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Brandeis alumnae strive to empower women with FanMail

By Brianna Cummings

Section: Arts

September 23, 2016

If one were to watch a comic book movie, aside from action and heroic triumphs, one element that they would definitely see is the oversexualization of women. From Black Widow to Catwoman to Harley Quinn, women in comics are often appreciated more for their physical attributes than for their actual skills. However, two Brandeis alumnae have noticed this and decided to encourage female empowerment in the supernatural, fandom, or otherwise known as “geek” realm.

Rose Del Vecchio ’14 and Jenny Cheng ’14 have joined forces in creating a business, FanMail, that helps promote feminism and showcases their love of comic books, fantasy and pop culture as a whole. FanMail is a subscription box service, similar to LootCrate, that sends pop culture and comic book collectibles to subscribers. Unlike Lootcrate, FanMail markets to women, acknowledging that they too can be a part of geek culture. This project is important because the media can greatly affect how women view themselves and students are aware of this.

In an exclusive interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Del Vecchio mentioned that, “We’ve tried to concentrate on the core of fandom culture that we love and tried to nourish that spirit in our own community.”

Del Vecchio and Cheng started the business in 2015, and they are still trying to find a niche for the business.

“I’ve been a fangirl as long as I could remember. I was obsessed with this TV show Merlin for a really long time and Harry Potter was my very first fandom. I sort of set out with my dad to set up this subscription box service that was geared toward women specifically.”

Del Vecchio is currently managing the business out of her apartment in Philadelphia and her parents’ basement in New Hampshire. She is also working in higher education while working on the business.

“I had been receiving multiple subscription boxes that were pop culture based and de-culture based that I found really lacking like they were fun, they had a lot of fun items, but it wasn’t really speaking to me.”

FanMail is blossoming and creating a large fan base. The business currently has approximately one thousand subscribers. Del Vecchio and Cheng work closely with women in different fields and ensure that one or more items in each themed box are sourced from female business owners or women artists. Both Brandeis alumni work alongside fellow business owners, thereby making every effort to promote other businesses while also providing their subscribers with a unique product.

“We really look for ways we can promote the indie stuff, the creative content that’s coming out from diverse creators, and women of color specifically, that are really highlighting storylines and stories that we see ourselves reflected in.”

In July, Del Vecchio and Cheng had their own booth at San Diego Comic Con to promote FanMail to comic book and fantasy fans around the world. The two also were involved in the Fangirls Lead the Way panel.

While the rising popularity of FanMail is a blessing, the heavy workload is less desirable. Del Vecchio said that both her Philadelphia and New Hampshire residences are swamped with inventory. She ships most of the merchandise from the two houses.

“Our first month we managed to sell out. We definitely weren’t expecting it and we sort of hit the ground running and pulled out, and started packing boxes like mad.”

The two are proud of their business and are happy that it is catching on. They are thrilled to show and celebrate the diversity of women and will continue to cultivate their business, one box at a time.

“I definitely think that for me it’s not something I would have seen myself doing out of college. I had degrees from Brandeis.” I’ve found that it’s ignited female passion and it has connected me with not only these amazing creators … but I’ve also been able to get to know so many women through FanMail.

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