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October 05, 2021
Maggie Zhou is an intrepid young voice for those underrepresented or unheard, tackling issues often left untouched or deemed ‘too hard’ to excavate. She’s a local Melbs-hailing friend of Moxie’s, but also a close confidante of many who have never even met her. This closeness and familiarity can be felt via her intimate musings on Culture Club Podcast, various freelance works or her most-recent writing for Refinery29 Australia.
An unwavering advocate for equality, transparency and authenticity online, Maggie reminds us how much agency our words hold. She wrangles hers with conviction and honesty, with a healthy dose of wit thrown in for relatability. Maggie comforts her followers through their own confused feelings on stuff like sexuality, the sustainability of the brands we shop and critical analysis of the pop culture we so voraciously consume (usually accompanied by period choc). She’s a bit of a translator for the sticky challenges facing Gen Z’ers today.
Here, we catch Maggie on a ‘good day’, aka: one where she has a spare few moments to lend. For the girl who somehow manages to ‘do it all’, Maggie is still one helluva stickler for downtime and going easy on ourselves in lieu of glorifying manic workloads. Thank god for that.
MOXIE: Maggie, welcome! We're so proud of you and what you're achieving both on and offline. Walk us through your work schedule right now...how do you structure your weekdays?
MAGGIE: Oh, Moxie gals — you are wonderful. Thank you for your kind words. My goodness, I’ve been quite the busy human as of late as I’m working full-time as Writer & Producer at Refinery29 Australia. It’s my first foray into full-time work and anyone who has worked in media will know how full-on it can be, but I’m totally loving it. I try to squeeze in a quick 15-minute walk in the morning to grab a coffee and get my legs moving for the day, but then I’ll be working at my desk for most of the day. I’m lucky that I live at home with my parents so my dear mother has dinner covered, which saves me a lot of time! To relax post work, I’ll unfailingly have a decaffeinated English Breakfast tea, then will read or watch Netflix. I’ll also usually have some freelance work or uni work to attend to!
While we’re in lockdown, I’m lucky I can escape to my boyfriend’s house and stay the night there. The highlight of my weekend is often a takeaway meal of some sort (last Saturday was vegan souvlaki, yum!). While I switch off from my 9-5pm on weekends, it’s the time where I do most of my freelance work, like content creation for my Instagram, podcast research and recording for Culture Club, and other writing bits. I do manage to squeeze in more walks and moments of joy, though!
Congrats on landing a spectacular role as writer/producer for Refinery29. What have you learned about womxn's health/wellness/intimacy since starting with the team?
Thank you! I’ve learnt so much! One of the main lessons I’ve learnt is to keep an open mind and be open and willing to be corrected. For instance, I’ve learnt that the terms women+ and womxn aren’t the most inclusive gender terms — though they are well-meaning, they often alienate trans women and other gender-diverse people. I’ve learnt to be more specific with my language instead.
Fave piece you've written for R29 so far?
Ooh, I would say my recent feature titled, “Am I Queer Enough To Be Bi?”. It was a super scary piece to write and share but I’m really proud of myself of being so honest and vulnerable online.
And one you've read that's stuck on the brain?
So many! I’ve been the biggest fan of Refinery29 for years so it’s such a joy being able to grow closer to other writers’ work. I adore Connie Wang’s writing, especially her piece, “I’ve Written About Cultural Appropriation For 10 Years. Here’s What I Got Wrong”.
Why is it so important to you to explore talking points like sexuality and slow fashion?
It just comes naturally to me, I guess, to talk about issues I’m personally passionate about. I almost feel like it would be a betrayal to myself to hold myself back and stop myself speaking on topics that are close to my heart.
How does making commentary on broader issued help you process your own world?
Writing is a necessity. As a writer, sometimes it feels like I just have to write, rather than I need to write. There’s this nagging feeling that bugs me to put things down in writing. I’m not the best speaker and I just feel like writing allows me to properly convey how I’m feeling. As humans, I think we’re always seeking connection and community, and we’re always curious about how we fit into the broader cultural landscape. So I guess interrogating broader issues helps me understand myself and where I fit more.
Update us on the poddy! Where are you and Jas at with Culture Club and what's coming up?
We have had such an exciting past week or so! In Australia, we were the sixth most popular Society & Culture podcast, and were the 40th most popular podcast overall in Australia! It’s quite surreal to see this thing we’ve worked on over a year together reach new years, but it’s been so fun. We’ll still be here, releasing pop culture episodes every week, always having a yarn about internet culture, TikTok trends, feminism and the like.
A recent book you've devoured and why do you think that was the case?
The last book I devoured was 'Crying in H Mart' by Michelle Zauner. It was simply breathtaking. It was so beautifully written and explored complex themes of grief, Asian identity and family dynamics. Gah! I’m getting choked up thinking about it now. I read it when I was away from my family so I think it’s what made it hit hard. But the writing is just mesmerising and so intimate, too.
How has your period changed in the last couple of years? What sort of routine/PMS- management do you have in place for each cycle?
I’m pretty blessed to have a consistent period that hasn’t caused me too much pain. I’ve been taking the contraceptive pill for quite a few years now (though with some months off) so it’s regulated through that. I get pretty moody and can be a bit horrid, though. I love using period undies when I do bleed, but apart from that, I just take it easy on myself. There will always be a heat bag close by, but otherwise, I try to listen to my body and to what it needs.
Lastly, HOW DO YOU DO IT ALL? Any time management tips (even on the ceebs days or during the 3pm slump)?
I really try to not romanticise productivity and hustle culture, because we know there’s way more to life than that. But I also do know that through Instagram, it always looks like I’m doing 101 things at once! Learning to say no is probably my best advice. Because the thing is, you can’t actually do it all. Respect yourself and your time and your rest. You’ll work better and create better things because of it.
But okay, some practical tips (that I’m still working on myself!) include taking a brisk five or 10 minute walk when that 3pm wall hits, it’ll refresh you, I promise. Answering emails as soon as you open them is another thing I’m working on, because I’m so guilty of rereading the same email on four separate occasions before replying. And (this one is divisive), turn off your phone’s non-urgent notifications. Do it!
Find Maggie Zhou on Instagram at @yemagz
Cover photo by @cremedelazem . All other pics c/o Maggie's Instagram.
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