I always like to ask people how they’re aging boldly. One time I threw out that question from the stage of an in-person event, and a woman shouted back, “Having sex again for the first time in 16 years!” You can imagine how the crowd hooted and cheered at that.
At our virtual Out Loud event on Tuesday, I had to ask the question in a different way. We had a survey form on the site during the event that people could fill out with examples of how they are aging boldly. More than 150 women (almost half the attendees) completed the form, and the majority of the answers had something to do with pushing out of the comfort zone.
I do the things that scare me and say FUCK IT to the fear.
“No fear! Just jump in and see how to make it work,” said Renee Young of Scarsdale, NY. And this from Michele Martell of Austin: “I do the things that scare me and say FUCK IT to the fear.”
I find those answers fitting because the title of the event–“Invincible Not Invisible”–demanded we show courage and because I probably was never more terrified about a NextTribe activity than I was putting on this virtual Out Loud event. I’m used to producing live events (in Austin, L.A. and New York, for instance), but to dive into a new platform in the digital realm felt like walking a tightrope above snarling crocodiles.
But I did it anyway, because I was tired of not being able to bring women together in a way that felt fun and energetic. I mean, Zoom can be such a snooze fest at this point in the pandemic, right? I also thought we all could use a boost of encouragement after these long months from accomplished women who have pushed through some tough obstacles to get where they are. I was thrilled to be able to assemble this speaker line up: fashion designer Norma Kamali; Marta Kauffman, co-creator of Friends and Grace and Frankie; Jill Angelo, CEO of Gennev; Maya Wiley, who is running for mayor of New York City; and actress Fran Drescher.
Their words of inspiration, their stories of how they’ve built lives of purpose, their examples of reaching out and helping other women (Norma Kamali: “Girls compete; women empower”) left us nodding our heads and basking in a warm glow that came partly from the hug-like effect of their talks and partly from the fire their ideas lit under our butts.
Lots of Moving Parts
The event was arranged to mimic an in-person festival, starting with a Happy Hour that was like a separate Zoom session, where people could talk to each other and figuratively clink glasses. In a separate part of the platform, 20 companies set up virtual vendor booths. Each booth was like a mini-website, with info on the company and the ability to shop right on the page. Plus, attendees could click on a button to speak virtually with someone from the company hosting the booth.
Girls compete; women empowerNorma Kamali
For instance, Beatrice Purdy, co-founder of Measure & Made (one of the event sponsors), was on hand to talk about the company’s ability to find a woman’s perfect pair of pants through their Fitlogic quiz. (One of the several outfits I wore during the event was a pair of Measure & Made jeans that fit so well it felt like I was wearing comfy leggings.) In the Pause Well-Aging booth (another of our sponsors) was Rochelle Weitzner, founder of the skincare company for women going through the three stages of menopause.
Other vendors included a personal lube company, an autobiography service looking for ghost writers and interviewers, a hair nutrition brand, and the creators of a new art book about women’s midlife angst called Know Your Crazy.
While attendees were browsing through the vendor booths, we had musicians (all women in the 45-plus age group) performing virtually on the Main Stage. Three of the women–Sara Hickman, Lurleen Ladd, and Maya Azucena–are professional singers with albums and followings. Four of the performers were NextTribe women who answered our call for singers and sent in videos of themselves. Thanks to Pat Reed, Chris DeVito, Teri Conn, and Cyndi Samford Alba for sharing their musical talents.
5 Speakers and an Artist
The main event of the evening was our speakers, and first off was Norma Kamali, who has a new book out called I Am Invincible. I so loved the title that I borrowed from it for the name of our event. For this part of the evening, I wore a fabulous Norma Kamali black jumpsuit with tracksuit styling. I mean, I wouldn’t have dared talk to the legendary designer without wearing one of her outfits.
As famous as she is for her fashion, Kamali’s talk focused on a different area: wellness, self-esteem, and aging with power. “The more you do from a self-love perspective,” she said, “you will draw to you people who will respect you. We send out messages to other people how we feel about ourselves. If you respect yourself people will pick up on it.”
Marta Kauffman opened up about her experience with menopause, which happened just as her TV show Friends was ending and her oldest daughter was heading off to college. “I found menopause to be a gift. It opened new doors for me,” she said. “There’s something about being in your years when you can have children, and there’s something about being in your years when it’s no longer about that. It’s now about what do you want to do and your body’s not going to hold you back from doing that.”
I found menopause to be a gift.Marta Kauffman
One of Inc. Magazine’s Top Female Founders in 2020, Jill Angelo filled us in on what she hopes to accomplish with Gennev, a one-stop online resource for women going through menopause (and one of our sponsors for the evening). “We’re working to really drive the conversation around menopause, leading women to educate other women,” she explained. “That’s the most powerful thing we can do.”
Running to become the first female mayor of New York City, Maya Wiley was full of uplifting messages. My favorite quote of hers–one that could become our new NextTribe tagline–was what she said about the capability of women in this age group: “We’ve been through it. We know how to do it. For many of us, we’re at the age when we’re freed up to lean into being the leaders we are and claim that mantle. It’s a wonderful place to be.”
Fran Drescher talked honestly and movingly about surviving rape and cancer (and founding her organization Cancer Schmancer). “My life didn’t end up where I thought it was going, but I took the hand that was dealt me and turned it into something that gave my life purpose. Because of that I’m in deep gratitude.”
Through out the night, behind the scenes, Tina Duryea–an artist known for her portraits of powerful, courageous women–was creating a painting of our five speakers. The painting seen above is kind of like NextTribe’s Mt. Rushmore and became the grand prize of our virtual scavenger hunt.
Dancing and Pushing
Before the evening ended, I changed my outfit one more time. I put on what I like to call my party jacket–a gold lame rhinestone number created by the legendary costume designer named Nudie. After 45 minutes of shimmying along with our dancing queen Amy Kawadler of Aymala Studio, I have to tell you that I completely collapsed, from relief and exhaustion.
We’ve been through it; we know how to do it.Maya Wiley
I did nothing the next day except play through the event in my head, cringing at every technical glitch (yes, there were certainly some of those) and smiling at the moments that truly lived up to the event’s stated purpose–celebrating the power and creativity of women over 45.
Because part of growing is getting honest feedback, I put out a survey to attendees asking what we did right and where we could improve. Most of the surveys came back with words of praise and constructive ideas.
Only one comment rankled me. “I think it was simply over-ambitious,” it read in part. I have always been overly ambitious in expectations for myself and life; I believe the only way to find out what you’re really capable of is to stretch yourself even past perceived limits. It’s the try-anything, fuck-the-fear notion that so many attendees mentioned in their responses about aging boldly. I would much rather shoot too high at this point in my life than play it safe. From the words of the speakers and the energy of the attendees, I get the distinct sense that most NextTribers agree. This is the time to play it bold.