• UO Interviews: Amy Woodside of OKREAL

    Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.

    Helping create “a moment to help you be real about what matters most” is the mission statement of OKREAL, the conversational website of advice, interviews, and inspiration from a smart, diverse group of women. Founded by Amy Woodside, OKREAL reads as a guidebook for modern women, with no-nonsense, straight to the point conversations on topics ranging from community to confidence, from “fake it till you make it” to managing expectations. This fall, we’re excited to announce a series of collaborative events hosted by Amy as part of our new Dreamers + Doers interview series. The first event, a conversation with Lizzy Okoro of Bunch Magazine, will be held on October 26th at Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles, from 6-8pm. To learn more about Amy in anticipation of the event, we visited her in New York to discuss OKREAL, and the influences, quotes, and ideas that have stuck with her.
    Photos by Carmen Chan

    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 
    I was born and raised in New Zealand. This means I shot my first rabbit when I was three (my hunting phase fizzled out around 10 years old) and have been sunburned more than the allowed amount of times (getting better at this). I have lived in NYC for the past 6 years and return to the South Seas each summer. Before OKREAL launched in 2014, I worked as an artist. I now spend my days hearing and sharing the stories of incredible women, gathering up good advice to put out into the world via OKREAL.co and @heyOKREAL, and trying to soak it all in as I go. 

    How did OKREAL start?
    When it came to women I admired, the stuff I wanted to know wasn’t being told. Or perhaps it just wasn’t being asked. I wanted to get a deeper insight into who these women were—what they struggled with and how they got through it, what influenced their choices, what motivated them and what freaked them out. I wanted the truth, not some glossy one-liner about balance. I thought other women would be interested in this too. While we enjoy the frivolity of a '10 steps to a better you!' from time to time, women are too smart for bullshit life hacks. We value authenticity over perfection. And we love to learn from one another—I think we have a responsibility to help each other out. I wanted to create a resource for women who are striving to take ownership of their lives and want authentic advice to help them do so. 

    That’s what OKREAL is: a curation of wisdom distilled from real lives. Whether you’re starting your own business, struggling with body image, trying to figure out your next step or in need of some general motivation; we’ll show you a story of someone who’s been there. Perhaps you will learn from it, perhaps you will completely disagree with it, but at the very least you will know that you’re not alone. OKREAL is about learning from others to help you see yourself more clearly.  

    Above: "At the XXIX studio with my designers: Jacob Heftman and Jake Hobart"

    Can you share a little more about the work that goes into each of the features?
    For each interview, we try to hone in on the most interesting parts of a woman’s story—really getting to those nuggets of truth that our readers are going to benefit from. If we feature a woman whose story has been told before, we’ll try to focus on the unturned stones in her life. Below the surface is where you find things that are most helpful to others. For the essays, if I’ve brought a writer on board I already trust that they can write well within the tone. I’ll give a little guidance but generally let them do their thing. We’ve also started a new feature called ASK AMY, which is a place for me to respond (and try to answer) the range of questions we receive about navigating life in general (send us your questions! hey@okreal.co). I’m also pretty excited about a relaunch we have coming up. We’re working on making everything on the site a lot easier to find, and adding a few fun things that will allow our community to be more involved. 

    What’s a favorite quotation or personal mantra you live by?
    "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

    What books, films, or other pieces of art have been the most influential cultural touchstones for you?
    Books, always. Little House on the Prairie and Little Women (when I was little). In recent years: poetry by Anne Sexton and Eileen Myles, memoir by Mary Karr and anything by Joan Didion. 

    When do you do your best work? What gets you in the best work flow — time of day, music, environment, etc? 
    I have a vision in my head of what this means: hot coffee, morning light, an expensive looking desk. In reality, some of my favorites sentences (which is to say, the ones I don’t hate the week after I’ve published them) are those that I’ve written from a pile of laundry on my couch or on my iPhone while going for a run. I think necessary factors can easily become excuses, but one thing I do need is enough sleep. I’m not the insomniac writer/entrepreneur who forgets to eat and works until 3am every night. Who are those people, really? For me, self-care is a prerequisite for sanity, which is a prerequisite for good work. This is a bit self-righteous coming from someone who works every waking minute, but I’m trying!

    Who is a dream OKREAL interviewee?
    Can I make this plural and dead or alive? Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Beyonce, Meryl Streep, Helen Keller, Madonna… I could go on and on. All the radical women who have changed / created the game.

    What 5 things have been on your front burner lately? Anything you can’t stop thinking about…?
    - An upcoming vacation in upstate NY involving a lot of red wine and cozy feelings
    - Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow’s podcast Call Your Girlfriend. (Spoiler alert, interview with Ann Friedman coming to OKREAL soon) 
    - Very upset about imminent winter which has prompted daydreams of New Zealand summer (I’m out of here come February)
    - Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (self-improvement sucker, clearly) 
    - The next phase of OKREAL! 

    What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
    “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” —Chuck Close

    "You don’t have a career. You have a life.” —Cheryl Strayed

    “Baby girl, respect is just a minimum.” —Lauryn Hill

    What are you passionate about?
    Helping women realize and respect the powerful, phenomenal creatures that they are. 

    We love the summary of “tips” at the end of each of your interviews. What are Amy’s Top 5 Tips?
    - It’s no-one else’s job to make you happy. 
    - Travel is always a good idea. 
    - You don’t need to explain yourself to everyone. 
    - Choose wisely who and what you spend your energy on. 
    - The sea solves most problems. 

    Follow OKREAL on their website and Instagram
    Learn more about Lizzy Okoro and Bunch magazine, who Amy will be interviewing on Oct. 26 in LA