Break the Rules Like ... Muriel Vega
Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. Each week, we're introducing y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to email@example.com.
1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I’m Muriel Vega, and I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly 20 years (wow!). I’m originally from Panama and moved here when I was 15. I love this city so much (often too much) so I went to Georgia State and grew my writing career here.
I’m a writer and editor by trade — during the day I hustle as the managing editor of Hypepotamus, an Atlanta-based innovation and tech news publication. During the rest of my waking hours, I freelance for a number of publications about trends in culture, food and human behavior.
2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you?
Writing didn’t always have my full attention. Before we moved to the States, my brain was set on being a veterinarian while writing on the side. I had a friend growing up that was a fantastic writer (she has this incredible Serial-like podcast now in Panama) and we always talked about writing short stories together.
After I moved here, everything changed. I spent more time reading and writing as I began to process my feelings about living in the States and everything that comes with that. I learned Spanish and English at the same time growing up so assimilating was easier for me than most. Thanks to an amazing English teacher who advocated for me to be put in higher English classes, writing became my passion. She believed in me when the school administration continued to stick me in intro classes because I was an immigrant and the assumption that I didn’t speak “good English.” I ended up studying journalism at Georgia State, and the rest is history.
Writing about technology happened kind of serendipitously. My now-husband was applying to code school to move forward his career, and through a mutual friend I found my job now, and it was a really good fit. This niche is so interesting to me, and I’m now focusing a lot of my work on how technology continues to intersect with our lives.
3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?
In short, I won’t put up with people’s shit. While I’m good at getting down to people’s levels to understand why they’re saying about X things and helping diffuse the situation, I won’t put up with condescending people.
I feel like being a woman covering technology and startups has helped me learn how to stand up for myself in a good, constructive way. I’m really good at picking my battles and breathing through a frustrating situation. I may not always win an argument, but I will speak up and say my piece — whether it’s through my writing or in person during a discussion.
4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalize in bronze?
My mother, hands down. My mother is a doer. I watch her in awe as she sets up her dream life, post-me, in Miami. Having the strength to decide what you want and making it happen, regardless of how scared you are, is incredible. She did it when she uprooted our lives from Panama despite our very opinionated family, and she’s doing it now.
If you could pour bronze on a Slack channel, it would be my GG Slack aka my supportive AF group of talented writer friends. I would not be able to get through my day without them. Their talent is inspiring, and I’m of the school of surrounding yourself with good people and helping other people rise.
Finally, Shonda Rhimes and Missy Elliott — both of their creations (Grey’s Anatomy and music, respectively) can snap me out of a bad day. They’re incredible African-American women who have pushed through society’s framework and came out on top.
5. What was your feminist aha moment?
Learning to be unapologetically myself — as a woman, as an immigrant and as a hot-soup lover during the summer. It took me a while to be okay with the life choices I’ve made like not wanting kids or traveling as much as possible, despite people’s opinions that these things are not normal. It’s okay to live your life like you want to. It’s been a journey, but it was damn worth it.
6. What’s the best advice you’ve received? The worst?
Best: Talk about money with your partner early and often. But also pick your battles — it’s not always worth the argument.
Worst: Don’t speak up about money with your boss unless they bring it up (fuck that).
7. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?
Grandma-style sweaters (a mommy blogger recommendation), soup season, my dogs in very good sweaters and finding cheap travel tickets. I love traveling with my husband — we made travel vows when we started dating — and we’ve been to 15+ countries together so far. Sometimes we travel with another couple (hi Ashley + Jonny!), and it’s been really fun to share experiences with them.
8. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?
My first aid/just-in-case kit and headphones. I’m your token grandma who always a bandaid, Advil or safety pin ready for you.
9. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?
Check out CommonCreativ ATL, a passion project I have with my work BFF and writer Caroline Cox, where we feature emerging artists in Atlanta through weekly in-depth Q&As. We’ve been doing it for 8+ years. We also try to recruit emerging writers to provide them with editorial feedback and help build their clips. It’s something we didn’t have when we graduated (we met in college!), and now we can finally give back. It’s been a really great journey so far.
If you’re into the startup scene in Atlanta and the Southeast, follow Hypepotamus for the latest news and see more proof that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to grow a successful company.
Supporting your local community and its talent is the only way to make your city thrive. Visit small businesses, read local publications, donate to local causes — love your city and it will love you back (hopefully!). That local talent — whether it’s podcasters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, creatives, etc. — is what makes a city shine and grow.
More from Muriel
More about women supporting women
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Women Supporting Each Other at Work (Harvard Business Review, 2018)
Women Supporting Other Women: 4 Simple Ways (Black Enterprise, 2018)
Lifting as We Climb: The Story of America’s First Black Women’s Club (Women’s Museum of California, 2018)
Do Women’s Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality? (Harvard Business Review, 2018)
At agencies, Slack is leveling the playing field for women (Digiday, 2017)