We got the opportunity to sit down and do a live version of this interview with Councilwoman At-Large Helen Gym as part of Urban Consulate’s City Lobby event hosted at Pipeline Philly. You can watch a recap of the whole session on our Facebook page.
- What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
Twitter, I’m addicted! (@HelenGymAtLarge)
- What was your first job?
My first job in highschool, I was a restaurant worker. But, my first job out of school was as a reporter for the Mansfield News Journal in the middle of Ohio.
- Who has influenced your career?
Really bad ass Asian American women who are the matriarchs of this organization called Asian Americans United. It’s a small social justice organization in Chinatown and they mentored me into the person I am today.
- If you weren’t a ______ what would you be?
I would be back at Asian Americans United making a hell of a lot of trouble.
- What are 3 qualities that have helped you in your career?
Being persistent to the point of obsession, being thorough and meticulously prepared, and a good pair of heels.
- Favorite perk of the job?
Being a representative of the people, it’s awesome. It’s amazing to have that.
- What’s the worst part of the job?
Being a representative of the people, especially when they threaten you over a statue in the middle of the city.
- Change you’d like to see in your industry?
More women, all women, all the time. More women running for office, winning office, and directing politics!
- How do you unwind after a bad day?
I usually clean when I’m super stressed. I’m known to disrupt people because of my need to throw things away.
- What is your favorite ritual?
Getting Korean food with my daughter, my youngest. She goes all the time to this little place in West Philadelphia called Koreana.
- Who would you most want to meet?
Ah that’s so hard, I was so amazed and blown away by Monument Lab and the work that they did to really imagine public art in spaces in the city. I’m interested in creative arts such as Banksy and other folks who are trying to upend, reclaim public spaces, and reframe the way we look at the world.
- When do you feel the freest?
When I am far away. Which is usually traveling with my family and not being anywhere near here. If I am here then I will just be in everything.
- Do you trust where life is taking you?
Oh God no, the answer is definitely not.
- How much risk do you like taking?
There’s a Lord of the Rings line that is Gimli saying, “Certainty of death, small chance of success. What are we waiting for?”
- What do you do in your downtime?
I will spend a lot of time with my kids. I will call them up and see how they’re doing. I love seeing who they are since I’m not around as frequently as I used to be.
- Who’d you invite to a fantasy dinner party? Anyone dead or alive.
I would say: Bruce Lee, Reverend William Barber (Moral Mondays), Maya Angelou, Arundhati Roy (Author), and Che Guevara.
- When do you get nervous?
Now and your next question. I don’t know how to be clever and interesting.
- What would you like to leave behind once you’re gone?
A generation that carries the torch.
- What do you think about Love?
I believe in a love that is fiercely radical, I want it to be vibrantly alive with justice, and I want it wielded with every bit of passion and hope we can muster.
- What are you most grateful for, right now, in this moment?
The resistance in all of us.