Over the last few months, the Mama Hope team and our supporters across the country have felt many jolts of excitement to unexpectedly catch a glimpse of the face of our founder, Nyla Rodgers, staring back at us from the page of a magazine, on a billboard, through the glass panes of a shopping mall window or even projected larger-than-life in NYC’s Grand Central Station. Nyla is part of Eileen Fisher’s newest ad campaign “Power in the Words of Women.” This campaign is about much more than selling the brand’s (sustainably made, timelessly designed) garments — it’s about promoting inspirational women who live powerfully in their truth and passion. Featured in Forbes and NY Mag’s The Cut, this campaign is bringing women’s voices to the forefront of the discussion about the nature of REAL power, and how the world would look if women defined it. We think that now, more than ever, our society needs to shift how we understand power — who has it, how they use it and what it truly means. Our team sat down with Nyla to talk about the campaign.
Who taught you what it means to be powerful?
I am an only child raised by a single mother, and for most of my life I didn’t know where she ended and I began. After leaving my father, we moved in with my grandparents. My grandfather the peace-loving WWII hero, my grandmother was a civil rights activist for the NAACP and my mom was a proud member of the white panthers, a radical anti-racist group founded in the 60’s. It was in my blood to become an activist.
Growing up in my house, true power was not measured by what you had but by what you gave away: your time, your money, your talent. For my family, the whole point of making money or earning prestige was so that you could use it to make the world a better place.
Who are the powerful women who have inspired you?
Mama Hope is built on the belief that women nurture hope in this world.
My mom was a powerhouse who inspired every person she ever met to be the best version of themselves. She never had very much money, but whatever she had she gave it away to support causes she cared deeply for. She taught me that I was not only an American, but also — and more importantly — a citizen of the world. From my mom, I learned that what I do with my life would affect everyone on the planet because we are all connected.
I’ve always sought out powerful women who are making an impact to surround me. My source of daily inspiration is our visionary partners, like Anastasia Juma in Kenya and Kilines Sekwiha in Tanzania. Anastasia was a nun who left the convent at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya because the priest in charge wouldn’t let her treat those infected and affected. She founded an organization, OLPS, which is now one of the best clinics in her community where thousands receive treatment, health education and preventative care. She herself has taken over 20 children into her own home, hustling daily to provide them with the care they need to thrive. Kilines, with the support of parents who valued her education over their own economic stability, left her small rural village in Tanzania to get her PhD in Scotland. She returned to open a school and give back to the community that nurtured her love for learning. These women are dedicating their lives to ensuring that future generations never have to experience poverty, and I feel powerful when I can help them.
I am also honored to work with Mama Hope’s incredible all-female team, each of whom believes so strongly in building a more just and equitable world.
Why did you choose “Hope” to represent power?
I chose the word “hope” for the Eileen Fisher campaign because I believe that hope is one of the most powerful words in the English language. I think a lot of people see “hope” as a passive word, but to me, hope is an action. I believe hope is not just something we think, but something we do by putting our passion into action for the betterment of the world.
What was it like meeting the other women who are part of the #RealPower campaign?
It has been really inspiring meeting the other women involved. They represent a new generation of leaders who believe in collaboration. They act from their hearts and are in alignment with their core values. They’ve taught me that in order for us to heal this world we must work together.
What are your thoughts on Eileen Fisher?
I have always admired Eileen Fisher as a great role model and CEO. She lives her values and built everything from the sheer will to create simple, beautiful clothing for the everyday woman. I love that social impact is not just an addition to her brand, but built into its foundation — I was thrilled to see Eileen Fisher become the largest women’s fashion company to become a B Corp last year. I’ve seen firsthand during my time partnering with Eileen that she has created a company that people are proud to be a part of and help grow.
Why did you decide to join this campaign?
I got involved because I think promoting a more feminine perspective of power is what the world needs now. I feel that the word “power” has been distorted. We need to highlight new and different ways of manifesting power. By proving through example that power doesn’t have to be hierarchical, toxic, corrupt or consuming, we can inspire more women to step into their power fully.
I said before that I founded Mama Hope because I believe in the power of women to nurture hope and change in this world. That defines true power for me — the power we all have to use hope as an action to make the world better for everyone and everything.