Jessica Gramuglia is a music supervisor at Condé Nast Entertainment and is the Founder/Owner of Awkwardly Naked, a multi-faced boutique firm providing stripped down services, including music supervision, marketing, and live events, that are passion-driven with straightforward, honest results. The Power Thread sat down with Jessica to discuss her involvement in the music/entertainment industry, her experience in co-chairing the World Surf League’s first sustainability committee, the story behind creating her own firm, her involvement with sustainability, what mental health means to her and what empowers her as a woman.
Interview by @dominiquemoreno_ for #ThePowerThread
Tell me a bit about your background. Where are you from?
I’m a first generation American. My family is from southern Italy and I grew up in Westchester and the Hudson Valley in New York – just outside of the city. There are a few songs that mention my hometown or more specifically Poughkeepsie (like the Avett Brothers or Andrew McMahon). Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors along the Hudson River with the occasional trip into the city for concerts, comedy, and broadway plays. I didn’t want to stay in New York for college, and eventually, I found my way up to Boston, which I now consider my second home.
What inspired you to get involved in the music/entertainment industry?
I was OBSESSED with Michael Jackson. From his dancing, music creation, performance, films, the environment/humanitarianism; I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to take these things I loved and use them to inspire good. If people knew my name, I wanted it (and still do) to be because I did something that changed the world.
While in high school, my twin sister and I were assigned to tape a fake news interview. We decided that was way too easy [cough cough boring cough]. We used whatever was the garage band equivalent back then and wrote an original silly song, taped a music video, got an entire classroom and multiple teachers to participate, and delivered it. He said, “This is not at all what I asked you to do but you went above and beyond so you get an A+”. I had no idea what job I wanted to do, but that was the initial step on my path. Soon after, One Tree Hill aired. It was my first time experiencing my passions coming together at once – music and picture. I’d watch every week thinking, ‘I want to do that,’ but I still didn’t know what ‘that’ was… eventually figured out I wanted to be a music supervisor.
What does your music supervisor position at Condé Nast entail? What do you love most about your job?
The easiest way I can explain my job is that I oversee all things music whether it’s creative, legal or a brainstorming session with the development team. I am a member of the Business Affairs team and I work with production (editorial, branded, new platforms, and podcasts), post, editorial (magazine side), advance legal, sales, marketing, events, and social. I also coordinate with our international offices (GQ Britain, Vogue Spain, etc.). Needless to say, they keep me busy!
What I love most about my job is how vast the type of content we produce is. I never get bored creatively because we’re constantly trying something new and each brand is so different from one another. On top of that, we live in the digital space, which means our work is always evolving with the internet. I like to say I’m a nerd for the paperwork, so I mean it when I say it has been so much fun to learn more about rights and legal issues as media evolves.
What was it like to co-chair the World Surf League’s first sustainability committee?
For me, it was the best part of my job! The committee worked closely with WSL PURE, the ocean philanthropic leg of the company, supporting their initiatives on a more hands-on, day-to-day level. We took their global idea and worked to engage that concept personally. The ocean has always been my safe place so having that as my job was a game-changer. We make a point to include our satellite offices around the globe. They would share about the climate effects in their area: droughts in South Africa, Hawaii’s insanely awesome green progress, Australia’s initiatives, etc.. It was really meaningful to be having those discussions.
I now take that experience with me in every role I take on afterward. I found a new compost drop off location in my neighborhood and was told I was the first motorcycle rider to bring my compost there! We’re creating a global green committee at Condé Nast as well that I plan to be as heavily involved in as possible to help make my LA office more sustainable in and out of work. If you’re looking to learn more about how to be more eco-conscious, check out some of these documentaries and environmental books.
What made you decide to create your boutique firm Awkwardly Naked, and what services do you provide?
Awkwardly Naked happened really naturally. I was doing a lot of passion projects on the side to feed my soul, and in 2013 I decided to make it official. I wanted to create a space where I had control over the type of work I did, the type of people/companies I worked with, and to have the option to say no if I didn’t believe I could get the results. For example, I chose to work on a digital campaign to support a SoCal product/apparel company, WiseFool, who were launching a new line. I chose to work with them because they are awesome people and are an eco-conscious, sustainable company. My favorite product of theirs are their leggings and board shorts made out of recycled plastic water bottles. Yes, you read that correctly, made out of plastic water bottles!
My services have ranged over the years covering the variety of work I am experienced in (publicity, digital marketing, live events, and music supervision). As of the past year, my services mainly cover music licensing ranging from creative, clearance, licensing, budgeting, script reviews, etc. or an over the top consult. In line with these services, I advise musicians or companies on the business front, discussing items like agreement terms, tools to get into the licensing space, listening sessions to critique music for different potential opportunities, and setting up their copyrights correctly. I no longer work in publicity but, with all of my experience, I offer consulting sessions to review branding and promotional tools for artists and/or companies. Additionally, I teach classes, host workshops, speak on panels, etc.
I learned that you incorporate fitness in your daily routine. What do you do to maintain positive mental health? And what does mental health mean to you?
I’ve been an athlete my whole life so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to not be active! This has proven to be pretty difficult in the world of Covid-19 but, in what I now consider a previous life, I had spent as much time as possible outdoors hiking, biking, swimming, surfing, skating, paddle boarding, etc., on top of activities like yoga, gym, dance, and gymnastics classes. Nature kills two birds with one stone — you get to be active while positively impacting your mental health. Endorphins from exercises are scientifically proven to reduce depression and anxiety. Instead of taking a pill, go get that heart rate up! When I am in nature, whether it’s the mountains, woods, oceans, or lakes, it brings on such a calm feeling nothing else really replicates. If you can remove yourself from daily life and look around at all the beauty, you’ll notice the anxiety melt away. I often find when I’m on a run, I stop to appreciate my neighbor’s gardens, watch birds play, butterflies float around, and squirrels chase each other or glare at me through the window – I named him Steve.
The little things in life really do make a difference and I’ve found the world going on pause has forced me to be present for the first time in my life. I can’t plan for the future, I only know what I can do today. No stressing out about achieving a goal. My only goals now are my work to do list and staying safe/healthy. Post Covid living to me looks like eating really well, keeping a fitness regime, Facetiming my family, not being sad the studio is closed but instead utilizing The Den Meditation’s online sessions (I’m obsessed with Jeremy the Healer’s Sound Baths, they are just as rewarding remotely), listening to calming music while I write my friends across the globe letters, doing yoga and making art, playing more music, reading – SO much reading finally – and watching a ton of documentaries. I’ve used this time to really figure out what is important to me and to let go of all the bull*hit. I’ve spent the last decade chasing a career but have found I didn’t leave much time for living. I finally have the freedom to undo all of that without dealing with egos and obligations or guilt. As terrifying as not knowing when I’ll see my family again is, I’m trying to focus on this gift of time. I told myself I am coming out of this pandemic better than I went into it, manifesting joy and abundance, letting go of everything else.
You have a very multi-skilled career and have many interests! What advice would you give to people that strive for a diverse career?
Don’t be scared to try something new and don’t let others tell you that their path is the way to go. If you weave in and out of others, that is your path. There is no one right way to live your life or career. If you’re looking for direction, turn inward to witness what sparks joy inside of you. If you don’t have direction or that one named thing to chase, chase a feeling instead. How do you want to feel when you work and use this as your jumping off point. When you think about a topic that enriches your brain, gets you so stoked you cannot stop talking about it, follow that feeling and see where it leads. If you hit a dead end, that’s okay — adjustment is all that is needed. Don’t be scared to take risks and don’t let others’ opinions discourage you.
What does being powerful mean to you?
Power to me means being confident in who you are and not allowing external factors to define you. You will never make everyone happy but as long as you make yourself happy, you show up for you – that is the moment right there. It is that gleaming light that shines from within letting you know you are loved, you are enough, you are doing your best (unless you’re not, own your power and step it up for no one else but yourself). It is respecting yourself enough to unapologetically say ‘no’. It is accepting the fact that sometimes taking care of yourself means letting down others.
What empowers you as a woman?
Knowledge. That has been the biggest game changer for me as I get older and have difficult conversations. I cannot express enough how important education is for us as identifying women. We will automatically be undermined because we are female; and that is to say, I have the privilege of being a white female. Our BIPOC sisters are up against even larger challenges.
In addition, I think it is extremely important to support other women. Instead of stepping on others to succeed, help lift them up. If you create genuine, supportive relationships, you just may find that when that person steps up, they will reach their hand behind and pull you up with them. When you see another woman succeeding – shout YES!! When you see another woman suffering – ask how can you help? Be the change, spread love. If someone is more successful than you, don’t view it as a negative thing, look to that person for inspiration and believe you can do it too… and when you do, be the inspiration for the next.
Anything else you would like to share?
If you have the ability, travel. It is lifechanging to see things tha
t are outside of your daily life; eat new foods, meet people who don’t look like you, learn another language, get cultured, etc. How can we positively change the world if we’ve never seen or experienced it, and if you’ve never stepped out of your comfort zone?