#SheWearsThePants: Lauren Passell, stretchy superhero pants, and startup confidence

Name, location - and multi-hyphenated title:

Lauren Passell, NYC: Social strategist-startup psycho-podcaster-booknerd-catowner

What do you do - and what what drives you in your career as well as personal endeavors?

I do social and digital strategy for WaitWhat, a media invention company recently started by the people behind TED. Our two big properties right now are Masters of Scale and Should This Exist? podcasts but there is a lot in the pipeline. It’s driving me in my career because I believe in podcasting, it is the most exciting thing that has happened in media in a long time, it is the future! And I want to be a part of it. I feel like I belong in it. Getting to work for this small, fast-moving company lets me get my hands on every side of the business. Personally, this fills my need for a pretty intense, creative environment. I hate being bored, I hate it. And I have been here for 6 months and haven’t been bored for 30 seconds. Like, literally.

Ambition: What does ambition personally mean to you - what place does it have in your life? Do you think our culture perceives “ambition” to be a dirty word for women? Why or why not?

I had no idea ambition could be a dirty word! That is news to me. You either have it or you don’t, both are fine. I think I have it, and I have noticed that it’s the people who don’t who give me a hard time about it. They tell me to slow down, they ask me when I am having children, they frown when I tell them how much I work. I think some of them think I am this blood-thirsty, masochistic, ball-busting maniac. Perhaps I am! But I can’t help it. It’s what I’m here for. Ambitious people need to pursue what they are chasing or they will die inside.

What does ‘having confidence’ mean to you - what place does it have in your life? How do you work on it?

Oh, I don’t have any of it! I have to be very conscious about NOT starting and ending every idea with “I’m sorry I’m such a ditzy dumb moron and please ignore me because oh my god why am I even alive I’m so stupid!” Because that is what I’m thinking in my head. It’s troubling because a lack of self-confidence is tied to narcissism, right? I obsess over how I perform and nitpick everything because I assume everyone is looking at me through a magnifying glass. And that isn’t true. Working at a very busy startup has helped me be more confident because everyone is so busy, nobody is overly focused on me. We are all focused on flying forward, not looking back. When you’re very busy you don’t have time to be overly emotional. So that has been good for me. Everything right now is about what’s working and what isn’t. If it doesn’t have to do with that, it’s not really something I’m losing sleep over.

Goals: Please share one of your current, important goals (can be personal or work-related). Why is this a goal and how did you realize it was something that you wanted to work on? What’s your plan for achieving it?

My number one goal is to have control over my time and creativity, my writing. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My jobs have always offered me the chance to be creative, but it has always come with a lot of things that jobs come with! Like spreadsheets, or content I’m not totally connecting with, or meetings! My dream of all dreams is to get to produce a book or a podcast of my own. I already produce my own baby podcast, PodcastPodcast, a podcast about podcasts, with my creative buddy Eric and my husband. So that is good practice. And I’m learning about the industry, I’m deeply entrenched for work and in my free time. I’m in training.

Does your pursuit of ambition, confidence and goals influence your wardrobe choices? For example, does work influence the way you dress both in the workplace and outside of it? What is your outfit when you really have to get shi*t done?

When I worked in publishing, which was much more relaxed, I had fun getting very dressed up. I only wore pants on Fridays. I wore lots of jewelry and fancy painful shoes. Since I switched to startup land I really feel like I need to dress like a superhero, ready to jump into triage-mode at any moment. The days are longer so I want to be comfortable. I wear pants and sneakers or chunky boots. But If I’m not wearing something that excites me I don’t feel confident or interesting. I get bored easily, and if I’m bored with my clothes I have a bad day. I wear a lot of animals, Disney, dinosaurs, loud prints and colors. If I’m having a rough day, it’s enough if, in the very least, I love what I’m wearing. If I need a boost I wear something with Mickey Mouse on it. I wear glitter every day, go crazy with nail art, and I feel naked without eyelash extensions. I have so much fun with this stuff, it’s a way for me to get to be creative. Because sometimes my job isn’t creative enough. No job ever has been!

This is very weird, but if I feel like I’ve messed something up or am in the doghouse (even if I am the one who put me there) I will wear something totally plain and colorless. It’s like I’m punishing myself. It is only now that I realize I do this.

What activities do you do outside of your full-time gig (whether that’s work, parenting or something else)? How does it bring balance to your life? How does it make you more successful in your full-time gig?

PodcastPodcast is where I get to be selfishly creative and work with people I love. I’m obsessed with reading and if I don’t do it every day I get sad. I’m in love with running and if I’m not doing that I get grumpy. And if I’m stressed usually a comedy show will snap me out of it. I have never left a comedy show stressed out. I think you need to treat yourself well if you’re going to be good to others. That’s something I have to work on, but I know it to be true. So if I am at work and I haven’t done something for myself in a long time, I feel angry and resentful and am less likely to be helpful to others. When I do stuff for myself, I come to work and think, “okay I am ready to give myself to others now.”

How do your activities outside of work influence your wardrobe and style?

My husband is a huge sneaker head, and he’s kind of turning me into one. When I moved to New York City more than ten years ago, it wasn’t as acceptable to wear sneakers and dresses. I love that that look is in now, I’m here for it. My life outside of work these days is going out in the East Village or friend’s houses, but it’s kind of all about being comfortable and looking cool and feeling like Lauren. As hard as I try, I will never be the craziest-dressed girl in the East Village. It’s very inspiring. I also have a lot of “gym clothes”, but when I say “gym clothes” I mean leggings from the children’s department at Target and Mickey Mouse t-shirts. I spent a lot of time in these “clothes” on the weekend when I’m going back and forth from the gym, running errands, and typing feverishly in coffee shops, and I just pray I don’t see anyone I know.

What are your guidelines when choosing to buy something new for your wardrobe?

Deep in my heart I know if I really want something. And if I want something, I totally buy it and don’t look back. But I don’t own very expensive things. I almost never get rid of things. Every time I get rid of something, one or two years later I think “why on earth did I get rid of that interesting purple dress?” And I actually get mad at myself. I still have clothes I wore in high school. I still have stuff from Delia*s.

What do you like about the Stretchy Vivi Leggings? What activities do you wear them to?

Ummm I love. They are my superhero pants for a crazy day at work. Work can be hard on your body, mind, and soul, and I feel that physically. So I NEED to be comfortable. I NEED to be able to have the freedom to move. These pants are like my secret treat to myself and allow me to be 100% efficient (which is super important to me) and functional, and also my butt feels just so so good. I feel like I’m spoiling myself. Also, they go with everything in my closet. Sometimes I pack them in my gym bag just in case I don’t like what I’ve packed. And God bless them for the pocket, my phone is in there at all times. It makes more sense than pockets on any other pant.