Meet The Women Behind The Game Changing Newsletter: Lenny
When ELLE asked me to talk to Stella McCartney, Grimes, Zadie Smith, Jenny Konner and a host of other incredibly successful women for a feature on the next generation, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. I mean, these women are MEGA. The word hero comes to mind, in fact.
Of course I needn’t have worried. Professional, insightful, inspiring; each interview revealed to me just how important the reciprocal support of women is to any kind of success in life.
Jenni Konner, 45, is a co-producer of the TV show girls and co-founder of lennyletter.com from California. Here she introduces Jessica Grose, 34, the Editor-In-Chief of lennyletter.com from New York and Laia Garcia, 31, the Deputy Editor of lennyletter.com from Puerto Rico.
The only place on the internet where you can find actress Julianne Moore opining on gun safety, First Lady Michelle Obama’s essay on girls’ education and make-up tips from actress Busy Philipps… there’s no doubt about it: lennyletter.com (nicknamed Lenny) has captured the zeitgeist in less than a year since it was launched. The email newsletter and website, made by Girls creator Lena Dunham and co-producer Jenni Konner, has become a must-read for everyone from your little sister to Hillary Clinton. More than 400,000 people have signed up for its biweekly newsletters. Jenni introduces us to Jessica and Laia, the women making the email newsletter cool again.
‘I’ll never forget meeting Jessica for the first time. She walked in with a confidence that I responded to immediately. Lena and I already loved her writing and we were meeting to see if we clicked. We shared the same humour and view that Lenny should be free from snark. With Girls taking up a lot of time, we needed a great team for the day-to-day running of Lenny and we’re so lucky we found Jessica, a brilliant editor. Her Deputy Editor, Laia, is the queen of social media. She writes about fashion in a smart but accessible way and has an unbelievable sense of style. Yesterday she wore silver Gucci loafers, that she got on sale, with vintage Levi’s and looked so chic.
‘I love the newsletter format because it’s a personal way to deliver to people. Jessica and Laia work in New York, and Lena and I join them on a weekly conference call where we talk through ideas. We’ve had essays from Jennifer Lawrence, who wrote about the gender pay gap in Hollywood and Joy Bryant on her annoyance at people asking her when she’s having kids. They trust us to provide a safe space where their voices are respected.
‘I wouldn’t say I’m a mentor to Jessica and Laia; it’s more often me learning from them. Lena and I have just launched a publishing imprint at Random House and we want to expand into film. I hope Jessica and Laia stick with us for the journey.’
‘I was previously at the websites Slate and Jezebel, but I love working on the newsletter because we’re creating a beautiful little world each week. There’s an intimacy in the way it’s delivered, fully-formed, into your inbox. The piece we ran by Obvious Child actress Jenny Slate about vagina facials inspired me. It’s funny, but the way she writes about loving your body is also moving. The secret to great writing is an unexpected angle, an original voice (which can’t be taught), and a sense of nuance. I love a writer’s rant but nuance is often missing.
‘The first thing I did after Jenni and Lena hired me was look for a deputy editor. I asked the smartest people I knew who stood out to them and Laia’s name came up. She’s spiritually aligned with what we’re trying to do.
‘My work mantra is “show up”. It’s about keeping your word and being present, which is hard as social media is so ubiquitous. It’s part of my job to promote mine and Lenny’s writing so I mostly use Twitter although I don’t love it, and I try to not be on my phone when I’m with my family.
‘With a second mortgage, a three-year-old, and a baby on the way, I don’t really consider myself young any more, but it seems like our readers are far more accepting that not everyone is like them. The open-mindedness of the younger generation is very inspiring.’
‘Twitter and Instagram are where I hang out. When I first started at Lenny, Instagram was one of the first things I worked on and now we have more than 231k followers. It was great because it gave people a taste of our interests before we had even launched the newsletter. We commission original illustrations for Lenny and Instagram is a great way to give the artists exposure.
‘I put my phone away at weekends, though; it can get a little intense.
‘There’s never time to get bored here. We can indulge our interests knowing we have an audience for them, even if they are a little weird, for example we ran excerpts from The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (With Cats!) by Anna Pulley. I’m proud that we published Jessica Knoll’s amazing essay, What I Know, about a real rape experience that informed her novel, Luckiest Girl Alive. I love writing that’s personal but not self-serving.
‘”Let’s see what happens if I do this thing” is my work mantra. It’s about taking chances and doing what scares me the most. Being young today is about freedom. There’s a lot more freedom to choose who you want to be and follow your own dreams. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will always be successful, but my generation is keener to at least try following our hearts.’