Q&A with
Piera Gelardi

About the leaderPiera Gelardi, co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Refinery 29, leads with love all day, every day. Honest, imperfect and not afraid to show it, Piera shows us that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness. She empowers and lifts others up at every opportunity. We are thrilled to feature Piera as our Leader Ambassador of the Meta Mobile. Read about Piera's thoughts on leadership, motherhood, and beyond, here below.

— On Leadership

How did you learn to lead a community in such a strong and effective way?

If you were to ask high school Piera if she would be a leader, she wouldn’t have known what to say. To be honest, I never saw myself as a “leader” because it seemed that the textbook definition didn’t describe me. The patriarchal idea of a leader felt so engrained: a tall man with a booming voice commands a room. He is a “visionary” and has all the answers. Everything he says is rational, linear, and measured. Because of this narrow representation, I spent so many years questioning if I could lead and wondering: “am I good enough?” I didn’t recognize the many ways throughout my life that I had already been leading because my style looked very different from that picture that dominates.

To be honest, I never saw myself as a “leader” because it seemed that the textbook definition didn’t describe me.

Over time, I learned that there’s no one way to be a leader. What’s key is to lean in to your strengths, develop your value system, and create your own style.

A lot of my leadership ethos is fueled by being human. That means recognizing that you’re going to develop others and help them to do their best work when you’re fueling people with encouragement and support, and addressing areas of growth and improvement compassionately versus being driven by fear or shame. A big influence is Brene Brown and her research around leadership and empathy. As someone who works in media, I’m very conscious about my role and the responsibility I have to my audience and the global community, so I create and share with care.

What are three characteristics that you try to embody every day in leading your community?

Courage, Creativity, and Compassion.

— On Motherhood

How has motherhood changed you?

Motherhood has made me more present, it’s made me more aware of how precious each human is. Being a mother has been a lesson in compassion-building. It has made me think a lot about my own parents and all the lessons that have shaped me into who I am today. It has made me more conscious of the issues mothers of all kinds face.

What surprised you the most about becoming a mom?

What’s been surprising has been the low key identity crisis it’s triggered. I knew it was a thing but I guess you can’t really prepare yourself for an identity crisis. There’s not a guidebook to accurately get you ready for becoming a parent. It’s been interesting to address and come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever go back to who I was before Viva. I am a different person with different priorities and I’m actively trying to recalibrate what that means for myself personally and professionally. It’s neither good nor bad, but it’s very real!

I've come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever go back to who I was before Viva.

One piece of advice for new moms?

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Even just six months in, I look back at myself the first few months and can’t believe how hard I was on myself, how ambitious (and sometimes unrealistic) I was about what I could take on. One thing that resonated immensely with me the first couple weeks was that other people would tell me “you’re doing great,” and it felt like a reminder to give myself some credit for doing my best. Another mantra that was helpful was “this is what I’m doing NOW.” It helped remind me that other things could wait.

— On Creativity

What inspires the colorful and bright aesthetic in your home?

My Nonna is my biggest home inspiration. I went to her house after school growing up and I loved how eclectic it was; it felt like every piece had a story. Her home was a place that inspired imagination — with a pea green carpet and objects from all over the world — and encouraged me to create my own spaces full of stories. Surrounding myself with art, tchotchkes, and furniture fuels my maximalist heart and reminds me of the life I have lived.

Surrounding myself with art fuels my maximalist heart and reminds me of the life I have lived.

How do you see art playing a role in Viva's environment and upbringing?

The art in Viva’s room is a collection of pieces I’ve gathered over the years. I chose ones that felt the most child friendly, a range of animals and scenes that make you dream a bit. The Fiorucci poster was one I had in my bedroom growing up. Art has always been such a big influence in my life, it’s an opportunity to communicate, to learn about others, to connect more deeply to the world and it’s wonders (among other things).

— On Meta Moments

One of the joys of spending time with little ones is how they remind us to be mindful and truly live in the moment. Have you found this to be true in your experience as a new mother?

Yes, definitely! It’s been a real shift for me as an always on person with a full to-do list. I even wrote a line in a poem about it “as a go go go person, the halt’s been a shock, I fought it at first, used to jamming the clock.” I’ve been learning how to replace the words “I should” with “I could,” recognizing the power in the small and large choices I make everyday and how saying yes to one thing means saying no to another.

Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another.

Can you share a #metamoment that you've experienced with Viva?

When Viva was first born, I found myself fighting the change of pace that comes with having a baby. I would be feeding her a bottle (a task that uses both hands) and freaking out because I couldn't multi-task and "be productive" for those 20 minutes. My mind would race with things I wanted to get done and I'd unsuccessfully try to balance the bottle on my chin so I could write typo-filled emails, only to glance down and see that Viva had rivers of milk streaming down her face.

Fortunately some folks reminded me this baby time is fleeting and I might want to savor it and that feeding my baby is actually an incredibly productive task — pretty much the most important task I could be doing. All true.⁣

My attitude towards feeding time has shifted radically since then... I now think of it as my "Milk Meditation" time. ⁣I decided to stop making myself miserable fighting with what is.

I am learning to respect the simplicity of doing a tiny task that is actually deeply profound.

I've never had a meditation practice, but I pieced together some different ideas to create my own ritual. I start by observing Viva intentely, narrating to myself the details of her face, her body, her movements. Then I close my eyes and focus on the sensations of my body, scanning from head to toe, noticing Viva's weight in my lap, the pain in my right shoulder, the tickle of hair on my neck, etc. Then I listen: my breath, Viva's gulps and grunts, our neighbor slamming a door, the car honking outside. I sit still in the moment. I still have moments where I feel antsy and often other thoughts come (my mind is a noisy place), but once I realize I'm distracted, I take note and try to return to the present, to notice her stomach expanding with each sip of milk, the hum of the radiator, the taste in my mouth.⁣

Now I look forward to Milk Meditation time. I am learning to love the stillness and to respect the simplicity of doing a tiny task that's actually deeply profound when I pause to really live it.⁣

Find out more about Piera on her site.
Follow Piera on Instagram @pieraluisa.
Photos by Lo Martin.
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