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12 Questions with agency founder and street-casting innovator, Lizzy Weinraub
Lizzy Weinraub knows people. Real people. Over the last decade she has helped build Cast Partner into the go-to casting consultancy for those fresh street-casted faces big brands want bad. Now she’s set her sights on creating user generated content that’s actually good with the founding of Library Collective, a “real people creative” creative agency. Self-proclaimed eccentric and seeker, Weinraub was raised by a Jewish father and a Black mother (both hippies) amidst the racial tensions of 90s Los Angeles. She recalls a childhood that was Matilda like. And chaotic. She loves books. And mountains. And management. And institutions. Seriously. An intervention (spearheaded by her boss) led her to one. At rehab, she loved the structure, the routine, and the sense of safety it gave her. And she often wonders if she’d been working literally anywhere else, if she’d ever have even found out that her life was a mess. Some bosses do care, apparently. And Weinraub (according to her staff) is one of them. Today, she’s living more consciously, “still learning to be a person,” and (so she says) channeling Jimmy Fallon’s Nick Burns and fixing shit.
What was the driving force that led you to sobriety?
It’s really crazy to me that a person can become a set of mental problems and not have anyone be able to actually pinpoint it because of how society is: “Oh, she’s just having fun. Oh, she just works hard. Oh, she’s just having a hard time. Oh, she’s fine.” I was not fine. Once I realized how textbook it all is and I could see the shape of the monster, that was it.
What’s it been like navigating the industry sober?
We’ve built this huge company by word of mouth. I don’t have to do a lot of networking. Our clients are producers and they’re busy. Sometimes agency people will invite us out. I stopped going to those events a long time ago because I started getting really frustrated with the behavior of people who are grown. I went to a work dinner recently, though. Two people ordered huge steaks. They didn’t eat a bite. They were fucking high. This woman was holding my hand telling me she was an empath and I’m thinking, “If you’re an empath, you know that I would rather be anywhere else in the world but here right now.”
In a manner of speaking, you’re in the appearance business. Can you talk a little about that?
I can see what clients write in spreadsheets. I can see how jaded they can be about humanity. The fact of the matter is, models are human. When you look at portfolios all day and then you meet them in person, you realize that everything is fake. Models are really beautiful, for sure. But they’re not really that much more beautiful than a lot of people. They are not superhuman. In an advertisement, though, they look so ethereal. Some people do look like that in real life. Most don’t. I stopped going on Instagram. It made me feel so bad about myself. I stopped reading magazines a long time ago. Seventeen made me feel horrible. Cosmo made me feel like I had to have sex in all these weird ways. Every issue was the same shit. Again and again and again. What I look at today is like grandmas making Dollar Tree meals on Youtube.
What’s wrong with the way mental health is handled in creative industries and what can we do to fix it?
Mental health doesn’t have to be such a mystery. It’s really simple stuff. There are some basic tenets I wish I had learned in high school. What does a good relationship look like? What does an abusive relationship look like? What does alcoholism look like? What is sex supposed to be for? What does it mean when you have low self esteem? How can that affect you? How can you fix it? There are solutions to all of these problems. But people get hurt so much because they just don’t know what they’re looking at. Life is really, really hard. And it’s really, really hard for everyone. People aren’t mean just to be mean. They’re mean because they’re in pain. Nobody acts that way for no reason.
ADHD is a part of your story. How has that affected your creativity, your work ethic, and your sobriety?
A lot of people would say ADHD is a superpower. Some people don’t like that. I spent ten years coming to work at 5 am because I needed to have several hours by myself to get anything done. Once the day got going, I couldn't do anything. I was working 16 hour days everyday because that’s what it took to get the job done. And all that time I’m asking myself, “Why am I still behind in life? Why can’t I plan vacations? Why isn’t my car registered? I know I’m not stupid. I feel like everyone else tries half as hard and is fine. Why do I have to go to work so early?” Classic case of ADHD. I went on medication two years ago and it changed everything.
What do you do when you come up against a creative block?
I don’t have those. I have so many ideas. My brain is constantly going. I have the opposite problem. I can’t rein myself in.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“You have to get used to the fact that you may never know.” I want to know everything. I want to know why people are the way they are. I want to know why things happened to me. You can never know what’s in someone else’s mind. It’s hard enough to know what’s in your own mind. I’ve gotten really good at accepting that I may never know and that’s okay.
What’s something you’ve done sober that you never thought you could do sober?
Dating. I never dated before. I went on my first real date in, like, 2020. It’s fun. Actually, I hate it. It sucks. But it’s been interesting to see what it’s like for a normal person to engage romantically with another human. I sound like a fucking alien. “I am engaging romantically. Would you like to have a romantic interface?”
What positive changes have you seen for non-drinkers in the culture lately?
There’s just a better vibe around self care in general. Going to therapy is less stigmatized. Being emotional as a man is less stigmatized. Accepting your emotions as a woman is less stigmatized. Being healthy is something that people want for each other now. People are more accepting of whatever someone needs to do to be okay. There are still those people that say that they wouldn’t hang out with a sober person and they are so fucking wack. “Wow, you really need to drink to have fun, don’t you?” I don’t. I have fun all the time. I have fun at the DMV. If having fun is something that requires a lot of work, I don’t want to do that with you.
Given alcohol's well documented effects on productivity, why do you think there continues to be so much stigma re: not drinking in creative industries?
It’s just the status quo. After work, people go to the bar. They really need to find something else to do, by the way. Think about smoking. Someone goes outside and smokes five times a day and it’s fine. But if you went outside and just stood there for two minutes people would be like, “What are you doing? Go back to work!” Drinking is just accepted. I think everyone is hungover all the time. I don’t know how often I’m right. It’s hard to pinpoint. It’s a nondescript ailment. A lot of people just call in sick. I’m like, “Why does everyone have food poisoning all the time? Where do you live? What are you eating?”
In your mind’s eye, what is the shape of success?
Hold on, let me look at her. Ooh, she thicc.
What gives you strength?
Knowing that I’m capable of change.
Text by Andrew Smart / Photos by Roman Koval
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