There are nowhere near enough words or phrases to aptly describe our first #WCW of 2018. I doubt that I will be able to properly honour this woman today, as she is hands down the most loving, caring, nurturing and truly impressive woman I have ever met. Shari Nementzik – known lovingly on my blog as Soul Sister – is the Features Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine, a Seinfeld aficionado and a keen aperol spritz enthusiast.
I met Shari in the midst of my life upheaval but a few short months ago through Man – Shari is marrying Man’s older brother Jay in Thailand this coming July and it is all very, very exciting. I will never forget some of the first words she said to me, “You don’t know me, but I am Man’s future sister-in-law and he tells me that you could use a friend right now.” Swoon. I already adored the woman. The first time we met was, to date, one of the most special nights of my life. She had brought with her this HUGE bag full of skincare products and books for me; and it was there, in the middle of a loud Mexican restaurant that we discovered we were soul sisters. Both of us Jewish, both of us with weird surnames that we constantly have to spell out, a love of pizza crusts, chilli and amaretto sours, similar confusing, disjointed childhoods that we both look back on fondly. Shari knew what Man and I had been through and I don’t know how she did it, but the whole night she made me feel like the most interesting, sane and capable version of myself than I have felt in years.
Shari is the kind of woman that great novels and films and plays are written about. She is equal parts effortlessly glamorous and utterly hilarious. When she walks into a room, you cannot help but be drawn to the energy that emanates from deep within this woman’s colourful soul. She is the kind of woman who has, in the past, copped third degree burns to her forehead after she tried to poach an egg in the microwave. She is the kind of woman who called up pet rescue centres when she decided she wanted a fish, and who then takes her pet fish to the vet in an open fish bowl in the back of a cab in the middle of the night. Her sense of humour is without a doubt one of her defining traits; her self-deprecating style, her anecdotes, her intelligent wit that is forever catching me off-guard.
Shari is the single most fabulous, real and selfless young woman I have ever met. She is the woman you dream of becoming one day – the woman whose success you celebrate right alongside her because you know she worked fucking hard for it.
It isn’t just where she is at in her career that impresses the pants off me, but it is the courage and absolute grit that she embodies each and every day in everything Shari does that makes me swoon. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were sitting at a bar in the Opera House overlooking the harbour, a bottle of French rosé between us, when we were discussing her flourishing career prospects. Now, it was at a time where I had just been offered a very small salary and my world was imploding, so I could have very easily felt jealous or envious or even saddened by the options spread out before my dear friend. Instead though, all I felt was pride, and awe. I felt more and more inspired with each and every word that she spoke because it came from such an honest, humble place.
The woman has worked hard, people. She has done the hours as junior copywriter and she has overcome career obstacles that would have seen others crumble, and she stands before me – and before all of us – a woman in the media industry to be absolutely reckoned with. Shari eats, lives and breathes her job and you cannot help but be swept up in it all, so much so that you feel a part of it also.
“I believe the only pressure to look, behave or act in a certain way comes from ourselves. I think we tend to be quite hard on ourselves, whereas I don’t feel pressure from the actual industry - aside from expecting me to do the best job I can and produce good work,” Shari answered when I asked her about what it was like to work in the media, particularly being a woman. “I’m really lucky because the magazine industry tends to be female-dominated, especially at a brand such as Cosmopolitan. At Cosmo we advocate for closing the gender pay gap, which still sits at 15.3% and that’s unacceptable, so despite how far we’ve come, we still have a long way to go.”
Shari singlehandedly changed my opinion of Cosmpolitan magazine and I don’t think she realised that she did it either. For the longest time I have chastised and blamed women’s magazines for the self-esteem/body image issues women face today. I have only ever focused on the damage that these magazines can do to young women whose resolve may be fragile. Shari told me over dinner that working at Cosmo was her dream job because growing up as a young woman in many different countries, alongside many different cultures, Cosmopolitan was where she turned to learn. Reading Cosmopolitan was her way of connecting with the world, was a way of learning about things about herself she may otherwise not have had the freedom or opportunity to know and it was a way of opening her to what lay beyond her. She completely changed my way of thinking - and I had forgotten what it was like to be challenged, in the best way possible. So Shari, for that moment, I thank you.
One of the things I took away from the first time I met Shari was how full, and whole, and incredible her sense of self was. We talked well into the night – and we were actually that annoying table that is the last to leave a restaurant and all the chairs are already stacked on all the other tables and the waitress passive-aggressively hands you the bill with a single raised eyebrow – and what sung through to me was the time and effort she has put and continues to put into the relationship she has with herself. For someone who has been pretty co-dependent most of my life, it was amazing to hear and bask in.
She is a proud South-African woman.
That sentence needed to stand alone, and I know she will appreciate me having done that. Though she is a citizen of the world, the gold pendant that hangs forever around her neck is a testament to the land she hails from. “I love my home and am so proud to be South African, but I grew up in Zimbabwe, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as well and they all shaped me in some way to be who I am today.” Shari is one of those people who is always surrounded by other people. A keen socialite with more than a handful of friends, it is no wonder people feel drawn to her. She is supportive – and I say that from experience. You feel completely heard when you are with Shari, and you feel not only that you are allowed to be yourself, but being around her you actually learn who you are. “I got to grow up surrounded by so many beautiful cultures and learnt from a young age not to discriminate. We should not only celebrate our similarities but our differences too because we can learn so much from one another.”
I asked Shari who her greatest female role model was, because Shari is my greatest female role model so surely her role model should be mine too? I looked into it, the logic checks out. Shari said about her mum, “She’s kind and empathetic and has an unfaltering sense of self which is infectious and something we could all do with. Self-confidence is a rare commodity these days and we doubt ourselves far too often. My mum tells me every single day that who I am is enough and I think we can all do with hearing that more - and actually believing it.” YAS QUEEN!
Shari said to me, “Jane Fonda once said that she thinks the reason women live longer is due to female friendships and I’d have to agree. My friends are incredible and I feel so lucky to have a group of women in my life as supportive and inspirational as they are.” Now, on a personal note, something that I have shared time and time again over the years is that I have never had strong female friendships. It is something about me that I used to be truly ashamed of, and something that a lot of people have used against me. I didn’t believe, for a second, that female friendships were anything worth pursuing. Shari has singlehandedly turned my entire universe upside down with her unwavering friendship, care and selflessness. Shari is the kind of woman that every single other woman deserves and –quite frankly – needs in their life.
But back off, she’s my soul sister, ‘kay?!