Above: On set with the girl-power cast of Hyperlinked – Courtesy of youtube
GREENWICH magazine first met Juliette Brindak Blake back when she was a sixteen-year-old Greenwich High School student embarking on a web project called Miss O and Friends. It was a clubhouse-style website created for girls who were past the Barbie stage but still discovering their teenage selves. Juliette conceived it as a safe space for her younger sister, Olivia, to socialize as she broached her middle-school years.
Turns out, Juliette had the winning formula. The site became such a hit, it lured big-time supporters, including early investor Proctor & Gamble, which shortly after its inception placed a $15 million valuation on the site. Juliette remains intimately involved in the privately held Miss O and Friends, which this year will launch a related Girl2Girl Wall app, which will safely allow tween girls to chat, ask advice and give feedback to their peers.
We caught up with Juliette, now twenty-eight, as she ventures into new media horizons with Hyperlinked, a sitcom that’s based on her story of creating a safe and affirming web haven for adolescent girls. It airs on YouTube Red Originals, a subscription-based channel, and is the first of its kind for the channel. The upbeat series revolves around the lives of five spirited and diverse thirteen-year-old gal pals who code. To honor the real life inspiration, one is named Juliette.
“I wanted to inspire people, and especially girls, to go out and create,” says Juliette, who is an executive producer and cocreator on Hyperlinked. “Whether it’s learning to code, building a website or launching a jewelry or babysitting business, I was interested in sending a lot of positive messages about the power of entrepreneurship.”
To that end, Hyperlinked’s creative team, from its writers and director to its set designers and stylists, is composed largely of women. And Juliette was “very hands-on” throughout the development and production process, making sure the series was thoughtfully scripted to offer lots of positive empowerment messaging to its youthful demographic.
“I feel like too much of the content out there for teen girls focuses on their relationships with boys and it’s not always positive,” she says. “We wanted to show how awesome it is that the girls are in charge and creating things. The focus is on the positive aspects of the girls’ friendships. The boys are around, but they’re just helping out.”
Juliette, who is now married and Philadelphia-based, developed the series with her mom, Old Greenwich resident Hermine Brindak, and veteran television writer/producer Larry Reitzer. “Miss O and Friends was something I started with the help of my parents when I was a teen and it has kind of come full circle,” says Juliette. “All along the way, it’s really been a labor of love.”
At press time, Juliette was still waiting to hear if Hyperlinked’s first season would lead to a second. Meanwhile, viewers can check out the first episode for free on YouTube.
CULTIVATING GIRL POWER
Since she’s passionate about encouraging girls to cultivate their own voices and passion projects, we asked Juliette Brindak Blake for her tips on empowering adolescent girls.
TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY
“Miss O and Friends started with an idea I had when I was ten. People tend to dismiss kids because they are young, but my parents (Hermine and Paul Brindak) believed in my idea and even invested some of my college savings in the project. At the time, it might have seemed crazy, but look at what happened.”
“If they come to you with an idea—even one that sounds a little crazy—ask them, ‘How are you going to make it happen?’ Not all ideas become companies, but the idea is to inspire their creativity.”
TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS TO CODE
“It doesn’t mean she’s going to end up in Silicon Valley, but to me it’s the modern day equivalent of getting your high school degree,” says Juliette. “It’s a skill you can use in so many endeavors and something you can fall back on no matter what other dream you are trying to pursue.”
NURTURE HER INQUISITIVE SIDE
“I think it’s important to encourage your daughters to ask questions and seek advice. Sometimes just expressing an interest in what someone else is doing can lead to creative conversations.”