The Renaissance Woman
Words by Emily Sims
Images by Jesse Lynch
Renaissance Woman is not a term that should be handed out to just anyone. Though writer/journalist, model, singer, musician- Abby Ashbacher absolutely warrants such a title. I’m sitting in Spyhouse in North East Minneapolis, running through possible questions in my head and furiously consuming iced coffee trying to calm my pre-interview nerves. Though I have never personally met Abby, I have seen her face grace the likes of the PARC Boutique website, cover of Tapestry Magazine and countless other Instagram feeds. I must admit I am slightly (most certainly) intimidated by her credentials.
When Abby walks in I am immediately struck by the gorgeous fiery red hair, contagious smile, and a stunning graphic flowing dress. After we make our introductions (as well as laments over rush hour traffic and the unruly summer humidity) we get to talking about our childhoods. Instantly I am relieved bonding over thrift shopping and being theater nerds in school.
“When I was in 3rd grade, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to be the editor of Vogue,” Abby laughs after taking a sip of her Iced Chai, “By 4th grade, I was posting my own little news articles above the water fountain in class. One of them brought light to the alleged sexism involved in the latest kickball game over recess...I guess I've always been a feminist.”
Years later while interning for Rochester magazine, Abby began writing a piece about vintage/recycled fashion. An editor for the magazine convinced Abby that she should model the outfits she had styled for the shoot. An image from the shoot was featured on the cover and caught the attention of a modeling agent in Minneapolis. Though the response was unexpected.
“It took me a long time to embrace modeling as a career,” Abby admits, “Being raised so academically focused there was a lot of pressure on grades and getting a full ride scholarship. I’m thankful for that, it instilled work ethic in me, but I was a bit ignorant to the modeling industry. I thought it was somewhat vain and not a ‘real job’. I had some offers when I moved to Chicago, and it took me 6 months of working another job to say, why not?”
Taking that leap not only paid off financially, but allowed her to meet many other creatives in the community, travel and give her a new form of artistic expression.
“I have finally started to tell people that yes I’m a writer, but I also model,” says Abby, “Whereas I wouldn’t have even dreamed about that in high school. I was a nerd; I was incredibly goal and career driven. Though life just never works out how you think it will.”
My thought exactly.
While modeling is still something Abby enjoys doing from time to time, her focus is a new project, being a Junior Editor for Tapestry Magazine. Besides that, she is a devoted wife, advocate for human rights, equality and feminism.
Emily: Let’s talk feminism. Why is being a feminist important to you?
Abby: A lot of people are still intimidated or even offended by the word "feminist," when it essentially means anyone who believes in the equal rights of all humans. Everyone should be a feminist, now more than ever. I feel this nationwide "girl power" movement that has been erupting over the past 8 months and, even though I know we have a long way to go, it gives me hope in this fight for our future.
Emily: Who are some feminist icons you look up to?
Abby: I've never looked up to celebrities, but I look up to my single mom every single day. She raised me to be independent and to know myself without a man, which affirmed my belief that you need to be whole and happy on your own before you can make someone else happy. I'm now happily married to the kindest, most respectful guy I've ever met (and he's a feminist, too.)
Emily: When you feel the dreaded creative writer’s block, do you have a routine of getting unstuck? How do you say "refill your creative well"?
Abby: Every day brings a different schedule for me, but when I write from home I'll either escape to the kitchen and make French press or Chemex coffee - which literally fills me - while doing yoga or playing guitar fills my soul. Forcing myself to get up from the computer, slow the mind and focus on even the simplest of tasks can help recharge creativity energy.
Emily: What is your favorite piece you have ever written? Did you learn anything about yourself from the experience?
Abby: I got the chance to interview a German engineer at Mayo Clinic. He had built an environmentally-friendly home entirely free from fossil fuels. It opened my eyes to how far behind the U.S. is when it comes to energy efficiency in our daily lives and since then has made me conscious of my own footprint and impact on this planet.
Emily: What/who inspires you to create?
Abby: Colorful food. Iris Apfel. Magazines. Modern architecture. Solange. Sunshine. Travel! The desire to grow. My Nana.
Emily: Do you ever think about leaving Minnesota?
Abby: I was born and raised in southern Minnesota and am proud of my beautiful state. The Twin Cities have been such a supportive and artistic environment, but I tend to get a little stir crazy when I'm in the same place for too long. I used to dream of moving to New York and I lived in Chicago for a couple years, but I feel called to the warm west coast as of late. We're road tripping out to California, Portland and Seattle this summer to explore and get inspired.
Emily: What are some current projects that you have in the works?
Abby: I know this may sound cheesy, but I'm currently working on myself. I'm being more mindful of what I fuel my body with (e.g. more greens and less sugar) doing more yoga (I'd love to try and teach a class someday) and refreshing my portfolio this season. Gotta feel good to do good!