You can be outdoorsy and still want to take care take of your skin. I grew up in this generation where there were only two categories for girls. Girls who were a tomboy or girls who were super girly. You couldn’t really be both.
Named one of forty women who’ve made the biggest impact in the outdoor community by Outside Magazine, Shelma Jun is founder of Flash Foxy, a company created to celebrate women in climbing, culminating in the annual Women’s Climbing Festival; The Never Not Collective, a female-run media company that is currently working on Pretty Strong, a film about your favorite female climbers; and board member of the Access Fund, working to protect America’s climbing landmarks.
How much do you travel?
Sixty-five percent of the time.
Where are some of the places you’ve been this year?
Carbondale Colorado, Moab Utah, Eastern Sierras, Squamish, Wind River Range in Wyoming, Denver, Texas, West Texas, Bishop California, and New Mexico.
Travel horror story?
Ten years ago I went to Europe for the first time and literally every hostel had its own mini story. In Paris we had to pack up our stuff and bring it downstairs every morning by 9am because the people running the hostel moved all the rooms around in different configurations since they were illegally maxing out the rooms. In another, these two middle aged Belgian women were cooking out the window, and early in the mornings would unwrap these individually wrapped candies, waking everyone up with the noise.
What’s your packing secret?
I bring one or two nice items– either a jumpsuit or dress, and then a fleet of earrings. I always travel with at least fifteen pairs. They can fit in a little bag and can really enhance an outfit. My friend Bri Bol beads and hand metalworks these really beautiful earrings. I have four pairs. I also have a lot of indigenous native earrings: I have a pair of antique Zuni sterling silver earrings, a couple from my friend who is Paiutes; the earrings are made from bear grass, quills, and other sorts of materials. I have a couple of really beautiful porcupine quill Lakota ones, and then I have my more urban stuff; big hoops, door knockers, things like that.
What’s something that helps you transition from place to place?
The order of my routine: coffee, wash face, brush teeth, put clothes on.
Lately a canvas tote bag! They’re really easy to pack into another bag.
My backpack is Voltaic, which is an on-the-go solar energy company that I work with.
Movement towards more sustainable living in your life?
Sometimes companies will send me things that I don’t ask for, and it kind of makes me frustrated because sometimes it’s things I don’t need. Now I am beholden to be responsible for finding the next owner of this thing. It stresses me out.
What is your process for saying no to being on the go?
I try to ask myself: is this the best use of my time? Am I the only person who can do this?
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a phone call person. I have a friend who told me that his grandma and I are literally the only people who call them without texting first. The other thing is that I’ve never been a cool kid or you know, known how to be a cool kid. I also get nervous and I doubt myself. People usually see me in situations that I’ve taken a moment to prepare for.
Is it hard to remain put together when you’re travelling?
I definitely have been flustered traveling tired, and running around. In those moments I just try to keep in mind that I’m working on things that I want to, and that I chose this.
How about in your day to day life?
All the time. A lot of my friends are also entrepreneurs, and we talk about how we always feel like we’re dropping the ball. We’re behind all the time, and always worried about missing opportunities because we’re not on top of it. I’ve probably dropped the ball on eight things today. I don’t think everything is pristine or fit together and I think that’s the cost of being excited about a lot of different things and wanting to bring together a vision. That’s part of life. You know I’d think I probably wasn’t doing enough even if I were super on top of everything.
There are two strong ones I can think of. First, I’ve been in four different career paths and I’m at a point where I can really also provide insight. It’s been a challenge for me feeling a lot of imposter syndrome and not feeling like I have enough knowledge or experience to give to be a mentor. When communicating this feeling to one person they asked me a really good question, “Did you have those expectations of your mentors?” And my answer was “No.” Secondly, your thirties are just the shit. I fucking love being in my thirties. It’s funny, people say, “you look like you could be twenty-five”, in this way of thinking it’s a compliment, and I’m like wow I don’t ever fucking want to be twenty-five again. Twenty-five was cool, but being thirty-five is way cooler. That “compliment” perpetuates these stereotypes, these ideas that women are at the high point of their life when they’re in their twenties, which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Ten years ago there was a lot of freaking out about things I couldn’t change. Whether it was that this plane got cancelled or I forgot this-or-that thing. I know it sounds like “it’s fine so it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine we’re fine,” you know we’re saying that all time, but it is because it’s true. Whatever doesn’t happen the way that I wanted to– I have the skills, resources, and confidence that it will be fine.
I think people use failure as a stepping stone in their “Story of Glory”… I failed then I came back and I succeeded. It was glorious. I like talking about the merits of failure in-and-of itself without a success story, without it being this intermediate moment in a larger story.
What has been an ignition moment for you?
When I quit my first career. I had a ton of odd jobs in college– a wedding coordinator, a valet, retail in J. Crew– which was terrible. My first career was doing corporate taxes as a CPA at really big Fortune 500 companies, and specifically one of the largest public accounting firms in America. Then, I quit. I went back and got my Masters Degree in Urban Planning from UCLA and worked in community-based development for five years in New York City. Life changed again when I started Flash Foxy with a few of my lady climbing partners. It started out as an instagram account and suddenly grew and grew when women around the country started reaching out to us. I was able to quit my job three years ago and Flash Foxy is a big part of what I do now. From that, I started a media production company with my girlfriends two years ago, The Never Not Collective. I think it’s always interesting when people ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Five years ago I was in a totally different place, and five years ago from that I was in a drastically different place; there’s no way to have predicted where I am now, ten years ago. I absolutely would rather not think about where I want to be in five years, and instead see where my trajectory takes me.
What’s a multitude for you?
I always boil a lot of water when I am camping, and then I’ll use the leftover hot water to wash my face. It’s a little luxury in an otherwise rural setting. You can be outdoorsy and still want to take care take of your skin. I grew up in this generation where there were only two categories for girls. Girls who were a tomboy or girls who were super girly. You couldn’t really be both. You were either wearing dresses, makeup, and playing with dolls or you were outside, running around, and falling down. I think it has to do with our society and the way that it puts women at odds with each other. Over the last ten years of my life I’ve been trying to unpack and work through it. For example, outdoor women saying things like, “Oh, I can’t believe she’s wearing that and climbing.” or “Why are you wearing makeup if you’re hiking?” I personally don’t want to wear red lipstick while I climb because I put the rope in my mouth and lipstick would be all over my face, but do whatever you want to do. It’s got nothing to do with me. I get this from people in the outdoors all the time saying, “Oh, you live in New York City…how do you do it? I could never live in New York City. I just love the outdoors too much.” and I say, “I love the outdoors, I love being in the middle of nowhere, but I also love the city and the energy it provides. I can go listen to good music, experience art, and see diversity.” It’s not an easy place to live, so if you live here it’s because you want to be here. That energy and drive is addictive and re-energizing to me. You can be multitudes.
What’s your piece of movement advice?
People make mistakes all the time. It’s not about whether you’re going to make a mistake– you’re going to make a mistake. It’s all about how you respond.
— as shared with KYC Shelma Jun photographed by Anne Raftopoulos in her Brooklyn home
Tickets for the 4th annual Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop go on sale December 14th, 12PM PST. The festival in 2019 will be held March 22-24. Tickets tend to sell out within a minute of registration opening so make sure to mark your calendars if you’re planning on attending. More information can be found at flashfoxy.com/wcf