Women of Substance: The Work and Style of Three Originals
While we celebrate authenticity everyday here at The RealReal, this International Women’s Day we’re championing the inspiring stories of female originals who, with defiance and courage, are changing the game in their respective fields. Whether through activism, food, or art, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Kia Damon, and Jenna Gribbon bring an inimitable perspective to their work and style.
Sarah Sophie Flicker, Activist, Writer, Mother
In a time when there is seemingly a cacophony of voices fighting for attention, the rallying call of multi-hyphenate mother, activist and artist Sarah Sophie Flicker has managed to pierce through the rabble. After having co-organized the history-making Women’s March in January 2017–which saw an estimated 5 million participants worldwide marching in the name of human rights, women’s rights, racial equality, LGBQTIA rights, and immigration reform–Flicker co-founded the Resistance Revival Chorus with a stronghold of feminist allies and used the power of song to champion for solidarity during a time of political and social upheaval. The group quickly went viral and performances at the Grammy’s and the Tribeca Film Festival followed. In between organizing, the needle-pusher would go on to partner with her fellow Resistance Revival Chorus member Paola Mendoza to form Firebrand, a creative agency creating content at the intersection of art and politics.
A polymathic force, Flicker’s career in just social justice has equally been enriched by her varied and disparate work in dance, performance, acting, directing, writing, law, filmmaking–even aerialism! But it’s her role as a mother to three that remains the activist’s most enriching role to date. “Giving birth to three kids is certainly my biggest accomplishment. I felt, and continue to feel, like a superhero,” she says
Here, the Copenhagen native gets real about her passions, recognizing her privilege, and what keeps this rebel up at night.
A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
“I am an artist and activist, so many things lead me to my work. To be honest, I always felt embarrassed that I didn’t have one title. I have been a dancer, a performer, an actor, a director, a writer, an organizer, a mother, a partner, a daughter, a law school student, an aerialist, a filmmaker, an author–to name a few! It wasn’t until recently that I have realized that all these experiences have been the perfect constellation to bring me to where I am today. Women and femmes are natural multi-taskers, who knows whether it is nature or nurture. Multi-tasking is something that is often derided as ‘unproductive’ or ‘unfocused’, but I think that it allows us to work at the intersections of issues and oppressions in a holistic way. I often wonder, if like most professions and qualities that are female coded, the intrinsic ‘femininity’ attributed to doing lots of things at once, is why its merits aren’t uplifted.”
The Breakthrough Is Still On its Way
“Oh geez, I hope I haven’t had [my big break] yet. I think that part of keeping your work effective and responsive is to always be curious and never satisfied. I can think of many breakthrough moments in my life, becoming a mother, founding The Citizens Band, The Women’s March and The Resistance Revival Chorus are certainly a few of them. I hope there are many more!”
Unpacking Her White Privilege
“I’m a very privileged white woman. I have faced some obstacles but I’d say most of my life has been steeped in privilege. I try to focus on uplifting those who haven’t had the same unmerited access that I have.”
The Power of Showing Up As Yourself
“Honestly, I feel the most powerful when I am grounded in the truest expression of myself. It’s never been about a piece of clothing–it’s about entering a room feeling most like myself, unapologetically.”
“I wore almost exclusively vintage for decades. Having kids and needing durable clothing changed that a bit. As we all learn more about climate justice and how to live more sustainably, I am trying to buy less, wear more vintage, resurrect pieces in my closet constantly and support designers whose work focus on sustainability and humane labor practices.”
“I work with so many inspiring women and we stand on the shoulders of giants. To name a few: Elizabeth Warren, Ella Baker, Paola Mendoza, Linda Sarsour, Nelini Stamp, Carmen Perez, Ai-Jen Poo, Alicia Garza, Anita Hill, Ilyse Hogue, Monica Simpson, Brittany Packnett, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich…”
A Message To A Young Sarah
“Keep showing up and you don’t have to know everything. Vulnerability is a strength, as is listening and passing the mic. I would also remind young people to value their curiosity and it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ and ask questions.”
Kia Damon, Chef
Historically, the highest tiers of food are nothing short of a boy’s club, and it has taken years for women to get a foot through the door. Change is slow, but Kia Damon is perhaps one of the most promising rising stars to emerge from this reforming culinary culture–the epicureal wunderkind managed to make a splash in fall 2018 in the downtown New York restaurant scene, taking the helm of the now-shuttered downtown New York favorite, Lalito. Just 24-years-old at the time, Damon went from sous chef to head chef within months and revamped the tiny Cali-Latin eatery into a hotspot, satiating the discriminant appetites of the city’s most stylish. Manning the recipes and a full-time staff when most her age were just figuring out their career paths, Damon quickly gained a reputation for herself in the cutthroat world of restaurants and was tapped by the New York Times as one of the “16 Black Chefs Changing Food In America”. That she was a young, queer black woman busting up the predominantly white male space, made her wins all the richer.
A career-making turn evolved, with her joining the ranks of beloved foodie tome, Cherry Bombe Magazine as their Culinary Director. And later this month she’ll be taking a residency at Chicago’s Saint Emeric, a private club that hosts a rotating cast of industry-leading chefs.
Here, Damon reveals how she keeps from breaking a sweat in the kitchen and how she fights to make herself heard in the industry.
She Constantly Reminds Herself What She’s Made Of
“I experienced a lot of Imposter Syndrome when I was working my way through kitchens in Florida. I didn’t think I was good enough or qualified. There isn’t any special key to dealing with Imposter Syndrome for me. Sometimes you just have to look in the mirror and remind yourself of all the work you’ve done and remember that there are systems constantly working against you and hoping that you doubt yourself enough to quit.”
Squaring Off in the Kitchen
“When I lived in Florida, I worked at a restaurant where I had to constantly prove myself and deal with insults to my intelligence and skill. I was told that I was too emotional and I would have to teach men how to do the job while being undermined by them. My best way of defending myself was out-cooking all of them. There was so much I wanted to say in the moment, but at the end of the day the proof was in my undeniable skill. I would cook circles around these guys.”
“My biggest accomplishment to date is securing my first chef residency for the end of March. I dream of one day having a residency at the Chef’s Club here in New York. It feels good to be recognized for my work and given the platform to grow and shine.”
“My biggest obstacle was moving forward after leaving Lalito last Spring. I knew it had to be done, but it was difficult to find direction and confidence after having so much of my life sapped out of me. It took some time, but I relearned how to stand firm in my truths and remember that failing is not what defines you. It is what you decide to do after that failure. I learned to lean more into my friends and to practice caution and discernment.”
The Things That Keep Her Up At Night:
“Mostly my two adopted Abyssinian cats but I also stay up and dream of my future. I’m hyper critical of myself and I harp on decisions of the past a lot. I’m learning to let go.”
A Message to A Young Kia:
“I would tell my younger self to enjoy the rest and quiet moments. I would tell her to keep up with the hobbies she enjoys. When you’re young, there’s this urge to be busy and to work–at least there was for me. Now I find myself chasing the quiet again and looking towards the hobbies I had when I was younger. Not hobbies to monetize but to enjoy for my own peace.”
Jenna Gribbon, Artist
For years now, the figurative painter, Jenna Gribbon has trained her eye on the female form, but unlike her male predecessors, she’s ensured her muses are more than accents to a beautiful picture. Whether wrestling one another in a field of grass or picnicking in the nude, her subjects exhibit an agency we don’t often see within women in Western art. Instead, Gribbon flips the tradition of European painting and the Dutch Golden Age on its head and provokes a soft ferocity in her work that is at once bold, daring, and comical. It’s perhaps why her contemporary Sofia Coppola sought her out to commission original pieces for the director’s film, Marie Antoinette. But despite her success, the Tennessee-born, New York-based has confronted plenty of sexism within the art world to get a leg up in the field.
Here, she reveals to TRR how she’s taken on art bros (and won) and the women in her life that remain constant sources of inspiration.
Her Greatest Works of Art
“Well, my biggest professional accomplishment, my biggest personal accomplishment and my biggest artistic accomplishment are three different things. My biggest professional accomplishment has been getting to a point where I make a living painting what I want to paint. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Personally, I’m most proud of how empathetic and emotionally evolved my nine-year-old son is. Artistically, I have a handful of paintings that exceed my own very tough expectations of myself–ones that I marvel at a little.”
Taking Down Art Bros, One Painting at a Time
“The majority of gallery exhibitions in New York are still largely of male artists. Things are thankfully changing, but a woman artist still has to assert her validity ten times more than her male counterpart. Sometimes I verbally defend myself, but I find making good paintings is the best defense.”
Playing The Long Game
“My biggest obstacle has been having to wait out years of making work when it seemed like no one was interested. I had to tune out internal and external pressures to quit.”
“For me, going to work is going to the studio. But I’m not a messy painter so I often step out in my studio clothes and I love a good jumpsuit. They’re practical and elegant.”
The Things That Keep Her Up At Night:
“Feeling like I’m not doing enough. Sometimes that means thinking about climate change or social justice or as a mother or an artist. I think most women know the fear of not doing enough.”
Her Current Obsessions
“The movie Portrait of a Lady on Fire, revisiting books and movies of my childhood, contemporary figurative painting, Agnes Varda always, my girlfriend’s new record, Silver Tongue.”
A Message To A Younger Jenna:
“Sometimes I think getting older is a process of learning why the cliches are true. I’d like to say something like “be true to yourself,” but that’s only meaningful once you’ve figured it out for yourself.”