manakii’s muse: Brenna Kalicki

manakii’s muse: Brenna Kalicki

Who is Brenna Kalicki?

I am a content specialist, photographer, graphic designer, and illustrator. When I’m not building websites & content for the brands I work with, I am illustrating and taking pictures in my free time - a little bit of everything in the marketing world.

How did you get into this career path? Tell us about your journey and how you figured out what you wanted to do.

I have always had a creative background. I’ve had grandparents that are very into art, very creative which started my interest in the arts. I knew right away that I wanted to do something art-driven for college; when I went to school, I decided on my major on day 1 of Freshman year. I was a double major in Photography & Graphic Design. I graduated thinking I was going to be a photographer, working on photoshoots and things like that, and I ended up working at a large e-commerce company in a photo studio as a producer. I was more behind-the-scenes managing the day-to-day. The day-to-day made me realize that I love photography, but I think I want it to be a hobby, not my job. I am constantly thinking about user-friendliness and things like content and marketing I see outside of my work that I find inspiring or that just sticks with me. I always found myself circling back to content. It wasn’t the path I imagined for myself, but I still get to be creative in my free time as well as portions of my job.

Tell me a little bit about your community working for a big company. Was it overwhelming being a female? How were you treated in that environment?

In a large company, it’s weird because there are so many people, but I feel like the majority of them are women (at least at the one I have worked at). It’s empowering in that sense. I would say culturally it was great to start. Nothing has prepared me more for the real world than being in a corporate setting. It teaches you how to be a bulldog and you learn how to guard yourself a little bit - my first year at I was like, “this is kind of intense”. You learn so much that it’s worth it in a weird way. I don’t think I’d ever go back, but I don’t regret the time that I was there. It toughened my skin and I always felt like I had a voice to speak over my male counterparts -- well, not over, but I felt heard. If they [men] interjected, I had a whole team of managers that were women that were like ‘let her finish’. 

If you had any advice to give to young women or your younger self, what would you tell them?

Hang in there. Don’t let your voice get lost - Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. There have been tons of times where I feel like you get so afraid of speaking up and out about mistreatment or something wrong. If you feel like something is wrong, speak out. It’s so scary to speak up for yourself with the possibility of losing your job, but every time it’s going to be worth it because it’s setting a boundary. When you respect your boundaries, you just become stronger.

How has being a woman shaped you?

Being a woman is… I think it's amazing. I know so many strong, smart women. They’re all so inspiring; where to even begin? I feel like that Little Women movie where she’s just like “Women.” is how I feel all the time. There’s nothing greater. Women are strong. The things they can do… unstoppable. Being a woman is hard in today’s world. You have the body standards the media pushes on you. You have the aging where you’re expected to settle down and have kids. There’s a lot of pressure added to just existing as a woman. Seeing myself and my friends, even women I don’t even know, fight against those norms to have better and bigger opportunities is so rewarding.

How have the preconceived notions that come with being a woman affected your mental health? How do you deal with this?

It’s hard. I love my body, my body gets through the day, it gets me through the worst year of a pandemic. There are ups and downs; some days I wake up and I’m like “ugh, I wish I looked different” and there are days when I wake up and I’m like “I’m the hottest bitch I know”. One thing that helped me with my body image was on Instagram I unfollowed every influencer that does not look like me. I followed women and influencers that had my body shape or larger. Now, my feed is more so people that look like me. I can’t pick myself apart because I’m too busy liking them and being so excited that they look so good. I don’t have time to look at my own body because I’m seeing myself in it [my feed]. 

What were the steps you took along the way to get here?

It took a lot of erasing the generational trauma passed down. I love my mom, I love my grandma, but being a woman I think that there are body image issues passed down through generations unintentionally. Once I started kind of correcting, correcting my mom whenever she would make a comment about my weight or she would pinch me and say ‘You look a little chunky.’ I’d be like ‘that’s not okay. Don’t do that.’ I started setting boundaries with my relationships and then I also started changing the way I talk to myself. When I would catch myself in a negative emotion, I’d try to catch it and at the moment think of one thing about myself that I love or like. It could be the simplest thing. It could be a reach, it could be I like that I got out of bed today. I think that changing my thinking at that moment has helped me grow into the person I am today. Instead of dwelling on it, I am who I am, if I’m not liked because of it then that’s fine. I don’t need to worry about that stuff anymore as long as I’m true to myself. 

If there was anything that society could do to make it easier for women, what would be the starting point?

When I was a kid, we had Britney Spears and all of the women wore low-rise jeans and were so skinny. But in the media, they would be fat-shamed. It was no wonder why all of us thought we were obese and disgusting. We were being shown these pictures of beautiful women that are being torn apart. Nowadays, we have people like Lizzo, Tess Holiday, and there’s just more exposure to different bodies. I think that it’s just a different type of acceptance or awakening. I feel like today’s younger generation is so lucky to have that. I would just love to see more representation in the media and just in life. Instead of us editing down every image so that everyone’s got a specific shape, flawless skin, let’s start showing real shit. Let’s show the stretch marks, let’s show acne, let’s just show realness. There have been a few shows that have started to show fat women as the main character rather than the funny friend. Like the show Shrill, I wish that show existed for me years ago starting to date as a plus-size woman. That shit would’ve transformed my whole life. I just think the more exposure we have to these bodies and them talking about their experiences is only going to make things easier for everyone. 

What is your favorite thing about being a woman? Least favorite?

My favorite thing as a woman is that element of being underestimated - I love proving people wrong. If you think that I’m going to fail, I’m going to go out and show you how much harder I’m going to succeed. I think the odds are stacked against. That’s not always a reality, but it’s such a male-driven world, which is unfortunate, and I think women are so unstoppable. I just started getting into women’s soccer. One of the things I love is watching the clips of women getting injured on the field vs. the men. It’s so funny to see because men will cause such a scene and make this whole acting moment. The girl just gets up and keeps going, and being a part of that is amazing. The worst part is you can’t exist as a woman without being objectified in some way. Even when you’re a trans woman you’re objectified. It’s insane. It’s so upsetting. I have guy friends who occasionally we’ll all hang out with and they’ll just hear us all go back and forth and they’ll look horrified - as if they never had to think about certain things. They don’t have that when they leave the bar and have a friend text me when you get home or they don’t have their friend tracking their phone when they go on a first date.

What has impacted you the most in your life?

I would say, my friends. I feel like I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if I didn’t have the group that I have. I’m constantly gathering new friends. I have friends from when I was in preschool to friends from high school through college through adulthood and career. I feel like I learn something from all of them. Every time I’m second-guessing myself I have this whole team of people that are cheering me on always. I could call them, text them and I always know that I’ll get a bunch of feedback and responses and support. And even just watching them all succeed in all of their side projects or their main project- anything, just seeing them happy and thrive just keeps me motivated. I think that’s what keeps me going. 

In your mind, what qualifies a really good friend?

Honesty. Humor. Passion. Passion about anything. I just want to hear anyone’s interests. If you feel passionate about something, I will sit and listen for hours. I don’t care if it’s something I don’t understand. I’ll sit there and I’ll ask questions. I just love seeing that spark. But, humor is huge. 

On social media the last few years there has been a huge girl-power movement, what’s been your experience or take on that?

I wish the girl-power movement was as strong as it is now back then. I feel like when I was in middle school, even high school it was catty. I feel like everyone’s guilty of having those moments of not being the best supporter of women. That’s what growth is for. There are so many moments I look back on and think ‘ugh, that was a horrible time’. Even with having the spice girls to have to look up to growing up, it was still some nonsense. My friends and I are all very blunt with each other. And so, we’ll get into these political conversations and we may not all see eye-to-eye, but the common denominator is we are always thinking what’s going to be beneficial for other women? If we want it for ourselves we want it for all women. I wish I could go back in time and show young me and my friend's WAP as a song and music video and hear their reaction. That song had so many grown adults upset. It was such a strong movement. There are so many songs where it’s okay for men to talk about their bodies and fucking women. You have two women just being like ‘here it is.’ It was well-received by a lot of women but also dissed by a lot of other rappers in the industry which is crazy to me. It’s the same thing but it’s different as soon as a woman does it?

Brenna's IG - @brennakalicki

Brenna's Website -

Author || McKenna Robertson

Interviewer || Hanne Wilson & McKenna Robertson