviewed six LGBTQ+ people on what they wish their workplaces actually looked like.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is about showing up, being present and accountable for you and your team’s role in driving growth and success. It’s learning how to balance guidance, discipline, and drive with compassion and collaboration. And at the end of the day, real leadership is trust — trust between you and your team, and the connection your team has to the company and its mission.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Here’s the one thing I wish someone had told me: Success can take on many shapes and forms and it can honestly take two or three times as long as you think it’s going to when you first start out. My rule of thumb is where my happiness level is registering; if I’m walking in the door in the morning and feeling optimistic and energized, that’s a good indicator that I’m where I’m supposed to be and in alignment with my purpose. I try to keep tabs on that frequency throughout the day or week, and when the levels are off, I know there’s something important to deal with. It’s not always easy (it’s usually NOT easy at all), but confronting stuff that makes me uncomfortable helps to clear away debris for other important development to come into focus.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Paid parental leave for everyone. No one should have to leave their child after giving birth because they have no other choice. There’s a critical need for legislation that supports all people and families in their endeavor to be the kind of caregivers they want to be from the start. Paid parental leave should be a right, not a privilege.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
To be forgiving and open and welcoming to newness ALL THE TIME. Even when I’m hurt or disappointed, I try to remember that resentment, retaliation, or revenge is really just poisoning me. It’s a practice, but letting go of pain and regret just feels better.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
— Oprah. Oprah. Oprah. Oprah. Did I say Oprah?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
— @christenebarberich on Instagram.