Interview with Alisa of VLY GRL

Five questions with my friend and creator Alisa. Read about her journey, her brand and some tips for keeping focus in this unprecedented time.

I have some really cool, smart, and creative friends who have cool ventures like newsletters, creative projects, and small businesses. Being that I have this newsletter, I wanted to use this space as a platform to highlight some of the things they have going on. 

First up is my friend Alisa. I met Alisa many years ago at one of my first jobs post college. We were on the Communications team together, and I always thought she was so cool - she was the first person I had seen with a French press at their desk, and she always wore cool lipstick. She helped me become a better writer (I was good for a comma splice - still sometimes because I technically talk in run on sentences) and taught me how to create newsletters (helpful still here apparently).  

She launched her brand VLY GRL a few years ago, and has now taken the brand further with the launch of a zine series and more. Read more about her below, and find ways to connect with her + check out VLY GRL! 

Talk about your brand VLY GRL and why did you create it?

Back in 2016, I had just earned my Graphic & Web Design certificate and it was time to apply for design jobs. I wanted to create fun work that spoke for my personality and style, and I immediately thought of my hometown. Everyone knows about Los Angeles, but just 20 minutes north is the San Fernando Valley, where I grew up. The Valley gets a lot of flack for not being glamorous or whatever, but it's not trying to be! It's a big place that's strong in socioeconomic and cultural diversity. 

The SFV is a chill, unapologetic and gritty place, and so much of who I am comes from that. There wasn't that much Valley representation in the pin game, so I decided to start there. Thus, VLY GRL was born. VLY GRL is a line of fun enamel pins, patches, stickers, buttons, zines, and apparel with a mission to smash the "bimbo Valley Girl" stereotype. 

Why do you think "Valley Girl" has such a negative or superficial connotation? 

Thanks to 1980s pop culture, the term "Valley Girl" has been used to describe a vapid, shallow female, presumably white and upper class. This stereotype caught on, and it has been ingrained in people's minds since.

You just released your new zine - and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Can you talk about the creative process for that, and how you chose the creatives you worked with for this project? 

The second issue of the VLY GRL Zine speaks to the theme of Transformation, which played a huge part in the selection of artists this time around. I was blown away by the submissions, as some interpreted the theme in such thought-provoking ways, like rites of passage, gentrification, and loss. I also had to make sure there was a certain harmony between all the entries, so that it flowed in a way that made sense. The artists and I are really proud of this issue, and we hope it resonates with people.

With COVID-19, and the current land of WFH that we've all been living in - how are you staying creative and focused? 

It's a much-appreciated privilege to be able to work from home. Since I'm a full time designer at my day job, it's important to me to spend time away from my desk as much as possible when I'm not working -- for example, when I'm inspired to illustrate something, I'll move to the sofa in the living room with my iPad. As for focus, I use Google Calendar for everything to help me stay organized, along with the Microsoft To Do app for lists and tasks. All that being said, I'm using the quarantine as an opportunity to be gentle with myself and not feel so much pressure to always be creating things. I'm a notorious workaholic, so it takes a lot of effort, but it's a nice change of pace and introduces more balance in my life.

Being that we have been friends for so long, and from our recent conversation, I know that you're celebrating your fifth year following your passion and doing graphic design work. Can you talk about the importance of the pivot, and if you have any tips for people following their passion?

My background is in writing, but I've been an artist all my life. The idea to switch careers started several years ago, actually while we were working together! My role wasn’t the most fulfilling, and there was no opportunity to grow or move up in the organization. So I did some soul-searching via workbooks like Build Your Dreams by Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden, and of course The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Intense introspection led me to compromise between a career in visual arts and a livable wage in the Bay Area, and I landed on graphic design. I saved three months' rent, quit my job, and enrolled in an accelerated certification program. I was lucky enough to receive a full scholarship and snag a part-time paid internship once classes started, but I studied and practiced and worked my ass off with all my time. Almost a year after the program, I got my first real live design job at a branding agency in San Francisco. Now I get to be creative and make beautiful things at my job, and have increased my old salary by $40k. Big risks, big rewards! 

While I'm a strong believer in following your passion, I'm going to acknowledge that we're amidst a pandemic, where much of the future isn't certain, and changing your career might not be the most prudent decision right now! If you really can't bear being in the position you're in, really plan your future out. Figure out what job/career you want. Make a vision board. Reach out to people working in that field and ask them about how they got where they are. Research the hell out of every variable. Calculate your monthly expenses, figure out how long it will take to get you there, and make the time to do the work. Stick with it, and don't be afraid to fail or make mistakes. It's a huge investment and it's a lot of hard work, but your happiness is totally worth it. Just be smart about it.

How can people connect with you and purchase a copy of the VLY GRL Zine?

Head on over to vlygrl.com and take a look around! You can also follow VLY GRL on Instagram @vly_grrrl, Twitter @VLY_GRL, and Facebook @vlygrrrl.