Breaking Barriers: Highlight Interview with Alyssa Skinner
"You can't make fire feel afraid": ceo of the smear campaign, alyssa skinner, Brings Light to Sexual Equality
Part of Sisterhood Shopping is connecting inspiring women who break barriers everyday. When I met Alyssa Skinner at brunch one morning in Georgetown, I knew right away that I wanted to interview this incredible woman and highlight her story with all of you!
Alyssa blew me away at brunch and I could have sat there all day sipping bottomless mimosas and listening to her take on the impact of words and how much power they have in creating revolutions, beliefs, hope and inspirations. Not only does Alyssa work full-time but she developed an amazing cosmetic company that advocates for healthy and responsible sexual education, awareness and sexual autonomy for women worldwide. Through her company, The Smear Campaign, Alyssa has made it her mission to empower women to take back the words used against them and create healthier perspectives of female sexuality without fear of shame or reprisal. Pretty amazing right?
As someone who personally feels empowered every time I paint on a bold lip, I was ready to put on my Bitch lipstick and learn more about this incredible female ambassador!
(SS): So Alyssa, your passion for The Smear Campaign and being an advocate for women’s sexual equality is inspiring but I have to know more: How did you develop this passion into a part of your career path?
(AS): I am a designer. Design is almost everything around us. It’s extremely powerful. My mission is to use it for good. The Smear Campaign was originally a project for my senior graphic design class, to do exactly that; use design to power a positive message.
When it came time to write and present an Honors Thesis, needed for graduation, I choose to expand and explore The Smear Campaign. The Smear Campaign was the idea of a cosmetics company that advocates for healthy and responsible sexual education, awareness and sexual autonomy. It made writing and presenting a 30-page honors thesis to a bunch of old mostly male board of advisors kind of fun. You should have seen their faces when I started bluntly discussing female sexuality and presenting slides with derogatory language like whore, bitch, slut, cunt, tease written out on each slide in bright white all caps letters on black backgrounds.
I thought the journey ended there. I turned in my thesis, walked across the stage, moved my tassel to the other side and viola “real life” here I come. Mid way through the summer, one of the honors advisors sent me an email saying I should apply to be a part of this Women’s Conference in Pennsylvania and present The Smear Campaign.
Fast forward to the conference, and I am standing on stage presenting my thesis to a community of active women, when one woman raises her hand and says, where can I get this lipstick? At this point, I hadn’t even realized that I could actually make this real. I went home that night and bought the domain name. That lady was my first customer.
(SS): Wow, so incredible. I am literally picturing you standing in a room full of educators, giving your presentation and spilling out words like Bitch, Slut and Tease! I love that this idea became a reality for you, but along the way there must have been some decisions that enhanced this journey and maybe some that you are still working to change. Can you please tell me about the best and worst decision you have made along this journey?
(AS): Best: Learning to listen and delegate and I am still going through this. I like to head into things fast, strong and independent. I am learning, rather bumpily, that the only way I will survive is if the stress, the fight, the work, the passion is actually shared. Delegating does not mean I can’t do it, it means that a team member of mine can handle it so that I can be on a different task. I am learning that letting other people fight while on I’m on mute, and letting people come back around to the idea that I suggested 20 minutes ago is worth it.
Worst: Prioritizing work before health. Literally landing myself in the hospital. Hence the learning to listen and delegate.
(SS): I think becoming so enthralled with our work and passions to the point of possibly ignoring what our bodies need is a topic we can all relate to as we navigate life, and it brings me to my next question- What has empowered you to stay on this path despite life’s inconsistencies?
(AS): My community. Every order, every emailed story, every social media reach out, every volunteer, every soul sister that I meet in the bathroom when I whip out my Bitch shade, this is what pushes me forward.
I had a message sent to me through The Smear Campaign’s facebook only a few months after we launched, it was from a young lady who said she was from a very small town where people still had very narrow and judgmental views of women and she was so excited to see that someone made it their mission to dispel those thoughts in such a provocative way that she could participate in.
I am so excited that women fiercely relate to our mission and that we can build a community on awareness and support rather than shame or criticism.
(SS): Wow, I can imagine how exciting it must feel to connect to women in such a powerful way! As you know, Sisterhood Shopping aims to embrace that connection between women. We work with women worldwide that are working hard to create their own freedom and open new opportunities for themselves and their families. With that in mind, what are the 3 most important things you would tell people to consider when charting a new chapter/new passion in their lives?
1. Launch. Doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have answers to some things. Doesn’t matter that you don’t have this or that. You have an idea. Go.
2. Mistakes should be rewarded. Learn, go again.
3. Connect. Find communities and embrace the ones that find you.
(SS): And lastly, if you could give the next generation of women one piece of advice, what would it be:
(AS): Mentors and guides are the most invaluable resource humanity has. I would be in a very different place if I did not have the guides in my life that I have had. They don’t have to be relatives, or teachers, or even friends. Right now, mine is my boss. Find your light. Follow, Learn, then Lead.