Maura is a junior at Fordham University and the founder of Make Muse, a media brand that is a “place to find the muse to make a change to gender-based societal standards.” Make Muse is dedicated to highlighting the vast and varied experiences of young women, girls, femmes, and non-binary individuals. Maura grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now resides in New York, New York.
I met with her at a cute café called Oatmeal’s in the East Village. She showed her energy and love for collaboration and empowering women. We talked about feminism, college, careers, mental health, and what it means to be powerful.
Maura, why did you decide to attend Fordham?
When I was choosing schools, I was not sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I had interests in marketing, communications, psychology, and journalism, but was at all sure of what I wanted to do long-term. I mostly applied to medium-sized schools in urban areas, primarily along the East Coast. When it came close to the end of my senior year, I actually thought I’d attend another school in D.C. At the last minute, I decided to attend Fordham. I met the best people, and it was a really great choice. I love that Fordham has a classic campus, but it is also a quick subway ride from New York City. I wouldn’t be the same person today if I wasn’t so close to the city.
Maura, where did your interest in feminism start?
It all started with my makeup-free year. During my junior year of high school I decided to not wear makeup all year and document it on Instagram as @Makeuplessmaura. It was a challenge I took on, not exactly for any specific reason. I posted daily for 365 days. During this time, I started to really think about beauty standards and the expectation to look a certain way when it comes to body size, skin, hair, etc. I spoke out openly on the micro-blog style account; it was really empowering to have such a public platform. After the year, I continued to notice the existent societal standards for women. I had a few internships in corporate settings, and then there was the 2016 presidential election. I knew I wanted to keep doing things with @makeuplessmaura and expand upon its principles to make a change to all female societal standards.
When did you launch Make Muse?
At the end of last summer, I started posting on @makeuplessmaura again to talk about these larger issues. I started adding information about girls and females changing the world and shared daily news articles related to this subject. The initiatives prompted Make Muse, which officially launched on International Women’s Day in 2018, and it has turned into the media site it is today.
Where do you see Make Muse going?
Right now, we are doing a lot of different things. We’ve grown to a larger team of amazing young women who I could not do any of this without. We write our online content, do interviews with featured women, and share daily news on gender roles and feminism. Some of our next projects include the launch of video series Goodluck Girl and our coming print magazine. We also are developing sub brands within Make Muse, including our latest column called Femintimacy. We want to fill this niche for a female focused publication that is smart and covers many categories and topics. Think of us as Times Magazine or The New Yorker for today’s young women. We focus on the 16- to 24-year-old girl trying to figure out the world and are trying to brand ourselves as an introduction to feminism amongst other worldly issues. Telling personal stories and encounters is a key component of our work.
What is your favorite part of Make Muse?
Definitely working with my team. We have a great community of people who inspire me every day. I love working with this community of women. They’ve helped bring so many ideas and projects to life and have truly helped evolve and grow Make Muse as a whole.
Do you have a favorite story you wrote for Make Muse?
My favorite was the most personal- a poem called Bees. It is about my experience dealing with an eating disorder, which is something I have struggled with since high school. I wrote about the societal standards that exist for women and girls when it comes to their bodies and wellness. The poem is dark and reads as a warning message.
What is the largest challenge with managing Make Muse?
Balance! I think that’s for anyone that has a side project and wants to get it off the ground. I wake up every day and think about what I can do for Make Muse, go to bed thinking about it, and spend most of my free time devoted to it. The tricky part is that I am in college and have school work, a job, a family, and friends who are not a part of it. I want to have a balanced life, which is a challenge. I try to schedule my day so that I still have time for myself. Usually I end up working on Make Muse for too long, but I really make efforts to balance my activities.
What was the most exciting moment with Make Muse?
Make Muse morphed from an Instagram account to a website to now an official business organization. The day I signed the papers, wrote the operation agreement and business plan, and then set up the bank account was one of the most exciting days.
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
For me, it means doing something when you are so passionate about. With that, it means not caring what everyone thinks. Whenever you start something, there will always be people who doubt you. People doubted I could spend a year makeup free. People doubted that anyone would look at Make Muse in a saturated media environment. People doubted that I could hire my own interns as an intern myself. People doubted that I could set up a business, launch a crowdfunding campaign, and generate revenue. Tell yourself that you can do it. Just telling myself that I can do it always helps. Passion is a huge part of it, and there are so many resources to teach you what you do not know. My dad always told me when I was learning to drive that so many people who are not that smart can drive a car. I think of running business the same way.
You can do it. When you do, that is power.