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What Does It Mean to Be a Badass? 4 Essential Ingredients

At our Austin Out Loud event, 4 amazing women talked about the characteristics that have helped them refine their badassery.

A badass, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is “an uncommon man of supreme style. He does what he wants, when he wants, where he wants.” 

Oh please. Just stop, Aaron Peckham, software engineer from Google, founder and editor of urbandictionary.com for the past 23 years. Have you ever even met a woman over 45, Aaron?

We can smell the liberation on the other side of 50, and more so, 60.

We are the embodiment of badassery. We can taste our freedom. Even if we are still raising children, or saving the $300K those of use who are childfree would have spent raising each one, we can smell the liberation on the other side of 50, and more so, 60. We are loud, and we are proud, and ain’t nobody gonna stop us from exploring the full, voluptuous, deliciousness that life has to offer us after we’ve survived our 20s, 30s, singlehood, divorce, etc. 

That’s what NextTribe OutLoud events are all about. We are living out loud, celebrating women our age who have been through our individual scar wars. Or as Leonard Cohen wrote, “there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Last month in Austin, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, four undeniably badass women  shared their fearlessness with more than 100 other women who attended NextTribe’s Austin OutLoud cocktail party-come-spiritual revival in the most glorious weather Austin has seen since before the scorching, triple digit summer of 2022. 

The perfect temperature. Craft cocktail heaven by Tito’s.  A pop-up Kendra Scott jewelry store (benefitting Dress for Success Austin). Skin info and discounts offered by Tru-Skin. Add the bluesy trio of Rochelle and the Sidewinders and you’ve set the scene for strangers to connect with other strangers, and pals to reunite with old pals, even as they expanded their circles of friendship.

austin out loud

Finding friends, old and new, at the Austin Out Loud cocktail party.

As with all of these events, though, the speakers were the highlight of the evening.

NextTribe founder Jeannie Ralston, just back from leading thirteen women up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, showed a short video of the trip that had the crowd whooping for more. 

“We don’t want society telling us we’re done because we’ve got so much we can still do,” Jeannie said. “Our motto is Age Boldly. For me, it means living with optimism and without fear. I’m trying to remember that every day. I have no idea what’s next and I don’t care. It’s OK. This means more time for you, more time to pursue your dreams and goals and I hope we can help you do that.” 

Badass Ingredient #1: Humor

badass older women ruth pennebaker

Ruth Pennebaker

Our first, speaker, Ruth Pennebaker, co-author of Pucker Up: The Subversive Woman’s Guide to Aging with Wit, Drama, Humor, Perspective and Occasionally a Good Cry, had the crowd hooting at her dead-pan standup act, with lines like “Don’t lie about your age. That is tacky and unoriginal. If you’re lying about your age you’re gonna have to do math all the time.”

Don’t lie about your age. That is tacky and unoriginal. If you’re lying about your age you’re gonna have to do math all the time.

She told a story about trying to renew her TSA pre-check when the agent had trouble getting her fingerprints. “She told me as you get older, you sometimes lose your fingerprints. And I thought hell, if anything was permanent, I thought my fingerprints were. But you know what? I started thinking, that also, at this age, I am invisible. We’re all invisible and we don’t leave fingerprints. We can start a crime syndicate!  Of older women!” 

Humor, wisdom, and inspiration are essential ingredients in the NextTribe recipe for a successful mix of speakers. Often one woman combines all three, as Ruth did.

“Let’s all get over our obsession with youth,” she said. “The research shows that youth is not that wonderful a time. That people are not really happy. I know. I know they look great. Big deal.  Aging is very emotionally rich. You have more time for family, friends, to pursue interests. And also to kind of lose yourself in causes that are bigger than you are. We all live in a big hurting world right now. We need to do more.”

Ingredient #2: Flexibility

Christine Mei

Christine Mei

The other common element: OutLoud speakers are full of surprises.

Christine Mei, a corporate ninja, was CEO of Gathered Foods when their brand of plant-based seafood, Good Catch, was acquired in August, just after we’d booked her. She casually mentioned that four years ago she and her 18-year-old son had run a half marathon together. In Antarctica

Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy now.

A single, self-described “tiger mom” of three, Christine just moved back to the U.S. from Shanghai, and has held more senior corporate positions than probably anyone in the room. But like many, she is now at an inflection point, trying to decide what life she wanted for herself, vs. what was expected of her. She encouraged the audience to take time to reflect on what they really wanted, and to follow the two-word inspirational quote she keeps on her phone. “Choose joy,” 

She concluded “Don’t wait for things to get easier, simpler, better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy now.”

Jeannie suggested that while Christine is considering how she wants to live the next phase of her life, she might want to visit Rancho La Puerta, named the number one destination spa in the world by Travel + Leisure five years in a row. Their sponsorship of the OutLoud event included a $250 discount to NextTribers who want to visit any time before November 2023.

Ingredient #3: Pleasure

Rocio Pelayo

Rocio Pelayo might have been the most titter-worthy of the speakers since her topic was sex tech: sexuality, health, relationships, safety and education. She talked about how the sex industry has always been quick to embrace technology. 

It turns out female orgasms are important, and who understands that better than women?

“When the printer was invented, the most published book in Europe was an erotic book. Two years after the cinema was born, came the first adult film. Later, the studios wanted nothing to do with VHS. But the sex industry pushed it. Same with DVDs. The Internet. The first streaming event was a baseball game in 1995. The sex industry saw streaming and guess who figured out online payment the way we use it today? The sex industry.”

It turns out the most potentially provocative talk was informative, educational, and hopeful.

“Technology has always been a part of the sex industry,” she said, “but the difference today is women. Today more than 60 percent of the executives in sex tech are women. It turns out female orgasms are important, and who understands that better than women?”

“Sex tech is not about the tech” she concluded. “It’s about normalizing the conversation, normalizing the way we feel about ourselves, because if we feel better about ourselves, we live our best life.”

Ingredient #4: Resilience

Liz Lambert, interviewed by Jeannie Ralston

After giving out prizes for the best “How I’m Aging Bodly” written statements from the audience, Jeannie sat down with hotelier and hospitality legend Liz Lambert. Lambert has a reputation as a bold innovator in hotel design, but she confessed that she was deeply hurt three years ago when she was forced out of BunkHouse, a company she had co-founded.. 

But, she said, in hindsight it was a relief. 

“I felt very wronged. It was hard letting go but it was the best thing that’s happened to me. I don’t know if it’s because you have to grow to rise to the occasion, or you have to let go of some things you held very dearly that you probably shouldn’t hold so tightly to, but turns out it’s true.” Lambert has gone on to become an integral partner in an innovative hospitality design firm. 

When you face mortality for the first time, you sort of let go of what you’re supposed to be doing.

Lambert explained how she started her career in the hotel business in the 90s. She had been unhappy as a lawyer (but is now grateful for how her legal training has helped her in business).  “I had a friend who got really sick and eventually died. And you know when you face mortality for the first time, you sort of let go of what you’re supposed to be doing.”

That’s what led her to buy her first property, the Hotel San Jose in Austin, and to build a hotel design empire with a recognizable brand.

Like most people, she explained, she’s brought all of her life experiences to her current work. 

“We were from the beautiful, design-driven town of Odessa, Texas,” she said ironically. “My mother loved design and color and travel. My brother was a designer and we lived together for a few years as adults. When you’re surrounded by it, you just absorb it by osmosis.. Being from West Texas there’s a sense of space and possibility and openness. There’s a certain minimalism,” she said. At the San Cristobal in Todos Santos (Mexico), for example, all of the lighting, furniture, textiles were sourced or made in Mexico, yet the lines of the interior design and architecture are clean, simple and open. 

 “If there’s any unifying theme in my hotels it’s that I think of myself as a storyteller,” she said, describing her design aesthetic. And with that, she had to leave, because it was past the bedtime of her 4-year-old son, Lyndon, who was nodding off in the audience with Lambert’s wife, Erin. 

A new mom in her late 50s with a thriving hotel and design business, and big plans for growing her company’s footprint.

Now that’s a real badass.

Every attendee was asked to tell us how they were aging boldly and stick it on our backdrop for all to read.


By Jeannie Edmunds


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