Steak Makes Cool Clothes, Gives Good Advice
Rachael Anderson, aka Steak, is the HBIC of two ~very internet~ clothing lines, a graphic artist, a webisode host, a giver of life advice and a (cool) mum. She splits her time between managing Teenage and Hot Lava, hosting Style & Error on Broadly, and, along with her husband Blake, raising her daughter Mars.
We sat down with her on set of the new Hot Lava lookbook shoot, to talk about the magic of Tumblr archives, where she got her nickname, and why people starting asking for her advice.
Lindsey Lee: Tell me about your background.
Rachael Anderson: I'm from South Florida but I moved to Los Angeles when I was younger. I enrolled in Full Sail, which is an arts entertainment program in Winter Haven, Florida, right outside of Orlando. I was going to study entertainment business, but then I got an internship at a record label, and they said, "College sucks…just come work." So I did, and I'm grateful for that because I am debt-free, baby!
How did you get the nickname Steak?
My grandmother gave it to me — well, she didn't give it to me, but she gave me the steak. I was living in Tampa, Florida, planning my commute up to Winter Haven for my three days a week of college, and whatever I was doing scared my grandmother into thinking that I either wasn't eating or didn't have money to eat. She kept sending me cheques, but I wouldn't cash them because I'm a stubborn little twat, and I wanted to do stuff on my own. I guess her way around it was that she would send me Omaha Steaks once a week and she did it for three months. That's way too much steak for one person! After I ate all the good ones, my roommates and I were like, "What the fuck are we going to do with this?" So we just started grilling it, and we lived in this really cool area of Tampa with a lot of foot traffic, and a house full of boys lived down the street, so we would invite them over and be like, "Oh, we're going to grill." If you have enough parties where you're grilling steak… Well, I went from being, "Oh, you know that girl with all the steak," to "steak girl" and finally I was just "Steak."
How did STEAKTALK begin, and how has it evolved since you first started it?
Originally, I had a blog called STEAKTOOTH. When I moved to Los Angeles, all my friends and family were always asking, "What's going on?" so I just started writing on the blog. I was writing about working at the record label, and I started selling graphics, which was weird for me because I didn't know I was a good drawer or that people would be interested, but they were. So I started writing that down, and I think that sparked interest because there are no creative jobs in South Florida like [what I was doing]. Then I got cancer for the first time, and I started writing that, and that opened up my readership because people were like, "What's going on with this chick?". Fast forward to a couple of years later and I was getting so many messages, but I just wanted to put pretty photos on STEAKTOOTH, so I just opened this whole other side which is STEAKTALK, an advice column. It gets so many questions — like 30 to 50 per day. I deal with a lot of boy-related questions, which is cool because I remember being a super confused teenage girl or even when I was dating in my 20s, and being like what the fuck? It went from being my own personal space to this full-fledged community of people that I'm talking to pretty much all day long… I've been able to meet people who have been readers for a long time and that's satisfying.
How does it feel that people value your life advice?
It's crazy. I don't write advice about things I haven't participated in — part of it is that you get this insane social responsibility. I used to answer questions pretty drunk… I mean, I still answer them pretty drunk, but I'm a little more responsible about it. "Tell her to fuck off, tell her to eat shit, she's not your friend, call her a bitch," and then I was like, "Well, that's not really socially responsible… what if they get into a fist fight because I told them to say that?" If anything, it's made me have more of a conscience — it's me paying back the karma police for all the shitty stuff I did when I was younger. You learn a lot between different stages of your 20s, so just having someone tell you, "Hey, this first break-up really fucking sucks, but you're going to make it because you have to, you're not just going to die… hopefully. Please don't die."
Tell me about Broadly and your segment Style & Error.
Broadly is really cool because I got to see it from the first day it was hatched. One of my very good best friends is the sales chick at Vice, she's the number one chick, she's a boss — shout out to Shanon Kelley for being a bossy ass bossy boss. She pitched Broadly to Vice. She said, "Hey, I want to start a women's network," and they said OK. That's how you know you're a boss: if a billion dollar company just says, sure go ahead. She already had all the knowledge of how to do sales, so she was able to get investors and advertisers and stuff like that pretty fast, and she built the team to work on it within six months of the conception. She brought me in right away. We started making Style & Error to get an audience built up, and I'm having a lot of fun. A lot of their shows are serious, because they need to be… dealing with women's health, women's rights, and whatnot, so it's good to have something that we can all have fun with.
Why did you decide to start the clothing line Teenage?
That was Blake's fault. He wanted clothes for his show. I was recently unemployed because I got sick again. I had to quit my job because I was doing treatments for chemo and radiation, and I was just really bored, and for a lack of a better word, I am a really bad work-a-holic. When I get bored, I get bitchy, and I get not-so-nice-to-be-around, so I think it was a combination of that, and my husband being like, "Well, I don't want to hang out with you, so let's give you a project." So we made the t-shirts and I started selling them on my blog. We didn't know we had sellability, and all of the sudden the shirts were just gone, and that was before they were even on air. We were just wearing them on social media. That's another thing that I'm pretty conscious of — not selling to my readers. I'll show them the product, but I'm not like, "On sale, get it fucking now!" The less you try to sell to people, the more inclined they are to buy things from you because they're like, "We like you, and we like the projects you're doing." That's how Teenage was born.
What styles or eras influenced Hot Lava?
I [had] so much inspiration from my Tumblr so I basically opened my Tumblr archive, scrolled to the very bottom, and we've just been working our way up the years of archived Tumblr posts I've had. Where [else] in the modern days are you putting a collection of things you like to look at? It's the coolest thing because then you can step back. I don't know if you've ever viewed Tumblr on archive-mode, but it's amazing. It's the way you should look up anyone's. Go to Tumblr, put in their URL, [add] /archive, and it basically takes all the photos and puts them into little thumbnails. It's the coolest way to look at Tumblr because you can start to start these common themes jump out like, "I guess I like purple," and that's what we did.
What's on the horizon for you?
I've been thinking about this a lot. I don't think I'm the type of person who knows what I want to do until I'm doing it, so I've been trying all the options and seeing what works… I want to buy other little brands and show them how to make a business. I [also] want Hot Lava to be in a lot of stores, and I want to get a dog — a big-ass dog, like a Blue Bay Shepherd. There's only one breeder in the United States, and I'm sorry I'm not adopting, but I really want a police K-9 dog, so [that] it's chill. I'm not a dog person, but I really like this dog, so I feel like it has to be trained to be like a cat because I'm really a cat person. But Blake isn't, so this is me meeting [him] in the middle.