Kerry Diamond is one of those women who can do anything she puts her mind to. I have known her for 15 years and been somewhat envious of her career trajectory, because at each, sometimes unexpected, turn—as a beauty director at Harper’s Bazaar, head of P.R for global beauty powerhouse Lancôme, one of Brooklyn’s favorite restaurateurs (along with her boyfriend/chef Rob Newtown), and co-founder of Cherry Bombe a highly popular indie magazine that focuses on women and food, she has had incredible success. Along the way, Kerry has become a women’s advocate who is not afraid to speak her mind. (Hence her T-shirt, designed for this weekend’s Women’s March in Washington, which you can purchase on the Cherry Bombe site.) Whether you side with her politics or not, we can all agree that as women we can and should help each other out. Because most of Kerry’s business is designed to inspire, celebrate and empower other women, I could not be more excited to have her be a part of TFI.
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do: The easy answer, I run a magazine about women and food, and I run restaurants with my boyfriend (Nightingale Nine; Wilma Jean). I’ve had all these different jobs and people are fascinated with my career path, but to me, everything seemed logical. I think I’ve always been relentlessly curious about people. Even when I was young, I started a school newspaper in 3rd grade, because I wanted to write stories about people and things that were going on. In high school, I was excited when I got to be the editor-in-chief of the newspaper. I started a feature, “Super Siblings”, and I did a column on the “It” girl with a different girl every issue, so I was already thinking like a woman’s magazine editor. I’ve always loved the media. Also I guess I have never taken the easy route for anything.
Thinking about your varied career, how do you think the jobs you had before helped you with Cherry Bombe? What made them similar/what made them different? I’ve taken something from every job. I think starting in media so early helped–the high school newspaper, and I interned at the Village Voice for the City Politics desk and got a pretty good education there. Bazaar was one of my more important jobs, not because of what I learned from Glenda [Bailey], but because of Glenda, I really learned to trust my gut. Every time something would go wrong, I knew before it was going to go wrong. I’d be on a photo shoot and think ‘Glenda is not going to like this’ and then sure enough Glenda wouldn’t like it. Or something else would happen and I would think ‘oooh, that’s not going to fly with Glenda’ and sure enough it didn’t fly with Glenda. I learned to trust my gut, because you get that feeling for a reason. Now do I do that every single time? No, but when things go wrong I have learned to speak up and trust what I know deep down.
I credit Women’s Wear Daily with starting my professional life, and for the most part just being wonderful people to work with. I got to meet everyone in the beauty and fashion world there and that was sort of phase one. My experience at Lancôme was sort of phase two. The education I got at Lancôme was like going to business school. I was there for six years and got to interact with everyone from the CEO of L’Oreal Global to the interns. They gave me so much freedom to really change how p.r. had been done. And it was really fun and exciting because blogs were new, social media was new. I almost got fired because I put Lancôme on Facebook. And you think today how was that possible? But luxury brands weren’t engaging on that level. And they really value employee-training programs. I got sent to so many corporate retreats and programs, where you learn things that seem so stupid, you know making a parachute to drop an egg down a staircase, but there was value in all of those things. I just didn’t entirely know it at the time. The rigor and discipline I learned along the way are things I’ve been able take and maybe not necessarily apply them to my businesses, but know I should be applying them to my businesses.
What made you decide to launch Cherry Bombe? When my boyfriend and I opened our first restaurant, it was hard, just brutal. I still had my full time job at Lancôme, and I had no network in the food world. I knew a few people but I didn’t know any other women. All the restaurants in my neighborhood were run by guys, the restauranteurs were guys, the chefs were guys. I thought ‘I know there are women out there, but where are they?’ I really craved a community. I would at home on the weekend in tears because it was so hard. I met up with Claudia because I was interested in doing an annual magazine about our restaurant in lieu of a cookbook. But the more we talked it through…we don’t really even remember the ‘aha’ moment, but the idea just sort of bubbled up and I was craving a community. And I like telling people’s stories, I always have.
The name Cherry Bombe popped up in my head while I was walking—I always get my best ideas when I’m walking. If I can put on a pair of very unfashionable sneakers and walk from one of the city to the other I will.
I’ve never been something that was such a part of the zeitgeist before in my life. It’s very interesting when you get swept up in that. We’re living in a moment of real disruption where every category and field is changing. But you really saw it in food and things really changed for women and food in terms of recognition. But a lot of things haven’t changed. And the deeper I’ve gotten in the industry, I’ve been able to see where change isn’t happening. And I wouldn’t have gotten access or entree to these things had Cherry Bombe not been moderately successful.
Recently I bumped into a girlfriend who’s looking for funding for her business the other day. What she does is amazing, there should be one on every corner. Starbucks should buy it. She is trying to raise money and it’s not easy. We were talking about some guys we know who raised money for mediocre businesses and opened bunches of them. It’s really frustrating. Do we just not know the right people? Are we not aggressive enough?
So you’re starting to answer the question, when is it an advantage to be a woman in your business and when is it not? Women have definitely made gains in the food world in terms of look where we’re sitting [at Dimes on NYC’s Lower East Side]. Alissa and Sabrina have this beautiful little empire–they have three places, and Alissa is balancing motherhood and being a chef, which is really difficult. But they’re kind of finding their own way. But what if they want to take it to the next level? How do you even do that? And I think a lot of guys in the industry have mastered it. It is definitely something down the pike I would like to explore more. It’s really hard to be an entrepreneur, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it is for the ones starting out to try and get to the next level. I have learned so much the hard way, and it was painfully hard.
What came easiest for you when you launched Cherry Bombe and what was the hardest? Magazines and story telling is in my blood so that part was easy. All the pieces fell into place, like a big jigsaw puzzle. It wasn’t super easy, we had full time jobs, and it took a year, but nothing about putting together the first issue was hard. But then everything else was hard. I should have stopped after the first issue!
Three words that describe Cherry Bombe: Women And Food—can that be one word? A lot of people would say women in food but then I have a vision of a woman suspended in Jello or aspic. Cherry Bombe has definitely been disruptive. Another word that comes to mind is delightful. And that word makes me cringe, but I always think when it comes to magazines you need this element of surprise and delight, otherwise what’s going to make you pick up the next issue?
And I worry we aren’t going enough of that. You can get so bogged down with the other things—the logistics, the shipping, the finances. The bigger you get the more it gets you away from being able to fuss over the core product. But we need to always keep that in front in our minds. So disruptive, delightful and women and food.
Three words that describe you: Well I was half an hour late for this interview because I went to the wrong restaurant, so slightly disorganized. Eternally optimistic, but also full of anxiety. So as adjectives I guess optimistic, anxious and occasionally disorganized.
One attribute you have that helps you succeed: My optimism. Definitely. I’m always optimistic, but I also always think the worst is going to happen. Always. It amazes me when you walk down the street everyday that things aren’t exploding, buildings aren’t bursting into flames and comets aren’t landing. Maybe it’s from living in New York, where it’s just chaos all the time. But it’s organized chaos.
Role models: Martha Stewart, Anna Wintour, Glenda [Bailey], people I don’t know like the Vice guys. I’m so intrigued what they’ve built Vice into. So many of the editors–Laura Brown [InStyle], Anne Fulenwider [Marie Claire], Michelle Promaulayko at Cosmo.
I know some women bristle at the term luck, I don’t. I think I have been lucky. I could have been born somewhere where women aren’t valued or don’t go to school or can’t have jobs. But also being exposed to so many A list people. There was a stretch at Lancôme where we only worked with Mario Testino and people like Julia Roberts and Clive Owen and Penelope Cruz. To see people at that level do their day job is such an extraordinary education. It’s also a bit of a curse, because you want to apply that to your indie operation. So it’s very hard for me to do a photo shoot for Cherry Bombe and just sort of phone it in. I know everything can’t be Mario Testino level, but once you’ve seen the best, it’s hard to wing it.
One piece of advice you’d give someone starting out in your field: That has changed. My advice used to be: Don’t chase the money; take jobs that you love and the money will come. In the past few years, being confronted with my financial ignorance and lack of financial education, I think we’ve sold young women a bill of goods by not helping them be smarter about money. I think it’s not until you’re well into your 40s that you wake up to these realities. I’m also so shocked by the ageism and sexism towards middle-age women let alone older women. I think we’re lucky because we grew up in beauty and fashion; I never felt that being a woman held me back in any way, shape or form.
So my advice has changed. It’s still trust your gut but now it’s don’t be stupid about money. I don’t come from money and have been working since I was 13 and have always made my own money. But I’m shocked that kids get out of school with no financial education at all. You graduate from high school not knowing how to balance a checkbook, what a mortgage is, or how the stock market works, but you can do trigomometry.
What motivates you? Curiousity.
What’s next for Cherry Bombe? You have Radio Cherry Bombe. Why did you start that? I had a radio show in college, and like every college radio nerd, you never totally get it out of your blood. There’s something magical and warm about radio that I love. I’m a huge podcast fan. The podcasts are growing faster than the magazine and the numbers just really exploded over the summer. I see comments on Instagram from people in London, Australia; it’s crazy. Our 100th episode is coming up.
And we have a cookbook coming out October 2017. I have much respect for people who do cookbooks because I didn’t realize how hard they are. We asked 100 women in the Cherry Bombe universe to contribute a meaningful recipe–something they always make, or has a special story or was passed down by a family member. It wound up being more emotional than I thought. Food has become so trendy I think you forget how deep-down emotional food is. It’s tied to so many things–self-worth, self-image, family. Working on this book reminded me of that.
Why do you Cherry Bombe, and niche magazines in general, have become so popular? That’s a great question. I think the world is going in two directions, it’s either super mass or super niche and I think the Internet has allowed that to happen. We always had niche pursuits, but you were never able to indulge in niche pursuits the way you can today.
I think there’s also a human desire to have things in print, whether it’s books or posters, or magazines. I think there will probably be fewer magazines and books printed, but I don’t think the magic and power of the printed word will ever go away.
Life goals: To be able to travel a lot and not be a poor old lady. They live really long in my family so I need to prepare for that.
Daily goals: To get out of bed. I hate to get out of bed in the morning.
Inspirational read: Every few years I reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Daily rituals: I hate rituals. I hate how much of life is like–you know that movie Groundhog Day…you have to get up at the same time, you have to brush your teeth, you have to take a shower, get on the subway, go back home again. I’ve always fought against those things, even as a kid. I hate to go to bed.
How do you unplug? I adopted this adorable little rescue cat named Dusty. She’s definitely forced me to relax and stop and play with her. She’s like a little puppy, she’s not a cat.
Hidden talent/hobby: I don’t have any hobbies besides walking and reading. I used to have to write obituaries at my first grown-up newspaper job and one of the questions was ‘what was one of your loved one’s hobbies’ and the people would say walking and reading. And I would think ‘those aren’t hobbies!’ Now I’m saying the same thing.
Do you collect anything: Books. I worked in bookstores in high school and college and I find it very comforting to be surrounded by books. I walked into The Strand the other day to do an event with Padma Lashkmi and it smelled like a bookstore should smell and it made me so happy.
Coffee/tea: I like a cortado from my coffee shop, but I also like Yogi Green tea.
Truth/Dare. I don’t know—a little of both?
Heels/Flats. Flats, I stopped wearing heels all together.
Pastels/Primaries: Pastels in my heart, primaries in my brain and my wardrobe.
Manet/Mondrian. Mondrian. Manet I like to see in a museum, but I am always seeking order in my life and Mondrian’s paintings represent that.
Cats/Dogs: Cats. I mean if I didn’t live in New York City I’d probably have lots of both, but for now cats.
Follow Kerry: Instagram.
Follow Cherry Bombe: Instagram.