Meet Sarah Dubbeldam, Founder Of Darling Magazine
Sarah was a college graduate and young model when she started meeting with girlfriends in a local coffee shop. Frustrated by the lack of authenticity in media and looking for a resource that could help guide their own life choices as young women, Sarah led her friends to launch Darling—a refreshingly honest and authentic magazine for women perhaps most well known for its refusal to publish altered photographs of women.
Sarah has grown up with the magazine, and the once new graduate with coffeeshop dreams is now the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Darling Magazine. We caught up with Sarah to hear her founding story, talk about how her career as a model lead to this pivotal professional moment, as well as to get a glimpse of how her own sense of womanhood has evolved alongside the business.
Darling, as we understand it, grew from a moment of personal and professional disappointment. Tell us the story of how you moved from coffeeshops to crowdfunding to launch the magazine.
I was really struggling with anxiety and depression right after college and felt like I had no media outlet to turn to that was real, deep and helpful. So this is where the idea of Darling came from. My friend Kelli and I wanted to create a platform that was attainable, celebrating real and authentic beauty, and made women feel better about themselves. We met for a year with a group of women in my living room and came up with the mission, concept and content for Darling and then launched the blog in 2011. In 2012 we put our idea for a print magazine on Kickstarter and then with the success of that, we were off to the races!
With so many unique publications competing for limited readership, how do you continue to differentiate your content and what are the attributes that you’ve decided to stake your reputation on?
What really differentiates Darling is the vulnerability of our writers and our “personas”: The Dreamer, The Achiever, The Hostess, The Beautician, The Confidant, The Explorer, The Stylist and The Intellectual. We really hone in on mental and soul wellness and have a depth of authenticity that really stands apart. We address “the issues under the issue” and are like “a letter to a friend,”—the voice of the mom, the sister, or the grandmother that women need for direction and wisdom in our high-pressure, modern age.
Darling has made a very public commitment to never photoshop models, by which we are both inspired and impressed. Did your own experience in acting and modeling inspire this decision? What response have you seen?
Yes. I was signed with a top modeling agency in Los Angeles for six years and was amazed at the amount of Photoshop used on me as a 21 year old! Plus, I was modeling for catalogs targeting women in their 40s, so that made it even worse. I also had a problem with the measurements “required” to be a “model.” The definition of beauty in the industry was (and still is) too narrow to me. Darling has made this commitment and never looked back—it is our statement to women that they are never "in need of alteration.”
On top of also seeking to fairly represent ethnic and size diversity, Darling is working on the inner beauty piece of women’s lives as well. We really believe in our mission statement and the character traits presented there as an encouragement to women.
More broadly, what role do you believe that media has to define and reinforce the values within a society? What role does storytelling play in catalyzing social change?
Media has always been powerful, so I believe that as content creators we have a big responsibility with our words, social statements and imagery. Storytelling is always important because it humanizes issues and helps people put themselves in other’s shoes and also not feel so alone. Darling has always been looking to lead in the shift from “image obsession” to “character development.” It might sound cliché and “old-fashioned” to some, but we believe that beauty really does come from the inside out and that character and integrity are very important to develop.
Social media is often pointed to as a culprit for comparison, providing an all-too-often reminder of what we are not. That said, it has been integral to the growth of your business. What role do you believe social media has in a woman’s perception of herself and in the company she chooses to keep?
Social media is hard and I think it is just an innate part of human nature to compare. However, I do believe that it is another place to have a voice, so we try and use our platform to help women compliment other women (through our “compliment cards”) and spark deeper conversations. We try and encourage women toward healthy mind practices and “thought replacement” such as when you see a woman on social and think: how do I measure up to her? You can replace that thought with: wow, she is beautiful, but so am I.
How has the business—its readers, contributors, and content—shaped your own definition of womanhood? In what ways have you been surprised by your own growth alongside that of your business?
I’ve been so encouraged and changed by creating Darling. Seeing the beauty that this platform pulls out of women and how women speaking wisdom to other women can truly bring about change has rocked my world. Being in this mindset of celebrating all types of women and their unique stories has helped me celebrate my own journey, hardships and strengths even more.
Featured Photo Credit: Emily Blake
Kassia Binkowski is a Contributing Editor at The Good Trade and the Founder of One K Creative. She grew up in Madison, WI and traveled her way around the world to Boulder, CO which she now calls home. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Kassia supports innovative organizations from Colorado to Kathmandu tell their stories of social change through writing, photography, and design. Kassia is an eternal optimist and forever a backroad wanderer.