Ma'Chell Duma LaVassar
   
  
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   What lured you back to Seattle after your New York move?   (My son) Strummer’s dad was offered a position when he graduated from law school in Austin. I’d had a really difficult pregnancy and Strummer showed up two months early while his dad was away doing an internship in D.C. I was stressed to the max, a new mom with a very little baby and very little help and when I saw women walking backwards up eight flights of Subway steps pulling a stroller I just felt overwhelmed. We wound up in Austin not knowing anyone and it put a huge strain on our relationship. My physical problems had also come to a head and I had to get a hysterectomy six weeks before we moved to Seattle. We came back because we had family and friends here and hoped we could get things back on track marriage-wise. We were in Seattle six months and broke up, So coming back was just this crazy, surreal time for me. I’d come here a married person with a life plan in tack and all the sudden, it was like “what the hell am I going to do?”
   
  
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   Talk about some of the challenges you’ve faced as a writer?   I was super fortunate to write with and for some really great women when I first started.  Hannah Levin... Megan Selling who had to be like 22 when she was my editor, was one of the best I’ve ever had- encouraging, supportive and fair and tough when she needed to be. Aja Pecknold, Sara Brickner and Erin K Thompson gave me pretty much free reign when I worked for them at Seattle Weekly and some of my best writing was for them because of the leway. When I started working with and for men the experience was different. I was constantly asked to justify my opinions and recommendations whereas the women I’d worked with accepted me at my word. There were occasions when I’d meet a male editor I’d been working for they’d look me up and down and I knew I wasn't going to get any more work from them, just based on how they judged my appearance. I was to them, a “not fuckable” mom, so they didn’t see my value in any other capacity. Then there was just a lot of general sexism, like male editors rewriting me to the point I couldn’t recognize my own words and telling me things like, I needed to change my opinions in a piece because “Sexism doesn’t exist anymore”. The guy who said that to me is still very much employed and probably saying that same dumb shit to another woman right now...  I’ve always felt in some ways this was an easy and logical career for me, especially the music writing- I’m knowledgeable, smart and high opinionated, so criticism is right in my wheelhouse. The work has never been as much of a challenge as getting the jobs and keeping them. I did the national freelance circuit for about a year prior to starting  STACKEDD  and it was tough. The jobs were highly competitive, didn’t pay (like $50 for national magazine blog post) and I’d encounter things like loosing a story to someone because they had 1000 more Twitter followers and were willing to work for free and it became increasingly frustrating. 
   
  
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   What inspired you to start STACKEDD?   The problems I’d mentioned above, in addition to feeling like I’d reached a point where I wanted complete creative control over my work. I’ve had papers change hands on me and have my work disappear from the internet or become very hard to find. They say what’s on the internet is forever, but when someone stops paying to maintain archives, poof- your work is gone.  I knew I had the chops and ideas to be an editor but would never get that opportunity if I didn’t present those skills myself.  I also wanted to give a forum to other women, where they would never have to experience the negative side of the business I had.   Why is STACKEDD such a necessary add to media today?   I kind of took everything I hated about the business and threw it out the window when I came up with our business plan.  We are comment-free so our traffic is made up of people who actually want to hang out, read and take in work - Not to throw snarky comments back at us.  We don’t do click-bait or troll baiting to get people to read us. We try and keep our advertising as minimally invasive as possible. I’d hate to splash pop up ads over one of our fantastic photo series for instance.  We also pay everyone for contributing. Which was extremely important to me. People have an expectation of free content now that just boggles my mind. They turn on their computer or phone and want free stories, music, photos and art without thinking about the people who create it. I love all Art and feel it is beyond valuable.   We have a few great sponsors who get what we do and buy ads with us, but I’m still footing the bill for most of our costs-literally putting my money where my mouth is. I’m not wealthy by any means, I have a small amount of equity in my home that’s paying for  STACKEDD.  I work with a very small budget comparative to other magazines and online publications, but I’m crazy proud of the work we’ve been able to put out. 
   
  
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     What do you love about yourself?    “Can’t”  is a word I never use. So many people get stuck in life and the they are quick to list off all the reasons they can’t change or be successful. When I encounter a challenge or a problem my immediate response is to say “how can we do this?” and brainstorm 20 ways to make it happen. Aside from the magazine I’m starting to take on consulting jobs where, I just listen to people list their businesses’ problems and present them with out-of- the box solutions.  Some people find that extremely annoying, because they take it as criticism, but if you are open to new ideas and opinions you can really change your life. I have a brain that doesn’t work like other people’s, but I feel like I’ve found a way to use it as an advantage. There are few things in life I’ve wanted and haven’t got by working really hard for them. Aesthetically, I’d say genetically I have great skin, which doesn’t age and keeps me looking about ten years younger than I am. Being wrinkle- free is also a great benefit of chub. You can shoot your face full of weird fillers or you could just eat a damn sandwich, ya know?     
  
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     What don’t you love about yourself?   I’ve really struggled with body image my whole life. When I was nine I started ovulating, got my period soon after and grew male pattern body hair and gained 30 pounds in a year. I pretty much lost control over my body till I had my hysterectomy at 37. My menstrual cycle and hormonal fluctuations controlled everything in my life and I spent many years in tons of pain and bleeding most of the month. I’d gain huge amounts of weight very quickly when I was cystic and feeling like you have no control over your body anyway doesn’t lead you to making good choices with it.  I don’t have a great relationship with my parents and a lot of that has to do with them not being accepting of me, my body and blaming me for being “fat’ which was and still is an embarrassment to them.  They never accepted my health problems as a reason for my size and you can’t keep people who are damaging to your self worth in your life, regardless of their connection to you.  You have to establish a fortress of boundaries to even have any sort of a relationship with people you can’t accept you for who you are.  Working in such an appearance-centric industry was and is tough, There were times in NYC when I was the only person of size at an event or fancy party and I’ve definitely lost jobs to other women who were deemed “hotter” because they were thin.  Until after my surgery which removed everything but one ovary to keep me from going into early menopause, I never felt like my body was my own. Just by working out regularly I lost over 20 pounds a year for about three years after. Last year I had to start taking artificial estrogen and I gained about 20 pounds back and was devastated for awhile, but I like sex too much not to take the medication, which keeps you lubricating and your body good to go. But what it finally came down to was: If I have to choose between a thicker waist and a happy vagina-I’ll choose the happy vagina every time.  I’m very “take it or leave it” when it comes to men and my body these days. And since I’ve always carried most of my junk in my truck, I’ve lived long enough to watch my “biggest flaw” become fashionable. I guess I have Christina Hendricks and Kim Kardashian to thank your that...those asses have been ahem… “Good for business” ;)  I’m also very critical of myself and can be with other people. I come from a hyper critical family, so getting over that has been a hurdle. Being a mom has helped, because I’d never want my kid to be that critical of himself or feel like I was doing it to him. 
   
  
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   Name one of your girl crushes, and why you are crushin’ on her:   I recently became reacquainted with Tracy Cilona who runs Twilight Gallery. She and I met briefly a few years ago at a Hole concert  thorough Hannah and she told me she had a piece on Courtney I’d written hanging on her fridge, which is like the highest compliment for a writer. I too always had other women’s work I liked on my fridge. The death of print media probably has but a nail in the coffin of that  though… Anyway, I love the work she features at her gallery which is strong, sexual, fearless and very punk rock and she is just cool, fun and open which are great qualities in a girl crush.  I have crushes on all the girls who write for us. They each bring something to the table that’s cool and different.  And I’m generally cucumber cool around celebs, because ya know, they should be so luck that they get to meet me;) but I have only ever completely lost my cheese over meeting Joan Jett, every woman who loves rocks ultimate girl crush, and Pamela Des Barres who wrote “I’m with the Band” which is one of my favorite books ever. I squealed and babbled so much nonsense at her someone came over and asked me to keep it down.  Kim Gordon recently said in an interview that” I’m with the Band” is the greatest music bio ever and I felt super vindicated for my crazy.   When was the last time you were guilty of judging a woman too quickly?   I try to be cognizant of this all the time. Snap judgements don’t get us anywhere as people and if you don’t let them reveal themselves to you you’ll never actually know them, but in the same respect Maya Angelou was right  when she said” when someone shows you who they are- believe them”. I would have to say starting the magazine and working with so many really young women, I had a judgments about their knowledge and depth of character just because they were young, and that was counter-productive and wrong. I also think women have a hard time distinguishing between instincts and judgments because our opinions are often disputed and relegated.  Having an instinct that something is off with someone is different than a judgment, and it’s important to learn to differentiate between the two. 
  
 
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   What frustrates you about the way women treat each other?    I didn’t come to be a feminist through my relationships with women as much as my relationships with gay men, so this seques a little differently for me. I didn't have good and do not now have any relationship with my mom, I don’t have sisters and I was born into a very small minded environment where the girls I grew up with were sprinting as fast as they could to marry high school and college boyfriends and become their mothers and I wanted none of that.  My experiences with other women as a girl weren't great so I didn’t really forge friendships with them till later in life. So much of who I am is because a large posse of gay men adopted me and took me in when I moved to Seattle, they encouraged me to be my crazy, fun, slutty, smart, outspoken, confident self, whereas those things were always deemed a negative by girls I’d tried to befriend. Everything I know about womanhood I learned from gay men. I always felt I was “too much” of everything in the eyes of other girls and with gay dudes that was never the case. I felt like an observer of female culture, not a participant in it.  I was however reading tons of feminist literature during my “gay” heyday. So I kind of trained to be a friend to women before I actually was one.  Then through those guys I met like minded women and that’s when things shifted for me.  I think women are bred to compete with each other and it rears it’s head in ugly ways.  I hate negative gossip and women cutting each other down. When I was starting the mag I went to Victoria from Vain to ask how she managed her staff which is mostly women and contained that situation and she said she has a “No Mess in the Nest” policy -which essentially means you keep the BS at the door.  I don’t tolerate shit talk about other women within our organization. If you have a problem with someone else you address it in an email to me with them cc’d in or you don’t say it. I fire anyone immediately who doesn’t respect this policy.  I’ve had to implement it in my personal life too. It someone gossips to you or cuts other women down to you, they will sure as shiz to it to you, and those kind of people, regardless of gender, don’t belong in your life, they will drag you down with them so quickly.    What do you love about the way women treat each other?   I have everything I do because other women who were secure in themselves were willing to take a chance on me and saw things in me I didn’t yet see in myself. Their kindness, humor and open-mindedness is what assured me safety in the female friendships I value everyday.                  
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