Ramona Magazine is an online publication and creative community based in Melbourne, AUS that celebrates work for and by girls from all over the world. The magazine publishes stories, art, advice and content that aims to leave audiences feeling empowered, accepted and worthy.
We connected with Freya Bennett, the Director and Co-Founder of Ramona, to learn more about this leading and life-changing independent print and digital magazine.
Read our interview with Freya below:
- Why did you and Sophie Pellegrini, Co-Founder and Creative Director, start the magazine?
For me personally, I felt like there was a gap in the magazine market for teenage girls and I wanted to be a part of filling it. As a teen myself, I loved magazines but there was nothing that catered for my interest. I wanted a magazine that contained art, creativity, politics and feminism, that also answered the embarrassing questions I had about sex and puberty. When I was a little girl, my mum subscribed to an empowering feminist magazine for girls up to age 12 called New Moon. This magazine was full of art, politics, math and creativity, with most of the content created by girls themselves. I thought this would be a pretty cool concept, but for teenagers! I then approached some women I knew who might be interested and that’s how Sophie became my co-founder. Sophie made Ramona aesthetically what it is today as well as bringing her own experience and ideas.
- How did the name Ramona come to be? Why is it significant to you and to the brand?
Originally we were called Tigress, but after a year of using this name, we decided that it didn’t suit what our aims were. We wanted a name that girls could relate to. A strong and powerful name that also was every girl. Having a girl’s name instead of an animal made Ramona more of a home where girls could be themselves and relate to who we are and what we are about. Sophie came up with the name Ramona because she knew my favourite book growing up was a book about a creative little girl named Ramona Quimby.
- Did you always know that you wanted to start a publication? Why the focus on for teen girls, by teen girls?
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to start a magazine! My inspiration was New Moon and we based our magazine off that model of content created by the target market. I think the focus on teen girls came from my experience and not finding anything that sparked my interest and creativity. I also wanted girls to feel worthy, and to try and counteract the harmful messages they [often] receive in mainstream media.
- What inspired you, on a personal level, to start this project?
Feeling inadequate after reading magazines was so normal when I was a teenager. I never thought the magazine was the problem, I always thought it was me. As I entered my early 20s, I began to realize how crazy that was. I became so angry that magazines aimed at teen girls would make them feel bad about themselves that I carried a lot of rage around for a while. I finally realized that I could turn that rage into something positive and not only help myself feel better, but help other girls, too!
- Ramona has its third volume out right now. What are some of the themes that our readers can find in this edition? Why are these themes so important for our collective future?
With each issue of Ramona, we make sure to cover a wide range of topics. We have articles on health, body, love, sex, LGBTQIA, life experiences and travel, as well as creative writing and interviews with artists. Hearing other girls’ experiences is so important to help us all feel less alone. As a teen, I often felt like I was the only one feeling a certain way. If Ramona can help girls grow up feeling less alone, then hopefully they can grow into more confident adults, which benefits society as a whole!
- You and your team produce a digital and print version of every volume. What’s the day in your life like during the production of these magazines?
It’s different for everyone on the team and because we are spread out all over the world, I can’t speak for them but for me, it’s busy busy busy!
I usually start the morning working in a café and do a couple of hours of emails with contributors — editing, collecting content etc. I will then go home and have a break for lunch and pretty much do the same in the afternoon. Running a magazine like Ramona involves a lot of emailing and interacting! I really enjoy that part of it. The hard part is reading articles on my computer, as I can get sore eyes!
- With how we consume media turning entirely digital, are there any production skills you had to brush up on or teach yourself in the making of Ramona?
We have a team of amazing women who have skills in all things digital media. I was taught by Sophie how to run our website (she was very patient with me as it took a long time and I made many a mistake! Haha!). I guess for me, the biggest accomplishment to do with digital media is our Instagram. We have a great little community happening there and I have enjoyed seeing that grow. I used to be the sole Instagram person but now we have Tara Presnell (who is amazing), as well as a few awesome takeovers every now and then!
- Visions for projects always change and grow. What was your initial vision for Ramona and how as it evolved and/or shifted?
We have been lucky in that our vision really did come true. I had always wanted to create a print magazine and that’s what we did. As for what the future holds, I don’t know how we will continue our yearly print, as it doesn’t really turn much profit after all the efforts we go to, but we love our online community and have some other plans up our sleeves!
- It’s so trendy right now to talk about how wonderful the creative process is – but the reality is, the creative process can be grueling, exhausting and very frustrating. It’s a subjective journey, with many late nights and fun moments. How would you describe the highs and lows of your creative process?
Definitely gruelling at times! Haha! I think the thing with Ramona is that although it’s an amazing community, it can be lonely because it’s all online. Editing and emailing can be exhausting, especially when there is a timeline [for print production]. I would describe the lows as lonely and the highs as inspiring!
- When you’re in need of a creative refresh and inspiration, where do you go/what do you do?
A few things! Nature and getting away from it all are really refreshing. I think I am a bit addicted to screens, as we all are in this day and age, and especially since I run Ramona,I always want to check emails, check the website, check the Instagram and it becomes a bit too much of a habit to be on my phone constantly! I love getting out of town and going to the beach.
In regards to getting inspiration for Ramona, Pinterest is one of my favourites, as well as Instagram! I love to see the amazing things that artists are out there doing.
- How does Ramona support its contributors from the moment an idea is pitched?
We love to work with our contributors to make their articles the best they can be. We tend to approve a pitch, then get the contributors to write a draft. Then, we will add comments and go back and forth with the author, until we are happy with the final product. We pride ourselves in not turning anyone away, as even the most novice writer has important things to say. We just want to help them say it in a clear and creative way.
- How do you think Ramona is making change and impacting the lives of girls and women everywhere?
By focusing on the positive and sharing experiences! Our aim is to help girls feel comfortable in their own skin. So many magazines aimed at girls and women work off our insecurities, but why on earth would you do that? We aim to make girls feel perfect, exactly the way they are! We also love sharing experiences. When I was a teen, sometimes I felt like the things I was going through were experiences only I was having. As I grew up, I realized so many girls felt the same. By having people share stories of their experiences, we can help others going through the same thing feel less alone.
- What do you think has been the most impactful way to spread news about Ramona and encourage readers and writers to tune in and become part of the community?
Instagram seems to have been the fastest way to get people involved! By having others share about us on social media, we can spread the word far and wide!
- Something we don’t often learn about in school is how to turn an idea into a business. What advice would you give to future/present creatives and entrepreneurs about making this happen?
Hmm, I don’t feel like I am the right person for this as Ramona is still a passion project that doesn’t yet make a profit. However, I feel like the size of our community and the love surrounding us is HUGE and I would just say do it for as long as you love it. I’ve been working on Ramona for nearly five years and while there have been times that are very hard, I still love it to pieces and don’t feel like it’s time is up. Also, [I would advise to] make a really good plan and have structure. That is something I lack.
Thank you Freya for taking the time to chat! We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for you and team Ramona.