Note: This interview was LONG. It lasted for about 47 minutes. So, I suggest that you grab your favourite drink or snack, and just kick back to read/listen because Cindy openly shares what MakeLoveNotPorn means to her, what it is like to date men in their 20s, what makes great sex, and gives a personal compelling message to older women, younger women and young girls.
Date: Tuesday, 23rd April 2013
Time: About 12 noon
Venue: Cindy in Bali and me in Kuala Lumpur (thank goodness for technology)
In between her speaking engagement and lounging by the pool in Bali, Cindy Gallop has graciously squeezed out a little time for an interview with me via Skype. Without batting an eyelid, she says ~
“No holds barred, darling. Seriously. This is me.”
Cindy Gallop is as vivacious and luminous in person as she appears in all her photographs. With this lady, what you see is what you get.
Cindy’s interesting heritage, being part Malaysian and part English, gives her the best of both East and West infused in one splendid body. She is, in every sense, a world traveler and global citizen. She wears and breathes her “personal mantra” brazenly through every fibre of her being. You’ll understand what I mean by the end of this interview.
This is the woman who proudly coined herself as one who likes “to blow up shit”, or the “Michael Bay of Business”. Meaning, you could only engage her “consultancy services” if you are ready to change the game, or make that radical leap in your branding, product or services. Because Ms. Gallop does not do “status quo”. She specialises in rattling the cages, shaking things up and taking them to a whole different ball game. It might not even resemble a ball game by the time she is done with them. So, here is the interview in Cindy’s words, transcribed with pleasure by me 🙂
On Blowing Shit Up
That is a phrase that I coined to describe my approach to business. At the moment, I am tech entrepreneur. I have a couple of early stage web start-ups, but they are too early stages to be making money to the extent that I would like them to. And so, to support myself and pay the mortgage, I work as a consultant. I work very selectively only with clients and brands who want to change the game in their particular sector. That’s why I explain that you come to me for radical innovative groundbreaking transformative, I don’t do status quo. And I sum up my consultancy approach as, “I like to blow shit up”. I am the “Michael Bay of Business.”
On Coining Herself
The first is that I am a great believer in both life and as in business, in being your own filter. What I mean by that is – if you put out there very clearly, who you are, what you stand for and what you are all about – you will attract to you the people who want that, and you will repel the people who don’t. So, in terms of my consultancy business, I make a very clear statement about the way in which I approach doing business, and working in business. There, it attracts to me the clients who realise that they have to innovate and disrupt in their sectors to survive and grow in their business. And it repels the clients who want to play it safe.
Equally in life, I am a great believer in being very clear about who you are, put yourself out there, and you will draw to you the people who are attracted to that and you’d repel the people who aren’t. Because too many people go through life, worrying too much about what other people think of them, and building themselves and shaping themselves to be something they are not. And that is not the way to live your life. So, be your own filter.
And also I am a product of my background in Advertising, and I recommend to everybody that they find a few memorable sound bites which could characterize what they are all about. This is particularly important in a work, business career, personal-brand-positioning context. You know, people now referenced the fact that I describe myself as “I like to blow shit up” in the same way as you did. Because it is a very useful “shorthand” for what I am all about. Actually, everybody should find a way to talk about themselves (in this way). It is a very clear immediate understanding of who they are, what they are all about in a way that intrigues people, and it makes them want to find out more.
On Being YOU and not just an Image
It’s not about projecting an image. It’s about being you. And it is entirely possible for every woman in Asia to be herself within the context of the culture that she lives in.
In advertising it’s never just about what you do, it’s the way that you do it. And that is a very important thing to understand again, both in life and in business. You can absolutely be true to yourself, and say what you believe in – in a way that makes it actually very pleasurable to other people.
The interesting thing is that too many people spend a lot of time not saying what they really think, in business and in life. And quite often when you are sitting at a meeting, thinking everyone else is talking a little nonsense, I know what I think but I am too scared to say it. If you actually said what you were thinking, in a perfectly nice straight-forward sensible way, you’d be amazed at the impact it can have. You’d be amazed at how many people would react “wow”, and say that’s pretty interesting. People find the truth very compelling because so few people tell it.
On Being HALF and HALF
My father is English and my mother is Malaysian Chinese. I am the integration of both western and Asia. I was born in the UK, but when I was six we moved to Brunei. The western values and Asian side are integrated into one. I really do not think of them as separate. I feel very lucky to have benefited from the best of Asian values, and the best of Western values from both my parents. To actually grow up in Asia and to have the opportunity to return and work in Asia, and to operate all around the world, I don’t distinguish. I feel that everything has come together in a way that’s truly global and I like that.
On Dating Men in Their 20s
So, I date younger men. But how that happened was a complete accident, like many things in my life. I never plan anything. About 11 years ago, when I was running BBH New York, we were asked to pitch for an online dating brand which was coming up in the UK and wanted to go into the American market. Obviously, in advertising when you pitch for a client’s account, you have to experience the client’s product and the entire competitive landscape. So, we all had to online date. This was 11 years ago and none of us ever had because online dating was not a big thing then as it is now. The rest of my team in the agency was married, living with, going out with people. So, they all went online as fake personas. They created false identities and they went online that way. I was single. I thought, I have to do this online dating thing for business reasons, I might as well do it for real. Why don’t I find out for myself what this online dating is all about. So, I post my profile. I was very honest about everything, including my age. I got a huge amount of responses which was very good for my ego. But much to my surprise, because I had not envisaged this as a dating strategy at all – about 75% of those responses were from younger men. And the majorities were from much younger men. And I suddenly realized that I was every young guy’s fantasy. I was an attractive older woman, high-flying career, never want to settle down, I’ve never wanted to get married, I’ve never wanted children, you know, I love other people’s children, I have always known I wasn’t a mother. And all I want to do is have some fun – which at that time, I started the agency in New York, I was working every hour God gave me. I was travelling all the time. Fun was actually something that was severely missing from my life at that time. And so, obviously a bunch of young guys out there were going “Whoppee!”
I thought, ok I have not identified this as a dating strategy, but you know, it could work. So, I proceed to date young men for a year, very enjoyably. By then, rather ironically, met and fell very much in love with someone online who’s only two years younger than me. I was in an exclusive relationship with him for over two years. I ended that very sadly for very good reasons but I was very upset about it. Didn’t want another relationship, I need a distraction. So, I love dating younger men and have been doing so very happily ever since.
And I am very public about the fact that I date younger men. Not because I am saying that everyone should do what I do, but because for me, it is emblematic of a much bigger point – which is, I believe that everybody should be free to design the relationship model that works for them, which may, by the way, may be different in different stages of your life versus the very limited number of relationship models that society says is ok for us to operate.
So, in dating younger men I came across an issue which would simply never have crossed my mind if I did not encounter it so directly and so personally. When you combine two things – today’s total freedom of access to hard core porn online with our society’s equally total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex – it is the convergence of those two things that results in porn becoming by default, the sex education today and in not a good way.
On Launching MakeLoveNotPorn
I didn’t set out to do MAKELOVENOTPORN. The only reason that I am doing it is because of the thousands of emails that I have received every single day for the past four years since I launched MAKELOVENOTPORN. I put a tiny little clunky website out that I put up with no money, and the world responded. By the way, the highest traffic in MAKELOVENOTPORN comes from India, Pakistan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia – all the countries where nobody talks about sex. So, people write to me every single day, and they pour their hearts out in the emails because I did something about what everyone knows but nobody ever speaks about. People feel that they are able to tell me anything. Men and women, young and old, write to me from every country in the world, and they pour their hearts out to me. The cumulative impact of reading these emails day after day, made me feel that I have a personal responsibility to take MAKELOVENOTPORN forward in a way to make it more far-reaching, helpful and effective. So, I didn’t set out to do this, the world asked me to do it.
On Being Sexual in an Asian Context
Sex is a wonderful thing that both parties should be totally enjoying. So, I don’t like the phrase, “losing one’s virginity”, which implies you’ve lost something. I don’t like the “received wisdom” in popular culture, or that men always want sex and women don’t want it but give it reluctantly. But guess what, women like sex too. Women thoroughly enjoy sex and should be able to thoroughly enjoy sex.
Within Asian context, women should be able to do whatever they feel comfortable doing. They should absolutely live their lives according to their own beliefs and values, not those that are imposed on them. If you would like to have sex, you should feel free to have sex and to enjoy it. If you want to abstain, and absolutely feel comfortable abstaining and nobody should be pressurizing you in doing anything that you don’t want to do. The whole point is that you should be really happy in whatever choices you make, in whatever you are doing.
On Living an Authentic Life as a WOMAN
I am not a relationship-person. I don’t mean to rule that out. But I am really, really happy on my own. There are not enough public role models for different ways of living your life. I am somebody who has never wanted children. I still get two responses whenever I say that. The first response is pity – “oh, the little poor thing, she never met a man who wanted to marry her and give her any babies.” The second response is horror – “OMG, a woman who doesn’t want to have children, how unnatural!”
Now, I am actually very public about not wanting or have never wanted children, because there are not enough public role models where it is ok to be a woman and not want children. There are many people in this world, both men and women, who’ve had children because it was expected of them and have found out the hard way that they were not born to be parents. Not everybody is. Children are not a foregone conclusion for everybody’s happiness. Equally, being with somebody is not a foregone conclusion for your happiness.
There are many women who are unhappy about being on their own or are unhappy because of a social construct that makes them feel ostracised and unusual. What I say to these women is, stay away from people, places and things that make you feel bad about yourself. Go to places, be with people and do things that make you feel good about being on your own.
The single best moment of my life is when I realized that I no longer gave a damn about what everybody thought. It is really important not to care about what other people think. I know this is enormously difficult for an Asian society, but the key to happiness lies in really understanding what your own desires are, and being true to those. And it may well be that there are a number of Asian women who are very happy on their own, without a husband, without children, but society tells them that cannot be allowed to happen. And that’s the bulk of it.
On the Future for Men and Women
I believe that the best of all possible worlds is a world that is 50/50 – equally designed, in form, influenced, led, driven, measured by women as well as men. The future is men and women working equally together, in life and in business. We do not have that currently. We live in a world where the default setting is always male. I say to men – men, you have no idea how much happier you would be living and working in a world that’s 50/50, equally designed, led and run by women as well as men. It will be different and the men will not have all the pressures that they are under. And so, I see a different kind of future that is a much happier one for both women and men, working together to design that future.
On What Makes GREAT SEX
Great sex is all about great communication. That is what MAKELOVENOTPORN is all about. I really emphasize to people, MAKELOVENOTPORN is no anti-porn. The issue I am tackling isn’t porn. I am tackling the complete absence in our society of an open, honest, healthy, truthful, authentic conversation around sex in the real world – talk about sex honestly, in a general sense, publicly with friends; and talk about sex honestly and truthfully in private with your partner.
We all get very vulnerable when we get naked. Sexual egos are very fragile. People find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they are actually having it, while they are actually having it. Because you are terrified if you say anything at all – you’ll hurt the other person’s feelings, you’ll put them off you, you’ll derail the encounter, you’ll derail the entire relationship, but at the same time, you want to please them, you want to make them happy; and so, you’ll seize your cues on how to do that in any way you can. And if the only cues you’ve ever seen are to be given from porn, those are the ones you’ll take to not very good effect. So, the key to great sex is to learn from each other, talk, communicate, and mutually explore. Great sex is born out of great communication.
CINDY’S MESSAGE TO YOUNG GIRLS
Everything I believe today was a process of gradual realisation. It comes with experience over time. But obviously, I want to help other women “short-circuit” or “short-cut” that experience.
Everything you do, you should do because you want to do it. You should never give in to pressure, whether it is social pressure, pressure from men, pressure from your family, pressure from your friends, and pressure from your peers. Have the confidence to live the life that you want to live. A good rule of thumb when you are young and confused is, if it doesn’t feel good for you, it is not good for you. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good for you.
CINDY’S MESSAGE TO YOUNGER WOMEN
From the moment we are born as women, everything around us conspires to make us feel insecure about absolutely everything to do with ourselves – the way we look, the way we talk, the way we walk, the way we are, the way we dress, nice girls do this, nice girls don’t do that. Women spend the rest of their lives recovering from that. And some women never do.
Know how wonderful you are now, and have the confidence to be yourself. Do not care what anybody else thinks, because that is the only way to live your life.
CINDY’S MESSAGE TO OLDER WOMEN
I am a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society, which is older women. I am 53. I want to help re-define by the way I live my life – what society thinks an older woman should look like, talk like, be like, work like, dress like, and date like.
What I want to say to older women is – First of all, we’ve reached this age, we know so much and I would never want to be young again. The older you get, the better life gets. You are only half way. Live the second half of your life the way you want to live it.
CINDY’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD
I really want like to connect MAKELOVENOTPORN with the Asian audience. Obviously, I feel very strongly about this given my background. One of the reasons why I feel so passionate about what I am doing right now is that my parents never talk to me about sex. My mother is very traditional Chinese – “girls, you stay virgin until you are married”. My father is very old-fashioned English. They never talk about sex. My mother’s attitudes were very strongly built into me. I was stressed out about sex for quite a long time, but now I love it. My Asian upbringing had an impact on my attitude towards sex, in a way I would prefer it not to have. So, I feel very strongly about helping this conversation happen in Asia. I am inspiring people to reach out from all around the world, to ask them to be my “On-the-ground Ambassadors” for MAKELOVENOTPORN and MAKELOVENOTPORNTV.
I would like MakeLoveNotPorn to help countries reclaim their “National Sexual Identity”, because every country has one. People make love differently depending on which side of the culture or country they come from. And I find it very sad that porn is homogenizing that. I would like to re-instill a sense of “National Pride” in how each culture approaches real world sex. I would love to help bring those conversations to the fore.
“I believe we can change the world through sex.” ~ Cindy Gallop
Start your own brand of fearless living today. Own it. Love it.