Bri Lee: Hot Chicks with Big Brains

/live/

Photography: Caitlin Low

Photography: Caitlin Low

Bri Lee has just finished a long day at work as a Judge’s Associate – but with her scotch and stylish graphic ensemble, she could easily be a top shot fashion editor. She talks politics and vintage tweed in the same breath. And while she radiates cool, this sweetheart is the furthest thing from an ice queen.

Bri’s very existence kicks stereotypes to the curb. Now, with her interview series Hot Chicks with Big Brains, she’s demolishing the pesky pigeonhole – one girl crush at a time.

The striking 23-year-old law graduate created HCwBB in late 2014 to explore the overlap between women’s professions and their personal aesthetic choices. It’s proof (if you needed any) that women can be both form and function.

“The catalyst was when I was making the shift from university to the professional world,” she says. “If you don’t look professional, people don’t think you have valid opinions. And yet, if you show too much interest in clothes or make-up, you’re vapid and frivolous. Like, what is this impossible medium we’re all supposed to tread? I’m not either a hot bimbo or an ugly nerd.”

Less than a year since its inception, HCwBB’s arsenal of interviewees already includes Michelle Law, Sofjia Stefanovic and Carrie Knowles. Bri’s dream subject? Dame Quentin Bryce, former Governor-General of Australia. “She is the epitome of a hot chick with a big brain,” she gushes, with the sudden enthusiasm of a starstruck fangirl. “She looks baller every day but is so fiercely intelligent and has like, a million kids. She does it all.”

The same can be said of Bri herself. It’s easy to imagine the fashion bloggers of Brisbane bending over backwards for a snap of her whimsical style – an unpredictable mix of tartan smocks, pastel corporate wear and kaleidoscopic jumpsuits.

Flashback a few years though, and teen Bri would probably have scoffed at it all. “I only wore boys’ clothes until I was 18,” she says in retrospective disbelief. “I had this stupid idea that anything girly was inherently silly and weak. If you can imagine the most extreme combination of tomboy and nerd, that was me. I went to Schoolies for two days and had to leave early for a clarinet exam.”

Bri only began exploring her femininity at the age of 18. The next few years were a huge learning curve that shaped her approach to style, philosophy, life and feminism. “Young women are exposed to ideas that I didn’t even know existed – let alone agreed with – until recently,” she says. “I think one of the reasons why feminism is such a buzzword is the Internet – it’s the ultimate leveler of the playing field. With access to the Internet, you can make your opinion known. Suddenly, all these ways of controlling whose voices are heard disappear.”

Bri’s crew of hot, brainy chicks is only growing bigger – and everyone is welcome. “Being exclusive is just another way women make the mistake of being competitive instead of helping each other,” she says. “The more amazing, successful women there are, the more there will be.”

Describe yourself in three words:

Tough. Manic. Try-hard [laughs]. Just like, trying really hard, all the time. What’s a single word for that? Wannabe?

Last photo you took on your phone:

I’m finally an adult because I went to apply for my own Medicare card, so I took a photo of my Medicare number. I’m also an adult because I’ve moved into a house and planted a garden. I took a before photo of the yard so in a fortnight’s time when my plants are flourishing, I can take an after photo.

Last thing you watched:

I can’t remember the last time I watched TV. I used to love Game of Thrones but since working in the Supreme Courts and being in trials involving violence and sex crime against women, I can no longer enjoy it. I know it’s set in an alternate universe but I see the real life version of that too often.

Last thing you read:

The Vagenda. It’s based on a blog by two British women who basically unpack the magazine industry. It’s shocking when you realise just how much money corporations earn by making women feel bad about themselves.

If you were a fictional character:

There’s a difference between who I’d like to be and who’d actually be. I’d love to be Hermione Granger but I’d actually be Ron Weasley.

If you could change the world:

I honestly believe the world would be a phenomenally better place if women had the right to control their own bodies and reproductive capacity. Studies show that when women are financially independent, children flourish. As an extension of that, if women everywhere had control over their family planning, the world would be a totally different place. Let women control their lives!