Writer, Creative Director, and Host Laura Perlongo Is Changing The Conversation
As cool as they come and on a brilliant rise, Laura Perlongo is tackling controversial topics with a side of humor, such as relationships, motherhood, and parental leave. Warm and infectious, this Michigan native, now New Yorker and wife to Nev Schulman, is both career-driven and family-oriented. Cozying up to this total babe and mama of two, we chatted about her story—which is ever-evolving, authentic, and mostly funny—her motivation behind highlighting neglected issues, and why she’s leaning into change.
What’s your career story?
Before setting out on my own as a consultant, writer, and issues-based content creator, I started in sales at a magazine. It was awful! Ha. Really the worst. I was told by my boss, 'I've never seen anyone work harder and sell less.' But he took pity on me and gave me a job as a writer instead. I then pivoted to advertising and worked my way up the corporate ladder to Creative Director.
What’s been the hardest career decision you've had to make?
About three or four months after I'd been named Creative Director—a role I'd been working toward my entire career—I found out I was pregnant! Seemingly the worst timing, not only because I was at the top of my career, but because Nev was living in LA at the time and we had no idea how we were going to make it work. We'd only been dating for seven months and while we HAD casually chatted about having a baby in the distant future, we certainly didn’t have any plans of doing it then. So I made the most challenging decision of my life and moved to LA to be with Nev, have our baby, and freelance in advertising. While it was a huge emotional adjustment, in hindsight, I believe I made the right decision. Taking that step into the unknown has opened so many new and exciting doors for me. Doors I didn't know existed. It also made me realize that work isn’t everything, and you can forge your own path. We’ve since moved back to NYC as a family. LA was not my jam— but I gave it a solid go and proved to myself how committed I was to Nev and my babies.
What did that feel like to set out on your own?
At the time, it was my dream to work in a creative capacity and make REAL money, and I did it! However, when I got pregnant and wanted to embark on this new chapter in my life, I realized my old dream of being a creative director in advertising no longer fit my new life. It took me a while to come to terms with this because I was so attached to this outdated version of myself: the quintessential New York City lady boss who hustled her way to the top against all odds. Setting out on my own meant changing my image of success. But I also learned that new ideas and opportunities come into our lives every day if we're open to them. I've found it’s best to lean into change.
What’s the deal with parental leave in the US?
I couldn't for the life of me understand how I was supposed to go back to work immediately after having a baby. And, in the U.S., that is what is expected! Six - eight weeks offered to a woman if she's lucky! And most men get nothing at all! I mean, who was meant to take care of our daughter? So in part, I knew a 'normal' job wasn't what I wanted. Luckily I had a career that allowed me to work freelance and make my own schedule. Through my experience, I realized this is a monumental issue in our country that people are trying to navigate every day. For most, it seems, they have two choices, either not see their kids, or give up their career.
So Nev and I made a video for ATTN: about parental leave citing that the “The U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave.” In short, the video did VERY well. With over 100 million views and an overwhelming response from people reaching out thanking us for shedding light on such an important topic, we realized we weren't alone. It was an election year and became significant issue for candidates. It seems as though leave options ARE getting better, and I'm happy to continue to be a part of that change.
So, what else are you up to?
I’m continuing to develop additional projects with that mindset... that people are too often suffering in silence about issues we (parents, women, mothers) ALL face. I’ve been working on a couple of shows with Facebook Watch and ATTN:. One called We Need to Talk where Nev and I shed light on issues a lot of couples go through. Things like when should we move in together, should you talk to your ex?, and navigating social media in relationships. It’s a blast because Nev and I go through the same stuff and get into the same fights as everyone else. It’s fun to talk about it alongside other couples. I've also been recently green-lit for my own series which I'm really excited about but can't exactly share just yet! Once in awhile I'll co-host an episode of Catfish with Nev too. It's fun (and EXHAUSTING!) to see what he does every day. The emotional lift is substantial.
How did you and Nev meet?
We met on Instagram through my ex-boyfriend! Nev was following him and then started following me because he saw a photo of me looking cute on his page (lol). When my boyfriend and I broke up, I suppose I started posting sexier photos (ha!), and he noticed. Then, one day, I tagged a co-worker on a post of his motorcycle. He immediately sent me a DM with a photo of his helmet and a bag of cookies that said, “Wanna go for a ride?" And I wrote, “Ha! Duh.” He responded, “Tonight?” And so we did. He picked me up from work that day and now we have two kids! Having just got out of my previous relationship I remember riding to work on my bike that morning crying. Funny how the world works, one moment you’re devastated at your lowest point and the next you’re riding on motorcycles with new hot boys! You never know what's about to happen.
New ideas and opportunities come into our lives every day, it’s best to lean into the change.
What are your thoughts on working out, eating, and wellness?
I work out with a trainer a couple of days a week—trying to get my abs back! Plus, I eat decently, but I’m not on a specific diet or regiment. I think its important to feel good. Whatever that means for you. I feel best when I'm not eating too many french fries or muffins but not denying myself either. Everything in moderation!
What's your idea of self-care?
There's nothing I hate more than this concept of prioritizing, “me time". I find it stressful, to be honest. Like you have to do this and this and this, but don't forget "ME TIME". Like it's another thing to cross off my list. I don’t even know what that "me time" is because every time I'm alone, I feel dumb. I'd rather spend quality time with my family or be working on things that are important to me. Those are things that make ME happy. Therefore, my interpretation of "me time" is taking the time to put on a cute tank top that makes me feel sexy all day. This way, the whole day is "me time" because I feel like a cool version of myself? I don't know! Ha.
Cute tank? Tell us more…
Since having kids, I classify my style as whatever’s-easiest-but-still-looks-cute. It’s not uncommon that I’ll wear the same jeans that are next to my bed for five days with a new shirt. Having worked in advertising for so long, I likely have fashion references in the back of my head, an editorial vision if you will, but I can’t always pinpoint what that is. Recently I've been wearing Cleo’s butterfly clips in my hair and the other day I was walking around NYU and saw that "the kids" are wearing them too! It dawned on me that I must have picked it up from some Instagram post and didn’t even realize it. Also, living in NYC, we all subconsciously absorb other people’s style because we're living on top of each other. When I travel back home to Michigan people give me strange looks because my style is such a strange mash-up of identities. I suppose we're all a product of our environment. I think the more varied the better.
Watch Laura keep it real every day on her Insta @LauraPerlongo.