Interview with Melissa Bergin
1. So, let me get this right. You’re the co-founder of YEN magazine, Dazed Aus/NZ, Muscle Up, the Woman of the Year Awards as well as the Publisher and Curator for CURVY. What has shaped you to become the woman you are today?
When my partner and I started YEN, we did it in reaction to a media space that was very different to today. Women’s mags used to be all about 101 make-up & sex tips and this and that; substance was pretty light on the ground. And when there was substance it was generally aimed at a much older female audience. Magazines prior to YEN tried to have a ‘big sister’ voice – and be positioned as the conduit to info/content/cool. At the time we were launching YEN we saw that a whole new online landscape was emerging – where you could sit in your own home and connect with subculture content anywhere in the world. So the big sister thing was going to become increasingly obsolete. We launched YEN as a reaction to the tired old magazine formulas and also to step in line with new media. Rob and I have always kept a thin line between our editorial team and the audience – we always pushed for the audience to be involved with what the magazines covered – and used the web and mobile as a way to make that happen. Seems pretty obvious now – but that was very new at the time. It’s great to see that 10 years later that the women’s mag market has changed as much as we thought it would and has seen the likes of Frankie and Russh come in also to keep pushing that change... Currently I’m inspired to use the experience and contacts I gained via YEN, Dazed, Woman of the Year, Curvy etc – and channel it into projects that have a real purpose or aim to do something positive. That has always been part of our DNA, but it’s great to be able to focus on that more specifically these days. So Projects like Wild! Rhinos for the Taronga Conservation society, or the trek to Everest base camp we put together recently with some other Curvy artists in support of Sunnyfield Disability services are so inspiring and I’m really fortunate to be able to do them.
2. In an industry where males are normally dominating the creative landscape. What message would you like to share with aspiring female artists?
Again – I’d have to say that has changed a bit since we started. We launched YEN and more specifically Curvy in direct response to that exact challenge – however I have to say it’s a much more level playing field 10 years on. Curvy is more a celebration these days – and less of a reaction if you know what I mean. The female creative landscape in Aus is unbelievably powerful and vibrant. There are a lot of factors contributing to that – but I’d cheekily have to say Curvy & Yen have had a little bit of a hand in it too.. Plus the work environment has also evolved – it is much more possible to work remotely – via your own studio or home office setup – so to a degree you can choose to sidestep the conventional corporate thing. Today’s options are good – keep em coming!
3. I’ve noticed all the Rhinos around Sydney CBD in particular. They look fantastic and very colourful! Can you tell us about your involvement with Taronga Wild!Rhinos?
I am the project manager across Taronga Wild!Rhinos – it has been an inspiring and challenging project, the culmination of the event, the live auction is tonight. It is a huge endeavour – I have been selecting artists, liaising with sponsors, getting permits, dealing with press, hosting events – even dealing with vandalism. There are so many moving parts to the project I can’t even begin to say! To be sitting here now, with the auction happening tonight feels so rewarding. I work with some great people at Taronga Conservation Society as well as third parties like Kennards who have been incredible and vital on so many levels. There are so many other companies and sponsors who have also contributed which I am so grateful for, please check out the website to see them all. The support by all of the wonderfully creative artists who have put in their time and effort is also so inspiring. We have amazing talent here in Aus, and it is so great to see it showcased on such a unique canvas. I’m thrilled to see the project become such a success and am looking forward to the auction tonight – here’s hoping we can continue to raise vital funds to protect and support a species that is rapidly facing extinction.Tomorrow I then have to knuckle down on the Curvy show with my partner. We are hosting a major Curvy show and book launch as part of Semi-Permanent Sydney which is looking amazing. The latest Curvy book features approx 70 of the latest new guard female creative talent in the world – and for the first time we have broadened the format to include female creatives from fashion and photography. The latest book hits Aus next week just in time for the exhibition – I have to say I think it is our best yet. It has been co-curated by Elke Kramer, Claire Martin and Kelly Thompson. Each are amazing in their own right and bring a unique perspective to the book & show.