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'No one here is settling, everyone is striving.'

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Feature by Michael Canning

Lydia Pang is creative director at Refinery29, a digital media brand focused on empowering young women and one of America's fastest growing companies. Lydia is a self-proclaimed Frankenstein creative, born from an international outlook and changing work landscape, and a frequent creative industry contributor including initiatives like the 2018 Cannes Lions 'See It Be It' programme. 

A native of Wales, UK, we spoke to Lydia on creative life in New York, her work at Refinery29 and discovering the city's most inspiring crevices.


On where you’re from

A little village in Wales called Llancayo, Usk.

On arriving in New York

It was August, so all I remember is hot, sticky, frantic, fear-filled chaos. Was wonderful.

On your relationship with New York

Love-hate, in the best possible way. Sometimes I’ll be walking through the farmers’ market opposite my house in Brooklyn with my fiancé and my dog, grabbing some brunch, buying flowers, covered in sunshine. And other days you’re running to a meeting in Times Square and it starts raining and someone random screams at you for getting in their way and you can feel yourself sweating — it can feel so defeating. So yeah, it’s like constant tickle and slap, NYC. As a place, it’s so sensory and can feel like it’s worshipping you with the sun, the pace, the people and opportunities. And then other days it’s a total attack on your emotions. It’s odd how I wouldn’t have it any other way though. It’s kinda part of it — builds you up and then breaks you.

Refinery29 article on people using fashion to celebrate pride, including Hara Juku (top left) Aaron Philip (top right). Photographed by Charlotte Rutherford.

On a new word in America

Tschotchke, which means a little collected trinket. When I first got here, I heard it a lot and loved the way it sounds (chack-kee), and only in the past few months did I actually find out what it meant! I love the frivolity of its meaning and the way the word (which is Jewish in origin, I believe) almost sounds like what you would imagine a little pointless but beloved trinket would look.

On something you’ve seen in New York you won’t forget

Raw unbridled determination and ambition—  people wear it on their faces. They stand up for and stand by their ideas, their worth. Coming from the modesty and self-deprecation of the UK, I found it jarring at first, but now I admire it. And that flare of confidence and raw drive will be in a streak in me forever.

'It's like constant tickle and slap NYC. As a place it's so sensory and can either feel like it's worshipping you with the sun, the pace, the people and opportunities and then other days it's a total attack on your emotions.It's odd how I wouldn't have it any other way though.'

On how the city inspires you

Being surrounded by so much newness, creativity, passion, competition and raw human emotion pushes you to be your biggest, boldest, loudest self. From the art scene to the food scene, to the start-ups and scrappy attitude, you’re surrounded by ingenuity. No one here is settling, everyone is striving.

It’s exhausting but the most inspiring feeling I’ve ever had. New York life, unlike anywhere I’ve ever known, is eternally inspiring because everyone comes here to try to make it. You literally feel like anything is possible if you just worked hard enough and believed in yourself. God, I sound so American.

On a new lens in New York

It’s made me focus — it’s certainly made me braver and tougher. You watch people around you leap, start their own businesses, challenge themselves and embrace life, so it holds a mirror up to you. And it’s addictive being here, because it has this charming way of forcing you to figure yourself out, makes you question who you wanna be, and helps you solidify who you certainly do not.

Refinery29 editorial article and 'This is Why We March' campaign, lending a nationwide voice to women's marches in Washington D.C. Images courtesy Lydia Pang.

On finding inspiration

You could fucking drown in inspiration in NYC. When I first got here my eyeballs were so full of inspiration, it was too much. I started to feel like I just couldn’t see.

And you seek out the usual temples of inspo in galleries and foodie places with chic neons, but after some time I realised my heart really pumped for weird little crevices. Places like this dirty little pork steamed bun café in smelly China Town with my friends; places like Noguchi Museum for a quiet ponder; places like Bittersweet in Fort Greene whilst wearing my PJs and not speaking to anyone. Ben’s in MidTown for Jewish food on a cold Thanksgiving when everyone is out of town with family. Biking around Red Hook and getting lobster rolls; early morning, The Flower District, bargain hunting for my new project, @deadflowers.co, with tired eyes and my fiancé; Saint Vitus in Greenpoint for sweaty hardcore gigs. Breakfasts at Dimes with people who inspire me to be creative and put myself out there. The most inspiring thing about NYC is finding the little dark crevices that get your heart beating; discovering them for yourself is the best bit.

On your role at Refinery29

I’m blessed to work for a company that allows me to be myself — exactly who I am, in every single way. At R29, we want to be the catalyst for women to feel, see and claim their power. I spend every single day mentoring creatives, partnering with brands, bringing this incredible mission to life in everything I do. From photoshoots to business deals, every single person in the company, no matter what your role, is powered by the mission we all believe in. Everyone is super creative and passionate, it’s infectious to be around. It’s special. I’m driven by these shared values, belief systems that run through my veins and provide clarity in the moments when you need that creative fuel. 

'The consumer, the audience, our girl, she really is the editor, the director, the boss. The power is in her hands, we just need to give her the tools and inspiration to do her thing.'

On something you’ve learned at Refinery29

So much. Taking that leap into digital media out of advertising was a harsh learning curve, but so exhilarating. I suppose, beyond all the new systems and insights in my brain, I feel like it’s the first place I’ve ever worked at that proved, truly, that brands want to do good. They want to push culture forward, create change, and even more importantly that doing good is truly good for business. The consumer, the audience — our girl — she really is the editor, the director, the boss. The power is in her hands, we just need to give her the tools and inspiration to do her thing.

On a New York style trend in the year 3018

Chic and incredibly intricate face tattoos.

Lydia Pang on stage. Images courtesy Lydia Pang.

On a favorite store

It’s called Ting Yu Hong Co in China Town.

On entertainment

Weaving in and out of all the little art galleries in Chelsea. Gimme a grey day, a matcha latte, a cozy sweater. Done.

On good food

Jing Fong — old school dim sum carts in a gigantic diamante-encrusted hall. Chicken’s feet that rival Hong Kong, a host with a microphone screams your ticket number, and once sanctioned, you enter on a gigantic escalator!

On subway or taxi


On something from the UK you need a fix of in New York

Silence, found in museums or Shala Yoga house in Brooklyn.

On window seat or aisle

After 12 years traveling with my boyfriend, who hates flying, I only know the aisle. But to be honest, plug me into TV and I could be on a float across the ocean and not notice.

On New York in one word



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