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Art of Style

The working wardrobe: Liv Little

As the founder of media company gal-dem, LIV LITTLE is committed to raising up the voices of women and non-binary people of color who have been under-represented in the industry for too long. As she steps into a new role as president and embarks on writing her first novel, she talks to MEGAN LOGUE about what inspired her to take these new career steps, the value of mentors, and her feel-good approach to dressing for work

Photography Vic LentaigneStyling Candice Bailey
Fashion

Over the past five years, Liv Little has been instrumental in re-shaping the British media landscape. It was in 2015, while she was studying at the University of Bristol, that Little launched gal-dem, a publication comprised of voices typically sidelined by the mainstream media, specifically women of color and non-binary people of color. “I was frustrated by the lack of representation that I saw on the reading list, but also in the classroom and politics. I wanted to connect with people,” she says. It’s clear from the stratospheric success of gal-dem’s print and digital content that she created something meaningful for an audience who were at last being addressed.

Little’s glittering resumé belies her years; at just 26 years old, she’s directed gal-dem takeovers of The Guardian newspaper and London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and appeared in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 media and marketing list. There’s also a satisfying sense of circularity to the fact that, in gal-dem’s early days, Little juggled running the business with a role on Channel 4’s production trainee scheme – as, in 2019, she spearheaded a partnership between gal-dem and the broadcasting powerhouse, executive-producing six short films in celebration of Black History Month. However, Little maintains that it’s more often the prosaic moments that strike her as career highlights. “It’s not always the big shiny accomplishments; sometimes, it’s the small things. Being in our office, for example, and seeing a newsroom that I wish had existed when I was starting out, makes me feel really proud of what we’ve achieved,” she says.

Last month, Little revealed to her 42,000-strong Instagram following that she would be stepping down as gal-dem CEO and moving into a new role within the company, as president of the board. A natural polymath, Little is relishing a return to academia, and, in case she wasn’t busy enough, has embarked on writing her first novel and is working on ideas for TV. Read on to discover Little’s career and styling secrets and what inspired her to take on a new role…

It’s such a privilege to be able to study the plays, prose and poetry that have shaped the literary canon for Black people in Britain

EMBRACE CHANGE

“After five incredible but non-stop years as the CEO of gal-dem, it felt like a natural progression for me to move into a new role. As president of the board, I’ll be less involved in the day-to-day running, but I’ll be helping to shape, support and grow the business – with the phenomenal Mariel Richards at the helm. Lockdown gave me the time and space to consider my next move, and it might have sped the process up a bit, but it was always going to happen. When people found [a business], it can be difficult to know when it’s time to have a fresh perspective. I’m really excited to see what Mariel’s vision for the organization will look like over the next couple of years. Of course, there were moments when I wondered if I was doing the right thing, but I think it’s really important for me, and gal-dem, that I take some time to nourish myself through study. I’ve just started an MA in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. It’s such a privilege to be able to study the plays, prose and poetry that have shaped the literary canon for Black people in Britain.”

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

“I’ve just published my first piece of fiction as part of a collection called Hag. It’s a series of folk tales, reimagined through a feminist lens. I struggled with imposter syndrome when I first sat down to write my piece, as the other authors involved are incredible and fiction is a whole new world for me; now I’m working on a novel. I’ve written various beginnings to books but, this time, I’ve hit upon an idea that I can see clearly and I’m really excited by. I don’t necessarily feel like I had more time in lockdown – in many ways I was busier than ever – but I actively carved out more time and gave myself the headspace to take this idea to another level.”

BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY

“I have a lot of mentors: there’s Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant; Sharmaine Lovegrove, the head of Dialogue Books; Priya Matadeen, the managing director of Dazed & Confused; presenter and broadcaster June Sarpong; and also my mum, who has spent the bulk of her career helping young people found their own businesses. I’m so fortunate to be supported by so many, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I can provide similar support for young Black women. Having a strong community is key to thriving and making it in this industry. As a woman, securing venture-capital funding is a rarity, and for Black queer women, the numbers are even lower. Creating a stable, independent media organization is no small feat and so I’m proud of myself, and also the people around me, for making it possible.”

I find fashion to be a fun form of self-expression and I feel like I’m really coming into my own in terms of style

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

“When I’m shopping, I always look out for Black-owned brands, British designers and sustainable labels. I’m all about investing in specific pieces that I love, and know I’ll have for a long time. Recently, I’ve really been enjoying bright, girly clothes, which is a whole new thing for me. I’m not sure what inspired this change; maybe it’s because I’m going through a transitionary period. Whatever the reason, I find fashion to be a fun form of self-expression and I feel like I’m really coming into my own in terms of style. There’s a certain degree of confidence I get from the clothes I wear, which is why, when I was meeting with investors to raise funding for gal-dem, I didn’t go into those meetings wearing ‘typical’ workwear. I wanted to feel polished, but also true to myself.”

DISCOVER THE JOY OF DRESSING UP

“Fashion can be considered trivial but, on a personal level, wearing something bright or feeling snug in an oversized sweater brings a bit of joy to my day. I love a statement coat, too, so I’m actually kind of happy it’s starting to feel wintery in London. It’s not like my whole outfit has to be super-colorful or out-there, but I enjoy being playful with my style and a great dress, chunky boots or special piece of jewelry can add a little flavor. Under normal circumstances I’d be in the office every day and also have dinners and events to attend after hours, so I’d have to look smart day to day, but also wear something that could transform into an amazing evening look. Now, working from home, there’s less of a delineation between my on- and off-duty style.”

FIND YOUR SIGNATURES

“When it comes to beauty, I tend to go for a natural look. I don’t wear makeup every day but, when I do, mascara and lip gloss are my go-tos. If I want to mix it up, I might add some color to my eyes, but it’s the kind of look I could wear on a night out or to sit on a panel discussion. I love all of Pat McGrath’s products – her lip glosses, eyeshadow palettes and foundation – but I also have a lot of admiration for her as a Black British beauty pioneer. I was 19 when I first shaved my head, just before I went to university; I was obsessed, and I’ve kept my head shaved ever since. I just love the simplicity of this look. I feel most like myself after a fresh shave.”

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THE WORKING WARDROBE

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