Tell us a little about you!
I hate answering this question, particularly as someone who has asked it myself 1000's of times as both a magazine editor and filmmaker but here goes.
I grew up in suburban Essex in England, though I now call the United States home, even though we are living nomadically in Airbnb's currently. So home is a very abstract concept right now. I'm the mother of an incredible four year old daughter Luna, an accidental maternal health activist and founder member of Mother Lovers, recovering fashion editor, director, writer, producer. I just finished my first feature documentary called "Born Free".
I wanna hear more about your time as a fashion editor? Give us a sneak peek.
Wow. Reflecting on this in 2021 feels like reflecting on someone else's life. After my father died when I was 19 I decided I had to get a job, so I quit school and started as an assistant at the British magazine Dazed and Confused, it was an interesting time to start as magazines were starting to build websites, but it was like a second-tier job. At the time social media hadn't got a foothold yet, and so no one exactly had experience in it and they gave me the role of digital development as I was a kid basically, and in all honesty, it wasn't seen as all that important at the time.
By 23 or 24 this being the first out the gate experience propelled me to be the digital director of French magazine Purple and there I truly lived out the last days of a very sordid fashion disco, before Instagram and accountability took hold. I look on the whole experience fondly even if with a slightly complicated box of feelings attached to it, I was young, given a pretty free reign to be very creative and saw a lot. I also got tough fast.
At 27 I started as the Fashion Director of Refinery29, which was a very different experience for me I'd never really existed inside the corporate American version of "Fashion" before, it was a time of growing consciousness of both myself and the industry and realization that honestly there might be more than just if I got a front-row seat, I left to set up a project of my own called Voyage D'etudes to share the under shared stories of women across the globe, I actually sold a print edition in Barnes and Noble across the US but the same week it came out I found out I was pregnant and again my world view was up-ended.
You're currently editing your first documentary, Born Free – tell us about what inspired you to make this.
Before I was pregnant, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of my body, issues pertaining to women's rights etc. Yet when I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant I had no clue what I was supposed to do, it was like learning to drive after the car had already started rolling out the lot. I also honestly did not understand as a Brit who had been lucky enough to never have to seek medical care in my first few years in the US how it worked here. I ended up going to see an OBGYN at the best hospital near me because that's what Dr Google told me to do. It was kind of an odd experience where I just would make the next appointment do what I was told and have a nice 4 minute chat with my OB. But the closer it got to birth the more I realized how many rules my birth would have in the hospital system I started to freak out. Then about 34 weeks pregnant of a 40-week pregnancy my OB suggested we induce 10 days early as she'd be out of town on my due date and I'd be fed up of being pregnant by then anyway, on reflection I think she was trying to protect me from a bad OB, by knowing she'd be there (there are plenty of bad Dr's out there.) Anyway, after that appointment I was like I'm done with the whole thing, by some magic I found a space at a birth center in LA under midwife care that would take me that late. Long story short Luna came early on her own in the end but I had the chillest birth and went home after two cups of tea. It took ALOT of privilege to do what I did, I lived in a major progressive city, LA. I could afford to pay for my midwife care in cold hard cash, the insurance company didn't cover it, I had a European upbringing so cultural less fear around birth and midwifery, I was used to asking questions in my career as an editor, not to mention the white privilege I was conscious of expectations of being listened to in most cases. At the same time as I had this empowering birth, a friend without the same advantages had an induction she didn't want but she didn't feel like she had a choice in, and she ended up bleeding out and almost dying. In my postpartum haze, I couldn't get the disparity of our two experiences out of my head, was it just luck? I needed to understand more and what I did find horrified me, the US is the only country in the developed world with a rising maternal mortality rate. We are 50 percent more likely to die from childbirth related causes than our mothers. Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die than white. I asked my husband why didn't know? Why isn't it a national conversation? What could I do? So I went and made a movie, from my experience with a 4-minute fashion film to now completing my first1 hour 40 documentary feature.
You're also the founder of Mother Lover, a non-profit for maternal rights in the US. Tell us more!
We wanted to use our experience and voices in the arts and media to rally around education, and change for maternal health, make it more approachable to all folx. We are planning some bigger awareness activations with artists in a post covid world and my dream is to work with the board to turn that awareness into cash to provide scholarships and grants to community-based org.
What can women expect from your (soon to launch) community Space in Diem?
When I was pregnant the first thing I realized was I didn't know anything at ALL. The second thing I realized was a lot of the advice we ARE given is judgemental, paternalistic and fear-based.
I would love to create a space where women and birthing people can access evidence-based facts, have a non-judgemental conversation with their peers and go on to make choices about their pregnancy and birth with informed consent. And generally have a real and open dialogue about how tough mothering is right now.
What's one thing you wish you could change overnight?
Universal healthcare for all. Look I completely understand that it is not going to magically fix baked in systemic racism or misogyny within the medical system, but I think the equality and safety net of a starting point that every person no matter who they are, can see a doctor and have access to the treatment they need, without having to set up a gofundme is a pretty good starting point. HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT.
As you know, the community is everything to us. How has your community helped you? Personally or professionally.
Community is everything I would have never been able to make this film without the strong female team who fought so hard for it (The crew was all female.) I honestly didn't know what I was doing when I started but people were so gracious, sharing their stories, contacts and knowledge to help me learn about maternal health, then a whole other community, sharing their stories, contacts and knowledge to help me learn about film. I don't think I'll ever stop being in awe of the support that was so kindly and fiercely extended and I hope to repay it 10 fold.
Enjoyed this? Come join Diem, download here.