“This is bold, raw, and a little bit audacious…but I kind of love it.” That isn’t a thought I ever imagined that looking over a PowerPoint pitch deck could possibly invoke in my mind. Yet, that was my exact reaction when I first found out about Moody Magazine, the lovingly curated, playfully risqué brainchild of founders Jennie Bull ’24 and Emma Lueders ’24.
Jennie, a dual major in marketing and retail management at the Whitman School of Management, and Emma, a fashion design major at the College of Visual and Performing Arts with a minor in information technology design from the I-School, first showed up on the Blackstone LaunchPad radar for the LaunchPad x Deloitte Digital Innovation Sprint which took place earlier in September. At this event, student teams were tasked with creating a proof-of-concept to address a digital challenge in the world of enterprise. With the help of their new friends Margil Gandhi ’23 and Ruzan Pithawala ’22, Jennie and Emma brought their infectious combined energy to the stage to pitch their passion project for the first time. Here’s what it’s all about:
Moody Magazine—or just “Moody,” as Jennie and Emma affectionately call it for short—is a self-education and self-love publication that was born from the founders’ frustration with the lack of transparency surrounding topics of sex-positivity and self-love. The two have recognized that there are few safe spaces to connect and guide people through these traditionally taboo topics, which is why they’re so passionate about initiating the conversations around them. With aims to develop a fully-fledged online platform in the future, the publication currently boasts a team of writers, public relations specialists, photographers, graphic designers, stylists, and web developers that sits at about a hundred people strong worldwide. Moody’s first issue released last April, with the next slated to be released in early December. It’s possible that you may have already seen this first issue—featuring Jennie’s shiny, cherry red stiletto boots—in circulation around campus.
The Moody team ended up securing first prize at the Deloitte Digital Innovation Sprint, walking away with a $500 award and the opportunity for further mentoring from a Deloitte PPMD. This created a ripple effect within the LaunchPad, mostly because the nature of Jennie and Emma’s venture is somewhat taboo in-and-of itself, and not in negative connotation either. We simply haven’t seen anything else quite like it come through the LaunchPad doors before, so it was only natural that peer entrepreneurs hearing about it for the first time were curious to know more.
I learned more about Moody while I was combing through the pitch decks of the winning teams to write a brief article on the results of the event, and their slides intrigued me enough to reach out.
I was able to meet with Jennie and Emma in person to learn more about their story. I must say, it was well worth the wait. Before I share the genesis of Moody though, I want to focus the spotlight directly on the founders themselves for a moment, because they are two of the most interesting, carefree personalities that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at Syracuse University.
If I were only allowed to choose one word to characterize them both, that word would be armorless. Utterly, astonishingly armorless. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was greeted with an open embrace from two people I’d only just met for the first time, and as we walked down Marshall Street looking for a spot in the sun to sit down and enjoy our coffee, the way they spoke with each other was cheerfully chaotic and without pause. It was like listening to a brain that could literally think out loud, buzzing with electrical energy; Jennie as the left hemisphere, Emma as the right, finishing each other’s sentences. Then, once we settled down at an open café-style table just outside of J-Michael Shoes, the two of them periodically greeted passersby on the sidewalk, complimenting their outfits and striking up brief but friendly conversations with them.
Based on this, it was apparent to me almost immediately that Jennie and Emma are unabashedly comfortable in their own skin, and in such a way that can bring forth a similar confidence in even the shyest of people they meet. More than that, the bond the two of them share is incredibly deep. Jennie, originally a Chicago native, and Emma, hailing from Wayne, Pennsylvania, first met as sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and then became attached at the hip due to their shared interest in fashion. In fact, they both currently work as fashion stylists for Zipped Magazine, the premier fashion and trends publication at Syracuse University, where they learned a great deal about the photoshoot direction skills they now employ for making Moody Magazine.
“The idea for Moody first came up when we were driving home from the thrift store,” Jennie told me. “We were making some stops on our way back from a Zipped shoot that day when we passed by an Adult World and started talking about sex stuff on the ride home.”
Then, Emma added, “These are conversations we feel comfortable having with each other and with our friends in KKG, and I know that other people have likely had these conversations with their friends too. In that moment, I think it really dawned on me and Jennie: why are these conversations that all of us have spoken about at one point or another not discussed more openly?”
Prior to this seed being planted, Jennie had ideas about creating a magazine on topics of sex-positivity to shed a non-judgmental light on the sexual experiences of young adults, while Emma had considered starting a magazine to help young adults understand the importance of self-love, having struggled with such issues herself in the past. “We kind of just looked at each other right then and there and said, do you want to make a magazine together? And that’s how it all started.”
Emma continued to describe to me the process that went into choosing the name of their new publication. “We wanted to pick something that sounded right for what we were going for; a name that could be both playful and a little bit naughty, but also not too raunchy. Originally, we were thinking ‘Sassy,’ or even ‘Spicy,’ but as soon as Jennie said ‘Moody,’ we knew that was the one. I remember the first words that came out of my mouth were, ‘Are you in the mood?’ That became our tagline from that day forward. We totally fell in love with it.”
But Jennie and Emma also knew that publishing their own magazine wasn’t a task they could feasibly tackle by themselves. So, they started to spread the word about their vision for Moody by creating an Instagram page and posting flyers in their sorority house and around campus. These flyers led to an application link via Google Forms which interested parties could fill out.
“At first, we were kind of just giggling about this idea of ours,” Jennie said. “We didn’t know if it would be something that people would even resonate with, but then once people heard, we got like eighty volunteer applicants in the span of a week. It totally floored me and Emma. It was just that sudden feeling of, ‘Whoa, so I guess this is actually happening now, huh?’”
Overall, the founders and team have been pleased with the work they’ve put into their publication, as well as humbled by the reception to their first issue. “It warms my heart whenever we have people send us little messages talking about how much they love Moody and what it’s been able to do for them personally,” Emma gushed. “Because the thing Jennie and I really want skeptics to understand about us is that we aren’t making an adult magazine. It might seem that way on the surface, but if those people were to pick up a copy and read it, then they’ll quickly realize that there’s way more to it than that. Moody has become an outlet for people to share their experiences on difficult topics that they might be scared to talk about otherwise, like sexual abuse, drug abuse, toxic relationships, self-expression, self-love, and so much more.”
“It also makes me happy to see that the guys are talking about Moody too,” Jennie interjected. “Especially when you consider that men are traditionally pressured to stay guarded about these kinds of things. But since we published our first issue, I’ve been out to frat houses and had guys approach me like, ‘Yo! You’re Jennie Bull from Moody Magazine.’ Some of them have told me that because of the context we’ve created, they’ve been able to have more open conversations with their other male friends and improve the intimacy and satisfaction in their romantic relationships.”
“And that’s really what it’s all about,” Emma concluded. “Through what we’re doing with Moody, we want to motivate the people who read it to start these same conversations in their own circles if they aren’t having them already. No one should have to feel ashamed to talk with others about difficult experiences they’ve been through, or to feel afraid to speak up about their personal boundaries and preferences with their romantic partners. We hope that Moody can provide an open floor and an emotional release for our readers in the same way it has for me, Jennie, and the rest of our team.”
Story by Jack Rose ’24, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photo supplied