Florence Gagnon; Montreal; @lezspreadtheword
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I produce and create original content for queer women—everything from a website and a web series to a print magazine to a beer to monthly parties.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I finished up my undergrad at Concordia University in Montreal in 2011. I have a bachelor of fine arts in photography.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I got a job with Publicité Sauvage, a company that does guerrilla marketing, primarily through postering. I was in charge of selling advertising campaigns to cultural organizations and entertainment companies.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I landed my big break by creating it. In 2012, we launched our site, lezspreadtheword.com, and started organizing events and parties. Nothing quite like LSTW had ever existed in Quebec. Girls were really excited. That felt great, so we decided to push things further with more projects.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
It happened in early 2014, at the launch of our webseries, Féminin/Féminin. More than 500 people were packed into a Montreal bar for the premiere of the first episode. When the screening ended, people screamed and hollered (joyfully!), so much so that the floors shook. I remember seeing the looks on the faces of the cast and crew: they were so emotional. Many of them aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community but they felt a sense of belonging in that moment, a feeling that they were helping our cause. That’s when I knew we’d reached a turning point.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Despite our success, we struggled to get a second season of Féminin/Féminin off the ground. We were approached by a network to develop a format for television and accepted right away. We wanted to keep things rolling because the public and critical response was so positive, but financing a project for television and dealing with a network is much more complicated than we thought. We were used to producing everything ourselves. It took us three years but we’re finally back. We’re shooting the second season this summer for web platforms in Quebec and France. And we’ve gotten wiser over time: we’re formatting the series so that it can be easily broadcast on television.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Surround yourself with the best. People who believe in what you do, of course, but who are also kicking ass in their respective fields.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Just go ahead and launch the project already, even if it’s not perfect.”
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I still do, almost every day. In many LGBTQ+ communities, and even more so on boards or at the executive level, misogyny is a problem. It’s something that we at LSTW are trying to actively combat through our initiatives.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Not yet, but I’m getting there. At this point in time, LSTW is always reinvesting its profits in order to grow and further push back against queer invisibility. That’s the focus. Thankfully, I am surrounded by a number of people who believe in what I do and who offer their time and services pro bono. That helps me to keep my head above water, financially.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we think we deserve to have everything but aren’t willing to work for it. I’m surrounded by peers who are tireless and passionate—often because they see their job as so much more than a gig.