Laura Wise, Founder MOTHERSHIP Fest

Photographed by Anna Falzetta

Photographed by Anna Falzetta

LA BOSS, Laura Wise is a therapist by day, and an activist by....ALL DAY. Her women's empowerment and LGBT focused work translated perfectly into a movement unlike any other in the West Coast. Yep, we are talking about the famous MOTHERSHIP Festival and retreat that rocked the Instagram world of both celebrities and everyday ladies who liberate alike! Is it even a surprise that we HAD to have this powerhouse grace our platform with her strong presence? We are extremely honored and humble to help tell her story. 

Laura, what did you dream of becoming as a young girl? How did this influence your journey?

When I was younger I was a little leader. A teacher of mine once pulled me aside and said “Laura Wise, use your power for good”. That really stuck with me, it was a male teacher so it was cool that he was not only acknowledging my strength but also encouraging the way I should use it. I don’t think I knew what I wanted, but I knew I needed to get out of Ohio and find people who were more like myself.

As a child, I don’t think I was given a ton of examples of women holding power that was perceived as positive. Women who were powerful (then) were perceived as bossy, rude or intense. I remember being a feminist, getting upset with small gender inequalities, but not having the words to describe my experience. When I found feminism, I felt sane, like all of that unfairness had an actual word to describe it. Even ideas on how to fix the problem. Then my heroes emerged, Oprah, Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Gilbert. People that capture me are women who emote tons of empathy and strength.

Now, I am sure there was that “ah-ha” moment when creating MotherShip Fest. Can you describe that moment and what inspired it?

I had always had a desire to attend a women’s festival, but I couldn’t find anything that fit. Most women’s events felt singular, like a yoga space or a conference. I wanted to find something fun that also felt safe in which I could explore new aspects of myself. Nothing like that existed yet. I knew then, I just had to make it myself. My father had recently passed away so I decided to use that money to make something good.

Laura with Tegan & Sara. Photo Credit: Victoria Craven

Laura with Tegan & Sara. Photo Credit: Victoria Craven

As the creator of a women’s focused festival, how do you define feminism?

Feminism to me is a conversation about inequality. An acknowledgment of a problem and striving to fix it collaboratively. Feminism involves self reflection, what biases do I hold? It involves critical thinking, how can I make this better and how can I use my personal privilege for good. Feminism is evolving rapidly to reflect our culture. It’s an exciting time to be a feminist.

What is your best advice for those looking to start a grassroots movement like yours?

Find a balance. For me, MOTHERSHIP is so much work, that I try to focus on that and how I can make it better, more inclusive etc. That doesn’t mean I am not an activist the rest of the year, it means I take time to do things that are restorative when it’s not MOTHERSHIP season. I have also recognized that with any large event, it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Many don’t realize the constraints that one might face when creating an event like MOTHERSHIP, so keep those who cheer you on and give you the benefit of the doubt close. Know that at the end of the day you have to look yourself in the mirror, no one else. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Be fierce, be kind, make hard decisions and move on.

Regarding movements, I would like to add that when we look back on activism there is a common thread: Community. Most movements served multiple purposes (beyond political action). Activist groups, had fun! It’s okay to celebrate while being revolutionary. What’s that they say? “"If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution."

What’s next for you personally, Laura?

Right now, I am consulting with other festivals on how to be more inclusive of women. I have a real uphill battle ahead of me, but I want to see more womxn headliners! I also want to create ways in which women can feel safe at other festivals. I am working with Bonnaroo this year to produce a special women’s camp called SheROO. Join us! I also have been working with Blind Dragon in Los Angeles to produce Emissary. It’s a panel event around strong women that breaks out into a dance party. It’s been really fun to create mini-version of something I am so passionate about: feminist events where everyone can learn AND celebrate.


To learn more about MOTHERSHIP Festival, click here. See Laura's closing speech at MOTHERSHIP Festival 2016 here. Follow MOTHERSHIP Fest on the daily gram or stalk Laura here.

Interview by Emily