About The Editor In Chief
The Woman Behind the Desk
She is an editor; but she is also a woman, a mother, and a dreamer.
It’s time to meet the creator of Valour magazine.
By: Mimi Minsky
Gitty is folding laundry when we both sit down for this phone interview. It’s 9:30 PM and we are not seated at a dimly lit, trendy new restaurant, nor are we exploring the city streets, while sipping delicious lattes topped with pillowy foam carefully poured into the shape of beautiful leaves. This interview, after a long day, is my favorite kind. It’s unguarded and no questions are off the table. It’s as real as the editor herself is, and after the many phone calls between us, voice notes, and opinions expressed and shared – both Valour and personal, it’s time to share some of her thoughts with you. She’s kept her life private since the magazine’s inception, but that ends now. She has been writing the stories of the women she’s met, and now she’s sharing her own story. She is a real person in every sense of the word, and since we’ve first spoken, there has always been honesty and integrity in her character.
There is none of Anna Wintour’s intimidating indifference, none of Grace Coddington’s flaming red hair, or of fictional(?) editor, Miranda Priestly’s inflated sense of being. There is, however, passion and power in this editor’s determination, poise, and her desire not only to create a magazine that women continue to love and pore over, but a platform where women can connect and empower other women to challenge themselves and continue to explore the deeper parts of who they are. Valour is fashion and lifestyle, but it is also a space for conversation, self-care, and inspiration.
You’ll be surprised to know that Gitty and I have never met face to face. I know that she has dark hair, wears glasses at times, and is taller than I am (not a difficult contest to win). I know that she has a little girl, lives in Brooklyn, and sometimes makes her own pasta. But, it’s time to delve a little bit deeper here and find out more about this woman behind the desk. I’m beginning to feel like I’m on a semi-blind date, only I already know it’s going to go well.
Let’s talk about history. Take me back to your childhood in Brooklyn. Can you tell me about any early ambitions?
“I was always a creative spirit. I wrote poetry, song lyrics, and, during particularly boring trigonometry classes, even wrote chapters to extend the Harry Potter series. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, creative expression really only extended to what was “in” at the moment. If my classmates were all doing dance, suddenly I wanted to express myself through dance, but it never really felt like who I was. I always loved English and biology, and soaked in those subjects, as much as what was taught to me. I credit my mother for always fostering my inquisitiveness. She’d send emails to writers she knew wouldn’t respond, when I got interested in biology, my mother bought the book I Am Joe’s Body and stapled the pages I wasn’t allowed to read yet! She even went with me to college open houses when I thought about applying to medical school but before I realized it wouldn’t be a good fit for the lifestyle I wanted. As the oldest of two, my working parents always treated us more like adults, discussing current events at the table, and sharing cultural tidbits. I think that’s where I’ve been lucky. Whether they knew it or not, my parents encouraged me to pursue a career that would fit who I was, even if it was considered ‘out of the box’.”
So, there wasn’t medical school, but there was your passion for pastry. Is this something you wanted to pursue?
“I think I fell into the culinary world accidentally. But, I fell in love with pastry almost immediately after, and enrolled in the Institute for Culinary Education, where I had the opportunity to meet so many different people from every walk of life. It was interesting being exposed to so many new elements after growing up surrounded by people who were essentially all the same as me. After I graduated from ICE, I was hired by Maison Kayser in New York, as an intern. I finished there toward the end of the summer and met my husband simultaneously. I then worked as the head pastry chef at the popular Loft restaurant in Boro Park. Later on, after I left Loft, I switched gears, working at a mortgage company. I needed something normal, just something to get out of the house but I felt stifled there and it just wasn’t me, so I had to regroup. I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do.”
That’s where Valour comes in. Describe this concept that turned from an idea into a full-blown magazine.
“Well, the mortgage job – sitting at a desk for hours every day, gave me cabin fever. I wanted to meet people, and I missed writing. I would flip through mainstream fashion magazines and think about how it was so not relatable for women in general, but more specifically, women who dressed modestly. There were so many ads and little of anything else. I decided that I would create something for our world, for real women, not imaginary ones. A magazine, but also something that would help women unwind after a long week. I may include the couture and designer names, but there’s also Zara and H&M, and there’s women who many already know featured within the publication. You can meet these women, and they aren’t foreign or otherworldly… they’re very much part of the community.”
Most people know that ‘Valour’ is a play on the phrase, ‘woman of valor’. Why is this concept important to you?
“I recently took part in a panel where I was asked what feminism meant to me. When I really thought about it, I thought about the word freedom. I considered the original ‘Eishes Chayil’ (part of the words sung to married women by their spouses every Friday night). I think a woman of valor is really a woman who knows her worth and allows herself to define what that is. I think it’s about proving oneself to your own self and living up to your own expectations, not what you think others expect of you. There’s so much talk about women’s equality, freedom and value but I think the idea that who you are is defined by your gender is preposterous. Who you are cannot be defined by anyone other than yourself.”
Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you questions like, who is the real Gitty? (I might). I will ask you this: Can you tell readers a bit about what your life is like, when you’re not seeking out killer stories?
“I’m just your average neighborhood mom. I have a little girl, and a husband who is my complete support system. I hear this sentiment so often and so it sounds so scripted but it’s the total truth. He helps me with anything and really encourages me to keep going. You know he’s a catch when I’m folding laundry that he washed (laughs). When I’m not working on the magazine, I’m going to Target -I’m always in Target! I’m also always trying something new in the kitchen. One of my favorite things to do is turn the music up and dance around the kitchen with my daughter while we wait for the oven timer to ring.”
Your choice of career is definitely not a typical one, I’m wondering how your family reacted to this publication. Were they supportive of Valour?
“When I first started, I really wanted to keep my identity private. I wanted the magazine to speak for itself, and for people not to create an association of who I am as a person with the content of the magazine. My immediate family is supportive, and they are proud. I think ultimately, my goal is to help give women a voice, and to show them that they don’t necessarily need to be what people expect of them.”
I believe some of the greatest moments take place behind the scenes. Can you describe a bit of the creative process when writing a feature story?
“I was never that girl who created outlines for stories. I come up with my best ideas when I’m about to fall asleep, and I run with them no matter the time of day. When I’m considering someone for a feature story, I try to first figure out if they’re a good fit for the magazine and then for the theme of the upcoming issue. Who is the woman behind the brand? Who are they as a person, and what do they represent? We usually meet in person, and there are conversations about their lives and what molded them into the person sitting across from me. I try to leave the interviews as raw as possible, so readers can really get a sense of who they are. I also know that everyone relates to things differently, so I don’t like to cut out too much.”
Interviewers are always asking questions like, where does your inspiration come from? Or, what drives you? So, I’m thinking I should probably ask you the same question, (in a serious tone of voice). Gitty, where does your creative fuel come from? Where does the fire start?
“(Laughs) Well, I get inspired by things in unexpected places or whatever is right in front of me. I don’t try and come up with something new all the time-just my own take on the world. That helps my process be one of authenticity as opposed to a pressured one. I’ll sometimes think, “That’s it!” and I’ll know right away where my story is. Once I get an idea for something, I just go for it.”
Okay, I need to ask some boring questions too. Here’s a typical question, but I know I’d like to know. What’s your favorite and least favorite parts of the job?
“My least favorite part is definitely the business side of it. Creating a spreadsheet isn’t something I love to do, but it is always necessary. I also think that sometimes this environment that’s been created, where the term “girl boss” and “hustle” are constantly thrown around, can sometimes create cattiness between women, and I don’t like to see women fall into that. It’s something I rally against fiercely and my hope is for Valour to be the catalyst for change in that arena. I believe a lot of it comes from insecurity, and I want to show women that they don’t need followers or likes to determine their confidence. My favorite part is the women I get to meet and connect with. I’ve admired so many, and I enjoy hearing their stories.”
If you weren’t the editor of Valour, what would you be doing?
“I would probably be doing something with home decor/interior design but for the everyday girl. I know how hard it is to be in the “middle-class” where you’re not poor and not rich so you’re just trying to stay above water. So, I would be designing but maybe with things from Home Goods instead of Jonathan Adler. Somewhere deep, I would still have this pipe-dream of writing. So, I guess maybe a combination of those two, but probably home decor.
Before embarking on the magazine, what was your greatest fear?
“Motherhood was and still is my greatest fear and most rewarding accomplishment. My daughter is almost four, busy ruling the world, and I’m still scared every day because I feel it’s huge responsibility to have been entrusted with this amazing, hilarious, beautiful child, and I only want to do my best. Being responsible for her future always scares me. But then there are these heart-melting moments when I get to see the person she’s becoming. The other day she goes “if someone tells me I’m not nice, I’m going to tell me I’m are.” Her simplicity and depth brings me to tears. Then came the magazine, and I wasn’t really afraid. I think it’s always simply about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s funny, when I started the magazine it was such a headfirst thing, there was no space for fear. Now I can tell you what I should have been afraid of, but then, there was no concept of fear!”
What advice would you offer to anyone hoping to start a new business?
“The response you’d expect is ‘go for it!’ If you have any goal in mind, you’re going to encounter negativity on your way, just by virtue of the fact that everyone will always have an opinion. So, of course you always need to just go for it. That being said, passion is not enough for a business to run; it has to make sense. It’s basically about hearing what everyone has to say and choosing the ones to listen to without any ego involved. I’m a very honest and straightforward person, and sometimes that’s been a disservice to me, because I generally assume people are the same way. I’ve learned that very often, people have their own agenda and that may not line up with your best interests. So, at the end of the day, you are out for yourself. Stay true to yourself and remember that you are worthy but, and this is the best bit of business advice I can give, remember that there are people out there that are smarter than you and have ideas you haven’t had. Passion, #girlpower and all those other trigger words are wonderful concepts not to be discounted, but too often we get hung up on those without recognizing reality. Too often we let ego or insecurity get in the way and to me, there’s nothing more confident than a woman who can ask for advice and know which ones to take”
This brings us to a game I like to call eight questions. (Who has time for 72?!)
Let’s play. Eight questions. Short answers only. Go!
What’s one food you can eat every day for the rest of your life?
“Anything with ketchup and cheese melted on it. It’s not two because it’s really its own food group.”
Where’s your favorite place to visit in New York City?
“My favorite place to visit is my couch, but I love to explore the cobblestone streets of the city like Greenwich or TriBeCa.”
Name your favorite season.
“Legging and sweater season.”
I like to read psychological thrillers, among others. What’s your favorite genre?
“Harry Potter is a genre on its own. Aside from that, the thing that decided if I pick up a book is the color of the cover. Anything with a bright pink or yellow cover generally means it pairs well with a blanket and chocolate.”
Who is someone that inspires you?
Again, this is sounding scripted but my daughter. She knows what she wants (apparently superhero capes and colorful tutus are perfectly acceptable grocery shopping attire), and she does not need a reason to be happy, zany and just laugh.
Dressed up or dressed down?
“I always start off dressing up and then it ends in me dressing down.”
What is the last thing you read that moved you?
“It was something I read on a social media post. Abbey Wolin shared it, and it was by a Selene Kinder. It read, ‘I wish more women realized that helping another woman win, cheering her on, praying for her, or sharing a recourse with her, does NOT take away from the blessings coming to them, In fact. The more you give, the more you receive. Empowering women doesn’t come from selfishness but rather from selflessness.
Finally, number eight. What’s a great quote you’d like to share. (People love a good quote).
“It’s an Albert Einstein quote, and it goes like this: ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ I’ve always loved that.”