In The Loop With Maggie Lea: Invincible Woman
When asked about our name, our logo - The Loop, we're often quick to point out that it's meaning goes beyond the literal interpretation of a commonly used running route. However, the time it would take to explain what "it" is seems to be ongoing... a direct correlation to the people and stories that come through our shop doors.
It's these connections which have inspired us tell the stories that go beyond just running. Introducing “In the loop” where we meet, hear from, and share important stories within The Loop community.
To kick things off, we sat down with @mgglea, co-owner of one of Austin's most beloved live music venues, @cheerupcharlies. Shortly after beating breast cancer CUC closes for 427 days due to COVID-19. Her story is one that highlights the importance of community. In our time with her she answers the two questions: "What gives you power?" and "How do you approach challenges that you know will be hard to overcome?"
Cheer Up Charlie's has become one of Austin's most beloved live music venues. How did things get started?
Tamara opened CUC as a food truck in 2009. She then reopened it in the iteration of a bar on East 6th Street and that’s when I partnered with her. We were on the eastside for about 5 years before losing our lease, and having to relocate. We moved to our current spot on red river in 2014. that same year, 5 months after we reopened, my sister committed suicide.
2015-2019 were some of the hardest years of my life as I tried to find ways to express my grief but many of the avenues I was searching for were places where folks were not really wanting to talk about “sad” things. Because my work is so much related to entertainment and nightlife, I felt a bit out of place trying to program happiness into every night for others, while I myself was moving through waves of grief and anger and sadness and pain of losing my best friend which was my sister. We were very close.
We've all had a difficult 2020 but you literally beat cancer last year. How did it feel to go from that to a global pandemic?
I thought losing my sister was the worst thing that could ever happen to me, and then of course, I get cancer. and I was like wow. I mean… I was very much shocked. We had never had anyone diagnosed with cancer that I knew of in my family. Maybe one distant uncle with colon cancer but definitely not breast cancer.
I went through the protocol of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation. I finished radiation on march 9, 2020. and I thought “yay! time for healing!” Then they shut down SXSW (our main bread and butter), on March 11th my birthday, and then they shut down EVERYTHING, on March 14th. Honestly all the dreams I had of accessing a healing year for myself post-treatment were completely overshadowed by the pandemic, by losing my job, by my partner and I both losing our jobs, and not knowing how we were going to survive and have 2 bars reopen. We basically thought we’d lose both businesses. and our livelihoods. and be in debt forever.
What gives you power?
I wish I could brag and say that I feel powerful when I instinctively tap into my own power, alone, by myself, but after 35 years of living here on earth, I have come to accept that I am truly a community-oriented person; I feel like I cannot tap into my power without exchanges with others, connecting with groups, and philosophizing and discussing concepts with those I trust and those who lead by example
Also, I would not call myself a performer, but I do think having an audience in whatever form helps me tap into my own power. It is a point for reflection and recognizing the self, when you are able to have a flow or an exchange with those in your immediate environment.
It’s not about showing off or the thought of “all eyes on me” as much as it is about the meaning behind knowing that you have people cheering you on, or that you are an example for others when you think nobody is watching— they are, and someone out there is inspired by your story just like you are inspired by knowing others intimately through their stories. I wouldn’t be someone that just goes and does a run by myself in Patagonia.
Although I romanticize being that kind of person. I would want to do it with a team of folks, or if I did do it alone, I would probably call someone on my Airpods or post about it after on social media. Haha. I am really fed by my connection to others.
How do you approach challenges that you know will be hard to overcome?
I approach everything firstly with a sense of curiosity. Even when I am most scared, I ask questions.
I open my mouth and start thinking out loud, sometimes even before the action-oriented “doing” of it all! I try to mentally prepare myself after finding out as much as I can, aggregating the information, and then after I get to a certain point, I just say you know what? Time to let go and let the “parachute” of the moment guide me back down to the ground.
So it is a mixture of discipline, control, dialing something in, honing something in, reading a room, processing, and then releasing and letting the risk factor and the environmental stuff set in, the latter of which is the most exciting part of a challenge and of being human really- is to not know, to let go and to take big risks.