Politics & Culture

The Complicated Matter of Being a Girlboss

NYC's Girlboss Rally was an interesting experiment...did it work?
Reading time 6 minutes

When I stepped into Sophia Amoruso's Girlboss Rally, held at Industria Studios in NYC, the first thing I noticed was the branding. Having gotten there early enough to try the breakfast from partners Daily Harvest (you were given an option of a chia parfait or overnight oats,) and Joe & The Juice (two flavors served in mini cups,) I watched from a couch in the back of the room while all the attendees trickled in. Each had paid $450 minimum ($700 if you sprang for VIP) to be there, so everyone came out wearing their finest, girlbossiest attire—which apparently constitutes, on average: heeled ankle boots, a ~$300 minibag, a blazer or a trenchcoat, and floral print on at least one item of clothing. The women, who ranged in age from roughly 23-30 with outliers on both ends, grouped together along the white, family-style rows of high tables. They greeted each other and conversed over the flowers, excited for what the day was about to bring them. What they didn't seem to acknowledge, at least not yet, was their surroundings. In a room just off the dining hall, Bumble promoted their new offshoot Bumble Bizz by offering out free headshots (admittedly, I got one.) In the dining hall itself, next to the oats and juice, was food from their many culinary sponsors; you could pick up an RxBar, an Equator Coffee, a Flow Alkaline Spring Water, or a HealthAde Kombucha.

In the same room, you could walk up to mock iterations of Pinterest boards with names like "Start Somewhere." At the boards, you could pull off real life "pins," well-designed pieces of cardstock from which you could later scan a QR code and find the actual pin. All of the pins seemed to be geared towards the girlboss mentality: Total Body Travel Workouts giving way to An Indoor Plant Guide giving way to Spiked Winter Cranberry Lemonade. Interspersed between the Pinterest boards were tables with complimentary buttons and Pinterest-branded pens at which you could set an intention on a postcard that read "Dear me, the next big what if I'm gonna try next is _____ Sincerely, Me." A faux-mailbox covered in girlboss-isms like DOUBT and WHAT IF was even present for you to truly "send" the message to yourself. Across from the Pinterest station was a wall filled with doodles that was presumably made to be written on, although by the end of the day only a few people seemed to have, and most had just written their Instagram handles. So it goes.

After breakfast, slowly people began to pick up their heels and put on their warm coats and shuttle over to Industria's second building, where the main hall, or as the rally called it the "Balleroom," was located. It was time for Amoruso's opening remarks, and the real rally to begin. In her remarks, Amoruso surprised by acknowledging her own vulnerability, and the questions she now has to direct towards herself. She covered the rise of her clothing brand empire and its subsequent fall, the release of her book, and the fact she has now decided to start a media company, all while acknowledging how up in the air everything still is. "I don't know what I'm doing right now," she admitted to an audience of 600. It was surprising, I believe to everyone in the room; here is someone who is supposed to be telling us how to run our lives, admitting she's still figuring it out. But when Amoruso said "I'm in transition," it made even a skeptic like me see her as relatable. One of the most powerful things you can do is own up to your own shortcomings, and hearing that from girlboss #1 put forth an important message: it's okay to slip up sometimes.

She was followed by Keynote speaker Gabby Bernstein, motivational speaker, #1 New York Times best-selling self-help book author, and self-professed former drug addict, who shared with us her five keys to success: 

#1. Success is an inside job.

#2. Set intention.

#3. Speed up by slowing down.

#4. You don't have to be there now.

#5. "Fuck it, let's go."

Bernstein was so good at her job and engaging the audience I eventually found myself taking notes on things she was saying for myself as opposed to this story. She welcomed everyone into an "explosion of pink and high-fives" with open arms, and was a fantastic start to a day of panels.

But that brings me to my first true gripe: outside of the panels and the Chromebook-sponsored Startup Studio for which you had to sign up long in advance, there was nothing to do. Like...nothing. The people who paid $700 for VIP got a luxe lounge, but if you were a general admission ticket holder who didn't feel like going to one of the panels, there wasn't really anywhere to sit, and there certainly wasn't anything to do. Dig Inn provided lunch, which was a nice treat. However, whenever I went back to the cafeteria hoping to find somewhere (anywhere) to sit and collect my thoughts, they were prepping for a new set of refreshments, making me feel like an intruder. It was this situation that made me feel for girls like the one I met in the Bumble Bizz line, who had flown in from Tampa. For $450, higher than the cost of most major music festivals, there was seemingly not much to do. Just one main act. 

Perhaps I feel this way because I didn't feel particularly represented at the rally as a whole. Although I am for all intents and purposes a woman, and for all intents and purposes a "girlboss," the beautifully designed millennial pink love-fest didn't feel like it was intended for me. Despite how inclusive the space was in theory, when I took a brief trip home during a panel I wasn't interested in to drop something off, I also made a point to change my clothes into something that would help me blend in more. I can't claim to understand why the Girlboss Rally attracts a kind of uniformity, but speculation tells me it may have something to do with the price tag or the branding. And even with the change of clothes, despite the fact I thoroughly enjoyed some of the panels (Esther Perel was a treat,) after mingling at the cocktail party, I was left feeling like I was sitting at the cool kids' table, but not at all a cool kid. 

In my eyes, the Girlboss Rally can't be quantified as a success or a failure. Amoruso is still clearly building a business and brand, and as she said, she's in transition. I have no doubt that next year's rally will provide attendees with more to do. But in order to attract all girlbosses, it may have to shift its point of view.


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