EDITOR’S NOTE: The first installment in an ongoing series(both in print and online), Girl Like Us will spotlight women, in their 20s’s, who are making waves in their various fields. It is easy to be inspired by those who came before, but there are tons of women just like us who are making their ways in multiple and varied careers, women who are running their own shops, writing, working with and for others while pursuing their own creative projects — these women are smart and witty and passionate and multitasking and awesome. I can’t say how thrilled we are to share their stories with all of you.
WHO Rosianna Halse Rojas, 22
WHERE London, England
WHAT Vlogger, Writer, Personal Assistant to #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, John Green
Rosianna Halse Rojas is one of those people that seem to be constantly moving at the speed of light, buoying everyone around her with the same sort of energy and go-getter attitude that propels her forward.
Not only does she work with John Green, one of the world’s most well-known, beloved and successful authors currently working, she has a loyal following of her own on the YouTube channel she has been running for the past eight years, where she discusses everything from feminism (she created the popular Ladies Survey in an effort to broaden the discussion about the hardships women in media and content creation face both online and off) to the books and films she loves, vegan recipes and life in London.
In her spare time she also writes (she was recently published in the graduate version of Sheryl Sandberg’s wildly popular Lean In), runs an online shop featuring prints she’s made, collaborates with other YouTubers — and is a an inspiration to motivated and multitasking women everywhere.
YOUTUBE SUCCESS I started making YouTube videos in 2006 when it seemed like absolutely everyone in the world was waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be released. In those early days of YouTube, a huge percentage of the content was Harry Potter related. I saw all of these conversations going on through vlogs and I just wanted to be part of it all. Most of my early videos were just eight or nine minutes of me talking about the run up to the final Harry Potter book, or talking about how stressed I was about school. The thing I still love about YouTube is that the website still makes it so easy to just take part. If you have a webcam or a camera you can make videos. The fact that YouTube itself is free to use is incredible, and certainly something I think a lot of us take for granted. The quality of (the bulk of the) conversation that goes on in the comments of my videos has certainly exceeded my expectations and I care a lot about the people watching my videos in a way that I guess I didn’t anticipate I would when I started making videos. So I think I’ve been most impressed by the potential for authentic creator/viewer relationships.
LIT LOVE When I turned sixteen years old I got my first proper job (not that babysitting isn’t a proper job, but like, you don’t get payslips) at the specialist children’s bookshop I’d gone to every weekend growing up. The Lion and Unicorn Bookshop was where I’d queued up for Harry Potter books, where I’d found my favourite picture books, where the staff told me about a new debut novel by some US author John Green. I worked weekends (and weekdays in summer) at the Lion and Unicorn for five years. A year or so after I worked my last shift, the bookshop closed down because of ridiculous rent hikes and the inability to match Amazon discounts. I felt like through the videoblog I had even more responsibility to show the importance of booksellers, independent bookshops, and specialist recommendations. But then also, more generally, I’m always desperate to talk about a book I really loved reading and the more people who have read it, the more I can talk about it with them!
THE LADIES SURVEY The biggest thing I took from the first Ladies Survey was a strange and sad validation: the abuse women face online — in particular its sexual and violent nature — is real, and it wasn’t me being overly sensitive or overly reactionary. I also have gained so many great recommendations for books, movies, sportswomen, musicians etc. Part of the reason why I asked people to talk about their favourite female creators in all fields was so that viewers could get great recommendations, but the other big part of that was to prompt people to think about their habits of consumption, and being aware of in what aspects of their lives they’re subconsciously privileging the creative voices of men over the creative voices of women. I’m a huge believer in that “vote with your wallet” mentality. Within a consumer culture we have to pay attention to what it is we’re supporting with our money and our time. The discussion is so important to me because — online and offline — I see female creators discouraged from pursuing their ambitions because of the fear of the way they’ll be treated. I hear stories from so many women about their stalkers, or the casual way people around them joke about violence against women, demean them, or declare us in an age of post-feminism when we’ve achieved total equality when the reality is so different. I do have plans to continue this discussion! For now they are mostly secret plans, but it’s worth mentioning that the third annual #womenonyoutube panel (I co-founded this with fellow YouTuber Lex Croucher) will be taking place at VidCon 2014 (June 26-June 28) and I will also be moderating the Fighting Sexism on YouTube industry day panel.
THE JOHN GREEN EFFECT Keeping everything from falling apart is certainly part of my job! There is so much to love about my job, starting with its flexibility, getting to work with one of my closest friends, and working on so many different projects. A lot of it is organisational: prioritizing John’s emails, coordinating with the publicists at Penguin and Fox to manage his schedule, making many a phone call, etc. But then I also project manage, manage the AFC Wimbledon sponsorship, manage partnerships related to the various educational channels John produces, conduct research, photoshop things for John’s vlogbrothers videos…basically…a lot! I’m such a fan of jobs that strongly rely on organisation and hustle, so this is kind of the dream. Seeing the growth of John’s readership and viewership, especially with the [Fault in Our Stars] film coming out, has been very exciting and very alarming at the same time! I’m so proud of him and very glad that more people than ever are discovering his work and recognizing his achievements, but yes, it’s a little strange that he’s suddenly become this buzzword in popular culture and friends from primary school are all of a sudden getting in contact with me to rave about the fact that I work for John.
BALANCING IT ALL I was always someone who wanted to do twenty different things at once, to a fault. I remember saying when I was six or seven and totally inhaling Nancy Drew books that I wanted to be an author, work for MI5, train to be an astronaut AND be a popstar. Even when adults around me tried to make me pick one, I flat out refused. I get a lot of joy from work and I also find it a great space to be social, so with (as Maya Angelou called it) “my one precious life” I am motivated to create as much joy for myself as I can. Now I’ve sort of formalised that multiple-job structure by being self employed and contracting/freelancing to John and others. It’s very liberating. My favourite thing about Sheryl Sanberg’s LEAN IN is the section where she talks about seeing careers as a jungle gym, not a ladder, and I think that’s the analogy I was looking for this entire time. As for why I’ve acted against that, the expectations that were placed on me by my extended family, my school and so on always adhered to a rigid career structure and that just seemed so archaic. I didn’t see myself excelling in that structure, nor did I see myself happy in that structure.