You know that scene in Sex and the City, where all the women are frantically running from four directions to have a quick power lunch in Bryant Park? Undeniably rushed, but well worth the effort; this is how I feel about Abby Adesanya, the founder of Novella, a New York City-based writing club for women. An entrepreneurial go-getter, her warmth is contagious, and her skin is flawless. She is a marketing strategist at Conde Nast, a brand consultant, and can be frequently found moderating panels at places such as Neuehouse and AWAY. Abby was recently announced on Pure Wow’s list of the Top 100 Emerging Women to watch – she is the epitome of a side hustler.
COOLS: First things first, where did you see your career going when you were younger?
Abby Adesanya: I had these dreams of working in fashion; I don’t even know what I thought I was going to be doing, but I thought “I’m going to work at Vogue” and I had all of the magazines around me in my bedroom. And then I came to realize that I don’t love fashion that much, I just don’t care about it like I used to. So my interests pivoted a bit and I found myself in marketing and advertising.
COOLS: How was Novella formed?
AA: I was always a reader and a writer. That was a huge part of who I was growing up, and I think that was also a catalyst for how I was able to see myself moving to New York. I had been writing about New York people and creating New York narratives for so long – I was reading Gossip Girl constantly. And then once I moved to New York I kind of deprioritized that. I was going to work and parties and brunch, and I really wasn’t doing anything for me.
In the past year and a half, I realized that I hadn’t read a book in three years. It was so bad, and so not who I was. So I started asking friends do you read? Do you write? Everyone said yes but they just didn’t have the time. I wanted to get people together to do a monthly meeting of friends, so I put it out there, made up some cute branding, and told a few people. I thought 10-15 friends would come, but actually, 40 women showed up. I didn’t even do a huge rollout and I was completely blown away by the response. It all kind of fell into place from there!
COOLS: What would you describe Novella as
AA: Novella is a writing club and storytelling salon for women. Every month we send out a prompt with our newsletter, and then a couple weeks later we gather to discuss our written responses. There are also other literary experiences that we host, like a private workshop, a panel with AWAY, but at the core is the writing club. We have drinks and bites in the beginning, and then the next 45-60 minutes we have breakout groups for storytelling, and then the last 30 minutes is a selected speaker reading and a Q&A with them.
COOLS: What is the one book that you find yourself recommending the most?
AA: I find myself recommending Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am Nigerian and it really resonated with me, but I think its a testament to the book that the stories have resonated with others that aren’t Nigerian. The narratives are so real, and she brought so many different experiences to life that speaks to everyone.
COOLS: The art of a side hustle, can you share your process?
AA: I try to schedule everything, and time blocks to work. If I’m at work, I always try to schedule a lunch meeting or happy hour drinks. Those are two times that I make myself leave my space to go do something. And then I really try to think about what is possible, and what the future is of Novella, to tease out those ideas into something more. I do most of my research on weekends and during lunch. I try to really schedule time for it because that is the only way that it’s going to happen. If that means not going out on a Friday night, or staying in on a Sunday for a work day, it’s ok, because it’s really all about time and dedicating time to it.
When you have a side hustle and you like it, you’re going to want to do it. All those other times I tried to do other things that I did not care for, I wasn’t as excited, and I never really made the effort to make it happen. But for Novella, I’m running to the coffee shop. If you love it, you’ll dedicate the time for it.
COOLS: What are the lessons that you’ve learned from your journey so far?
AA: The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my mentor, Uli, who founded Subway Book Review, has been that it’s all about taking that next step. She was the one who told me to say that I’m doing the Novella event and that I would figure it out. If you put yourself out there, you won’t let yourself fail, and that was literally the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
My advice for anyone is to just put that thought, no matter how tiny, out there into the universe. I also didn’t want to be embarrassed by telling someone that I was doing something, and then not doing it. So you want to make yourself look good by following through and taking those next steps.
COOLS: Tell me about your beauty routine.
AA: So one day I decided my huge routine was too much and I was just going to stop doing everything cold turkey. My skin freaked out a bit, and then a few weeks later went back to normal, as nothing happened. So I did this for a while, and then, I got one of those time-hop notifications from Facebook and I had looked so much younger. Then I decided to get back on the horse! I need to do it.
So now I use 100% Pure hyaluronic acid from Amazon. And then I also really love the Ordinary; I use the Buffet which is the anti-aging serum every morning. I also am very pumped on the Drunk Elephant C- Firma Day Serum. And then I use Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Lotion.
At night, once a week I’ll use the Ordinary AHA BHA serum, that helps with sebaceous plugs on my nose. And then I’ll use the hyaluronic acid again, the buffet, and then the Retinol and Squalene at .5 percent.
Makeup is more of a challenge. A lot of darker skin foundations have red undertones, but I have more of a yellow undertone. I was using Nars for a while, but then I saw a YouTuber cover Covergirl’s Queen collection, in True Ebony. It’s super light, and I just dab it on. I use LA Girl Pro Concealer. I also use Fenty’s Killawatt highlighter, which is gold dual-tone. I use Black Radiance Warm Berry Blush. I used to use the Glossier Cloud Paint, but sometimes it separates my concealer, so I’ll only use that if I’m not putting powder on my face. And then I use Black Opal Finishing Powder.
A funny thing I do with my makeup is I’ll do my foundation, then my concealer, then I set my foundation with a light finishing powder. I’ll contour, then do blush, then highlighter. And then I’ll put finishing powder again all over my face because I feel like it really buffs out harsh lines from contouring and makes my highlighter less crazy. The finishing powder is my last step, I had initially picked up the tip from Sonia and Fyza.
COOLS: What does beauty mean to you?
AA: Beauty means feeling your best. I feel like it took me a while to get over ridiculous beauty ideals and insecurities that I had growing up in a town where no one looked like me. For example, I wore blue contacts and would break my hair off trying to straighten it; I was just trying to minimize so much of myself. And then as I got older, I thought “who cares? I’m still cute” and it became less of a mask for me, and more of me embracing myself.
So beauty for me is being happy in your own skin. Feeling good about the way that you look, whether that means you are wearing makeup or not. If eyeshadow makes you happy, do it! Beauty is whatever you make it, as long as it makes you happy.
COOLS: What’s the one thing that’s always in your bag?