While waiting to begin my interview with Elaine Madsen, I think about the qualities that make her such an exceptional new Editor-In-Chief for the L.A. edition of Felix Magazine. She is intellectually curious, culturally insightful, artistic, compassionate, politically astute, an enthusiastic mentor.
When I asked Elaine how today’s young women can pursue dreams, develop confidence and succeed in such an oscillating economic climate. She does not hesitate. “Every person has something of value that only they can contribute to the world, in any era. Young women always have to ask themselves what they like about what they see in themselves beyond the image reflected in their mirrors.”
She pauses. “On my 17th birthday, my Dad asked me what I wanted to do with my life. ‘Be a writer!’ I enthused. And he said ‘First, you have to live long enough to have something to say….” “He was right. My writing has evolved from my life experience.” she continued.
“The most important training as a writer came after my divorce, when I took on the position of Marketing Director for a high-rise development company. For the first time, I had to write to spec and under deadline to meet client requirements. This taught me to respect the notion of an audience. Appreciating the perspective of others in the world is so important.”
I mention that the South African writer Nadine Gordimer, famous for fighting entrenched patterns of Apartheid in her country (and for winning the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature) – once said that writers write best about the world if they can describe the texture of life around themselves well.
“The Aparecio Foundation and Felix magazine want to encourage young women to do exactly that. To respect the Truth we see in the world by respecting the truth we see in ourselves. I have been a senior editor for several magazines in addition to my film career. I know that if you want to deepen the content of any publication, you have to broaden the perspectives it represents. That is my goal for Felix Magazine.”
Testament to this conviction is the documentary “I Know A Woman Like That” which Madsen directed and daughter Virginia Madsen’s company, Title IX Productions produced. Iconic film critic Roger Ebert, an early mentor of Elaine’s, once called it “transformative.”
I secretly wonder how a moving film about 16 woman over 65 who “step outside of limiting cultural stereotypes” as brilliantly as Eartha Kitt, Lauren Hutton, Rita Moreno, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Gloria Steinem and all of the other amazing women in the film have done — can possibly not be transformative. My favorite among the films’ culturally trailblazing feminine archetypes (and Elaine’s as well, I discover) – is Lucille Borgen the 95 year old competitive water skier who has to cut her interview short to hop on her water skis and for that day’s competition.
“We develop our natural strengths by frequently repeating activities that require them. Every woman has a moment when she has to step out of the confines of her life if she really wants to claim it. For that she has to develop her natural strengths. So do the young women we want to inspire through Felix Magazine and the Aparecio Foundation in particular, so they can also say for themselves ‘Have an attitude of pride in the history of trailblazing suffragettes, civil rights workers and all your grandmothers. They are you.”
It is Elaine’s aim to encourage women to be their best at any age and for all of us to become lifelong zealots for every sort of cultural inclusiveness. The gravitas she brings to Felix Magazine, like her writing, is valorized by the richly diverse life experience her Dad suggested she acquire. To wit, the following lines from her poetry book “Crayola Doesn’t Make These Colors….,” and from the poem: “Elliot’s Phoenix”
“…in Congo and Darfur, on the streets of New Orleans, From Baghdad, Teheran, Gaza and Telaviv, on the mean streets of L.A, Intolerance for differences spews forth to make committees…”
Felix Magazine and the Aparecio Foundation won’t settle for that kind of pedestrian posing because your passionate leadership will inspire us to take culturally inclusive action instead, Elaine Madsen. Thank you for that.