Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Marta Mae): the bicoastal, mononymous multi-hyphenate behind Hot Girls Eating Pizza, Nice Paper, a new cannabinoid skin care line and, like, 1,000 other things.
Tell us about your day jobs — everything on your plate — you have so many projects:
This question is always really hard for me because I feel like I do seven different things but top level; I'm co-founder of Nice Paper, which is an education platform with beautiful original content to educate, normalize and de-stigmatize cannabis and hemp. We're also launching a cannabinoid-based skin care line called Dieu in early 2020 so that is starting to take up a lot of my time. I also have Hot Girls Eating Pizza, which is this Instagram project slash platform I started 5 years ago when my mom died. I didn't want to do traditional grief therapy so I made my own. I think it worked, I met so many of my close friends who have lost parents and when I started the account, I didn't know anyone who could relate. I asked people I admired to get pizza with me, and it really took on a life of its own. I have agency representation for it now and we're doing bigger beauty and fashion things. It's really fun, but it's also pretty much how I met my entire network in LA and NYC. It's insane. I never meant for any of it to happen, I don't even really like eating pizza that much anymore. I also consult a little on the side, but don't we all do a little of that?
How long has Nice Paper officially been live?
We officially launched in June, so not super long — like 9 months or so. It's been really fun and we just hit 10k followers on Instagram. It feels like a big accomplishment because all of our content is original. I think that is pretty rare these days, especially in cannabis. I wanted to populate other people's moodboards. It's finally happening.
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How did you start your own skincare line? I feel like that takes a lot of science background knowledge.
Yeah, it really does. Especially because we want to create a clinical skincare brand that actually works. My business partner is incredible and I am so lucky; she's worked at Cosmopolitan and Hearst for a long time before going to Snapchat, and we're both just obsessed with beauty and skincare. She writes all of our articles and newsletters for Nice Paper, and I'm not exaggerating when I say she has spent at least a couple hundred hours reading every white paper available on cannabis and hemp. We have scientists and doctors on call and involved in Dieu. We actually created our own beauty awards for Nice Paper to evaluate cannabis products in the beauty space and we found out that most products in the CBD beauty space do not actually have CBD in them.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
What do you mean?!
It's all hemp seed oil! A lot of it, anyway. Especially for the bigger brands you see in Sephora.
They just put a weed leaf on the packaging?
Yes, they just use that word (cannabis sativa oil) as a marketing tactic. It's hemp seed oil. You can go to Whole Foods and get a bottle of hemp seed oil for like $8 or less. We really saw a big opportunity for exploring what cannabinoids can actually do for skin. It also reaffirms the importance of education, so we push a lot of well-researched skincare-related content on Nice Paper.
What drew you to the cannabis industry?
I've been a cannabis enthusiast since high school — I was 14 or 15 years old when I started smoking a lot. My first job was at the mall at a kid's store and the manager and I would hotbox her car after closing. I was never your stereotypical stoner. For some reason, I always felt judged for being more into weed than alcohol so I never felt good about myself when I engaged with cannabis outside. It was confusing. In Clueless, Cher looks so cute smoking that joint at the house party in the valley. That's how I always saw myself, but stoner culture was not that.
Where are you from?
New Jersey. But I went to school in New York and I got drug tested at my first two jobs, and looking back I think that it's insane we got drug tested for cannabis. So, I was always kind of upset that I had to hide that about myself. Smoking weed isn't a big part of my personality, but it is a part of who I am.
I started to come to LA pretty often for my last day job and I helped out with a panel for Dosist when they were called Hmbldt at the Standard two years ago, and that got me into doing cannabis events and affiliated things. I started to meet a lot of people from fashion making the switch to cannabis. My partner and I — I actually met her through Hot Girls Eating Pizza 3 years ago — reconnected at a birthday dinner and we both decided we should do this together and that's when we decided to start working on Nice Paper.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
So it's purely educational, you don't sell products?
We don't sell products on our website yet, but we do a lot of partnerships and collaborations. We have topicals with our friends' yoga studio Y7 — we did a CBD bath soak and a CBD muscle salve. We also have CBD pre-rolls with this incredible brand called Soul Addict. They're launching nationally on Eaze Wellness soon, which is a great place to buy well-vetted CBD products. We're working on some private-label CBD beauty products with a really big retailer coming out this summer which I'm super excited about. We definitely want to be a liaison between the fashion and beauty space and weed. Kind of like an Into the Gloss, if you will.
Obviously weed is not legal in New York, so are you involved with lobbying for legalization? Is it something that's very close to happening or do we still have a ways to go?
It's coming really soon. Last month, the City Council passed resolutions that call for all misdemeanor marijuana convictions to be expunged and for the state to pass legislation that fully legalizes, regulates and taxes the drug. My partner lobbied in Albany with a lot of our colleagues last month, it was for equitable cannabis legislation. We have to make sure the legal adult-use cannabis industry benefits and protects those most harmed by the war on drugs.
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How do you navigate working in an industry that is historically inequitable to POC?
Mindfully and with intention. We knew when we ideated Nice Paper that we had a responsibility. We have friends in the space doing the most important work like CannaClusive. They ensure brands are not only conscious of representation and diversity among minority cannabis consumers but also actionable in the fight for legalization and making the industry equitable. We are having a secret 4/20 event with them and some of our other favorite partners.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
You do throw a lot of parties — how did you get into that?
Honestly, really randomly. I'm a really social person by nature and I've always had a lot of friends. In high school I loved throwing a themed party and even in college too, the cops would always come.
And then Hot Girls Eating Pizza gave me this natural platform to start throwing pizza parties. It was actually at Baby's All Right, when they first opened, that they were like, "Hey Marta, why don't you start doing your pizza parties here?" and then it quickly evolved to doing them at hotels and Elvis' Guesthouse. I started to host them in Miami and LA, brands wanted to leverage my network and they started to get bigger. I've done all kinds of pizza parties, but I really feel like no one was owning the pizza party space, so I was like, "Okay! I will!"
In general, I'm not a heavy drinker and I guess since I'm getting a little older, I'm partying less than I ever have been, but I still really like hosting a lot and I really, really, really love bringing people together.
"I really, really, really love bringing people together."
I really admire that you have a lot of things going on and don't have a linear trajectory, per se, because I've always felt that way about my own career goals — like they don't all necessarily line up or make sense together.
Thank you so much. Totally. It used to trip me out until I really embraced it. I went to FIT and I studied textiles, so I worked in fashion for 6 years and I was so miserable jumping from job to job. I would get a promotion or move laterally and I would never be happy. It was the same thing at every company. And I never really saw my trajectory with fashion in that way. I knew I was meant for a non-traditional job path. I guess Hot Girls gave me a taste of what it would be like to work for myself.
I also had a nail art line carried at Nasty Gal back in the day, during Nasty Gal's prime. It was named after my mom, called Trixxie, which was her nickname. I was super into nail art before it was so accessible so I designed and produced these water-slide nail decals. I made them for brands like Glossier and Nike and it was a really little thing I did on the side, but it was helping me pay my rent and funding other stuff that I wanted to do. I think I just always had that mentality — of doing stuff on the side to help me fund projects I really wanted to do while I had a boring desk job.
Any time a friend comes to me when they have an idea I tell them, "Well, anyone can do that, so you should do it right now." An idea is just a thought until you actually execute it, so I'm really big on working out your ideas and trying a million things. That means I have about 28 Instagram accounts and 13 passion projects, but it's the best.
Do you have a getting ready routine?
Yeah! When it comes to makeup, I hate wearing it. I try to get away with wearing tinted moisturizer and eyebrow gel. If I have a social function, I'll do a glitter eye. I had a big winged eyeliner phase, but it was so much work. and I recently got my lashes lifted and tinted by Jas Imani so I don't have to wear mascara. Skincare is a different story. I have a set of products that I keep in LA and in New York. I wish I had more of a routine, but traveling makes it hard. I do so many masks, moisturize, dermaroll, microcurrent — I try to do all the things, but my routine is somewhere between 5-12 steps depending on where I am.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
What do you think are the coolest places in NY and LA?
In NYC, my friends recently opened Short Stories on Bowery. It's such a good spot, and I feel like my friends are always there. My friends are also obsessed with Joyface right now. In LA, I really like places like Cabo Cantina — just your typical no-one-ever-goes-there spot, but they have amazing margaritas. Or maybe they don't and I just like the Sunset Strip. I also love old school places like Apple Pan and Dan Tana's, places that don't have an Instagram. There's so many of those in LA.
I love a no ambiance restaurant.
Right, like there's no vibe, so that almost makes it a vibe. But I really love a themed restaurant, so any time there's one of those — either chain or not — I'm down to go there. When I'm traveling, I'm always looking for a theme restaurant. Like the kitschy-ist thing that looks like the Madonna Inn threw up in your face. Or anything that looks like a Rainforest Café spinoff — sign me up.
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Best pizza in NYC and LA?
Williamsburg Pizza and Best Pizza. They've been my neighborhood faves for years, and now I'm lucky enough to call them friends. I feel like I'm in a relationship with Williamsburg Pizza because we work together so much. In LA, good pizza is tough. I love Cecconi's in West Hollywood.
What are some of the coolest cannabis products out now?
My favorite question! Right now, I am obsessed with Level Protabs. They have a sativa blend for creativity that I take when I work. Same with Kinslips, which you dissolve under your tongue. I love the Cloud Buster blend. I'm always on the hunt for innovative cannabis products for productivity. Sunday Goods just launched gorgeous new vapes, Delight is such a happy high. Besito is another amazing vape my friend just launched.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
What is your favorite song to hear when you're out?
Fleetwood Mac will put me in a good mood no matter what. But I am pretty beholden to trash pop on Spotify.
Is that an actual thing?
[Laughs] No, I listen to great pop. I make playlists called "thot bops" but I'm always scared to share them.
What is next for you?
We'll continue doing more product partnerships for Nice Paper. We raised a little capital for Dieu and we're moving full-speed ahead on that. I'm working on a cool thing with a large pizza chain for Hot Girls Eating Pizza so that will be really fun.
But, yeah — I don't know! I say this every year, but this is the year of collaboration. I feel like all my friends are coming up and into their own more than ever— like really coming up right now. I love that we're always able to work together and do things together. Relationships are my number one, and basically why I split my time between two cities, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Follow Marta Mae on Instagram (@marta).