Welcome to Project Fabulous Femme! Once or twice a month, I'll introduce you to a Fabulous Femme who's inspired me. I invite them to share their perspectives on being a modern woman and other vital corps topics. Please be kind, curious, and open-minded.
Independent filmmaker, Brooklynite and co-conspirator, Darya Zhuk, sat next to me in what would be our last jobs in Finance & Analysis (ever!) and inspired me in about 900 ways. As another poster I’d swiped from a rock & roll show got taped to my office wall, we’d have another conversation. She’d counter with talk of indie movies and art openings. Let’s be honest, we also talked about dating, too. Our boss would constantly catch us both giggling as we IM’d each other in our adjacent, windowless NYC offices.
In person, Darya’s eyes twinkle with creativity, vitality, adventure and a little mischief. It’s contagious. Because of just one of Darya’s many nudges, I magically ended up in the basement of a Moscow art gallery helping my favorite graffiti artist, Swoon, cut out one of her designs.
If you watch her for about 2 minutes, you know she’s mentally and emotional digested everything around her, sees it so much different than you, but will share her view. How could it not be a different perspective considering Darya was born in Minsk, Belarus, arrived in the Midwest alone at 16, graduated cum laude at Harvard, constantly wrote & shot films in her free time, spun records in most cities you have on your bucket list and eventually emerged from Columbia’s MFA program with honors? But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For me, a woman who grew up in small town Massachusetts where the diversity was largely split between French Catholic and Irish Catholic, I couldn’t appreciate being sat next to this Wonder Woman more. We were both burning the candle at both ends transitioning to the work we were really meant to do. There were so many naysayers. Words cannot express how grateful I was to have someone as fearless, feminine, creative and fun as Darya making a parallel escape right next to me most days. Incidentally, those are the kind of fictional, sometimes shocking, real women she creates for our viewing pleasure. And now, from the Fabulous Femme herself…
How would you define being a modern woman in 2015? The best part of being a modern woman is having your cake and eating it too. If you are a feminist (and you should be!), there will be other feminist women who want to play the same game as you do. As a modern woman, you're no longer alone. You have an audience cheering for you. Maybe this audience is not yet making major decisions and breaking the universal glass ceiling, but it's a matter of time. It does feel like we live in inspiring times where lots of opportunities are presented to us. The film industry that I'm banging my head trying to break into is changing fast, too. I'm pitching jobs where they suddenly want a “woman director.” Does it mean I'm booking these jobs? No, it doesn't. But I know I'm much closer than I was before.
What would you like to see modern women give more of a shit about? I want to see women give more shit about self-confidence that stems from true self-love and respect. How many times I've seen male film directors, who have less experience than me, think they are the most precious talent in the world? I'm jealous they can sincerely do that. Women always find a flaw, in their bodies, in their minds. Well, mostly it's self-hatred of the body; we all suffer from that even if it's a quiet and secret loathing we only share with our pillow. It has to stop. Accepting yourself as is holds a vast amount of freedom. Freedom to create a better place for all. Stop giving shit about your body image so much! It's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy.
Conversely, what would you like see modern women give less of a shit about? I want women to stop giving a shit about selfies.
How does creativity show up in your life? How do you nourish or stimulate your creativity when you’re not feeling it? Creativity is part of everything I do as a filmmaker. I tell fictional stories. I have to creatively dig into the human condition daily. I'm reluctant to acknowledge it, but creativity for me is connected to my physical well-being. If I feel good, I can be creative. I can write. If I have a headache, it's pointless all of a sudden.
What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular? My favorite non-negotiable act of self-care is sleep. I sometimes go to sleep trying to imagine the end to the script that I’m writing or an image that can help me unlock a music video. I absolutely have to get enough sleep on a regular basis. I also love taking baths. It helps to relax after a stressful day. If I don’t get enough sleep, I often opt to take a bath instead of a shower. It somehow makes everything less painful.
Success: How do you measure it for yourself? I feel successful when I feel productive. I need to feel like I have been out there in the world, knocking on doors, talking to people, pitching ideas, connecting to the bigger community through my art form. I need to feel like I tried to put myself out there; and even if I didn’t win, I tried. I swallowed that haunting fear of not being good enough.
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fabulous to you? Women who inspire me are women who take on the art world on their own terms. I admire many women in my field, like Jill Soloway, Larisa Shepitko, Agnes Varda, a writer like Elena Ferrante, and musicians like Bjork and Joanna Newsom.
If another woman would like to contact you, how can they find you? Email at Darya.email@example.com or on Facebook. [Kara note: Do head over to http://daryazhuk.com for a taste of her visual work.]
Would something this #FabFemme said resonate with a woman in your life? Did it make you think? There's a Share button below to pass the inspiration on.
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