Musician, writer, creator and wahine toa (warrior woman) Lizzie Marvelly is truly a woman on a mission to empower women. Discovered for her incredible voice in her teens by her famous uncle Sir Howard Morrison and Frankie Stevens, she has been described as a “true songbird” and a “national treasure”. She’s had two international signings, hit records, tours in Europe, Asia and Australia and co-wrote a song with P-Money - and that’s just the musician side of Lizzie.
The writer and creator sides are just as astounding and act as a vehicle for Lizzie’s passion for women’s equality and empowerment. Her onine media project Villainesse.com gave birth to the globally successful #mybodymyterms project, a global campaign to spark conversation about sexual violence, victim-blaming, revenge porn and consent. Villainesse.com has also been the springboard for her many ongoing projects including her weekly column for the New Zealand Herald, Wāhine Kākano – The New Zealand Young Women's Festival, a free event for young women aged 16-22, as well as her debut book, That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa.
In November this year, a documentary she co-produced about Māori women’s suffrage debuted on Māori Television. Meanwhile, she has Harry Potter on lock-down for the holidays and it was an absolute geek-fest when we got chatting about our shared love for J.K. Rowling’s gift to the world of reading.
WT: How do you describe yourself when people ask you what you do for a living?
LM: I say I’m a miscellaneous creative person who does far too many things to describe in one sentence – it’s like, musician, creative, writer - too many slashes. It’s a real joy doing what I do, it’s just hard to describe.
WT: When you have an important meeting or event, what do you do to prepare beforehand? Do you have any tips on what makes you feel strong and ready to nail it?
LM: Before a meeting I get to know all the basics: the names of the people I’m meeting with, I read through all the correspondence or discussions that have preceded the meeting and try to find any fishhooks that might emerge. It’s basically strategic. There’s nothing worse than being unprepared and then being blindsided by something. Obviously, you can’t prepare for every scenario, but my tip would be to go overboard with preparation because knowledge is power. If you know all the relevant details, you will feel strong and confident.
WT: What woman or women, past or present, most inspires you and why?
LM: Helen Clark. She was Prime Minister when I was a teenager and just demonstrated to me that girls can do anything. She always seemed like the smartest person in the room. I have been lucky enough to have the chance to speak to her on a few occasions now and she definitely is the smartest person in the room! Also, she never apologized for that, or for her assertiveness and confidence. It’s almost like women are expected to be less, especially less assertive, but Helen Clark refused to conform. I’m just so grateful to have had such an inspiring role model in my formative years.
WT: What’s something really brave you have done that in hindsight you can’t believe you did but are really glad you did?
LM: Starting Villainesse at age 25. I took a stab in the dark. I’d never run a media company before, I just did it. It was sort of a do first, think later kind of thing – although I did have a 20-page business plan. It was bold. I didn’t realise how bold until later.
Everything I’m doing now though is a result of that decision. I’m able to do so many things that I love, like hosting young writers and helping them develop their craft and their portfolios. The column I write for the Herald came from that, and writing my book. Everything except for music, which is a whole different world, came from taking that leap with Villainesse. It all sort of opened up after the #MyBodyMyTerms campaign which was an idea that just came to me in the shower. That gave us the visibility and credibility we needed to expand into other things. Now we’ve got the Wāhine Kākano – New Zealand Young Women’s Festivals happening as well.
I would encourage more women to take leaps, but in a calculated way. It’s good to also be flexible and to go with your gut down a path that feels right. If it feels like you’re going against the grain, then it might not be the right path. For me, I always test things against my mission statement, which is about empowering women. If it doesn’t match up with that, then it’s not where I go.
WT: What is your favourite or last book you read?
LM: It’s going to sound funny but the book I’m currently reading is Harry Potter. Every Christmas I read the whole series again, all seven books, starting in September. I was always a voracious reader and I think I first starting reading Harry Potter when I was eight and just fell in love. As a child, I was mesmerized by the whole Harry Potter world, but Hermione, like Helen Clark, was always the smartest person in the room! She was the smartest kid in school and also unapologetic, bossy, brash and blunt! I loved her and she was another really powerful role model for me and so many other young girls.
As an adult, I love reading the series through a different lens and it’s quite interesting to see the similarities in politics in the world of Harry Potter and with what’s happening now in real life. Especially in the last four books where Minister Fudge censors the media, not to mention the correlations between Voldemort and the other “He Who Shall Not Be Named” in America. Then there’s the whole theme of good vs evil and that human beings are flawed, but we can overcome and be better.
JK Rowling did something extraordinary by igniting a flame for not only reading, but for justice. Developing a love for reading is such a valuable thing to have, especially at a young age, because it opens your mind to so many other perspectives.
Wilson Trollope is all about inspiring women to be their confident selves. Each month we are interviewing confident women to share their stories as inspiration to us all.
Lizzie Marvelly (Ngāti Whakaue) is a musician, columnist, producer and activist, originally from Rotorua, New Zealand. In May 2015, she founded Villianesse.com, an online media project for young women. Later in 2015 she started the internationally successful #MyBodyMyTerms campaign, sparking a conversation about victim-blaming, revenge porn, consent and sexual violence. Lizzie is an opinion columnist for the New Zealand Herald and the co-producer of a 12-part web series called The REAL Sex Talk, a youth-centric series presenting credible information about sex, sexuality and relationships to young people. In 2016 and 2017, Lizzie was named as a finalist in the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards. In 2017, she won the Canon Media Award for Opinion Writing – General, the same year that Villainesse won the Canon Media Award for Best Blog. In 2017, she was a semi-finalist for the Young New Zealander of the Year Award. Lizzie lives in Auckland, although she’ll always be a Rotorua girl at heart.
If you have an inspiring story to tell, or know of other women who do, please get in touch, we’d love to interview you.
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There are three body measurement points that you need to know to ensure a great fit – bust, waist, and hips.
When taking your body measurements, wear the undergarments you normally wear for the most accurate results. Use a flexible tape measure, or a piece of string and ruler, and hold it around each body point so it is comfortably snug. If the tape is cutting into your flesh, it is too tight.
To ensure an accurate measurement around your body, keep the measuring tape as level as possible from front to back. We recommend measuring yourself in front of a mirror so you can check this from a side view. If you can, get a friend to help you to ensure the most accurate measurements.
Bust: Wrap the measuring tape around your back and where the tape meets across the fullest point of your bust is your bust measurement.
Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your natural waist, the slimmest part of your torso, pulling the ends to the front. Where they meet is your waist measurement.
Hips: Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your bottom – this is usually low down towards your thighs. As with your bust and waist measurements, where the tape meets is your hip measurement.
Length: To measure the length of individual garments against your body it is best to measure down the centre of your back. To do this, start the measuring tape at either the base of your neck for dresses and tops, or at your waist for skirts. Measure down your body to the measurement listed in the garment description. This will show you where the garment comes to on you. When you are measuring for length, remember to make sure you are standing completely upright – it is best to have someone help you with this. Alternatively, compare the measurement with the length of a garment you already have.
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