My Life is Just Starting at 40, and I’m Bringing the Heat

Jump! Take the leap. Heroine Sport Bra; Koral Activewear Leggings. Photo by Jason Riker

Last January I quit my job at Twitter.

It felt like a crazy, reckless move to leave one of the best companies in the world, but I needed a change. I was burned-out and down, and I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by staying put.

Since I was a little girl playing shop with my Barbie dolls, I’ve dreamed of working for myself and building my own business.

Instead of being the shopper, I was the shopkeeper, trying to upsell my customers hot-pink opera gloves that would perfectly match their faux fur capes.

And here I was faced with the biggest opportunity of my life: open a photography studio in New York City with my husband Jason Riker, a photographer who’s been working at his dream of shooting fashion for 25 years.

So I sold all of my Twitter stock options, and put my life savings toward this pipe dream because I believed in Jason’s talent and my business acumen, and in April we opened up Riker Studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and we made it into the perfect expression of us and what we’re about as people and artists: honesty, safety, love, creativity.

Our studio sanctuary at Riker Studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

This process has not been easy, and I’ll tell you what: if you say you’re starting any sort of creative business start-up, the reaction of most people will be the following:

“Why would you open a photo studio? Every photographer I know is closing theirs.”
“You won’t make any money. You’ll be broke in 9 months.”
“You can’t make money from photography anymore.”

It’s funny how 20-something bros with shitty new apps and spreadsheets have VCs falling over themselves with funding, but if you’re a 40-year-old woman with 15 years of experience at the best technology companies in the world and say you’re starting a creative start-up, you’re thrown skepticism and unsolicited advice from almost all channels.

Punch harder. Photo: Jason Riker

Never mind that “content” or as I’d rather start calling it again, art, is the raison d’etre of the internet. If it weren’t for creative people making all of this free stuff, there would be nothing to watch, read, or think about.

This current trajectory that we’re on, where artists are expected to give away their work for free is broken.

I totally agree with everything that Kanye West has been tweeting about lately.

Dedicated and talented artists need to be able to make a decent living from their intellectual property — e.g. music, photography, writing, illustration, acting. Why should the distribution channels (Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Apple Music, Medium) get rich while the artists are given pennies (or nothing!) for their work?

But I digress. I’m turning 40-years-old on Sunday.

This year scared the shit out of me. If you’d like the shit scared out of you too, I’d recommend trying to start a creative business in New York City, worrying about where your new clients will come from.

It’s all in the wrist and rhythm. Heroine Sport Bra; Koral Activewear leggings. Photo: Jason Riker

But I came out the other side of this intense fear, and I was able to heal myself and all of the old wounds of childhood (bullying, criticism, gas-lighting, body-shaming), and I’m unafraid now.

I know the measure of my powers, and I’m eager to add to the image of women in media and technology with my own brand of Ginger-ness.

To celebrate this new-found confidence, Jason and I shot these photos in the studio on Valentine’s Day 2016 while listening to Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Lizzo’s Big Grrrl Small World while I did my dance and cardio and kickboxing routine I’ve been doing for the past three months.

I’m in the best shape of my life at 40, and I hope I can inspire other women and men who think that they’ve missed the boat, that it’s too late to dream and become someone they’ve always wanted to be.

Just dance. Koral Activewear Progression Bra + Ringer Leggings. Photo: Jason Riker

The studio might fail, and maybe the critics will be right, but it’s presumptuous to think we can predict the future.

I’m just going to keep dancing and see what happens.