ORIGINAL SERIES: 'HOW DID YOU GET HERE?'
Watch designer and entrepreneur Robert Verdi chat with tastemakers and business leaders about what they do, how they got where they are, and what keeps them inspired.
EPISODE 5: MARISA ACOCELLA
Intro: This is, How did you get here? A series about entrepreneurial business leaders, what they do, how they got here, and what keeps them inspired. Right here from Emerge 212, New York City’s premier, fully serviced office suite
Robert: Hi, I’m Robert Verde. Welcome to, How did you get here? Today I’m joined by Marisa Acocella cartoonist and graphic novelist. Let’s find out how she built her empire.
Robert: Yours is one of my favorite stories because there’s a real watershed moment for you. Deciding that working for other people was not gonna be something…
Marisa: Oh my God, I hated it.
Robert: You hated it.
Marisa: It wasn’t advertising. It was in bad-vertising.
Robert: What’s that moment that you know, I can’t do this another day?
Marisa: I was like crisis time. I took my sketchpad and I started drawing and I drew myself with a gun in my mouth with the line, she was a little upset during the meeting.
Robert: Now once you created that character, it was you, but it was millions of women.
Marisa: Yeah. Cause she’d said things and did things that I wish I could have said. I was writing about being frustrated, being in the workforce. I was writing about women’s empowerment. I definitely feel like I struck a chord at that point.
Robert: You publish this book, Just who the hell is she anyway? And then what’s the trajectory of your career after that?
Marisa: From that I started cartooning for the New Yorker. There was Mirabella, Elle, Harper’s Bizarre.
Robert: Correct me if I’m wrong. You were the first cartoonist to have a cartoon panel in the New York Times.
Marisa: That’s true.
Robert: You have a series of really amazing accomplishments, but you meet a big tragedy in your life. Tell me about being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Marisa: I’m about to get married. I have a cold and I go visit my doctor. As he’s like checking my chest with a stethoscope, it bumped into a lump and he said, why didn’t you tell me about that? And I’m like, oh my God, what about that lump? I did get the diagnosis, breast cancer diagnosis, and I didn’t have health insurance and you know, I wound up paying for my own mammograms and my parents helped me get a lumpectomy and I wound up getting married and I did get insurance from my husband. It was pretty traumatic.
Robert: One of the things that I think is incredible is that at this moment in your life, which is just so emotionally overwhelming, you got back on the drawing board.
Marisa: Glamor Magazine asked me if I wanted to write about it. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to or not. At that time, nobody really was. I was walking down Hudson River with my friend Bob Morris, and he said, you know, what are you going to call your Glamor piece? I said, I don’t know. And he said, “Look at you. You look like a victim. Where’s my vixen?” And then he said, that’s what you should call it, Cancer Vixen. So I went home and I drew myself as a vixen basically kicking cancer’s ass, which became my book cover. And that drawing was on my drawing board the entire year.
Robert: I mean you really take all the challenges in your life and you channel them creatively and passionately into success.
Robert: What are the lessons that you think you learned along the way?
Marisa: I think the very worst thing that’s going on in your life could be the very best story of your life.
Robert: That’s all I’ve ever had to hear to continue living from here on. That’s it.
Robert: Thank you so much for telling me your story. Thanks for sharing that and telling us how you’ve got here.
Marisa: It’s a pleasure being here.
Outro: For more information on how you can get here, go to Emerge212.com.