How One Independent Magazine is Challenging a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
BY: ADRIEN YOUNG
There is only one publication in the entire world that is dedicated to female guitarists and bassists–and it’s called She Shreds. The magazine’s founder, 25-year-old Fabi Reyna, is undoubtedly a boss. Not only are the words and images that grace her pages thoughtfully and intelligently created, but each facet of each issue works vigilantly to oppose the way ladies who shred are represented in the music industry and beyond.
We got to sit down with the boss herself in her North Portland office to talk identity and how She Shreds is transcending the confines that the decades-old business has constructed.
What is She Shreds, aside from a publication?
While She Shreds started originally as a publication, we’ve since expanded into a creative agency, with our primary focus on creating safe, inclusive and educational spaces for women, women of color, LGBTQ and non-binary humans.
What’s your identity?
Mexican, Guitarist, Woman, Lesbian. In that order.
How does your concept of identity factor into your work with She Shreds?
For one thing, it’s powerful and important to recognize that I’m a Mexican-born woman who started the world’s first publication about women guitarists, that has created this space and dialogue within the guitar world to shift. I think that because I identify as so many different things across the board, She Shreds is that much more inclusive. It’s not just, “Oh yeah, feminism” and “Let’s empower women,” it’s actually creating a space for stories that are untold, and how that elevates an industry, a community and a movement.
What was your relationship to guitar as a kid?
I started playing electric guitar when I was 9 and just fell in love with it. Guitar has always been an escape, a way of communicating. I remember thinking as a kid, “This is the only way I can communicate.” My English was really bad and I was never really able to say what I wanted to say through talking, so guitar became that thing.
What does it mean to shred?
Shredding is being able to express in the way you want to express, and doing that in a way that feels good. That could be playing two chords, if you’re doing it and you’re reaching people. You can’t really communicate with people through music if you’re not understanding and feeling it yourself.
You started She Shreds at age 19. What did the guitar industry look like to you then?
At that time , I had finished the first issue of She Shreds, and six months later I went to NAMM, the biggest convention for music merchants. There were a lot of instrument booths with half-naked women trying to bring in men–“booth babes.” At that time, a lot of big name companies were still featuring naked women covered by guitars in their advertisements. I told people about She Shreds; they asked me if women play the guitar. That was an actual question. Every single guitar and music company is at this convention, and I realized they truly believed only men buy instruments and that women are simply for bringing them in. It was gross. I realized then this isn’t only for creating spaces for people like you and me, it’s to convince [these companies] that what they’re doing and the visibility that they present is wrong.
Do you feel the industry is changing?
So two weeks after we got back from NAMM, we started calling people out. I thought, “I have nothing to lose here. We have a thousand followers on Facebook, so let’s just start calling people out and see what happens.” I started reposting other companies’ advertisements. One was of a naked woman licking the guitar. So many of our thousand followers emailed them and left comments, the company ended up deleting the post. Then they actually called me, said what a huge impact this made on them, and wanted to see what they could do differently. That was the first time I was like, “Wow. That actually worked.”
And now you have a lot more than 1,000 followers.
You want to make money? We totally get that, but if you continue to ignore our demographic, our readers, the She Shreds community, you will not succeed. You will die off as an industry. You don’t have a choice anymore but to actually change your views, hire new staff, invest deeply into getting to know this audience well.”
What have been the challenges of being a young entrepreneur?
Well, not knowing anything [laughs]. I didn’t go to college so I literally came into this “business” not knowing anything. I needed to invent the wheel. I needed to pretend like ‘I know what I’m doing,’ but also suggest all kinds of new ways of visibility and representation. Other than that, I enter of a room of seven 40+ year old white dudes and I literally look like I’m fifteen [laughs]. It’s harder for people to take me seriously. Immediately someone doesn’t assume I’m a businesswoman, and they don’t immediately trust that I meet with money. But after a few emails, it’s all chill.
And the rewards?
The biggest reward is, naturally, being able to communicate with the people that need this. And not being jaded yet, and being able to be creative and have the ability to understand that I’m essentially rewriting rules.
What She Shreds content are you most proud of producing?
Simply, my favorite piece is being able to announce that 50% of new guitar buyers are women.
That’s huge. Where do you see She Shreds heading?
To be honest, I would love the guitar industry to get on board with this movement, for them to hire She Shreds and the She Shreds community to create content for them. I want it to be the Hollywood of instruments, in a non-shitty way; in an inclusive way. That’s what I want for them, and for me. Magazines, offices, documentary, podcasts, festivals, workshops–anything I can do, I want to do it.