Vanessa Newman always knew she was destined for something different. Hailing from Silver Spring, Maryland, the 22-year-old creative has long been an iconoclast. Though she was raised Catholic, Newman came out as bisexual at the age of 13 and credits social media platforms like Tumblr and television shows with helping her feel comfortable growing into her identity as queer and masculine.
"Before I watched Degrassi and South of Nowhere, the only way I could imagine being with a woman is I would make up boyfriends in my head, and I would have to play out this boyfriend fantasy with this fake boy that I made up in my head to even think about kissing a girl," Newman says. "Then when I saw it on TV, and on the internet, I was like 'WAIT!' Visibility is so crazy. It’s so crazy how your reality can be shaped by what you see and what you don’t."
Newman briefly attended American University, but dropped out because she was too "extracurricular-focused." She discovered having the freedom to "be really black and really queer" empowering and found work at a media start-up with two other black, queer women. After a visit to New York, she felt inspired to search for jobs that better suited her interests; this is when she came across an application for a program that paired young people with executives in the start-up space for an alternative approach to learning.
After Newman was accepted into the program, she was invited to attend an LGBTQ summit at the White House, where she and the other guests participated in a 30-second pitch competition. Newman immediately recalled The Real L Word and her accompanying fixation on the image of queer families. The concept of having a family without a man in the equation really stuck with her—the notion of "I do want to get pregnant and I want a wife, and I can do both and I can be masculine-identified." Newman's selling point was to figure out what "masculine women carrying babies" looked like, and, with that in mind, Butchbaby & Co. was born. For the next two years, Newman was hard at work designing maternity clothing for masculine, transgender, and queer parents, an experience which taught her a lot of things about the entrepreneurial world.
"I got to create a sample line, which was exciting, but I think people don’t talk about the importance of self-care enough as an entrepreneur. I think I really lost myself. It was the first time I developed anxiety ever in my life," she says. "There was a lack of funding, so it ended up collapsing in itself, and I was just getting really burnt out. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. We live in a way now where it’s hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle all the time, and I really bought into that."
It's easy to feel defeated after an experience like that, but Newman looks at it as a learning opportunity. Now, in between the time that she spends studying marketing and managing at the New School, Newman is also offering her expertise through her date curation studio Beau & Arrow. Learn more about this entrepreneur's ongoing journey in the interview, below.