Interviewed by Leah Vlatko
Freya Bennett is a talented singer-songwriter residing in the artist's playground that is Melbourne. In 2014 she began the Tigress magazine project, a magazine created in response to the overwhelmingly image focused content that saturates most teen girl magazines.
It is evident that strong values shape everything Bennett does. Whether it is creating dreamy melodies, working on a magazine for teenage girls, or speaking out about women's issues in a patriarchal society, her many passions stem from the same love of equality and creativity, a vision for a better future.
The Ink Grid recently had the opportunity to chat with her about feminism, the music industry, and her passion for empowering the next generation of girls.
Leah: Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, and who were your role models and heroes?
Freya: My name is Freya and I grew up in a small town called Castlemaine. My mother was an amazing role model (and still is!) who taught me about feminism, equality and wellbeing. She always taught me things by putting the questions to me so I never felt forced to agree with her beliefs, she was very gentle at teaching me about the important things.
As a kid I had a crazy obsession with Julie Andrews after watching the Sound of Music and I think it was her quirkiness and the fact that she didn’t really fit into the norm expected of her. I also loved the story books Ramona Quimby as I felt so connected to Ramona and her experience of life as a girl growing up.
Tell us a bit about your magazine, Tigress. Who is it targeted at, who contributes, and what inspired you to create something like this?
Tigress magazine is an alternative to the mainstream media aimed at teenage girls. We wanted to create a feminist teen magazine without apology; a place girls would feel strong. My co-director, Sophie and I started Tigress in 2014 because of our experiences growing up with media that made us feel like beauty was our only attribute so our aim was to create a space where girls felt worthy, accepted and empowered. We wanted to have a magazine where teen girls could contribute their thoughts alongside women who have had experience growing up, it’s so important to have a sense of sharing and community because it really helps girls to feel less alone and part of a wider community. We have contributors from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities. We wanted to create a sense of community, support, love and kindness.
What does being a girl/ woman mean to you?
I absolutely LOVE being a woman. I loved being a girl and I love being a woman. I feel like we have such a great bond with other women and are able to express our emotions and create friendships on deeper levels. I often ask this questions to teen girls I interview for Tigress and a lot of them answer that they love the friendships they have with other women.
To me being a woman doesn’t mean one definitive thing. Every woman and girl’s experience is different. But to me being a woman means I can be true to myself, I know my emotions, I know what I need and society often allows women more emotion than men which is a really sad thing for men. I also think being a woman is being strong. Much stronger than the world gives us credit for, we have so much to fight for and so much in our way yet we continue fighting and nothing can stop us. Malala is one of my heroines when it comes to this! She was shot in the head for simply wanting an education but nothing could stop her fighting!
To what extent does feminism inform your world view, and where do you see the most need for it in Australia?
Feminism is the backbone to everything in my world view. I can’t look at anything without looking through the eyes of a feminist. I think it is SO important and that everyone should do the same. We need to break down these issues and really see the injustices that women around the world face. In Australia, sexism can be more subtle to those who don’t open their eyes. But something that is a HUGE problem is domestic violence. Each week a woman is killed at the hands of a man and this to me is the most pressing issue. We need education to start at kindergarten and we need to teach respect, equality and feminism.
As well as creating magazines, you are also an accomplished musician. Who inspires you as a musician, and why?
I always feel so weird when people assume I am an accomplished musician, I very much have imposter syndrome when it comes to music and it’s where I hold my biggest self-doubt! I think it’s because I love music so much, I find it really hard to give myself credit for what I have achieved. I always want to be better. I know this hasn’t answered the question! I just wanted to briefly talk about imposter syndrome as I think many girls and women feel this!
My favourite musicians are always changing and thus my inspiration always changes! I am loving Aurora; and up and coming musician from Norway and also some local girls Gretta Ray and Charm of Finches who have played for Tigress recently! Coldplay will always be my one true love.
Music journalist Jessica Hopper recently asked on twitter “Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t ‘count’?” and was inundated with responses from people of all backgrounds sharing experiences. As a woman working in the creative industry, and specifically in your capacity as a musician, in which ways have you or others around you experienced prejudice, and how would you like to see the industry change?
This is such an important topic to me. I see this all the time and I feel like it’s something most female musicians have experienced at some point in their career. For me it was during university. I studied Jazz at a prestigious uni in Melbourne and I played saxophone. I was CONSTANTLY made to feel like being a girl meant I wasn’t as good. The teaching staff were 100% male and some would completely ignore me, others would be extremely patronising to me. I also suffered from crippling self-doubt and performance anxiety which didn’t help how people viewed me.
I had an experience at uni where a certain boy would constantly flirt with me outside of class; he would tell me how he wanted to marry me one day, how perfect I was, he would try and hold my hand even though I kept telling him I had a boyfriend; but as soon as we were in class playing music he would completely ignore me. It was as if I was nothing. He even went so far as to tell me I wasn’t good enough to play in a band his friend was in, when I offered to play sax if they needed one. I now realise he saw me as a pretty face that was nice to look at but as soon as I was trying to achieve something, I was to be brought down. And for the record, I was good at saxophone. I wasn’t the best, but I certainly played well. Now that I am following the path of a singer/songwriter, I feel so much more comfortable and I think it’s because it’s seen as more of an acceptable place for a woman. And that is a big problem. Women musicians who are trying to achieve something other than the norm of a ‘singer’ definitely have to prove themselves above and beyond what men have to.
Who are your favourite local artists? What have been your experiences with the Melbourne music scene?
My current favourite local artists are the teens I have encountered through Tigress. Charm of Finches, Gretta Ray and Sandy Hsu. They are all amazing songwriters, musicians and performers!
As I said earlier, I get really nervous so I haven’t been immersed in the Melbourne music scene as much as I would like. I am also a huge homebody so going out every night is not for me. What I enjoy the most in Melbourne is that there is always something to see, and the musicians I see (mostly girls and women) are so friendly and approachable! Also if you want to do a gig, it is quite easy to find a venue and put on a show!
What plans do you have for the next year, both for the magazine, your music, and yourself?
SO I have just made my three affirmations for the New Year! For music, I really want to focus on playing every day and playing for myself. I often don’t play and don’t practice for fear that I am not good enough! So this year I am going to play for me! I have a few projects with people I really love and admire and I can’t wait to record more music with them!
In regards to Tigress, we really want to continue having our yearly volumes and I would also love to get more people involved, partner up with like-minded initiatives and spread the word about Tigress far and wide!
And personally, I need to spend less time on my computer and more time focusing on myself and my surroundings! I get easily sucked into the interwebs!!
What do you do to take a break? Who do you spend time with to strengthen you?
I love spending time near the ocean. I really need the time to just immerse myself in the water and look out as far as the eye can see. I honestly feel like the ocean is the place that I can truly let go of my worries and fears! I actually feel like to strengthen myself I need to spend more time with my own self in nature. As an introvert, I get energy from being alone and having time in nature and away from screens. Apart from just being with myself, spending time with my amazing husband always strengthens me. He is so supportive, loving and hilarious. But also we can just spend time doing our own things together.
What advice can you give to young women starting out in the creative industry?
In the words of Shia Lebeouf, ‘JUST DO IT’! Haha! I think there are so many amazing young women out there with great ideas who don’t start them for fear of taking that risk! Also don’t be afraid to fail. Australian culture is very unforgiving of failure and I see this as a real weakness. American’s are very much supportive of failures because without failure, you don’t learn! Take risks, fail, learn, try again! As Thomas Edison said ‘I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’
Where can people go if they want to find out more about the magazine, or purchase a copy?
Everything is on our website:
We love hearing from people so don’t be afraid to send us an email with your thoughts, ideas, concerns!
Choose a song for each category:
Song when you're feeling down: Reign of Love - Coldplay
Sad song: Candles - Daughter
Guilty pleasure: The Climb - Miley Cyrus
Song that makes you dance: Wannabe - The Spice Girls
Karaoke favourite: Dream a Little Dream of Me - Mama Cass
Song to listen to while driving: ANYTHING COLDPLAY!!
Song that brings back childhood memories: Anything 90’s especially Believe - Cher
A song of your own that you have the most fun playing: The Ocean Is My Cathedral