Serena Chen is a young woman who seems to be doing it all. After conquering a first-class honours degree in physics, she put on her entrepreneur hat and co-founded HVNGRY, a new online youth magazine. HVNGRY is the brainchild of Chen, Emily Mabin Sutton and Maddy Cormack, who saw a lack of positive and powerful media for young girls, and were “hungry for more”. Chen originally came to Wellington to pitch HVNGRY at Webstock in xxxx, and hasn’t left since. Liz Odey visited Chen at the Cuba Street office of her web development business. Photography by Caroline Atkinson

Capital Questions with Serena Chen

Serena-edit-3If it’s been a hard day at work and I’m in need of a drink I’ll be at… I love the vibe of Hotel Bris­tol, and I go to Rogue and Vag­a­bond a lot; we had our first HVNGRY writers meet-up there. I do enjoy a good stout beer. But to be hon­est, I’m not the type of per­son who goes out a lot. Like if it’s been a hard day at work and I want to treat myself, I’d prob­ably just go to the liquor store, grab myself a nice craft beer, go home and watch some good TV.

The next day if I’m in need of a hearty feed and a cup of cof­fee I’ll be at… Sweet Moth­ers Kit­chen get­ting their fried chick­en waffles. It’s just the best thing ever. If people didn’t sur­round me, I would have been cry­ing with happiness.

If I need a slice of inspir­a­tion you can’t go past… The start-up cul­ture in Wel­ling­ton. It’s so inspir­ing to have so many like-minded, pas­sion­ate people in one place. The people I’m liv­ing with right now are in a start-up accel­er­at­or, and being sur­roun­ded by those kinds of motiv­ated people just makes you want to get stuff done.

I know I shouldn’t, but Wellington’s best-kept secret is… Before I moved to Wel­ling­ton I didn’t see it as a tech-savvy city. I saw it as a very cul­tur­al city, lots of art, and law stu­dents every­where. But then I came here for Web­stock, and I found it was a city bust­ling with tech start-ups, developers and design­ers doing excit­ing things. 

The thing about HVNGRY that I think people respond to is… The hon­esty and the integ­rity of the magazine. There is some­thing about teen girl magazines that is just so pre­dict­able. HVNGRY is refresh­ing because it has writers who are open and hon­est, and more import­antly the read­ers are the writers. With an open-sub­mis­sion plat­form it gives oppor­tun­ity for people to dis­cuss the top­ics they are inter­ested in, and chances are oth­ers will be inter­ested too! 

My motiv­a­tion when cre­at­ing HVNGRY was… Frus­tra­tion maybe? I was shop­ping with a then boy­friend and star­ted flick­ing through a men’s magazine they had in the fit­ting room. I found the dif­fer­ence from women’s magazines was ridicu­lously strik­ing. There were art­icles about self-motiv­a­tion, and how to nego­ti­ate a high­er wage, get a bet­ter job, power and suc­cess. It’s so rare to see any of those top­ics in women’s magazines. Instead we are taught how to be pleas­ing, and I mean that’s fine, just not all of the time. So I feel it’s import­ant to have places like HVNGRY, just so there are voices out there that teen­agers can read and relate to, and feel empowered.

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