OFFLINE with Alison Rice
In the interest of full transparency, digital pioneer Alison Rice and I are friends. We share a friendship that has grown organically over the past five years, and its one that I am deeply proud to hold (in high regard), and foster. We started out as colleagues on the beauty editor circuit and after trading enough small talk, we realised that we were actually each other’s cup of tea… OR more accurately, each other’s glass of medium-bodied red wine, as this is what we’ve enjoyed during most of our real, woman-to-woman conversations.
I’ve watched Alison forge – hands down – the most impressive digital media career in the Australian fashion, beauty and lifestyle landscape, that is often perhaps not recognised as such because self-congratulatory behaviour as we have come to know it does not exist in her repertoire. Read: she is as humble as she is successful. She would argue that we co-mentor each other – in a sort of mutual appreciation framework – but the truth is… the takeaways I get from her are far greater than anything I could possibly offer. And that is why I am writing this piece, because I want the world to see what I see on the reg’, and benefit from it as I do.
Two weeks ago, Alison launched her podcast OFFLINE into the worldwide web-sphere. At the same time, she announced her departure from her top job as Group Publisher at Allure Media where she led the women’s lifestyle division for seven years. POPSUGAR, as well as WHO WHAT WEAR, Byrdie Beauty and My Domaine – which she launched in Australia. This double announcement and workload is typical of her all-in approach, which this time she described as “face first, arms open.”
OFFLINE, as Alison puts it, is a series of “honest conversations with the women behind the Instagram accounts about life on the other side of the filter, exploring the often confronting concept of true self. The conversations are raw, imperfect, and grounded in reality.”
I wanted to listen and sit with the first episodes for a moment before publishing this story, because as with many of my conversations with Alison, I knew they’d help me articulate what I wanted to communicate about her, and her position both in and on the industry we exist in.
Takeaway the obvious and emotional #proudfriend feelings, after listening to OFFLINE I can say that it exists as a resource for women of all ages. It avoids the lady boss format that is well serviced in the self-help space, and instead addresses something much more important – the relationship we have and hold with ourselves. The first two episodes with Jeannie Bourke ofVenustus and digital influencer and entrepreneur Elle Ferguson (both fond friends of TOMBOY Beauty) were as fulfilling and challenging as what I expected they would be. I’ve often said out loud, that I’d love to be able to bottle up all the magic I get from my inner-circle and share it with the world, because I want the world to see what I see. This is exactly what Alison has achieved.
I am immensely privileged to feature Alison on TOMBOY Beauty once more, to have interviewed her and directed Ella Jane’s shoot in her Bondi Beach home she shares with her husband Tony Rice (who is the Creative Director of QANTAS magazine)… Power couple, much?
Our quick chat is a small sample of what to expect from Alison on OFFLINE, which I implore you to subscribe, listen and experience the magic of a woman in my life, that I affectionately refer to as Australia’s Oprah. She may even have an under-qualified guest in an upcoming episode, aka me.
Alison is an unconventional lady who I’d like to call a boss. But I won’t put the two together in a clichè that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Read on for our quick chat…
So let’s talk goals, you’re goal orientated, yeah?
I think the thing I’ve realised about myself is that I don’t do that well with specific goals. But I certainly do well with brand objectives in a business. I’m very malleable around what do we need to do in a quarter – to get there – and looking at our business quarterly because being in digital, you can’t make a plan for the year and hope for the best. It is changing, but you have to ask, “How do I stay ahead of it?” so that we’re not doing things 12 months after everyone else. “How do I get people really excited about change?” Because I think that sometimes change can feel like instability, but actually in digital it’s the complete opposite. If were not changing and evolving, then it will die. My motto for the Allure team has been ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’.
So, there is a widespread idea about women having it all, and if we’re talking about work, family, friends, and health, the belief is that if you want to be successful you have to cut one off, and if you want to be REALLY successful you have to cut two off. But when I think about the women in my life, you’re one of them that seemingly has it all. Am I right?
Well, one thing you know about me, is that I am 100% authentic and a huge driver for me in my day-to-day, is how do I really tell my truth? And I don’t want to sound cliché, I’m really conscious of that word, but I have done a lot of self-work and part of that has been asking myself, ‘How do I be very, very real, and very authentic?’ So that everyone around me can see the reality of operating at this level. You and I have spoken a lot about redefining this concept of self and how that is actually quite a personal thing, so it’s less for me about being in a particular role or working really hard to hit a goal, it’s actually a lot more holistic. Do I think you can have it all? Yes. Do I think you can have it all at once? To be honest, no.
Whatever your definition of success is at any given time is the measure. So for me right now, I’m working really hard on “Who is Alison Rice as a woman? As a wife, as a friend, as a daughter?” And then, “Who is Alison Rice digital publisher?” Because it had gotten quite enmeshed and I was a bit uncomfortable with that.
I would go to get coffee with one of my girlfriends and I would find myself mentoring. It was then that I was like… Oh fuck, you’ve created this beast where you’re quite public and quite vocal in pushing out this message which was a good message, but I guess what I lost in there was that ability to insert myself into my personal relationships. With my personal life I had to draw a line, and you know, it’s harder for us because so much of what we do for a living intersects with our personal lives, and so finding that line in all the grey matter is kind of like “Oh hold on, are you and I catching up because you want to talk about our lives, marriages, etc? Or are we catching up because you want to talk about doing some strategy work for your role? And that’s fine, but let’s do it on work time.”
So, going back to the question of can you have it all, I think it really depends on what your measure of success is and then also, things happen in different chapters. When you’re young and ambitious, today feels like your whole story but actually it’s not. It’s not the whole story and we’ve got to be okay with that. I’ve been doing a lot of work on this ‘lean out’ concept and I feel like I might get taken out of context with it, but it’s about being these high-functioning women who give ourselves permission to rest and lean out a little bit.
You’re not afraid to talk about the challenges that you face as a woman, a manager, an editor and a writer. But, there are a lot of women on social media where it is all rainbows and butterflies and life is wonderful and we’re so successful blah blah, etc etc. I personally don’t agree with that message…
I think that for anyone that has a platform or a following a) how fucking powerful. We are a generation of women who are affecting real change. We’re doing it, we’re not just talking about it, we’re absolutely doing it and I think that is amazing. But b) I also think if you have a platform and you’re not sharing all of yourself you’re actually doing a disservice to women everywhere, because you’re setting an unrealistic expectation and that is not fair. And so how do we bring more of ourselves forward? And it doesn’t even need to be about sharing every single aspect of our lives. I’ll be honest with you, I had feedback from a friend last week and he said to me, “You know your Instagram stories are getting pretty highbrow. A lot of the stuff you’re posting is very luxe and very fabulous. I’d love to see more of the other side.” And you know, to hear that is a gift. It’s so hard to hear anyone criticise or critique, especially when being a woman putting herself out there is already so nerve-wracking. So, I kind of took that for what it was and thought, that’s actually awesome. Because I need to know. So, this week I’ve made a point of showing the late nights and all the wine on Thursday and all of the stuff that says, “It’s been a very big, hard week.” I think that if you’re a woman with a platform, part of our duty of care is to show the hardships alongside our success, which I know is so hard. But how do we show more of the other side for the women who come after us? We need to set a bar for them that isn’t so high they feel like they are never going to hit it.
One thing I really admire about you is your cool-collected-ness. Even when you’re talking to the camera on Instagram stories, there isn’t any element that feels contrived. Is that innate? Or is it something that you’ve learned?
No, it’s me. I feel like I’ve grown a lot personally in the last six years in the role that I’m in, but every step of the way it felt like sitting into myself a little bit more. So it’s going “Gosh this is so familiar and it feels so right”, but there’s still that part of me that has to think about something before I post it or I wonder whether I’m trying to be someone I’m not. But I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to the woman I am deep down, and it’s all from that personal work. The confidence I get from knowing myself is really freeing actually. I think that we should all spend less time trying to get to a particular title or goal and more time getting to know ourselves. The more I know about myself, the more successful I think I’ve become. I feel like I’ve told this story before, but I always go back to it. I am a huge manifest-er and really believe that it has power, so when our deal with Who What Wear was on the table, I didn’t even know whether it was going to go through or not, but literally in the shower every morning for a year I would say “I am the Group Publisher of Who What Wear.” Of course I did all the work as well, but manifesting is so, so powerful.
What lights up non-work Alison Rice?
My husband. I’ve thought a lot about my marriage as it relates to my role, and the publicness of my life. But then I think, what an amazing man to celebrate, and an amazing love story to celebrate as well because I absolutely went through those years where I thought that it wasn’t going to happen for me. I kind of thought, well you already have an amazing social life and you’re going to travel a lot and you’re going to kick ass wherever you go, and I really thought that’s just so okay. But when I was truly ready to be loved, he came in and he loved me. So, he is part of my personal life where I just never thought that I would love and adore someone as much as I do. He has become such a champion in all aspects of my life. Earlier on in our relationship he also became a bit of a mentor figure in a lot of ways, related to my career. He was there for me every step of the way. In my personal life, my marriage is a huge priority for me and I get a lot of joy out of being with him and being around him. It’s just so easy. And it has to be easy and cool. He supports me at home so that I can do the hours and that means a lot to me because it’s just this chapter, and when I go into the next chapter of my life which I hope will be healthy babies, I know I will have to step into the role of mum and he will step into his role of dad, and we will see what that looks like for our marriage.
As an ex-beauty editor, you have a lot of thoughts on beauty. What does it mean to you now?
I guess it’s a real extension of self. How does using different products say something about who I am? Everything from scent, to texture, to brand, it is all really aligned with my way of being in the world.
I’m quite curated in that way, and I find it so fantastic that brands send me products to try still! But at the same time, I try to take a really curated approach of what I show, and what I actually recommend to my friends and my family, and even the girls at work. If there is a particular brand or product that actually works, I love letting everyone know. That’s really what it’s about for me. Of course, I love beautiful packaging and I love using those brands that are cool and the cool girls use. But essentially, I’m about effectiveness. I’ve been doing a lot of work on vibrational frequency and how I raise it, but also calm my nervous system down. I wrote in a recent column that when we have an increase of cortisol in our bodies it’s so unhealthy. So many of our health and beauty problems can come from adrenal fatigue. I also didn’t realise how much synthetic fragrance affected me and my mood, so now I almost exclusively only use Venustus scents because it is all organic. It does mean that I have to re-apply it, but I actually love that ritual of stopping in the middle of the day to do that.
On the topic of self-care, what is one ritual that you do religiously?
Once a month I go and see Jeannie at Venustus. Part of that self-care ritual for me is that when I go there, I actually cry quite dramatically! It is about releasing the emotional blockages we all have, and going there and figuring out what my truth is. It is something I have to fit in. Jeannie has become a real mentor for me and when I go there we do a lot of work around setting intentions and energy, so that’s a huge part of my life. And I actually don’t know whether I would be as successful without having met her. I’ve been seeing her for about six years and it’s really a form of therapy for me.
Words: Chloe Brinklow
Photography: Ella Jane