By Sofia Sokolove
Meredith Walker has the kind of gregarious personality that makes you feel immediately at ease, which is probably why she’s so good at her job. Walker is the co-creator and executive producer of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, a multi-media platform dedicated to helping teenage girls cultivate their authentic selves. “Change the world by being yourself,” is the Smart Girls motto, and something Walker fully embraces. A Houston native who lived in New York City and Los Angeles before settling in Austin in 2006, she is unapologetically, brilliantly herself — and she’s doing her best to change the world, one middle schooler at a time.
It was working with the respected journalist Linda Ellerbee at Nick News with Linda Ellerbee where Walker first realized her passion for helping people with their own narratives. As producer of the Peabody and Emmy Award winning show, Walker worked to help people share their stories. “It would be painful sometimes,” she remembers, “because I’d be in [places like] someone’s trailer home hearing their story, but it felt so good to have somebody listening to them. And that’s really where I learned the art of letting someone tell their story to you and helping them feel comfortable doing that.”
After Nick News, Walker became the head of the talent department at Saturday Night Live, where she met best friend Amy Poehler. She says: “You know how it is when you just meet that person and you’re like ‘You’re the one. Lets go do something right now.’” During a late night conversation between Poehler and Walker over the horrors of middle school, they realized they had both had someone who was older and acted as a mentor. “Each of those interactions were the times that we felt okay,” Walker explains, “And so we thought, how can we be that for somebody?”
The answer was Smart Girls, which started as Smart Girls at the Party, a web-based show and blog meant to celebrate the “everyday girl.” There’s nothing fancy, and — aside from Poehler’s appearances — nothing Hollywood, about the series, which was launched in 2008 and features a teenage girl or woman (often an Austinite) being interviewed by Poehler about her interests. Each episode ends in a totally dorky, contagious dance party with the whole cast and crew. “We really just wanted [to ask]: ‘What are you interested in in life? Talk about it. What’s it like?’” explains Walker.
In the past seven years, the Smart Girls community has taken off, with Walker at its helm. In October 2014, Smart Girls was acquired by Legendary Entertainment (which also owns Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Industries and Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry) and the plan is to roll out even more shows. She Said, hosted by comedic duo and real-life fiancées Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, premiered in November with the two having an honest (and often hilarious) body-positive dialogue about women’s health. It went viral.
Walker, proud owner to two rescue dogs, may be most excited about the new show Heavy Petting, which profiles shelter dogs with celebrity voiceovers. (Also, keep an eye out for Austin Pets Alive! dogs in upcoming episodes.)
It may be called “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls,” but “Amy and Meredith’s Smart Girls” would make more sense; almost everything on the site is executed, and has the spirit, of the infectiously energetic Walker. “I don’t ask our audience to do something that we haven’t done,” she says. “Whether it’s an Instagram challenge … or jumping in the water on a freezing day, I’ve done every one of them, and if I haven’t already done it, I do it with them.” On any given day, you might find Walker and her executive assistant, Lillian Garza, volunteering in the Austin community, then taking to the site and social media with information to help other smart girls do the same in their own towns.
“Don’t get advice — just get out,” she says. “If you want to build self-esteem don’t talk about it, don’t do a self-esteem workshop, don’t fill out a form, don’t read an article about it … those are all great endeavors but if you really want to have it, you gotta just get it.” Luckily for us, Walker is dedicated to helping us do that, no matter our age.
by Joanna Steblay
As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.
For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.more
The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...more
by James Ruiz
Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.more
Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.
Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?
From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...more
by James Ruiz
As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.
Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...more