Panelist Profile: Audacia Ray, Founder of The Red Umbrella Project

Our next panel, Start Something: Why Every Creative Needs To Be An Entrepreneur, will be an exciting dive into how a creative person can follow their passion and start something from nothing. Join us on Wednesday, September 21 at 6:30pm at the New School (RSVP here).

We are proud to present our third panelist profile: Audacia Ray, Founder of The Red Umbrella Project, where she works to amplify the voices of people involved in the sex industry.

Audaca is currently the Program Officer for Online Communications and Campaigns at the International Women’s Health Coalition and a communications consultant for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects. She was formerly an executive editor at the award-winning $pread magazine for three years and is the author of Naked on the Internet (2007). She has a B.A. from Eugene Lang College at The New School and a M.A. from Columbia University.


What is your current role?
As the founder and director of the Red Umbrella Project, I work to reframe public dialogue on the impact of stigma and discrimination on people who trade sex for things they need. I host a monthly storytelling series, the Red Umbrella Diaries, where sex workers tell true stories about their lives, and I document the stories in a podcast. I also lead media and storytelling training that encourage people involved in the sex industry to develop their voices and speak up publicly about their lived experiences. I also do communications consulting work for nonprofits – years of doing media work around a really challenging issue has made me pretty sharp on how to deal with media and messaging strategy.

When did you know you wanted to “start something?”
My entrepreneurial efforts have always been connected to my activism. I knew I wanted -really, needed- to “start something” when I didn’t see the kind of media and community I most wanted in the world. Years ago, when I was dealing with the isolation of being a sex worker and having been rejected by some of the communities I was part of before I came out, I really needed my voice to be heard, and to connect with other people who had this experience. I became an editor at the fledgling magazine $pread and then went on to produce and edit blogs and videos about sexuality and sex work. As I learned more, I began to teach media workshops to sex workers and other marginalized activist communities that want to make their own media and confront the ways that mainstream media portrays our communities.


How do you keep a balance of being productive and finding inspiration?
This is an ongoing struggle, and probably one I will never completely master. I work, or am thinking about work, a whole lot. I find that I am more productive when I make sure to schedule time for relaxation, exercise, reading, cooking – things I love that help me take care of myself. It’s important to have strong boundaries around these activities though – there is always more work to be done. It’s important to be able to say, “No, I can’t do that” to some requests and not feel bad, or like I have to explain why.

What was most exciting to you about the chance to participate in our panel, Start Something: Why Every Creative Needs To Be An Entrepreneur?
I’m really excited about talking with the other panelists about their paths to their work and see what we’ve got in common and what was different for them.

Do you have any questions for Audacia? Ask them in the comments and we’ll make sure to ask them at the event. Click here to RSVP.

Marny Smith is the Community Manager for NY Creative Interns. You can find her on TumblrTwitter and LinkedIn.

About the Author

Marny Smith was the VP and Director of Community of FindSpark for 2.5 years. She is a FindSpark Advisor, Certified Professional Resume Writer, Diversity Advocate, and Employment Specialist connecting young adults with developmental disabilities with supportive employers. Interested in learning more about hiring individuals with disabilities? Feel free to reach out:

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