“She’s doing what?” That’s probably what many people think when they first learn of or meet this talented group of women. From media to motherhood to motherboards, these women are starting conversations all over town—and a lot of people are listening.
Do You Know The DeMartinos?
By Lisa J. Gotto | Photo by Gian Andrea di Stefano
Do you know Niki and Gabi DeMartino? Chances are, if you are a regular reader of LVS you may not, even though they are huge celebrities.
It has been said that when most of us go to look up a topic online we head right to Google. But when Generation Z’ers need to know something, they usually hit up YouTube first.
“Generation Z’ers,” meaning that post-millennial age group coming of age in this second decade of the 2000s.
To date, YouTube has more than one billion users and 300 hours of video footage uploaded to its platform per hour. With all that content, and interest in it, it made sense for YouTube to create a series of “channels” so their users can easily find what they’re looking for and so they can more easily track their most successful contributors.
And that’s were the word “celebrity” comes back into play, because it was on YouTube that these 20-year-old identical twins from Bethlehem made themselves household names—those households with teens and pre-teens in them, that is.
Back in 2012, while still attending Notre Dame High School, Green Pond, these two were pretty much doing what their peers were doing—posting their lives to social media. At first, they started posting videos to show off their comedic and musical talents. While they had a decent number of views for those videos, they noticed that their comments from viewers were usually fashion or beauty related. Something like, “What do you use to line your lips, Gabi?” or “Cool boho blouse, Niki! Where did you get it?”
In the meantime, their parents Nelida and Jeff DeMartino were playing the roles of caring and cautious parents.
“They didn’t want us to be on social media so much,” says Niki. “They thought we were wasting our lives [indoors].”
But something had already taken root online by this time. The girls began to play up the fashion and beauty angle and their subscriber numbers began to grow. Add in the fact that the two do play off one another infectiously well and the camera loves them, then toss in that splash of twin mystique, and you definitely have the makings of a social media dream team, or duo, as it were.
And that’s when Awesomeness TV and YouTube’s StyleHaul channels came calling. The girls signed contracts with both and started getting paid for their videos. They say it was just about this time, too, when their parents started thinking: Maybe this isn’t just a hobby?
True to form in cyberspace, word about the twins traveled rather rapidly at that point. Soon they would have not just thousands of views, but hundreds of thousands of views for their videos about their morning beauty routines, tips for Instagramming and “going-to-the-prom” etiquette.
Mind you, all this is going on and being shot here in the Valley with their trusty cameraman/videographer/Niki’s boyfriend, Jerry, and just a few digital tools, including a GoPro, which they admit was harder to master than they thought it would be.
So while it’s fair to say this rather simple operation works well with a “less-is-more" philosophy, more was definitely in store for Niki and Gabi.
In September of 2014, they were noticed and then contacted by the largest and most highly regarded talent agency in the world, William Morris Entertainment (WME) and Untitled Management in LA. They inked a deal with both that would have the girls out and meeting their fan base, signing endorsement deals and attending some pretty enviable A-List events like New York Fashion Week.
While that all may sound exciting, when we asked how life had changed since signing this deal, Gabi relayed that there is more purpose and structure to what they are doing with their videos now.
“Life has become more organized,” says Gabi. “Before we signed with WME…our clients, deals and schedules were all over the place and were very hard to manage.” A telling quote since upon meeting these young women you do get a sense that they are grounded and not about to have their heads turned by the prospect of somewhat overnight success and global glamour. They know better. Both are now seeking degrees in communications, locally, at DeSales University in Center Valley.
They each see that continuing their education is essential.
“Pursuing an academic career alongside YouTube is what truly keeps us grounded. Many YouTubers get caught up in what they’re doing and drop their education. After working my bum off these past two years at DeSales on papers, exams and presentations, I have come to completely understand the value of education and earning a degree,” Gabi says.
Not yet 21 at the time of our interview, Niki and Gabi look forward to the future with all the blush and enthusiasm you would expect and have goals yet to be achieved.
“Something Gabi and I have always wanted to pursue is our music,” says Niki. “We actually started on YouTube singing and we'd like to make our way back to doing that again along with beauty, lifestyle and fashion!”
Favorite moment since signing with WME:
Meeting Justin Bieber at New York Fashion Week “And it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey…hi,’ either; we hung out with him backstage!” Gabi says.
Favorite place to go in the LV:
The Lehigh Valley Mall “My sisters and I are obsessed with going!” says Niki. (There are two other DeMartino siblings: an older sister who is currently attending Gettysburg College and a younger brother, still in high school.)
That “Twin Mystique” Thing
These ladies admit that sometimes it’s a drag to be referred to as if they were one person, but overall they feel being a twin has its benefits: “The upside is that you always have someone there,” Niki says. “When we hit milestones on YouTube, we could experience that success together.”
“Our personalities couldn’t be more contrasting and our likes and dislikes couldn’t be more different, either,” Gabi says.
What’s So Great About Niki:
She’s hardworking and motivated. Loves an easy, breezy Bohemian style of dressing with stacks of bracelets as accessories. Think Sienna Miller with
a twist of Mila Kunis.
What’s So Great About Gabi:
She’s a bubbly, “big ball of energy.” Loves glamour, faux fur and getting the look for less. Believes in style traditions with twists. Think Audrey Hepburn meets Ariana Grande.
Sometimes You Have to Start at the Bottom
By Pattie Giordani | Photo by Colin Coleman
The origin of Ju-Ju Monkey in Allentown, like many of its products, was organic, says owner Sara Moore.
When Moore was living in Los Angeles and expecting a baby, she and her husband wanted to continue being eco-conscious as parents, so she started to research modern cloth diapers.
“All the information about cloth diapers on the Internet can seem overwhelming,” Moore says. She educated herself, evaluated all the data and became an expert on the subject. “That sparked the idea for what eventually became Ju-Ju Monkey.”
Shortly after her son was born, her family relocated to the Lehigh Valley and she put her inspiration to work by starting the family-owned business out of their home in Schnecksville.
Ju-Ju Monkey, named after her memorable nickname for her son, was born so that families could have a place to find out about and actually touch cloth diapers. She eventually added breastfeeding-related products, cloth carriers and other items.
Real Support for Parents
Moore joined the Real Diaper Association and is currently on that organization’s board of directors. Moore founded the Lehigh Valley Diaper Circle, a chapter of the Real Diaper Association, offering education and support for parents who use cloth diapers. The website offers lists of resources and a blog with all kinds of information—so it’s not just about diapers.
The group also holds in-person monthly get-togethers. Ju-Ju Monkey is also a member of the Real Diaper Industry Association.
After learning more about babywearing, which is carrying a baby in a sling or other form of carrier, Moore also became a babywearing educator certified by the Center for Babywearing Studies. Carriers come in various types and, like cloth diapers, there is a lot of information out there on the topic, but she can guide parents through the process. Ju-Ju Monkey is a business member of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance.
At home, the business was growing by leaps and bounds. “When my son was around four, we decided the in-home showroom was generating too much traffic in and out of the house,” Moore says. “It was time to move to a brick-and-mortar store.”
They set up shop in the Kmart Shopping Center on West Tilghman Street and have been there ever since. Ju-Ju Monkey will celebrate its two-year anniversary in September. The store is packed with all kinds of products for babies, toddlers and even parents—and there’s still room for toddlers to play with some of the toys while mom’s shopping.
In addition to cloth diapers and accessories like colorful diaper covers and training pants, there are various cloth carriers, wooden toys, sustainable feeding products (made of stainless steel or silicone), baby care and skin care products that include plant-based extracts, breastfeeding products and unique silicone jewelry that doubles as teething rings for baby.
Programs for Parents
Ju-Ju Monkey’s classes are held in a large area in the back of the store. Moore started offering classes shortly after they opened and now has a very full slate of offerings for parents and children. There are classes to inform parents on many aspects of natural parenting, including breastfeeding, babywearing, baby care and child safety.
My Smart Hands teaches children and parents how to incorporate American Sign Language into everyday life—older babies and toddlers can learn how to sign before they start talking, helping them communicate with parents and caregivers.
Theatre Tots is the US version of a successful children’s drama program that started in the United Kingdom. Children will learn, act, play, move, sing and dance in this class that runs for four weeks, culminating in a special performance during the last session.
Children use musical instruments and also make their mark on paper in Draw Me a Song, a “sensory art” class. There are four versions of Kindermusic classes for varying ages. To see what it’s all about, parents can preview one of the Kindermusic classes for a nominal fee.
Again, Moore wanted to offer a place for parents to gather and meet with other parents while their children were engaged in educational and sensory activities. She reached out to some teachers, and others found their way to her. All instructors are certified in their areas.
“To make it as quick and easy as possible for parents, they can book classes in store, by phone, or online,” Moore explains.
What has grown from Moore’s interest in cloth diapers for her own baby grew into a desire to educate parents about aspects of natural parenting. It’s safe to say that her idea has been resoundingly successful—so much so that Ju-Ju Monkey was named Best Baby Boutique in Lehigh Valley Style magazine’s Best of the Lehigh Valley 2015.
A Call for Super Cyber Women
By Pattie Giordani | Photo by Colin Coleman
Tish Wakefield doesn’t want any accolades for herself—she wants to help bring more women into the web and mobile app development field.
To that end, she leads the Lehigh Valley chapter of Girl Develop It, a nonprofit organization providing affordable programs for adult women interested in learning web and software development in a judgment-free environment.
“Our role is to open the door with classes and create a community that supports women,” Wakefield explains. “One of the reasons women don’t see web development as a viable field for them is that they don’t see it—or technology—as relational.”
Necessity: The Mother of Invention
The name itself—“Girl, Develop It!”—is a call to action, to women by women who were tired of the low representation of women in technology. Founded in New York City in 2010 by Vanessa Hurst and Sara Chipps, its chapters are building empowered communities in 46 cities with more than 35,000 members. The grassroots, mostly volunteer-led women’s organization has a code of conduct, which it enforces, Wakefield says.
While she put in much more time when she was getting the chapter up and running, she estimates she spends about 20 hours per week with the group now that she has classes, teachers and venues set up.
Wakefield found her way into the web development field by necessity. It was the mid-1990s and someone had set up a website for her consulting business.
“I didn’t like the website, so I taught myself how to make web pages,” she recalls. While she does have a STEM background, she didn’t have any formal programming training. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in applied biology. (She also holds a master’s degree in social work and is pursuing an MBA.)
Since then, she has seen a need for more women in the web development field. Participating in a hackathon in Massachusetts a few years ago, she pitched an idea.
“Although a team formed around that idea, it didn’t take off,” she says. “But the experience sparked my imagination. Looking around the development community, I found that people were enthusiastic to the idea [of Girl Develop It] locally.”
Many Lehigh Valley businesses are extremely supportive and work with Girl Develop It by donating classroom space and input, including Ben Franklin TechVentures, City Center Lehigh Valley, INetU, reenhanced, Lehigh Valley Tech and the Allentown Economic Development Corporation. Some offer space for classes and others who don’t have the space might offer refreshments.
Communication and Curriculum
The main way the chapter connects with members is through its Meetup site. “That’s our transaction gateway,” she explains. “We connect with and register people for classes through that site.”
Wakefield also gets the word out about Girl Develop It through networking at community events and through nextplex.com, a platform for tech organizations.
Among the informal and interactive classes that the Lehigh Valley chapter offers is Introduction to Web Concepts.
“This class shows participants the idea of the technology behind websites,” Wakefield says. “At $20 for two hours, it’s a low-risk way to engage with web development and Girl Develop It!”
Another basic class is Introduction to HTML and CSS—a coding class that Wakefield calls “Build Your Own Website, Part 1.” HTML is the language and CSS is a styling markup program that enables coders to establish styles for the website and ask the browser to use one style over another.
“It’s a struggle to find women developers to teach classes,” Wakefield says. “We need more adult women in the field. This could work for career changers or women getting back into the work force for whatever reason. A software developer can work wherever there’s an Internet connection—at whatever time she wants to, and make good money doing it.”
The current teachers for the Lehigh Valley chapter are all men—Mark Starkman, Rob Smith and Nicholas Hance (his company, reenhanced, is a chapter sponsor)--but they are all fully committed to bringing more women into the web and mobile app development field.
“Also, Rob eventually wants to teach Intro to GitHub, a collaborative tool in which you can share code to projects, a kind of version control,” she says.
In addition to the classes, there are Code and Coffee study groups where participants can practice coding, work on projects and share tips. More experienced women developers act as mentors.
Wakefield says that as of April 2015, the Lehigh Valley chapter of Girl Develop It had 157 people in their Meetup page group. The chapter is planning to offer classes in Montgomery County, to serve those residents who might not want to travel to Philadelphia to participate.
“Girl Develop It is an organization that can change the numbers of women in web developing by the power of its chapters,” she says. “This is the promise of what it can offer the women in the Lehigh Valley—to help them on this career path.”