By Jeanny Rhee
A blueprint from Ms. Magazine combined with equal part inspiration and motivation was what stirred “Editrix-in-Chief” Ma’Chell Duma LaVassar to found Seattle’s feminist online publication, STACKEDD Magazine, launched earlier this month.
Stackedd, with a layout of a glossy magazine and gutsy attitude for content, adds a punch to Seattle’s alternative news scene by bringing together strong pieces written exclusively by women for women – and those who identify as such. Topics in the publication range from parenting practices and the arts to food, as well as more intimate subjects like women’s sexuality.
“We didn’t look at other blogs – we looked at Elle, Vogue; we looked at magazines,” LaVassar said. “I thought, ‘Let’s take all the great things you can have on the web: the gifs, the ability to watch videos, but make it warm and tactile – something you can sit and read.’”
Growing up in North Dakota, the cool, punk-rock rebel was often caught reading rock n’ roll magazines shoved inside an algebra textbook during math class. Her obsession drove her – literally and figuratively – to the nearest library outside of her town in Bismarck, North Dakota, where she would “ravishly consume their music biography section.”
At 21, she enrolled in the music business program at the Art Institute of Seattle. Since then, she’s made her way living in New York City and Austin before moving back to Seattle in 2011, and has written for New York Magazine’s Daily Observer, The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, KUOW radio, and was a presenter at the EMP Pop Conference in 2013 with a speech titled, “My Vagina Makes My Musical Decisions.”
“I cheat on Seattle with New York,” she said. “New York is my true love, but I like Seattle because I have my friends and the city has a great sense of community. But my number one girlfriend is New York.”
LaVassar decided to launch STACKEDD in Seattle because of its roots in the large music community.
“Her goal, as an artist, editor, and feminist is to showcase a panoply of nearby women doing fascinating stuff,” said local freelance writer Litsa Dremousis, author of memoir Altitude Sickness and one of “50 Women Who Rock Seattle” according to The Seattle Weekly. “STACKEDD is inclusive, but never dogmatic; it covers everything from music to gender politics, with insight and wit.”
Behind LaVassar and the publication is a talented and supportive team, including artist and STACKEDD’s art director, Siolo Thompson, whom she credits for the professional look and aesthetics of the magazine.
LaVassar, with her fiery red, choppy haircut and wearing a plaid blazer over a Mötley Crüe’s “Too Fast for Love” T-shirt, sipped coffee and a pink cocktail while explaining what makes Seattle women distinctive.
“We [Seattle women] have a good history of carving out our own niche, especially in genres that haven’t always welcomed women,” she said. “Grunge was a very white male movement and what Seattle is known for, but women found a way to carve out their own distinction there.”
STACKEDD embodies an empowering form of journalism that brings forth feminist writers who speak out and challenge an industry that is so often ruled by men, or “tall, thin white women whose voices you’re hearing,” according to LaVassar.
“We want as many writers that are women of color, as many queer women, as many trans-women we can get,” she said.
David Meinert, restaurateur and owner of several eateries in the city, including Lost Lake Cafe in Capitol Hill, agreed.
“Seattle’s media coverage is 100 percent owned and edited mostly by men – in particular, straight, white men – so it’s refreshing that she’s bringing in STACKEDD with a voice that’s needed,” he said.
LaVassar decided to disable the comment section on the site to keep writers and contributors free from harassment and trolls from taking over the conversation. Instead, the site uses hashtags so readers can weigh in via Twitter.
“I truly believe she is one of those ‘bellwethers,’” said Chris Estey , a publicist for Seattle-based firm, Big Freak Media, which services the arts, music and publishing industries. “A cultural maverick who keeps on top of everything and in touch with many different creators, and wants to use it all to move freedom of expression ahead.”
As for the double D’s in STACKEDD, they’re a “nod to Bust, Bitch and other strong, female-fronted publications that came before us,” LaVassar said. “They allude to our female-ness and that we are boob powered…as a magazine we strive to have everything – and a little extra – DD-style.”
The publication while primarily digital, will have an annual print issue with goodies and product samples that LaVassar hopes “will stand up to the standards of Vogue Magazine’s September issue.” In the meantime, readers can support the magazine with donations and by purchasing STACKEDD paraphernalia.
At the end of our interview, LaVassar asks, “what size are you?” and tosses a STACKEDD t-shirt towards me saying, “if you’re one of those girls, wash it twice if you want a tighter fit.’”