Being raised in New York City has directly influenced Emma Holland‘s desire for community, approach when decorating, and inspiration behind her DIY zine.

We caught up with Holland, the Programming and Curation Manager at The Wing, to find out why she loves her neighborhood, how she balances a dream job and a demanding schedule, and what her advice would be to those looking to follow a similar career path.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Oh man, I don’t know if we have those! It sounds cliché, but really every day is different. Right now, I’m doing a lot of preparation for opening new spaces next year, so I’m building out materials to train new people on my team, thinking about strategy and planning for programming in new markets, and working with our local curators in existing cities to keep up the already great work they do there! Daily, it’s probably a mix of meetings, calls, camping out in a corner with my headphones, and wandering around the office asking everyone what they got for lunch.

How did you first get involved in the Wing?

I met Audrey [Gelman, CEO and co-founder] on an airplane! That was, like, three-and-a-half years ago, which is crazy. I’d followed her career for a number of years and said something to her, and we ended up getting coffee a month later, and she was like, “So, do you wanna work for me?” And I basically just followed her off the cliff. I was the second official employee of The Wing.   

What does your job as Programming and Curation Manager entail?

I oversee programming at The Wing, nationally. So I oversee a team of amazing, local Event Curators in each city that we’re in who pitch programming to me, and then they run with it and build a monthly calendar of events, which I provide feedback on and approve for each space. Now that we’ve expanded to the West Coast (and only expanding further in 2019), I’m also focused on thinking through national strategy and programmatic partnerships, as well as new things we can test drive and roll out.

What do you love most about working for The Wing?

Honestly, the people. When we started two years ago, it was just Audrey, Lauren [Kassan, co-founder and COO], Marianna Martinelli [our then-Community Director], and me. And we had 250 members. We now have over 100 full-time employees and membership has grown exponentially. And a large majority of the most important female relationships in my life have come from The Wing. In addition to friendships, it’s also a never-ending conveyor belt of women to be impressed and inspired by, to learn from, and to collaborate with. I’d say almost once a week I meet someone and force them to have coffee with me and tell me all about themselves and their work. Many fangirl opportunities!

Why is community important to you?

My co-worker and close friend recently told me that she doesn’t know anyone who loves friendship the way I love friendship, which I think is very funny but I guess true! I’ve always placed a lot of value on deep and sustaining relationships, particularly with other women. I’m also eternally curious about other people and their experiences, and hungry to learn from them.

Growing up in New York City, I think community always felt very purposeful and chosen because there wasn’t the same sort of built-in circumstance that you might find in a suburb or town where proximity is the most common ground. So I think we always felt the immediate impact of the people we chose to surround ourselves with and how we grew those relationships. The Wing is a real microcosm of this, where we’ve seen people start companies together, totally pivot career paths, find their entire bridal party in Wing-founded friendships. Turning in a circle and seeing nothing but women you like, trust, and feel supported by is a crazy powerful thing.

What is the Repro Rights Zine? And what do you hope people will take away from seeing it?

Repro Rights Zine is a DIY zine myself and two friends started right after the election. We wanted to make a succinct, inclusive, and accessible place where people—particularly young people—could learn about their reproductive rights and how those might change under [Donald] Trump. We made it totally free and printable online, so that anyone could access it and spread it around. We heard from teenagers all over the country and the world who held folding parties with their friends, or distributed it in the cafeteria, or brought it to their after-school feminism club. It was so amazing to watch because this was exactly how we’d intended it to be used. We knew we lived in a bubble here in New York where these things are talked about prolifically, and you think everyone has the information and the access, but that’s not remotely true in other parts of the country.

Do you have plans to release more editions?

We’ve released two more editions since, as well as collaborations with friends’ projects: one on self-defense and one on mental health. We’re working on cooking up a new one for next year now.

How do you make time for self-care and shutting off?

Hm… I guess it depends on the day and what “self-care” is meaning to me at that point in time. I generally try to be good about not reading my email when I’m home. This is a good therapy exercise for myself in remembering that nothing’s going to catch fire without me, and that most things can wait until the next morning. Speaking of, therapy. Always, forever, can’t say it enough. It’s definitely an immense privilege I don’t take for granted. If I really have my shit together for a couple months, I try to maintain a routine of going to a coffee shop in the morning and sitting and reading for 45 minutes before work, but that’s definitely a rare peak-adult form. And then, honestly, I do a lot of Sundays laying on the couch with my roommate watching nine hours of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, and I think this is a deeply under-discussed self-care method!

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your neighborhood? How do you feel the location inspires you creatively?

We moved here to Crown Heights in March and I’ve probably told everyone I’ve ever met that they should move here also. While it’s definitely rapidly gentrifying and developing in a way that’s problematic and widespread throughout New York, it also still feels like an actual neighborhood. There are tons of family-owned businesses, restaurants that are local institutions, community gardens, etc. Our next door neighbor is 92 years old and has lived in that same apartment for 60 years!

How would you describe the style of your apartment?

Um, mostly…free? Stolen? I’m half-joking. But some of our most amazing and central furniture pieces have been culled from my parents’ storage locker, like our yellow couch and this amazing black leather armchair. I shipped my mattress home from college because I loved it so much.

But I guess, generally, we go a little Scandinavian, a little, like, Catskills farmhouse? We also have a deeply practical approach to home decor, which is that you should want to actually live in your house: the couch should be insanely comfortable, there should be seating for guests, you should have a TV if you want a TV, your rug should be able to survive shoes.

What drew you to the Society6 products you chose?

I’m not a real adult in that I never take anything to the dry cleaner or get anything framed, so I pounced on the beautiful framed artwork. I like having color on the walls. I loved the towels with the simple geometric prints because they’re interesting without being distracting.

What is most important to you when decorating your space?

Practicality, unfortunately. That’s probably the New Yorker in me. When you’re used to having no closets or doors or a kitchen or whatever it is, you get creative. My dad also always told me to only invest in things that are transferable between spaces; don’t try to solve a very specific problem with an expensive piece; always think about how it’ll look in your next home, too.

What are you reading, listening to, or absorbing right now?

Always my favorite question! Right now, I’m reading A Handbook of Disappointed Fate by Anne Boyer, which is a lovely and amazing collection of her essays and poetry. Big recommend. And then—shameless plug—The Wing just launched No Man’s Land, a fantastic podcast hosted by our in-house historian, so run—don’t walk—to that one! Also, wasn’t kidding about that Sabrina binge; if you like Riverdale x Stranger Things x True Blood, it’s so good!

What’s your advice for young people looking to take a similar path as you?

My biggest piece of advice is really to just be unabashed in your admiration for people. Cold-email your heroes, ask people you meet and find interesting out for coffee, DM people and tell them you think they’re cool! Nine times out of 10, people will be flattered and excited and enthusiastic to help you—and talk about themselves!

Also, be persistent with the things you want, and recognize the long game. If someone bails on you, they’re probably just swamped; it has nothing to do with you. Follow-up and reschedule, bump yourself to the top of their inbox. And understand how short-term situations, sacrifices, whatever, can be stepping stones for a longer-term goal.  

Photos by Bridget Badore

Interview by Sara Radin

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