Larissa May is Founder and Creative Director of #HalfTheStory, an alternative social media platform that encourages users to share their lives, unfiltered. Larissa got the idea to start #HalfTheStory while she was working as a fashion blogger and correspondent for New York Fashion Week while she was still a full-time college student. Larissa was painfully aware of the disconnect between her glamorous, Instagram-filtered life, and the life she was actually living — and she wanted to share her authentic story and encourage others to do the same. Today, #HalfTheStory is a growing global community that has attracted the attention of mainstream media outlets and fashion and entertainment industry influencers.
Name: Larissa May
Job Title: Founder + Creative Director
Currently based in: NYC
Originally from: Chicago, IL
Superpower: Connecting humans.
A woman in history you admire & why:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton — one of the pioneers of the Women’s Rights Movement. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her to organize a movement without social media. Now, THAT’S a voice!
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
Know your strengths and own your weaknesses.
What inspired you to start your current venture?
The idea for #HalfTheStory began while I was juggling two lives — I was a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and I was also working as an a fashion blogger and entrepreneur, covering New York Fashion Week for highly respected media outlets. Behind my perfectly curated Instagram feed, however, I was dealing with 17-hour work days, debilitating anxiety and sleep deprivation. I was fooling the world by hiding behind my Instagram — but I certainly wasn’t the only one.
Through industry conversations and discussions with peers, I realized there was a need for a platform where people could share a more authentic side of their story. So, I put together my brainchild in my dorm room, received a $500 grant, and started plastering the stickers for my company, #HalfTheStory, all over Nashville. Since its launch in 2015, #HalfTheStory has grown significantly. We have received over 3,000 stories and a combined media reach of over 15 million people worldwide.
#HalfTheStory has gained recognition from esteemed media outlets, including Good Morning America, Girl Boss, Create Cultivate, and CNN. Additionally, the platform has received support from well-known figures in the fashion and entertainment industries, like Norma Kamali, Rebecca Minkoff, Jesse Eisenberg, Grace Vanderwaal, and Jen Gotch.
What is your company doing to make history today?
#HalfTheStory is life, unfiltered — we are building a global community that encourages individuals to share parts of their lives that exist outside of the standard social media narrative. We are changing the way that people use social media by encouraging authentic social storytelling. We support our platform’s mission by offering mental health and social media workshops at universities around the world.
What is one thing you have accomplished that you are most proud of?
I’m proud of building a meaningful community that has representation in over 100 countries. Each and every story is a gift that keeps on giving.
What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
#HalfTheStory is working with an award-winning director to produce a web series that highlights the role of social media in pop culture through a series of intimate conversations with influencers. Each season will focus on a specific sector of the entertainment industry, highlighting a curated group of diverse characters united by their shared experiences. The series has been approved as a white-label show on Facebook Watch, the platform’s new video service that features live and recorded show episodes. Our next step will be presenting our concept to potential brand sponsors with the goal of launching the series sometime in the next few months.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
We’re seeing a major shift from perfection to transparency. People are sick and tired of pursuing and consuming perfection.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
One of the most difficult parts of creating and managing a social media platform that encourages authenticity is protecting the community. Safety is of the utmost importance — and because I am not a licensed professional, when someone uploads a high-risk story to our platform, it presents a particularly challenging situation. We have handled this by building a system that is able to identify high-risk stories so that we can prioritize the health and safety of our community members.
What were you doing before your current role?
I got my first business card at the age of 12, and started several ventures by the time I was 20. I made my splash in the fashion world after launching my blog, LivinLikeLarz, in college. That led to my position as a social media correspondent for New York and Paris Fashion Week. While earning my degree in Creative Strategy and Marketing from Vanderbilt, I founded a social media strategy consultancy.
One of my proudest accomplishments thus far was producing Grace Vanderwaal’s first music video for Columbia Records, which received over 1,000,000 views in the first 24 hours after its release.
Today, in addition to my role as Founder of #HalfTheStory, I am a public speaker and content marketer.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Be the change today that you wish to see tomorrow. If you have an idea, don’t get wrapped up in how you’re going to do it. Just wake up and start making it happen!
Is your company is currently hiring or looking for partnerships?
Yes! We are in the process of receiving 501(c)(3) status! Visit the #HalfTheStory website for more information.