Cindi Leive | The Design Observer Twenty
A feminist media collective dishes up gender and worker equity at scale.

Cindi Leive

The Design Observer Twenty | Sponsored by IDEO

The Design Observer Twenty is our curated selection of twenty remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

According to CEO and co-founder Cindi Leive, stories interrogating gender and racial injustice are the entrée, not a side dish at the feminist media collective The Meteor. Too often, she says, feminist content is treated like the broccoli of women’s media: shunted to the plate’s periphery and mistaken for being richer in roughage than flavor.

“That idea of anything feminist being for nutritional value only feels outdated,” says Leive, who previously served as Glamour’s editor-in-chief for over 16 years and co-compiled the 2018 New York Times bestseller Together We Rise by and about the leaders of the March for Women's Lives. Feminists make art. Feminists make meaning. And “feminists are freaking hilarious,” she says. While that sounds like one hell of a global party, The Meteor, which launched in 2020 just moments before the quarantine forced its first major pivot, stepped forcefully into a conversation that the pandemic further laid bare: equity and equality.

“We’re living at this moment where so many different women and nonbinary people and queer people are all questioning our big-picture systems in a number of ways,” Leive says. And even though there are “more media outlets than any person could want or need,” the collective moved swiftly to seize the moment on the global stage, by producing and amplifying creative work from BIPOC, LGBTQ+ folks, and all groups traditionally underrepresented in media. 

Meteor Podcasts

They’ve been unflinching, taking on urgent issues ranging from voting rights, abortion access, and gender-based violence, to housing insecurity, climate justice, and the fight for freedom in Iran. And their storytelling takes myriad media and art forms: live events, films, a newsletter, a solutions-focused nonprofit, and a slate of podcasts. The flagship pod, UNDISTRACTED, is hosted by Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist and TV commentator who was part of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force and the Ferguson Commission. Because of Anita, which examines “how far we’ve come — and, in some cases, haven’t” since Anita Hill’s historic testimony 30 years ago, won two awards (a Webby and a Gracie) in 2022 and is now in development as a docuseries.

In addition to centering intersectional feminism at scale, The Meteor is reshaping the narrative on how a modern media company should run.

At traditional outlets, there’s a longstanding notion that business strategy — and the money — should be controlled by an elite few. Not so at The Meteor, whose operation as a collective means the eclectic group of over 40 writers, artists, organizers, filmmakers, and media leaders behind the content also makes business decisions on things like organizational structure and advertising partnerships. “We’re trying to be deliberate … and [have] everything we do be informed by the views of the collective,” Leive says.

That grounding in shared power also honors foremothers in the movement: The collective’s name comes from Audre Lorde’s soaring prose about living life ablaze (“I'm going to go out like a fucking meteor!”), and the group convened an early brainstorming session in Gloria Steinem’s living room, the birthplace of Ms. magazine. Feminist media brands — and funding — will continue to grow, if Leive has her say. “There can be, and has to be, more abundance in this area.”

Essay by Delaney Rebernik.

Cindi Leive

The Design Observer Twenty

The Design Observer Twenty is our curated selection of twenty remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Suzanne Ishaq, PhD
Judy Samuelson
The Design Observer Twenty

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