British media entrepreneur Amanda de Cadenet became a television host at only 15 years old, interviewing celebrities for two of the UK’s most successful shows, including the edgy, late-night program The Word. De Cadenet grew up in the spotlight, frequently photographed for her party-girl image and targeted by the tabloids. Eventually, she found herself behind the camera as a lauded photographer and one of the youngest women to shoot a Vogue magazine cover. She also became a mom.
In recent years, as the presenter of her own TV show The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, she hosted frank interviews with an impressive list of guests like Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga, offering an exclusively female-focused space for important conversations about women’s issues. De Cadenet also launched the multimedia platform Girlgaze to highlight the works of emerging female-identifying photographers and directors. The book #girlgaze: How Girls See the World, available October 10, collects some of the most powerful images that capture how young women perceive the world. Girlgaze has since expanded to include original content, including a soon-to-be magazine, brand collaborations — like a recent campaign with Shinola, shot and directed by Girlgaze community members — and events like the current exhibition #girlgaze: Uncensored at artist Shepard Fairey’s Los Angeles gallery space Subliminal Projects. The show is open through October 28.
Flavorwire spoke to De Cadenet shortly after the launch of her own book, It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs and Badass Women, about creating an inclusive environment for women, her holy grail list of interviews, and why Gen Z creators are so essential.
Photo credit: Cedric Buchet, published with permission of Girlgaze
How can we better support women?
If you’re a man, hire more women. Look at who is in your company. Look at who is representing the stories you are telling. Look who is representing the research you are doing. Whatever it is, make sure that opinion is diverse and that point of view is diverse. Don’t just include one woman — and don’t just include one white woman. Include multiple perspectives and women of color. You’ve got to have different points of view in the room.
If you’re a woman, same thing. Hire more women. Demand that more women be in the room with you, at the table with you, and don’t take no for an answer. That’s what I do. I hire women. I hire women in roles that are traditionally not opportunities that are given to women. I’ve watched women around me either do that or not, and it makes a huge difference.
Flavorwire: I love doing interviews, because it’s a form of storytelling and a way to connect us to the world . . . and other women. You’ve talked to some amazing women throughout your career. How do you prepare for an interview with someone like Hillary Clinton. Do you go through certain rituals to get into the right headspace?
Amanda de Cadenet: It’s different with every person. I like to be very researched so that I have as much information available in my brain should I need to reference, access, or refer to it. I’m quite unusual in that regard. I don’t like questions. It just clogs my brain up and keeps me focused on the question and not listening to the person. I grew up hosting live TV, and it’s very second nature to me to wing that stuff. I’m like the fully prepared fly by the seat-of-your-pants interviewer. [laughs]
I really appreciated your Jane Fonda interview. I’m listening to a podcast called You Must Remember This, and the current series is about the parallels between Jane and actress Jean Seberg’s lives and careers as these two very radical women in Hollywood. Jane had a very complicated trajectory. A lot of people say she constantly reinvents herself, but I think she’s just peeling back the layers of her own self-revelations as she experiences them. What did she teach you?
She was actually one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done. I think we live in such an ageist culture. Women past the age of 30 are often written off. It’s like that great video, “Last F**kable Day.” Have you seen it?
I mean . . . so genius. Part of what I try to do on The Conversation is include women who are in their 70s, like Jane, and Miley Cyrus in the same episode. Jane is a complete phenomenon. I think we need to learn from the women that have gone before us. I think that there is so much wisdom in age, especially in someone like Jane, who was a pioneer and still is. She was producing her own content at a time in the ‘70s when talent didn’t do that. You were just talent. She’s been an activist for so many years. Think about what she’s been doing, what she’s been talking about — about women’s rights, activism, creating your own content, taking control of your life, and being seen for the fullness of your mind as well as your beauty. The stuff everyone’s been talking about now, she’s been doing for 50 years.
Who else are you inspired by? Who are your holy grail interviews?
I think Helen Mirren is pretty incredible. I love that L’Oréal put her in the runway show in Paris this week with Jane. That was phenomenal. Also, Joan Didion. I really want to interview her and J.K. Rowling, Amy Schumer, Melinda Gates, Malala [Yousafzai], Sheryl Sandberg. Those are all people I feel I would be able to do great interviews with.
The new book is a fun, relatable read. It’s something I can enjoy, but could also envision sharing with my future teenage daughter . . .
Who is your audience for the book?
The thing that I loved about The Conversation was that it was generations of women and girls that watched that show. It expands from late teens to mid-40s. I covered subjects that were relatable to different women in different stages of life. When I was writing my book I felt the same way. I felt that I wanted it to be a book that a girl who was just leaving college could read, or a mom who had left the workplace to raise her kids and is wondering what the hell she is going to do now. I wanted it to be exactly what you said — that you related to it, but you envisioned your teenage daughter reading it at some point. “How to Parent in the Time of Trump” is relevant to parents or caregivers, but the passage about one-night stands and how to do it safely is applicable to anyone who is having sex. “Getting a Job That Doesn’t Suck—Even if You Went to Juvie and Left School at Fifteen” is applicable to anyone just leaving college and wants to get a job. There are stories in there I hope people will come back to over the years.
Like a diary or a scrapbook that you can always refer back to.
Girlgaze is so essential, because you’re highlighting the voices of young women, offering real-world opportunities, and giving them access to networks and communities. The media often talks about younger women or younger generations with a lot of contempt, like ‘stupid kids, get off my lawn.’
That’s the problem. That is the mistake. Girlgaze is largely Gen-Z and obviously female-identifying. I am, on a daily basis, so inspired, in awe, and grateful that I get to interact with this generation of girls globally, because of the level of passion, conviction, interest, dedication, curiosity, creativity, transparency, and desire for the world to be a better place. This generation is so phenomenal. If you are ignoring them, you are just missing out on such an enriched experience.
The Girlgaze community is creative. They are photographers, directors, writers, illustrators. They build their websites and their communities. They’re tech-savvy. We do these actual meetups. We had one before the Subliminal Projects exhibition the other night. Forty girls from the community came. We have a house, we don’t have an office, so we do all of these events at our house. Right now we have a visiting Girlgaze photographer who is here for three months from London. She’s there every day. We have a library of incredible books. Our community comes to visit, and they know they can come hang out in the library, they can take part in our weekly meetings, they can be involved in our editorial discussions. They are welcome. It’s a hierarchical belief system that you can’t be 15 and have something to say worth listening to. I know from experience that is not the case. You can be 15 and drop wisdom on a 70-year-old.
Camila Falquez, ‘Humanity up Here,’ published with permission of Girlgaze
Flora Negri, ‘Marcha das Vadias. 29/05/2016,’ published with permission of Girlgaze
Milly Cope, ‘Touch Red,’ published with permission of Girlgaze
Victoria Holguín, from the project ‘Ellas,’ published with permission of Girlgaze