Ilana & Erica: "Be yourself because no one does that better than you"
Issue XIV Empowering Artist.
Written Interview by Akshita Singh & Harveer Gill
Ilana Harkavy started her career as a recording artist and songwriter in Los Angeles. She led an exciting life in electronic dance music and created songs that were featured on ABC, Disney, HBO, and more. As her career skyrocketed, she began to feel truly dissatisfied with the life of a solo recording artist. Music had always been an outlet for her to express her emotions and frustrations, but as more people began to take notice of her talent, the control she had over her art was systematically being taken away from her. After leaving the recording industry, Ilana quickly became the CEO of a successful marketing agency, using her position to identify and mentor blossoming artists and entrepreneurs whose talent she believes in and whose messages need to be shared with the world.
Erica Lewis is an illustrator and designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been fascinated with drawing ever since she got a “how to draw people” book for her 13th birthday. She loves creating work for social media, illustrating cute prints & patterns, and making things with upbeat and positive messages. She recently illustrated The Just Girl Project’s Book of Self Care, written by Ilana Harkavy as well as 2 more upcoming Just Girl Project books.
Firstly, what do your work and roles with “the just girl project” entail? Could you give us an overview of this unique venture?
Ilana: I am the founder of JPG. I run day-to-day operations, creative, and get to work with Erica on illustration concepts *which is the best part of my job*!
Erica: I work with Ilana on illustrations for social media, merch, and we collaborated on 3 books!
Could you tell us the backstory behind this initiative? What urged you to conjure up something so unique?
Ilana: I was a musician in the industry who decided to go my own direction so I turned to crowdfunding and launched a plan to start a movement to compliment my work. With a strong passion for girl culture, I knew I wanted to create an honest body of work expressing the struggles I faced and continue to face in becoming a strong woman. The issues JPG addresses include body image, mental health, relationships, and acceptance. So many girls can relate to this journey and I wanted a vehicle to speak to them. So I started something I could stand by. Since my background is in social media, it felt like a natural fit to begin with Instagram.
What is the ultimate goal that you'd like to achieve by doing this work?
Ilana: We want JPG to be a successful girl power magazine. I think this concept of girl power has been lost a bit -- girls find themselves in competition with one another online, comparing & drowning themselves in insecurities based on often distorted views of other people’s lives. We want JGP to be an honest space for us all to come together and express ourselves, embrace our struggles, and honour one another's' differences and opinions, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.
Erica: I hope our drawings can offer helpful info, inspire others, and make people feel less alone in their experiences. I love that the just girl project instagram can be a space where people from all over can comment and share their feelings knowing they’ll be supported and heard!
Your book, ‘ The Just Girl Project Book of Self-Care’ is an exceptional product, how do you hope this will impact your consumers?
Ilana: Thank you! We had a lot of fun making it. We hope they can pick this book up daily and open to a page that can inspire them. It’s easy and fun, plus it’s cute on a coffee table. We also have two more books coming out this year. One is a self-care journal and one is an astrology book!
Erica: I hope they use it as a little book of tips and ideas to keep coming back to, and can relate it to their own experiences.
Alongside your book and instagram page, you are also running a podcast and a blog! What has been your experience and perception of the different platforms? How do you manage juggling all of them?
Ilana: Yes! The podcast is my new favorite thing in the world. I get to do it with my best friend. The blog is something we want to expand into an online magazine and we’re working hard to do that. We have a lot of avenues at JPG. We have a newsletter, blog, social presence, books, and a podcast--since our background is in marketing *I run a social media company full-time*, it’s a natural fit for our team to manage so many different platforms. We like the hustle and bustle of it! The idea is to create a surround sound effect so we can hit all the notes we can.
How do you think of ways to inculcate societal issues, feminism, postmodernism and various other beliefs and forms of activism in your art and the media you publish?
Ilana: I love working with our team, *especially Erica*, to create fun ways to articulate our opinions. Sometimes we have ideas off the tops of our heads and sometimes we ruminate and discuss. I’m blessed with a very clever partner in Erica, who always thinks outside the box and embraces art in such a way that I don’t have to always come up with any ideas at all. Our view of activism is inclusivity, expression, and of course, embracing any and all differences of opinions. But in the end, girl power is the fundamental building block of our brand, so we make sure that’s known on our platform.
Erica: Ilana usually sends me ideas and we collaborate on them and research how to talk about them. Sometimes we get ideas from friends or conversations we have, or just things that we think should be talked about more.
Why have you chosen this career path? How can we encourage more youth to participate in important causes like this?
Ilana: I’m a big sister and that’s always been a very fulfilling job for me. Personally, I find immense joy in listening to other girls. I love learning about their hopes, dreams, struggles, and opinions. I think a lot of people these days want the world to be a place where they can feel safe to be themselves so I wanted to create a space for that. JGP is a diary, so we like talking about topics that people experience on their own in their personal space, so I’m excited we can do that in such a fun and creative way.
Top 3 pieces of advice or quotes you love?
E:rica: Very cliche but just be yourself. It’s so exhausting and stressful trying to be like someone else or act the way you think you’re supposed to act. Finding the right friends and people who will appreciate you for who you are is so important too!
Ilana: 1. Agree with Erica: Be yourself because no one does that better than you. 2. Spend time by yourself -- once you enjoy that, you’ll be a much happier person and not have to solely rely on others for your happiness. 3. Work smart. A lot of young people tell me how hard they work and that is never a question! But work life balance is SO important and that means finding smarter, more efficient ways to work that won’t drown your spirit.
How do you guys help each other in your line of work? What is it like working with each other?
Ilana: Erica is my artistic soulmate. She’s going to roll her eyes when she reads that lol but I ALWAYS wanted to be an artist and visual arts have always been a passion of mine. I get to express myself through Erica and it’s the coolest experience. I feel so blessed to have connected with her. We have really good communication and work to support one another, and that’s important to me.
Erica: I love working with Ilana so much! She has helped me so much and taught me so much about social media and collaboration. She gives me really great feedback and advice, and the most amazing opportunities to share my work and grow as an artist.
RAPID FIRE ROUND WITH ILANA HARKAVY & ERICA LEWIS
Describe each other in one word
The song I have on repeat these days
Ilana: 3D Feelings - Alfie Templeman
Erica: Pink light - MUNA
One thing I cannot live without
Ilana: My dogs
Ilana: New Zealand
Erica: Cinque Terre
Ilana: Taylor Swift
Erica: MTA (NYC Subway Art)
What would you say is the most important thing to remember in order to succeed when working with a partner?
Ilana: Direct communication at all times, and you must learn to listen and hear them!
Erica: Communication, trust, and sharing your ideas even when they feel dumb or unfinished!
Last question, what would you tell your 10 year old self looking at where you are now? What do you think they would say back to you?
Ilana: Don’t be upset if things don’t work out as planned. Life is going to throw you curveballs and you need to lean in and embrace them. She would probably tell me I’m wrong and she’s going to be a famous singer--that’s ok, she was quite stubborn and I loved her for that.
Erica: Follow your passions and don’t give up when things don’t go as planned. And I think my 10 year old self would be excited and want to get to work, haha. I was so obsessed with drawing and painting and took it so seriously back then!