By now, the scrappy origin story behind Refinery29 has become the stuff of media legend. It all started when Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi, work wives at CITY magazine, teamed up with Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano to start a tiny website dedicated to emerging NYC designers, which — smash cut to 10 years later — became the platform we know and love today.
In the site’s many incarnations, executive creative director Gelardi has done more than shape the look and feel of the site and stack its visual team with forward-thinking talent — she’s pioneered a new way of thinking about art’s role in women’s media. Under her direction, Refinery29 has shown what a vibrant, diverse, and unapologetically feminist approach to women’s stories looks like, and, in so doing, she’s dared other sites to keep up. Meanwhile, initiatives like 29 Rooms and the 67% Project bring the spirit of R29 — experimental, inclusive, thoughtful, playful — alive both on the site and in the world at large.
Gelardi's belief in images as shapers of the world fuels her passion for visual creations with a sense of purpose. You could call what she does “conscious creativity” — ideating something that is fully rooted in her values, open to feedback from the public, and intentional about the impact she wants to make.
In honor of Girlboss, the Netflix show based on Nasty Gal’s Sophia Amoruso (another patron saint of the side-hustle-turned-dream-job), we spoke to Gelardi about how she nurtures her creativity, finds inspiration in tough times, and brings a sense of passion and play to every day. Ahead, she tells us five things she does to stay inspired and creative.