Linda Grasso is one of those people I must have known in a former life. We met just a few years ago but talking with Linda for the first time was like lolling on a back porch with your best friend and next- door neighbor. Linda has an impressive resume as a journalist. She recently founded the podcast SheSez in response to the challenges she encountered when making changes in her career. She has hosted a long list of really inspiring women from Alli Webb, founder of The Drybar to yours truly. Make sure to download her podcast here.
Give us an overview of your career.
I’m a veteran journalist who has worked in every medium. I started out as a news reporter/anchor in several markets including NYC and LA, moved into being an entertainment correspondent/host for E!, then became a magazine editor and creator/host of a podcast.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I’m currently Editor-in-Chief of Ventura Blvd, which I helped launch at The Golden State Company in 2011. Available both in print and digitally, the high-end magazine covers lifestyle in the San Fernando Valley.
But my real passion is my podcast. In 2017, I kicked off the SheSez with Linda Grasso podcast, in which I interview forward-thinking women who are breaking barriers, defying odds and achieving success on their own terms. The common denominator is not success. All of my guests have super compelling stories that demonstrate the power of one. Each Tuesday, I really try to peel back the layers and get inside the guest’s head. I’m always thinking: what can we can learn from this guest and possibly steal to use in our own life?
You’re a journalist who’s worked in everything. Which medium was your favorite?
The medium does not matter: I love interviewing people and truly connecting. I’m a super curious person and so, for me, there’s nothing like being able to ask someone I find interesting pretty much anything. I feel challenged and excited. And when I’m able to extract something compelling or unique or revealing, it is really gratifying.
You were an on-camera correspondent for E! Networks for several years. Any good gossip you can share with us? Is it as glamorous of a job as you expected?
It didn’t seem terribly glamorous at the time but looking back I’d have to say it was. I had young kids at the time so I literally never had a minute to myself – I was always on the move at work and at home. I was the girl with the toilet paper trailing from her foot!
I was a correspondent on E! News for seven years—what they called a “day of air reporter.” Every morning they’d give me an assignment (it was often the “water cooler” story of the day, i.e. whatever people were talking about) and then I’d head out and do the interviews, run back to the studio, listen to the tape, write a two minute package and then sit in on an edit session for the package. Often times I’d join the anchors on set to introduce it which meant a crazy fast hair/makeup session by two incredible professionals. Then, once the show was over, I’d jump in the car and speed home to be with two rambunctious, young boys. That was pretty much every day for more than 7 years.
When you took time off to be at home and raise your kids, you had a hard time getting back into the workforce. What do we as a society need to do to provide opportunities to women in the same position?
I left E! because I wanted to spend more time with my boys. Then after 3 or so years, I wanted to dip my toes back in a bit. The kids had gotten a bit older and were leaving for school at 7:30am and with sports they weren’t getting home until 6pm. My husband has never gotten home from work before 7:30pm and it suddenly occurred to me that everyone had a mission but me. I knew I needed to start crafting a life for myself and planning for when the kids left for college. But potential employers just made me feel irrelevant and outdated. I was in my early 40s and I felt better than I ever had: smarter, more well rounded, and confident of my abilities. I let the rejection take the wind out of my sails. I would never do that today. Now I’m like go ahead, tell me no. Bring it on. “No” is my starting point. I have learned that “no” is the gateway to “yes.”
Point of fact: when women take time to be a stay-at-home moms and then they try and get back into the work force, they are viewed as having little value. It is utterly ridiculous. We need to give these women chances, invest in them and understand that the chaos that most stay-at-home moms deal with in a single day would bring most seasoned executives to their knees.
When did you get the idea for SheSez? How did you start podcasting?
With my magazine job, I do all my editing in the morning and I typically have the CBS Morning News with Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King on in the background. I just kept thinking every morning: I miss that. I used to do that. I can still do that! How can I possibly start using my interview skills again and tell stories that I find interesting. I essentially greenlit myself. It was terribly empowering. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t sitting across the desk asking a man for permission to do something professionally, seeking approval or permission. I just went for it and did it—as I saw fit.
Where do you see SheSez in five years?
I’d love be still doing the podcast and sharing some of the amazing stories about my guests on a TV show like Hoda & Jenna or Ellen or some female-centric platform. I’d like to be known as a correspondent who finds amazing, inspiring stories about women for women. There is so much we can learn from one another; story telling is a powerful tool.
How has your style changed as you’ve gotten older (for example, that super chic haircut)?
I never really had any real sense of style until I was in my forties. When I was in my 20’s I tried to dress the part of newscaster from what I saw on TV. In my 30s I had a stylist from E! and it was their whim. When I left E, I had more time and I was able to develop my own sense of style. You will rarely find me at Barney’s or on Net-a-Porter. Occasionally I’ll shell out on a killer non-trendy item. For example, I love Aquazzura shoes and I’ll wear them until they fall apart. I have a metallic Stella McCartney racer back tank that I bought 10 years ago and still wear. I also never seem to tire of my Alice & Olivia embroidered and lace dresses. But in most cases, particularly with daywear, after 3 or 4 seasons I’m really sick of something and gravitate toward other pieces. I bought a blouse at Zara last year for $40 and I’ve never had so many compliments. There’s a message in there and I’ve learned to hear it.
About six months ago I decided to cut my bob off. It was time for a change and I felt like I was hiding behind all my hair. I was terrified but also kind of turned on. Cutting off my decades old bob? Holy cow! I could hate this! But I just went for it and I love it. For me, the change to short was empowering. I don’t need long hair anymore to feel beautiful or young. The short hair feels sassy and bold, and it says, “This is me, TODAY.”
Culturally, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging?
Acceptance is a big part of it. If you accept that you are going to get older then you can really deal with it—and then we can begin to change the conversation. When everyone is in denial, it is hard to effect change.
My mom, a great beauty who was told she looked like Raquel Welch when younger, advised me when I turned forty to stop looking in the mirror. She was essentially saying don’t obsess over your looks anymore. And I’ve tried to do that. I try and look as good as I can for a woman smack dab in middle age and that’s it. That’s good enough.
The sad part about aging deals with the fact that many women feel that the possibilities stop in middle age. That is truly sad. But we have to work to change that— individually and as a society. People are living now into their 90s and there should be ample possibilities in the second half of life. Don’t get deflated. Step over the no’s. Keep going. Perhaps recalibrate from time to time but ultimately carry on with your hopes, dreams and aspirations. You only need one “yes.” That is all it takes.
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
I read an op ed piece in the New York Times by Dr. Jen Gunter on vaginas—of all things—that I found funny and really spot on. She’s the OB GYN who has taken on Gwyneth Paltrow/Goop for things like encouraging women to use jade eggs.
Do you have any family traditions?
My husband’s family has a beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware. It was originally owned by his grandfather. Every summer we go there with our boys and his five sisters are all there with their kids and husbands. We pack into one big house with only 3 bathrooms and it is hilarious (and sometimes disgusting). We call it “Camp Chaos.”
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Emma Stone – We don’t look alike; I just like her.
What’s the last thing you bought online?
A pair of silver and gold Aquazzura sandals—on sale, of course.
What would you put on your menopause registry?
The Minivelle patch.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Powerful but non-toxic ingredients; no expiration date.