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Alysia Reiner Sounds Off on Taking Charge and Making Change

Photo: Courtesy of Alysa Reiner

When it comes to being a multi-tasking woman in media, Alysia Reiner has learned from some of the best. In the role of Natalie “Fig” Figueroa on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” she rubs elbows with Jenji Kohan, the show’s creator, head writer and show-runner. As Sunny on FX’s “Better Things,” she works side by side with the show’s co-creator, writer, producer, director and star, Pamela Adlon. Reiner witnessed first-hand as Kohan and Adlon “not only made female-driven content but would hire so many more women,” which inspired the classically trained theatre actress to step out of her comfort zone and into a new role as producer. “For my last movie, ‘EGG,’ I hired all female heads of every single department, and we had a 70 percent female crew,” she shares. “That for me is the biggest way to change the statistics: Don’t talk about it, just do it. When I’m producing, I get to make those choices…it’s why I was called to not just be an actor but be a boss.”

Though Reiner is fortunate to be surrounded by strong women in her work life now — and, in turn, works hard to create opportunities for fellow women in her industry — she had trouble finding a mentor when starting out as an actress in her 20s. So, Reiner built a mentorship group with friends. “We kept each other accountable,” she recalls. “We would talk every week and we would support each other and cheerlead each other. And it was so deeply important.”

Reiner points out that this kind of encouragement is crucial for success, especially because too many women doubt their qualifications, be it in politics, Hollywood or entrepreneurship. “So many women,” she says, “believe that their voice doesn’t matter and that they need to be more educated.” In reality, a large part of success, Reiner notes, is ownership; “that you know what you’re doing and your voice is deeply important and matters and deserves to be heard.”

When it comes to advice for female entrepreneurs, Reiner borrows a few wise words from none other than Mister Rogers: “accept and expect mistakes.” In addition to her film, television and theatre acting; her producing; and her activism, Reiner is a co-founder of LIVARI, a zero-waste womenswear label. “To start your own business, it’s about stamina and persistence and not-give-it-up-edness,” she laughs. “It’s a marathon. It’s about doing your research and being honest and showing up for yourself every day and believing in yourself and believing that you’re worth it and your idea and your company [are] worth it.”

As consumers, Reiner urges women to “own their buying power” and invest in women entrepreneurs through more conscious shopping. “Whatever you are purchasing — [from] a bottle of wine at your local wine shop, to clothing, to food — is there a choice of a woman-made product? If there isn’t, what is the policy of the company that you’re buying from about women, about equality of hiring, about equality of salary?”

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