Everyday women are working to reach new heights in their respective fields. Here’s a look into the lives of women who are breaking out of societal norms everyday, and creating their own standards for success. Part I.

Eliza Hatch

Eliza Hatch is a photographer based in London. Her photojournalism project, “Cheer Up Luv”, investigates street harassment aimed at women.

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Breaking the mold, taking that risk is never easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?

ELIZA HATCH

I think it’s always challenging doing something new, and changing directions in your life. I studied illustration at University, then trained as a set designer for tv and film, and then ‘Cheer Up Luv’ and photography kind of grew organically from that path. So it kind of feels like I’m always changing, and that can be confusing sometimes. I feel as though I’ve settled into something I really love and I want to grow and learn from this medium as much as I can.

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Did you have a ‘fuck it’ moment in your life?

ELIZA HATCH

I think I definitely had a ‘fuck it’ moment at the end of my second year studying Illustration, where I just decided to stop trying to be something that I wasn’t, and make things that I wanted to make and take risks with my work. So instead of drawing and trying to imitate other illustrators, I just started building sets, filming and photographing stuff and that’s when I really started to flourish. Since then, even though I have been down different creative paths, they have flown into each other. The way I look at the world and frame photographs really isn’t that different from looking at dressing or a set. Both worlds intertwine with each other nicely.

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Have you experienced a positive shift in your industry, or in your daily social interactions due to the recent social movements such as #metoo and #timesup? How do think these movements are influencing other industries outside of your own?

ELIZA HATCH

There have definitely been shifts in the industry, and they are most noticeable in the online communities that I’m a part of. I follow tons of empowering artistic platforms that encourage creativity and open conversation. To name a few, Gurls Talk, Girl Gaze, Gal Dem, Scandinavian Dream Gurl, Typical Girls, Rookie Magazine. It’s really positive and encouraging to welcome these online platforms into your life and join the conversation. They are very supportive communities that give independent artists a universal platform to share their thoughts and work.

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What does the world need more/less of?

ELIZA HATCH

The world definitely needs more positivity and an open mind and understanding for one another! It’s a big ask, but I think with a positive attitude you can go a long way.

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What’s something the outside world doesn’t understand about what you do?

ELIZA HATCH

One of the things I try to emphasise with my work, is that the women I photograph are not victims. They are strong women, and they are speaking out boldly about an everyday normalised occurrence of harassment. I always try and send out a positive message with my work, and show the women to be empowered by their surroundings and strengthened by speaking out about their experience.

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Who is a woman (or women), past or present, that you admire?

ELIZA HATCH

My mother. She is the strongest, most badass and hardworking woman I know. She is my number one fan and my biggest critic also, she inspires me to work harder everyday and be my best self.

Barbara Carrellas

Barbara Carrellas is a sex/life coach and educator. After quitting college to grab a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a theatre manager on Broadway, she went on to publish a bestselling book: Urban Tantra. She taught Caitlyn Jenner and her friends how to have a gender free orgasm on E!, travels the world facilitating workshops and is still an active performance artist on and off-Broadway.

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Breaking the mold, taking that risk is never easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?

BARBARA CARRELLAS

It’s funny, in thinking about your question I realized that I’ve had two very different, successful careers (the first as a Broadway General Manager, the second as an author, speaker and sex educator) and the same two challenges came up in both. Ever since childhood and continuing through adulthood I’ve heard, “Are you serious? You can’t make a living doing that.” Everyone from family to teachers to friends feared that I’d starve if I pursued my passion. My parents even disowned me — twice — to try and prevent me from going into the theatre. This level of doubt and opposition turned out to be a great motivator. The quote under my high school yearbook picture was “The most rewarding thing in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” Today I’d modify it to say “One of the most rewarding things in life…” but it still holds true. The second challenge has been one of art vs. commerce. I have always been drawn to projects that appear to be too “artsy” or specialized to be successful, by which people always mean financially successful. You’ll notice that this challenge is closely related to Challenge #1, and I have responded pretty much the same way to both. Rather than try and make my work more generically appealing, I commit to making it more unique, specific and specialized. The trick to doing this successfully, is to build the right team of people who share or can enthusiastically support my vision. Having people around me who can hold my vision for me when I have the inevitable occasional doubts about it is critical for success.

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Did you have a ‘fuck it’ moment in your life?

BARBARA CARRELLAS

I have had many “Fuck it” moments! My two most significant “fuck it” moments were the day I quit college to grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a Broadway theatre company, and the day I left my theatre management job upon the publication of Urban Tantra. A “fuck it” moment implies that I made a conscious decision to walk away from something that wasn’t working — but honestly? In both cases it felt more like the universe was shoving me off a cliff. It would have been much harder and uglier to resist the change than to simply go with the flow and see where I landed. In the first case I wound up working a Broadway season with a young Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. In the second, my book became a bestseller and my occasional weekend workshops turned into a full-time international career.

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Have you experienced a positive shift in your industry, or in your daily social interactions due to the recent social movements such as #metoo and #timesup? How do think these movements are influencing other industries outside of your own?

BARBARA CARRELLAS

This issue is very present in my community right now. I have spent most of February dealing with the damage caused by a (now decertified) member of my Urban Tantra practitioner community. So it has struck very close to home. Issues of abuse of power and lack of consent have been discussed behind closed doors in conscious sexuality communities for years. In most cases no one could figure out how to effectively help the harmed and stop the perpetrators unless a survivor filed criminal charges, which for many good reasons they seldom did. I had attempted to co-create accountability processes in the past, but they failed. I think one of the biggest reasons for this failure is that the perpetrator was not immediately removed from a position of power. We tried to change the perpetrator’s behavior without demanding they step down and away from the platforms that had given them the access and the power to perpetrate abuse. Since October 2017, all that has changed. Today, the first thing demanded of perpetrators is that they relinquish their positions of power. This not only returns power to the harmed, giving them a chance to reclaim spaces that had become threatening and dangerous, but also encourages other people who have been harmed to speak up and begin their healing process. I am encouraged by the ever-increasing levels of transparency of these accountability processes. Each different community approaches these issues in a unique way. The transparency helps us all to learn new ways of restoring the balances of power when power has been abused. The criminal justice system can be one tool in keeping people safe from predators, but it was never designed to rebalance power dynamics. And that is what fundamentally needs to change.

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What does the world need more/less of?

BARBARA CARRELLAS

Less blame. More responsibility (which I define as “the ability to respond.”) Less fear. More fierceness. More redwoods. They teach us endurance, resilience and interdependence. Fewer gadgets that break easily, must be thrown away when they do, and keep us separate from each other when we use them.

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What’s something the outside world doesn’t understand about what you do?

BARBARA CARRELLAS

It would appear that everything I write, teach, perform, advocate is about sex. But 90% of what I do has nothing to do with sex. The sex is an effective entry point — to just about every human experience imaginable — and therefore, hugely important. But it’s just the portal to a much vaster understanding and experience of being human. Which is really what my work is about.

Heather Yeo

Heather Yeo, MD, MHS, is Assistant Professor of Surgery and Assistant Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College and Assistant Attending Surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is board-certified in general surgery, colon and rectal surgery and complex general surgical oncology.

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Breaking the mold, taking that risk is never easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?

HEATHER YEO

I think the biggest challenge for me has been getting past my own insecurities, it took me a long time to feel comfortable with my success and to realize that I deserve it. I have been very lucky to have a supportive family and in particular a supportive spouse. I feel very lucky to have had support because I know many women haven’t been so lucky. Because of this, I feel a personal responsibility to help others who don’t have the resources that I have had.

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Did you have a ‘fuck it’ moment in your life?

HEATHER YEO

I have had several major changes in my path over the past 20 years. My original undergraduate major was in foreign service and I worked in the US senate for many years back then. I really enjoyed politics and policy, but towards the end of college, I felt like I wanted to do something different with my life… so after college I said “fuck it” and did a post baccalaureate program so that I could do the premed requirements and go to medical school. That was probably the biggest shift I had. While a little unusual, much of my research is influenced by my background in policy and I do a lot of research thinking about how I can affect not only individual patients, but try to think about how I can change my specialty to make a difference on a larger scale. Recently, I have decided to go back to school and am getting my MBA on the weekends. Physicians in general are not taught much about management, but on a day to day basis we do a lot of team management, I want to know how to do this the right way, not only in my department but on a larger scale…

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Have you experienced a positive shift in your industry, or in your daily social interactions due to the recent social movements such as #metoo and #timesup? How do think these movements are influencing other industries outside of your own?

HEATHER YEO

Surgery has traditionally been a male dominated specialty, we struggle with less women in surgery, implicit bias against women in surgery, and higher drop out from training. The hierarchical structure has made it easy for there to be abuse. I do think that the recent public push towards equality has had an effect in our field. However we have a long way to go.

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What does the world need more/less of?

HEATHER YEO

The world needs more people willing to stand up for their beliefs. I’m a bit of a pacifist and peace maker, which is ok, but it is not enough. It took me until the recent presidential election to say that I need to step outside my comfort zone and to stand up for things I think are important, such as diversity, human rights, and healthcare for my patients. I am done standing on the sidelines.

 

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What’s something the outside world doesn’t understand about what you do?

HEATHER YEO

Being a surgeon is one of the most rewarding professions there is. Patients give us access to their lives and health and put trust in what we do. I think that most people don’t understand how much this impacts us each very personally. The emotional stress and toll this can take. I think about my patients when I am not “working”, I think about them on vacation, you never stop thinking about them. As a surgeon, you never really get away from that. I don’t think you necessarily should, because I think it makes you a better surgeon when you care, but I don’t think people outside of medicine necessarily understand how much this effects us.

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Who is a woman (or women), past or present, that you admire?

HEATHER YEO

Two women stand out in my mind as those who I really admire most. My grandmother. She passed away last year at 102 (just before her 103 birthday), she had a very difficult life, she lost her parents at an early age and had to work very hard to survive. She lost her husband pretty young, however, she continued to push forward and until well into her 80s she continued working, and might have worked longer if my dad would have let her. The one thing I think that she taught me is the importance of hard work, of family and of giving. She was a hard worker, and always wanted to contribute. Both of my parents worked and she spent a lot of time taking care of me when I was growing up. She would have given up anything for anyone in our family. The other woman who has been a major role model for me is Julie Sosa. She’s the incoming Chair of Surgery at UCSF (currently a surgeon at Duke). She was one of my first mentors as a surgical trainee and is one of the hardest working women I have ever known. As a trainee I remember being frustrated as she was such a great surgeon, who did research and published a lot, yet did not get recognized for all the work that she did. I remember seeing men who were half as good as she was getting promoted faster than her. But, she really kept pushing and wasn’t discouraged. I am so excited that she is now a chair of surgery. That is really the “top” position an academic surgeon can have, and yet, still women are under represented as chairs, although in the past 5 years we have made significant progress.

Leila Ettachfini

Leila Ettachfini is an Assistant Editor at Broadly, VICE’s feminist site, where she focuses on culture, the Arab world, and the Muslim American community.

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Breaking the mold, taking that risk is never easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

I grew up as the daughter of Moroccan Muslim immigrants in a hyper-conservative town in Colorado. That environment was hostile towards my roots and values in ways I didn’t even realize until I’d left home for New York. Growing up there was certainly challenging, but doing well in school so that I could eventually leave and, through my reporting, dispel some of the stereotypes that my childhood classmates held about various marginalized groups was one of the ways that I overcame that.

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Did you have a ‘fuck it’ moment in your life?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

I’ve known that I wanted to be a journalist since I was a little girl, and I was never really forced to compromise on that front. Though, I think I have said “fuck it” along the way in my pursuit of that goal quite a few times. My biggest “fuck it” moment was probably deciding to go to NYU — a school that I could by no means afford. I chose to subject myself to a lifetime of student debt because I was aware of this cycle in which privileged, affluent white people are afforded access to opportunities that everyone else isn’t and it pissed me off that they should be the only ones, or at least the majority, with the chance to pursue prestigious, expensive educations.

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Have you experienced a positive shift in your industry, or in your daily social interactions due to the recent social movements such as #metoo and #timesup? How do think these movements are influencing other industries outside of your own?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

I’ve always been a political person, mostly out of necessity. A lot of Muslim American kids whose childhoods coincided with 9/11 will tell you that their identities have been politicized since they can remember having one. Growing up, I was constantly having to defend my background. In the past couple years, as being “woke” has become more or less trendy, it’s been nice to have people willing to defend the humanity of those outside of their own communities, whether that be the LGBT community standing up to the Muslim ban or cis people fighting for trans rights. To me, that’s been the most eye-opening and exciting part of watching the resistance to the alt-right, and I’ve seen its effects in my professional and personal worlds. I think journalists are asking themselves questions like, Whose story isn’t being told here? or even, Who is the best person to tell this story? I’ve seen a shift towards intersectionality and inclusivity in my industry and others, and that’s very welcomed.

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What does the world need more/less of?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

I think it would do everyone some good to befriend people outside of their usual friend “type.” Also, more socialism. I think we need less capitalism.

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What’s something the outside world doesn’t understand about what you do?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

The intricacies and nuances of any job get lost in translation often times, I think. People will get mad that you left out certain quotes, or even that you included some because they don’t like the way something they said sounds once it’s written down on paper or the internet. Also, people love to bash “the media.” And that’s fair, it’s important to be critical of the information you’re getting. But it’s also important to remember that “the media” is a collection of individual people from various backgrounds and perspectives operating through numerous outlets. We’re not all out to trick you with fake news. Often people are reporting on stories that mean a lot to them — and close to no one is doing it for the money. (Journalism isn’t the most lucrative career path.) Overall, I just think mainstream media criticism could benefit from some nuance.

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Who is a woman (or women), past or present, that you admire?

LEILA ETTACHFINI

I admire every abortion provider in the world, and Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian girl who’s lived her entire life under the illegal occupation of her hometown and is currently facing charges for slapping an Israeli soldier. Also a lot more, but those are who I’m thinking of today.