Rocking the vote is more than a movement for former La Jollan Lauren Bedford Russell. The 31-year-old, whose stepfather owns George's at the Cove, has made it into a business.
Patch had the opportunity to ask Bedford Russell about her politically-inspired jewelry line, voting and growing up in La Jolla.
Patch: How did you get your start with the company?
Bedford Russell: It was a long, long process. I worked for various jewelry companies but I started sketching on my own and realized there was this spot in the marketplace that wasn’t being tapped into, and that’s the area of really cutting edge, urban jewelry. I got a lot of support from friends and family who believed I actually had the talent. I started piece-by-piece and built the company all by myself.
Patch: What are some of the inspirational factors behind your jewelry design?
Bedford Russell: I get inspiration from buildings, clothing, shoes, or just walking around and seeing something that inspires me. But I also can sit down and just lock myself in a room and come up with stuff. I’ve done it both ways. My biggest seller is my Equality Ring, which is really simple and really classic. Even if you aren’t a gay rights activist, you won’t even know that it’s an equality symbol.
Patch: Those ‘Rock the Vote’ Bracelets, I’ve seen them everywhere. Are you big into politics?
Bedford Russell: I’m not big into politics but I am big into voting. For me, I believe in always trying to make the world a better place, whether it’s voting or equal rights or making the most of your abilities.
Patch: Whom are you voting for? And was your decision an easy one?
Bedford Russell: I am voting for Obama, I have a "FORWARD" bracelet supporting the President on sale at lyonfinejewelry.com. My line of charity bracelets is very important to me. They range from helping people with disabilities to promoting equality. Up next will be a bullying bracelet.
Patch: How do you research and decide whom to vote for?
Bedford Russell: I research and decide by reading trustworthy news sources about key issues.
Patch: There are so many equality issues going on today, namely same-sex marriage. What effect have these issues and debates had on you?
Bedford Russell: I think we’re going far really fast, but I’m shocked at how long it’s taken. I’m surprised the equal rights issue has just come on the scene recently. It’s baffling to me that this has just become a big cause. But I think it’s progressing really quickly. We’re going to get there with time and I think it’s going to take a president that not only wants to enforce equal rights but fight for it in every state.
Patch: You’ve worked with some pretty high-profile celebrities. Do you sell those designs?
Bedford Russell: If I design something specifically for a client, I leave it to them to decide if they want it to be one of a kind. Most people do, especially with wedding rings. They want to keep it private. But if someone doesn’t mind and it’s something I’m really proud of, I want to get it up and on my site.
Patch: Where do you see the jewelry line after the 2012 president election?
Bedford Russell: I am constantly adding jewelry to my line, for both men and women, or unisex. I am adding more high-end, and more affordable pieces as well. So everyone can buy something. But all very high quality no matter what, and of course made in the USA (either Los Angeles or New York City.)
Patch: Your stepdad owns George's in La Jolla. How much time have you spent there and what is that like to have a family that owns such a popular dining destination?
Lauren Bedford Russell: I was born and raised in La Jolla, and George and my mom married when I was so little that he is a second father to me. So I have spent a lot of time at George's through the years. I worked there one summer as well. It's nice to have a place to go in your hometown that is a constant great meal. It's nice when I tell people that I'm from La Jolla, they always say "Oh! I love that restaurant George's in La Jolla!!" and I mean even people in other countries.
Patch: Where did you go to school? And where did you hang out locally?
Bedford Russell: I spent literally K- 8th grade at La Jolla Country Day then went to La Jolla High School. I feel very fortunate to have been able to go to two amazing schools growing up. I pretty much lived at Windansea beach as a toddler, child, adolescent and high schooler. Now when I am home I always have to at least drive by. It is home to me.
Patch: Was your high school a place that fostered your creativity and supported/accepted you as a lesbian?
Bedford Russell: I was not out in high school to myself or anyone else. I didn't date many boys either. A month here and a month there with one or two before I moved on...
Patch: Do you bring any of your upbringings into your jewelry line? Where do you draw from design inspiration from?
Bedford Russell: Yes, my father Richard Russell always taught me from a young age about fine jewels and jewelry. I learned a lot from him. He has a passion for it. I draw my design inspiration from architecture, fashion, and from my imagination.
Patch: Lyon Fine Jewelry, your personal line…it’s amazing. Where did the name come from?
Bedford Russell: My dad’s middle name is Lion and I always thought that was so rad (laughs). There are a lot of Lauren’s in the jewelry business and I figured I’d do something original. All of my pieces are named after places around the world, cities and towns. So I thought it kind of fit, considering Lyon, France is a city obviously.
Patch: The Real L-Word…how did you come about being on the show?
Bedford Russell: I actually had a friend who was auditioning for the show and I previously had some friends that were on the show. So I decided to go for it and help the world see a more feminine lesbian than they’re used to. There are millions of other women like me that are gay but you just don’t know it because there is this stereotype. My motivation was to go on the show and help break that stereotype.
Patch: How was your personal experience on the show?
Bedford Russell: It was an awesome experience. You don’t really know what to expect when you’re doing something like this for the first time. It turned out to be really therapeutic and I learned a lot about myself. The best part was really after the show, once it started airing and people started responding. I feel so blessed and lucky to get such a good response from people. A lot of people tell me, “You helped me come out,” and, “You helped me realize I was gay.” That’s the best thing I could ever hear. It’s really touching and inspiring. It’s amazing to feel that.