An interview with Lisa Messenger – she’s daring, disruptive, uplifting and inspiring

I first met Lisa Messenger earlier this year at a Renegade Collective dinner at Bishop Cessna. What left an indelible mark on me that night was how warm, friendly, approachable and down-to-earth she was.

The room was packed with about 70 women, Lisa visited every table to meet and chat with everyone there – she made an effort to connect with everybody. I made a FB post during the night and tagged her saying what a great time I was having and how I would love to photograph her. On my way out she stopped me and said to email her with my website details so she could have a look at my work. When I admired her shoes, she proceeded to tell me she found them at an op-shop (I think St Vinnys from memory).

I was impressed that this rock star of the publishing world is so down-to-earth, warm and friendly.

For those that have been hiding under a rock, Lisa is the CEO of The Messenger Group and Editor-in-Chief of the hottest magazine on the shelves, The Renegade Collective. This is a woman who has 13 companies and has written 12 books. Her magazine, The Renegade Collective, has hit the magazine world by storm and is now in 35 countries around the world! She is truly an inspiring Sista!

I finally got my wish to interview and photograph Lisa Messenger…in the carpark of NBN studios next to a shipping container! She is a just a gem!


Mel:   One of the things that really impressed me when I came to the Renegade Collective event was meeting you and seeing what a warm, approachable, person you are. And I’d really love to ask you about your personal values.

Lisa:   Thank you, I get really humbled by that. I’ve done a lot of personal development over the years. I probably wasn’t always so warm and approachable. But then I went through some personal stuff about 12 years ago and I made a conscious decision to give up drinking, and it just changed a whole lot of things in my life.

I think for years I had a lot of ego and low self-esteem but I didn’t have any awareness around it. But I started doing work on myself to overcome that.

A lot of people get some modem of success and then start to forget about others. And I thought, ‘who am I to do that?’ because the only reason the magazine is working is because of everyone else’s generosity; giving me interviews or telling their friends about it, and so on.

I made a really conscious decision before I even launched Renegade Collective that I would try and connect with as many people as possible in person and across social media. And so yes, I recognize that I am just a conduit and this is just my journey at the moment. And so that is why I do what I do.

Mel:   Along your journey to becoming a successful businesswoman and creating a thriving magazine, have you come up against any roadblocks, challenges or negativity that you’ve had to overcome?

Lisa:   Yes there are constant roadblocks but I think the thing is when you are living and working so much ‘on purpose’ and you are doing it with so much passion, you can overcome anything.

My whole purpose is to show other entrepreneurs, creatives, people wanting to start their own business … anyone… that truly anything is possible!

I remember that on a daily basis and so whatever I come up against, whether it be financial or people saying to me ‘that’s not how you do a magazine’, I just try and remember why I am doing this and so it is very easy then to move through that challenge quickly.

It’s interesting that the world that I have gone into – the world of magazines – can be kind of fake and vacuous and there are some people who haven’t necessarily done a lot of work on themselves. There is the perception that the magazine world is very glamorous and glitzy. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised in an industry that I thought would have been quite vacuous and catty that everyone has just been full of praise and saying ‘wow, it is amazing that you have launched your magazine with no magazine experience.’

I’ve not had one single person say anything negative to me and hopefully that continues.

What has been extraordinary is that right from the beginning I started getting invited to dinners with other magazine editors, such as Elle and Vogue, you know the big guys in Australia.   When I first started going I didn’t know who any of them were. I was worried they’d be thinking, ‘Oh, who is this crazy woman?’ .

But they all completely embraced me. I remember I sat opposite Neale Whitaker, who is the editor of Belle Magazine at a dinner, (I hadn’t met him before) and he was so kind. I thought, this is a guy who has been an editor for about 12 years, he’s such a fabulous man and here he was saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe what YOU have done’. I was incredibly humbled by that. People have been incredibly supportive.

Mel:   Do you ever get the fear? The fear of putting yourself out there? Or what if I’m not going to make it? You know, the fear that holds you back?

Lisa:   Sometimes, but not very much anymore. And I think it is because I’ve been in business, or have owned businesses for 12½ years. So the thing is I can’t let myself get afraid anymorebecause it is so big what we are doing now.

Each issue cost me $350,000 and that’s just the magazine, let alone everything else that’s going on. We’re growing at such a rapid speed – the magazine is in 35 countries now – so I can’t really let myself be fearful.

The reason that I am able to deal with it is that I’ve pretty much been in every hideous situation in the last 12½ years of business and I’ve failed so many times that I can quickly take my head to the worst case scenario of something – like what if I don’t get any advertising dollars – then I can quickly shuffle my thoughts and go, ‘okay these are the things I need to put in place to stop that from happening’.

And now I’ve got a great team of accountants, lawyers and external support. So the jobs I am not good at dealing with I can quickly divert to someone else and get on with doing the things that I need to do which is being a visionary and being passionate about the next step.

If I feel fear, I feel it very quickly and I put mechanisms in place to move on.

Mel:   Do you have any little tips for others to overcome the fear when they are starting out?

Lisa:   Yes – the thing is that things change. Issues that might feel really overpowering when you first start out, you learn are not actually so big in the scheme of things. And so if I could tell myself something when I was starting a business 12 ½ years ago, it would be – Don’t sweat the small stuff! Just try and keep your vision, try and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Remember your passion!


The Sista Code is proud to sponsor the coming event, The Hunter Collective, this coming Tuesday (11th November), featuring Lisa Messenger with 3 other fabulous women – Pinky McKay, Jane Huxley and Pip Stocks – at Noahs on the Beach, Newcastle, from 12 noon. Tickets are $150 and there are 3 left. If you are interested in going, please email For more information, visit

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