The Women Behind Indy Maven: Abby Gardner

Get to know the Indy Maven executive editor who led a fantasy life as a beauty editor in NYC and now works with grieving kids.
Abby Gardner

ABBY GARDNER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

We often refer to our “small but mighty” editorial team at Indy Maven that works hard to bring you interesting, informative content and expert recommendations, and weed through the noise out there so that you don’t have to. But who *exactly* are we referring to? We’re here to answer that with a special edition of Maven to Know where one editor chats with another to learn more about her. Next up: Indy Maven Executive Editor, Abby Gardner

You lived a glam existence in New York City, working as an editor/writer for top fashion and lifestyle magazines. What was your MOST glamorous moment? Least? 

One of the most glam moments was when I started to recognize the same private plane crew from multiple trips on their jets. Back in the day, beauty brands used to take editors on press trips to launch their new products. (This still happens sometimes, but not in the same lavish way it did in the early aughts.) Plus, all us beauty girls were good friends, so it was like going on vacation together.

We were often flown private and taken to the most luxurious resorts for a few days. We went to Iceland for the launch of Crest Night Strips or St. Martin for a slate of Dove product reveals. It was an amazing time, if not a total head trip since I was not making a ton of money. My mom was always like, “Who are you?” It was a fair question.

There are so many non-glamorous parts to working in magazines—not that I’d change a thing about my life choices. Of course, the measly starting salaries are one thing. But I don’t think I ever felt less glamorous than when I was schlepping around the city for Fashion Week in February, through slush and snow only to walk inside and see the gorgeousness of the clothes and the models while I looked like a wet dog. Or maybe it was when, as an editorial assistant at Jane, I had to go out with a photographer in Washington Square Park and ask people embarrassing questions for a regular column we ran. I hated that so much. 

What, besides your family/friends, did you miss the most about Indy while you were gone?

Going to Colts games, for sure. My family has had season tickets since the team moved to Indy in 1984—and I’ve been through all the ups and downs with the team. I usually tried to get home for at least one game per season. True story: When I was living in L.A., I broke my foot jumping up from the couch during a Colts playoff game (and eventual loss). But when I wasn’t here physically, you could usually find me at a bar in NYC wearing my Colts blue. 

“I just love writing for women, talking about what matters to us, and telling our stories—big and small.”
Why did you decide to become the executive editor of Indy Maven

I’ve spent the majority of my career in the women’s magazine space, through its many evolutions and digital permutations. I just love writing for women, talking about what matters to us, and telling our stories—big and small. Among the reasons I wanted to move back to Indy was the fact that I wanted to feel more deeply tied to my community. So, when Leslie Bailey came to me with the idea for Indy Maven, combining two things I am so passionate about, it was basically a no-brainer. It’s been a great ride so far.

There’s a whiteboard in your apartment, where you’ve outlined plot points, chapters, etc., of the YA novel you’re writing. Do you have a ritual for staying disciplined?  

Ha!! I wish!! Anyone have some ideas for me? 

I’m not a huge resolutions person, but I did try to set some intentions for 2020 and one of them was to try to be better organized. As a freelancer, I have a lot of balls in the air at any given time and I’m trying really hard to literally block out time on my calendar each day for, say, Indy Maven work, book writing, whatever other piece I may be writing, etc., instead of flitting around between multiple things all at the same time. Easier said than done, but I have promised myself that I will finish the book this year and try to get it sold. It’s set in Indy, with my main character attending my alma mater, North Central High School.

If you could write the authorized or unauthorized biography of any celebrity you’ve met, who would it be? 

Ohhhhh, goodness there are so many to choose from. But I think I’d have to say Gwyneth Paltrow. Way back when I was much cooler than I am now, my ex-boyfriend and I used to go over to Mike D from the Beastie Boys’ apartment in Tribeca for dinner with him and his then-wife. (The ex was tight with them.) 

We would always wonder on the way who the “celebrity guest stars” might be for the evening, as they obviously knew so many. One night, in walk Gwyneth and her brother Jake. I about died, but completely kept my cool as we talked about all sorts of things, especially beauty, as I was an assistant beauty editor at Jane at the time. I have been a die-hard Paltrow fan since the ‘90s when she was making TV movies with her mom, so this was major for me. We also had a long chat about Sex and the City, which we both loved. 

Given the trajectory of her career, the business she’s built with GOOP, and how polarizing a personality she is, I’d love to hear every story she has to tell—especially the ones from the ‘90s, my favorite decade. 

You work with grieving children as a volunteer. Why did you decide to get involved with that kind of work? What’s something the kids have taught you?

When my mom died suddenly in January 2014, I felt completely unmoored. I was a bit of a broken soul who had to work really hard to put myself back together again—at age 38. (God bless therapy!) I was searching for something philanthropic to dig into—I just didn’t know what. 

So when a friend told me about Experience Camps, I was intrigued. (Experience Camps are free one-week camps for children who have lost a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.) I couldn’t imagine going through that kind of loss at a young age—plus, I loved going to camp when I was young and valued all that it taught me. My mom was a teacher, so working with kids felt like a way to honor her as well. It is not hyperbole to say that I found the experience utterly life-changing—and I’ll be back for my third summer as a counselor in August. I’m counting the days until I’m reunited with all the amazing campers, fellow counselors, and clinicians that have become like family to me.

After seeing my love and passion for camp, my friend Dawn Dinwiddie introduced me to Brooke’s Place, a local organization that does amazing work with grieving children and families here in Indy. I’m a group facilitator and we meet every other week with our kids at St. Luke’s Methodist Church on the northside, near where I grew up. 

I could go on for days about what these kids have taught me about resilience, the power that comes with sharing your grief with others and the lifelong bonds that can be formed from that circle of trust, and how allowing yourself to be vulnerable can bring the greatest gifts into your life, even when it seems terrifying. They have helped heal my heart in ways that I never thought possible. 

I love to talk about both these programs, so if you’re interested in volunteering or know a family who might benefit from them, please hit me up!

When you move to the Midwest from somewhere like NYC, it can be easy to look around and think, “Wait, Indy, you’re still having Great Gatsby-themed galas/or adult coloring book parties/etc. in 2020?” What’s something that we maybe all need to let go of?

Well, I try to not yuck anyone’s yum too often, so if you’re having fun—I say, go for it. But I do wish everyone, including every Real Housewives cast, would cool it on the Gatsby of it all. Also, white parties. Nobody wants to wear white to your party. I’m sorry—that’s a nightmare that should have ended with Diddy’s famous bashes years ago. However, I would have given just about anything to go to one of those.

What’s something cool you’d like to see happen in Indy in the near future? 

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why we don’t have more quick salad bar options for lunch—especially downtown where I live. I just want to go through a line and put together a chopped salad with ingredients of my own choosing. Where is our Sweetgreen? Our Chop’t? I don’t know how cool that is, but I need it desperately.

What’s a place or experience you’ve recently discovered in Indy, that we should know about?

I feel like I’ve spent the past almost-three years totally rediscovering this place where I grew up, which is so much fun. One place that’s become such a haven for me is my hair salon, Witch Hazel in Fountain Square. Because I’m a super picky beauty person, you can imagine how hard it was for me to find a new spot. I was also quite spoiled by my former job allowing me access to anyone and everyone in the city I could have ever wanted to see. Rita Hazan, my New York colorist, had been doing my hair for over 15 years and became a very dear friend. 

Sarah Moscato-Goodpaster, one of the co-owners of Witch Hazel, has seamlessly filled that role for me here in Indy. She’s so talented and warm and wonderful—and that’s the vibe of the salon too. I feel like I talk about it non-stop, but I just love it there so much. And that’s a good thing, because the grays come in just a wee bit faster at 44 😉. 

If your makeup bag caught fire and you could only save three items, what would they be?

I don’t wear a ton of makeup, but there are a few staples I would not want to be without: a great red lipstick like MAC’s Ruby Woo or Russian Red; Tarte Cheek Stain, an OG classic that I have loved since the day it was launched; and something that could work as a concealer/foundation with very light coverage. I am obsessive about my skincare routine and like to let my skin’s texture show, which is why I love Vapour Beauty Luminous Foundation stick. You can use it in spots or all over. 

You recently wrote a post for Glamour about Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt reuniting, of sorts, at the SAG awards. I just gotta know: Do you think this couple should get back together, or has that ship sailed?  

I don’t think they will ever get back together, but in this garbage-fire world we’re living in, it was really fun to recapture some of that nostalgia, even as we glossed over how that relationship actually ended. I’m sure this is so annoying to them, but the excitement and joy I felt over those photos from the SAG awards was very real and I wish I felt it more often, LOL. (PS: If you want more random pop culture musings from me, check out my other weekly newsletter, We Have Notes.) 

Amanda Kingsbury always dreamed of working for magazines in NYC, so she enjoys living vicariously through Abby—and also working with and learning from her at Indy Maven.  


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