“She Pivots” is a podcast hosted by Emily Tisch Sussman which has started its third season with a guest appearance by Misty Copeland, who is famous for breaking barriers in ballet. In this episode, Copeland talks about how she learned to embrace different paths and roles as one of the most renowned ballerinas in the world.
“Misty’s story is so much more than meets the eye and encapsulates how personal experiences can lead to a shift in perspective and eventually a pivot. This season is all about highlighting stories of personal events that can change our mindsets and lead us down a new path to something unexpected and better than we could have imagined, and Misty’s journey is a true testament to that,” said Sussman.
“She Pivots” aims to redefine women’s success stories by spotlighting real-life experiences of women who exhibit that success is not a one-size-fits-all formula. This season’s guests include Vanessa Hudgens, Rebecca Minkoff, and Christy Turlington.
We spoke to Sussman, who resides on the East End, to learn more.
Congratulations on the Season 3 launch of “She Pivots.” Tell us about how the podcast began and your inspiration for starting it.
I started “She Pivots” out of a need to hear stories of inspiration from women who had gone through something difficult but came out of it on the other side with a new mindset. I needed to hear the stories because I just left my decade-long career in DC politics after having three kids in just four years, right smack dab in the middle of the Trump presidency. It was definitely the right move for me and my family, but at the time, it felt crushing to lose a career that I had worked so hard for — a career I measured my worth against.
Like so many high-achieving women, I had defined success using those traditional markers: a career, a promotion, the corner office, awards, etc. When I left that more traditional trajectory, I realized that those ideas and markers of success are not what truly defines our success. So, I started “She Pivots” to showcase the stories of women who have carved their own ideas of success in spite of it all.
Can you tell us more about your pivot?
It all started when I was working in DC as the Vice President of Campaigns for the Center for American Progress — I was at the top of my career. I was regularly making appearances as a political strategist and commentator on cable news shows like Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and more. I had worked on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I ran some of the first celebrity surrogate campaigns — I had really done it all.
Then, I had my three kids in just four years, and it all became unsustainable. I remember I was in the Fox News studio for an early morning TV hit at 4:30 AM, and I was trying to pump and juggle my other full-time job, and I realized that this was unsustainable. So, I decided to leave my career and venture into consulting. I stayed with one foot in politics for a while, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that I had lost the “success” I had worked so hard for. As I started to talk about it with other people, I realized that I was not alone in this feeling and that I had so much to learn from other women who had gone through their own pivot.
As I kept searching for stories of inspiration, I realized that we needed to change the cultural conversation around our careers, and it was through these stories that we could move the needle.
And so here we are, in the third season of “She Pivots,” and we have done it. The way women are talking about and viewing their careers, lives, and “success” is changing, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Of course, I have to mention that as a result of my pivot, I have been lucky to become locally involved in my community — something I never felt living in New York City or DC. I serve on the board for Ross School, am a founding member of our local Moms Demand Action group, and work with the Bridgehampton Community Center to stay involved in all the amazing things happening here locally.
Talk a little about the season three launch celebration. Any moments that stand out to you?
Every time I host an event, I want to make sure my guests walk away feeling like they were a part of something meaningful. And that was no different with our launch celebration this year. I have the honor of speaking with so many incredible women on this podcast, and I really want to use this party as a way to bring these insights and relationships out of the studio and into real life.
In my remarks, I encouraged guests to be bold, to make asks of one another, and to put out what you have to offer. We’re a generation of women who build bridges, not a generation of women who compete with one another.
One of our attendees, Hitha Palepu, shared something that warmed my heart and encapsulated what I had hoped to achieve for the celebration, that the party felt like “a family reunion with only the relatives you really like.”
You kicked off the season with Misty Copeland. Tell us about this interview.
I’m convinced Misty Copeland is a real-life princess. She carries herself with such grace and humility, especially considering how much she has gone through and how much she has done in her life. I am so proud to kick off this season with Misty, whose story and pivot is so much more than meets the eye.
Her episode is deeply personal as Misty opens up about the stages of her life that shaped her perspective and ultimately led to a career beyond ballet.
You’ll hear everything from her experience growing up incredibly shy with a difficult home life, a very tough and public custody battle when she was just a young teen, going through puberty at the age of 19, the impact of several near career-ending injuries, and how she embraced her platform to have a greater impact on the ballet industry.
One of the moments that stands out to me was when she answered the question that I asked all of my guests: “What is one moment that you saw as a low point that really set you on the path to where you are now?” And she said that it was when she performed in “Firebird,” and she was on the brink of snapping her tibia. She had several stress factors that were almost to the point of breaking, and she danced anyway. She danced in front of a majority Black crowd, and she felt like it was one of the most important things that she did in her career because she realized that it was “not about me as an individual. But it’s about how I can use my voice and use my platform to bring about change. And I think that that just made me feel like I could do anything.”
Tell us about some of the other guests you interviewed this season.
One of the things I’m most excited about this season is the truly vulnerable stories from women across every discipline, age, and experience. I’m very excited to debut this season, Dr. Sheena Howard. She’s a professor who is the first Black woman to win an Eisner Award, which is known as the Oscar of comics. After dreaming of being in the WNBA her whole life, Dr. Howard suffered a career-ending injury, which forced her to pivot and really reckon with her path at a young age.
We just released our interview with Elizabeth Bellak, a Holocaust survivor who spoke so openly about her experience escaping from the Nazis hiding in plain sight in convents across Eastern Europe. Her life is steeped in a pivot that was forced upon her at a young age and has dictated how she views and approaches her life.
Then, of course, we have some incredible women like Christy Turlington, Founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watters, Vanessa Hudgens, and more joining us this season. So make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss anything!
You champion causes that support women. What are the most important causes to you at the moment?
After working at the federal level for so long, I am so proud to champion local causes. This summer, I was proud to work with fellow moms to launch the Moms Demand Action, Sag Harbor Group, to empower parents to have a real and lasting impact in the fight to end gun violence. The event featured leaders from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence to share resources and insights on how the community can drive cultural and legislative change.
I also serve the Ross School board and work with the Bridgehampton Community Center to keep our community active and engaged. Beyond “She Pivots” — I’m proud to invest in women-owned companies and theater, and I just joined as a co-owner of Gotham FC, Go Bats!
But at the core, my true passion is women. Empowering women, connecting women, changing the narrative for what working-women’s idea of success is. It comes in so many different forms, and I’m excited for a year to continue our work in the women’s space.
What’s next for “She Pivots”?
The sky! I am so proud of what “She Pivots” has become. I never thought I would interview women like Vice President Harris, Misty Copeland, or Priyanka Chopra, but it shows that these feelings at the intersection of our careers and personal lives are real and felt by everyone.
As I interview more and more incredible women, I hope it shows women everywhere that whatever change or pivot they make is the right one. It might not seem like it in the moment, but the women of “She Pivots” prove that it’s possible.