Julie Gueraseva dishes on new vegan style mag Laika! »
I recently told you about Laika, the new vegan lifestyle magazine, and now I have a special treat! Laika’s creator, Julie Gueraseva, was kind enough to answer some questions for us! I don’t know about you guys but I find these answers pretty awesome and inspiring. Enjoy!
Why did you start Laika Magazine?
Julie Gueraseva: I want to see animal liberation happen in my lifetime. And if not within my lifetime, then at least see definitive indications that it is in active progress. This magazine is my way of contributing to the movement, utilizing everything I have learned and all of my skills to their maximum capacity in advocating for animal liberation. I can be frank here: this magazine is a very strategic tactic. Of course, it goes without saying that I wanted to express my creativity and give other talented people an opportunity to do the same. Of course, I want to offer readers compelling, engaging and imaginative subject matter. But the real mission of this magazine is to spread compassion. And the strategy is basically carrying out this mission via a creative, dynamic format. I believe in a diversity of tactics. And this magazine is just one tactic. We all gotta get our hammers out and start hammering away at monolithic decaying status quos in any way we can, until they crumble.
How long did it take to launch Laika and produce the first issue?
The idea came about a year ago. The first photo shoot happened in January 2012, but the bulk of the work happened from June through October. So I would say about 5-6 months. In terms of the launch, I planned the party in about two weeks, and before that I was conscious to not put out much advanced buzz, because I felt that something like this needed to be delivered as a surprise, unexpected.
Were there any surprises along the way?
There’s many surprises I could talk about, but I will highlight one particular thing… Right before I launched, I thought that orders for the magazine would come primarily from metropolitan areas, concentrated on the coasts. But it turned out to be totally unexpected. It’s not concentrated in any particular geographic area- it’s from all over the country, literally. New Mexico, South Carolina, Minnesota, East Coast, West Coast, North, South, towns I’d never heard of, even a Military address. And digital is from all over the world- places as far as Sweden, Australia and Brazil. It just feels to me now that there’s more of us than we’ve been led to believe. It makes me feel very encouraged and hopeful. And if those subscribers are not all vegan, then they have definitely been awakened to something, and are tuning into their compassion.
How has the magazine been received by the vegan community?
Very beautifully. I have seen some genuine, wonderful support, from people I have never met— but suddenly they feel like family. (I was very touched that you Megan—never even having met me before—not only came to the party, but also wrote a post about it the very next day, and a very genuine post) [Ed. note: I know, I’m the best!]. So basically, I have seen kind gestures and words, that have been very touching, very moving and it is hard to even write about them without tearing up. We’ve all been discouraged sometimes, if we’ve been hurt or let down by someone. I’ve heard from time to time philosophical questions posed…are people inherently good, or bad? Well, after this experience, my life-long belief that people are in fact inherently good has not only been reaffirmed, but I see now just how much infinite we are all capable of. It’s all there. I am really really inspired by Laika’s readers right now, and the vegan community as a whole.
Has there been any response from the non-vegan community?
Well, interestingly, the very first piece of press came from Crain’s New York—not known to be a vegan publication. And I remember the person who did the phone interview with me was completely respectful and genuinely interested in the concept of a vegan lifestyle magazine, and essentially treated it as not some kind of niche publication, but just a new interesting-sounding publication worthy of covering. And then after that, I definitely got a lot of positive feedback from omni friends, and friends of friends, who had seen the magazine (some of them tweeted about a “vegan magazine”). I’ve also gotten inquiries from people interested in contributing— not all of them vegan, and a few emails from people within the design community complementing the design. Many of the vegan readers have reported showing the magazine to their non-vegan friends and family, citing positive reactions. It does feel like word has spread to outside of the vegan community, and is continuing to do so.
How did you get so many great vegans involved?
Some people—like Joshua Katcher and Melisser Elliott—I had already known, admired, and had worked on other projects with. My twin sister Stacy is someone I’ve known since birth, who is also vegan and a great writer, so she was a natural choice. And then there were people who I either sought out, or was put in touch with by other peers—like Hannah Kaminsky, who was introduced to me by Melisser. Some connections really felt like kismet, like with writer James McWilliams. My friend and fellow vegan Jessica Turner (who had by then been modeled for the magazine’s beauty feature) forwarded me an article of his one day out of the blue, which I really loved. I already knew who he was of course, and thought—what if I could get him to write a piece for my magazine? To my astonishment, he enthusiastically agreed. As did Melissa Schwartz, when I asked her if she would shoot the cover. I had already been a fan of her photography and activism, and finally met her at the Animal Rights Conference in DC over the summer (which was an inspiring, energizing experience—highly recommend everyone to attend one). After the conference, I reached out to her and proposed my cover idea, and she ended up shooting a beautiful cover, as well as the back cover.
Besides veganism, are there any other social issues you’d like Laika to address?
I would like to examine all of the aspects of animal agriculture and its toll on our world— the environment being one. Workers’ plight within the animal agriculture system is something I would also like to address. There are egregious workers rights violations, exploitation. It’s just a horrible industry for not only animals, but people as well. Slaughterhouses, for example, have the highest turn-over rate of any industry in the world. I’d like to shed some light on that. The psychological damage of working in an industry that exists to satisfy a demand for which there is no justification, are catastrophic.
There are many issues I am passionate about. Any kind of human rights violations shake me to the core. What is happening in Gaza right now is very distressing to me; indefinite detention, recently signed into law—deeply troubling. Is that something I can see being covered in a vegan lifestyle magazine? I don’t rule it out. But my focus is advocating for animals. I side with Leo Tolstoy, who once said: “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
What is your favorite non-vegan magazine?
For articles, the Atlantic; for design, this design magazine called Grafik. I check out Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine. I don’t know if I have a “favorite” mainstream magazine anymore. I used to. There have been some really great, inspiring publications, like Vibe in its early days, the British music magazine Q; I used to look at a lot of fashion magazines like French and Italian Vogue. But over the years, they’ve become harder and harder to look at, with all the dead animals permeating the pages. Which is a reason I started Laika. No risk of seeing dead animals! These days, if I look at a non-vegan mag, it’s mostly for research.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite animal?!
A tie between koalas and turkeys. If I ever come face to face with a koala in this lifetime, I will have an epic melt-down, in the style of Kristen Bell and the sloths. Turkeys, I’ve met in real life. They have qualities I most admire and enjoy in others: curiosity, kindness, affection and loyalty. They are unique and completely charming and fun to be around. One turkey in particular has my heart - Beatrice. She lives at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in the Catskills. I met her there last summer, and I miss her.