I met Christene Barberich many years ago through a mutual friend. She is a powerhouse whose intelligence, conviction and creativity shine through in everything she does. It is no surprise that she was one of the founders of Refinery29, the leading global media company focused on young women. The last couple of years have been banner ones, in that Christene gave birth to her beautiful baby girl and sold Refinery29 to Vice Media. She graciously allowed me to dive a little deeper into what makes her tick and what the future may hold.
You have had such a long and varied career, what was the most pivotal moment/moments for you?
I honestly think the big turning point for me professionally was when I left Gourmet magazine and big corporate publishing to start a small design magazine called CITY. This was in the late 90s, and it wasn’t about money or fame or anything like that. It was about independence—I desperately needed freedom to create something I felt was a real reflection of my interests and I wanted to see if I could do it—create a magazine and build it without a lot of restrictions. Jumping off that cliff was the start of who I really am today…creatively, I came alive when I helped start that magazine.
Do you have or did you ever have a mentor? What is the best piece of advice you received from this person?
I’m always seeking out guidance from or even just observing anyone who seems to be further along the path, whether that’s professionally, spiritually, physically, etc. And I’m grateful to people like John McDonald who hired me at CITY and Brandusa Niro the founder of The Daily, both people who gave me the space I was desperate for to take creative risks and push the medium in new ways. And really just build my confidence as a leader and someone with a vision. Today, I seek advice and support from women all around me—Norma Kamali is someone I consult with for pretty much everything; Jessica Romm Perez and Kate Berry from Domino magazine have become important creative confidants and women I look up to; and certainly my team at Refinery29, Piera, Amy, Julie, Rebecca and all our editors are always challenging me to think differently and stay curious about what important things we can do with the platform we’re building.
As a pioneer in the digital editorial space, what advice do have for success?
Be a good listener. We listen closely to our audience, about what they like, what makes them angry, what they think is missing. And I think that’s a critical part of adapting and not getting too stuck in your own (occasionally) solipsistic viewpoints.
As a new mom, how do you stay balanced?
I believe “balance” ebbs and flows like everything. Some days are insane and you feel like you’re trapped in a wind tunnel and others are mellower and you have a moment to breathe. I just try to frequently listen to my kid and my body so I’m tuning in to what we both need, whether that’s a nap or a pizza.
What is your definition of beauty?
Anything that makes me sigh with pleasure or awe and cranks my heart open just a little bit more.
What are 3 beauty products/treatments that you think really make a difference?
Oh, exfoliation is the key…exfoliate your face, exfoliate your life!…think of how good you feel when you let go of anything that’s weighing you down, dead skin included. And, of course, a good facial from the master JC is a must.
With the recent sale of Refinery29, what is next for you?
More focus, more connection with our audience through every platform and storytelling vehicle we have…2020 is a huge year for everyone and we plan on making the biggest impact we can.
Tell me a secret.
I’d like to live abroad for a year. Not sure where, but I know my daughter is destined to be a citizen of the world.:)