Sophia Rossi is Los Angeles’ emblem of the twenty first century working girl. Instead of strong shoulder pads and teased hair, she floats around in light floor length dresses with her relaxed, loosely curled hair bouncing in place. She’s a California girl through and through and, naturally, has dipped her toes quite deeply into the entertainment industry. A few weeks back, we set a quick time to meet with this very busy lady at her Beverly Hills home/office/female empowerment den, where everything Hello Giggles happens.
The space is actually Rossi’s home but has now become the business’ “upgraded office space.” “Things are going really, really well,” she says, as we begin our interview a minute after she arrives from a morning meeting. Sophia is someone who is never not working, a trait that always lands her pursuits in success. She sits behind her computer at her work table, along with almost-assistant-but-intern Tatti, who both carry on a conversation about recent submissions to Hello Giggles that range from African textiles to candles that smell like cupcakes.
Sophia’s career started right when high school finished, as she opted to skip college and go straight to work. She was born and raised in Beverly Hills and attended Horace Mann and Beverly Hills High School. She’s so Beverly Hills that her workspace is actually just three blocks away from where her parents live. Not very many people in Los Angeles can make that claim but Ms. Rossi definitely can.
Her first job was working as an intern at a music video production company, which eventually lead her working with Amanda Demme and Dave Myers. She left the West coast for a brief period of time, switching coasts to New York. “I moved to New York after being introduced to Damon Dash, who asked me to work for him,” she explains, “I was supposed to just work from LA but I ended up always being in New York. I helped produce a show with Damon and then started working with producers at MTV, which led me back to Los Angeles to work on the pilot of The Hills. I was an Associate Producer on the pilot and eventually became Executive Producer after five years on the show. I also worked on The City as well, leaving when I was twenty eight. I was a freelance television producer until Hello Giggles started.”
Sophia has done so much in the past two years, practically switching the roles of how she works and who she works for. “I’m really lucky that I don’t have a boss,” she says, “But, it’s almost harder because–before–I had to answer to someone and make sure things got done. I have an assistant’s brain which is why I think I love producing so much–but that’s why the website is so great because I don’t have to answer to anyone. I’m a lot more relaxed than when I worked on The Hills and consulted on other projects, where I would worry that things had to be their way. Now, it’s my own thing and it’s not that intense. I had a really difficult time with The Hills because it was so personal to me. It was really my first real job since I didn’t go to college.”
Her work now is also infinitely more rewarding–and greatly low stakes. “Working with Damon and The Hills was really intimidating for me,” Sophia says, typing a message. “[Producing] is one of those things you get so into, even though–really–it isn’t that important: it’s just television. It made me get really sensitive about all of my work. With Hello Giggles, everything is so happy and positive. I can get snappy, but nothing has to happen.”
Unlike The Hills and other shows she worked on, she wasn’t steering the ship because it wasn’t her machine. If Hello Giggles didn’t happen, she would likely still be producing, searching for another project she felt as passionate about. She explains: “I freelanced for so long because I wasn’t able to commit to some random negative show. I’d tell producers that I would work on pilots but wouldn’t sign on to a show unless I really, truly liked it.”
“[Producing] was also hard because I don’t enjoy writing,” she adds. “I mean, I can write–but I don’t enjoy it. And, yes, I enjoy scripted projects more than reality projects. But, to be a producer in scripted, you also have to write. Now you can be a consulting producer, which I would rather be.”
Production isn’t her passion anyway: it’s sharing stories, an important piece of her recent business plan. “My passion is communication and story telling,” she says, “Zooey is more of about pushing a positive outlook into a community and Molly is the innovative, empowering, creative one.” She takes a moment, dwelling on her love for her fellow co-founders, two women who you can very obviously see are the most important people in her life: “I find Molly to be so inspiring. She’s really authentic and has been an Internet personality forever and is now a writer on a sitcom. I pick her brain everyday. Zooey is equally so talented and is an incredible actress and has made The New Girl her own. Molly is my favorite inspiration and Zooey is my favorite tone.”
“I think I’m the balance for both of them,” she says, further defining her role in the trio, “I’m more business oriented than the both of them and I think more bigger picture than them. We’re in a new territory where we have a lot of initiatives for positive media and female empowerment. We’re the only ones in this space but, hopefully, there will be others specifically in this space.”
Thus, the Hello Giggles founding dynamic: one part storytelling, one part innovation, and one part positivity, wrapped up in a bright, shiny bow. “I feel like it’s an online summer camp,” Sophia calls Hello Giggles, which clarifies the dynamic to one part storytelling, one part innovation, and one part positivity, all of which are the touchstones that this bright online summer camp are rooted in.
Looking into the future, Sophia definitely has a set idea of what will be happening. “I’m always going to be partners with Molly and Zooey, in whatever entities that means,” she says confidently, “Molly I think will have–and does have–a huge future. Vision wise, Zooey and I are on the same page. A production company is what I’m leaning towards and I’m hoping our website will be a platform for expanding our other projects. In ten years I’m hoping I sold my website, for sure.”
Coming from a television background, how does she feel about the online world? Of course, she it’s more relaxed, but how does she see it in relationship to working? “I don’t think websites costs a lot of money and there isn’t a big risk in creating them,” she says, “We are the perfect example of how far buzz can get you and I have so many opportunities as a result of our work. Zooey didn’t even have The New Girl before we came up with Hello Giggles. It wasn’t like we piggybacked off of her show: The New Girl can be equally as thankful for Hello Giggles as we are for it. And, I don’t feel like we’re a celebrity company. We’re our own world and we want everyone to feel like it is there. It’s like a resume and community for everyone involved.”
“But everything costs money,” she mentions, “You can only be the underdog for so long.”
As far as Los Angeles, the city is like a relative to her, even though many of her friends don’t even live here anymore and she can be more productive in New York. “I have equally as many best friends in New York as I do here,” she says, “I just don’t like the lifestyle as much in New York. I do think I’m a lot more productive work wise in New York. My personality is just a lot more LA.”
Why is that? “I like space and the weather and I stay home a lot. I prefer working from home,” she says, “And, I don’t know if whatever office environment we have will ever feel like an office: it will always feel like a home because I’m a homebody. That’s why LA is better for me. And, it’s more comfortable here.”
Of course, “here” is Los Angeles but the specific “here” is Beverly Hills. Yes, everyone loves Beverly Hills but, in such a big city, why that part of town? “I stay in Beverly Hills because I’m single and I feel like the police department is really great here,” she says, fending off minor giggles from listeners in the room, “I swear! I’m near a park so I know police check in on it all the time. And, I have lived in the canyons and I just hated the house noises they have. There are beautiful houses in the canyons and I had a great time when I lived in the hills, but I hate animal noises and similar stuff. I want to be central. Even if I got a house, I don’t know if I would live in the hills. They are more beautiful, yes, but I don’t want to have to drive twenty minutes to get somewhere. That’s counter productive.”
“Here, I feel like I’m super near everything,” she says of her current neighborhood, the same neighborhood she’s lived her entire life. “A lot of the digital spaces like YouTube and Google are all just blocks away. It’s convenient if I have something with them. And, a few PR companies have also rented houses around here to work out of them, which I am so into.”
“The fact that I work out of my house is a big thing,” she clarifies, like a heavy underline below her statement. “A lot of my friends come over here and work on writing pieces and it’s a lot easier that way. I don’t want to schedule meetings outside of the house, either. I can’t not look at my phone for that long. If you want to come over and parallel play, that’s totally fine. I’ll look up from my computer every few minutes. I don’t want to go to lunch with anyone or grab coffee for a work meeting. I think that’s why New York works. It’s not that I don’t want to do those things: it just isn’t productive for work. If I was going to do work stuff, I would be on my computer. If I say I am going to do something, I’m on my phone right away doing it.”
And, naturally, she proved her point by soaking in more questions as she rattled out responses on her Blackberry, a communication tool that is obviously an integral part of her system. “I don’t do drinks either,” she says. “I can do a breakfast, which is the one thing I’m really okay with because its nice to start your day with a meal sometimes–and, you know, I like to eat. But, a lunch is really hard because it takes you away from your day. If that’s the only time someone needs to meet me, then I will meet them then, of course.”
Sophia takes a breath, after what seemed to be thirty minutes of continuous typing, talking, listening, and engaging, a form of multi-tasking very few can do. She takes a breath, looking away from the computer, to look me right in my eyes: “I just love LA.”
And, Los Angeles–her geographic mother and father, business partner and benefactor–loves her back. The city wouldn’t be the same without her and she definitely wouldn’t be the same without it.