Creator Stories

Untangling self-worth from audience size

untangling-self-worth-from-audience-size

Aileen greets me across a Zoom screen in an oversized lavender sweatshirt that says “Artist of Life.” The lower half of her hair matches her sweatshirt, and her 6-month-old puppy Togi tries to tug on both throughout our interview. Her office is light and airy, with a fiddle leaf fig in the corner that’s almost as tall as the ceiling; she’s not sure she’s taking…

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Building a home for the business of hip-hop

building-a-home-for-the-business-of-hip-hop

When I first meet Dan Runcie, the walls in his home office in San Francisco are bare. The room is relatively empty aside from his desk, computer, white board, box light, podcast mic, and piano keyboard.  Dan and his wife moved to this apartment last year and are still putting the place together, he explains. But a week later he posts an Instagram story showing…

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Keeping a travel blog afloat during a global pandemic

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Gabby Beckford joins our pre-scheduled Zoom call from Dubai. Behind her are two suitcases—one to check, one to carry. It’s March 2021, and while most people were working from their homes, Gabby was far from hers. That’s just how she likes it. With her dad in the military, Gabby moved often as a kid. She loved living in Japan the most. Eventually, though, her family…

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How a journalist quit her job to become a New York Times bestselling author

how-a-journalist-quit-her-job-to-become-a-new-york-times-bestselling-author

The night before I interviewed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, I read lines from her pop culture history books out loud to my husband. Lines like this one from Seinfeldia, in which she perfectly captures Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s stand-up delivery style, made me laugh out loud: “Seinfeld’s delivery often ascended to a high-pitched warble; David favored a guttural grumble that…

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From eviction to 30 million views on TikTok

from-eviction-to-30-million-views-on-tiktok

If I didn’t already know Chris Ju was a musician, I would have known from his style: bright, backward, yellow hat slightly raised and off-center, muted-pink sweatshirt over a white T-shirt, all tied together with a short silver chain. Every musician I’ve ever met has this effortless cool, as if style is a natural side-effect of what happens when someone chooses to pursue art –…

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An education in food and community

an-education-in-food-and-community

This story begins in an ivy-covered garage in Costa Mesa, California: me on Zoom via an iPhone with Chef Daniella Malfitano walking the phone (and me) into her garage, her tiny dog Boo sitting on the sunlit driveway. At first glance the garage looks like any other: bikes stacked near the front right corner, shelves lining the walls. But then I notice there is one…

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The True meaning of financial freedom

the-true-meaning-of-financial-freedom

I first met Nick True at a conference in San Diego put on by Pat Flynn. While I was working the ConvertKit booth, Nick walked up and introduced himself as a happy ConvertKit customer, and I knew within the first minute I wanted to interview him for a story. It wasn’t just that he liked us enough to want to say hello during a conference…

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“The cloth I’m cut from”

“the-cloth-i’m-cut-from”

I consider the first time I met Whitney Manney to be the moment I held a pair of her hand-painted drip earrings in my palms. ConvertKit hired her recently to be in a brand ad, and when her casting announcement was made internally I immediately went to her website and fell in love with her aesthetic. I bought two pairs of earrings in two minutes.…

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Giving in to “irresponsible” art

giving-in-to-“irresponsible”-art

When she was very little, Shelby received crayons for almost every birthday and holiday; mostly because she kept eating them: I like to say that's where I was really infused with the creative thing. She can’t remember a time where she wasn’t figuratively (or literally) devouring and creating art. I've been doodling on my homework since as far back as I can remember, and I've…

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The power in telling your story

the-power-in-telling-your-story

Rebecca just wanted the hospital staff to like her. Her only birth plan for her first child was “Don’t make a fuss. Be a good girl. Do whatever they say.” Rebecca, a nurse herself about to finish her PhD in Nursing, knew if you didn’t, the nurses might call you “high maintenance” behind your back. I just didn't want to be seen as difficult. After…

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Fight or flight: When resistance feels worth it

fight-or-flight:-when-resistance-feels-worth-it

It started as a joke, really, during Noa Kageyama’s first year of graduate studies at Juilliard, walking to lunch with friends after a gig. By that time, Noa had been playing and practicing the violin almost every day since he was two years old, and he’d done the impossible; he was on a career path to become a full-time professional musician, studying at the world’s…

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The magic of having no other choice

the-magic-of-having-no-other-choice

Most days when Cara Chace came home from school she would find the nearest desk and “just write and write and write and write.” She’s loved writing, reading, and creating as long as she can remember. So much so that in high school when her dad asked, “What are you going to do with your life?” she responded, “I want to write. I want to…

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Slow and steady makes the dream

slow-and-steady-makes-the-dream

Prerna always loved writing, so much so that she took a journalism course after college for fun. But when she was offered a corporate job at a top global bank, she jumped at the chance. My original career goal was to have a job. I always wanted a steady paycheck. That job is where she met her now-husband Mayank; but for him, working a corporate…

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Thriving in business as a sensitive person

thriving-in-business-as-a-sensitive-person

It started with a girl; Austin Church’s first middle school crush: I did not know how to process what I was feeling, so I wrote poetry and told no one about it. No one. I had enough social savvy to know it would have been social suicide to be writing poetry as a 7th grader. But he kept writing, secretly. He also became obsessed with…

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The work you were created for

the-work-you-were-created-for

It started with piano (and Whitney Houston). Eight-year-old Vannesia Darby watched The Preacher’s Wife almost every day, so when she saw the Whitney Houston song from the movie – “I Believe in You and Me” – in her mom’s piano book, she thought: I have to learn how to play this song. Vannesia had never been trained on how play the piano before. Her mom…

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The 4 lives of Heavyweight pro boxer Ed Latimore

the-4-lives-of-heavyweight-pro-boxer-ed-latimore

Ed Latimore says that he’s lived exactly four lives (so far). His first life started in Pittsburgh. I was a typical at risk youth, born in public housing projects. Single mom. I knew my dad, but he didn't live with us. Young Ed with his father and sister. I had to deal with a lot of those things that people typically associate with that environment;…

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Single mom on a mission

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When Kelsey Baldwin played “teacher” as a kid, all she wanted to do was design worksheets on Microsoft Word, assembling clip art and lines to layout the perfect geography handouts. (She also dabbled in PowerPoint presentations like “Why you’re the greatest dad” which she presented to her father when she was with him every other weekend.) I just really loved figuring out layouts and how…

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Audience over ego

audience-over-ego

It was April 2009, and Srini Rao graduated with an MBA – and no job offers. The economy had just crashed. So when he heard about someone creating a website called “Twitter Should Hire Me” that got a ton of press and subsequent job offers, he thought, why not try something similar? He called his website “100 Reasons You Should Hire Me.” There was just…

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