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Joelle Garguilo | The Power of Positivity | The Breakdown with Bethany

Joelle Garguilo The Power of Positivity The Breakdown with Bethany MomCaveTV

This interview was HUGE for me! Joelle is one of my heroes, and it’s crazy to think that now I get to call her one of my friends.

Joelle is not only an incredible reporter and producer (she has two Emmys to prove it), but she is also one of the kindest people out there. The beauty of Joelle is that she cares–she cares about the people she interviews, the people in her circle, and anyone she comes in contact with. She is also an amazing mom to her two girls who certainly keep her on her toes, just check out her IG stories to see their daily shenanigans!

Take a look at the interview below to see how Joelle is making a big impact on small business owners and spreading joy everywhere she goes.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Hi, and welcome back to another episode of The Breakdown with Bethany. Today is a really special episode because I got to interview one of my heroes. Joelle Garguilo is not only an Emmy award-winning producer and reporter, but she’s also probably the nicest gal you’ll ever meet. She and I dished on kids, on work, on everything, and it really was a life-changing moment for me. Because, as I mentioned before, she is the inspiration and the reason why I wanted to be on camera. I hope you enjoy the interview. It was really a thrill, and Joelle is just so much fun. So take a look.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I feel like you are the best interviewer out there. And I’m not the only one that says it. I’ve heard Patrice Poltzer say it. You have such a skill, and I want to know, and I think people in my field and our field, they want to know what are you doing that makes you so good? Is it prep? Is it your personality? What is it?

Joelle Garguilo:
That is the greatest compliment that anybody could ever give me. I’m not kidding, that truly is, so I will say thank you. And I say that because I do work really hard at it, but I also think, and I’m not saying you’re starting out, I’m saying when somebody is starting out, you’re nervous, as one should be, because you care. I think everyone’s always like, “I want to get to a point where I’m not nervous”, but I think nerves are good because it means that you still actually care about what you’re doing. But I do remember when I was starting out and I just wanted to be a good interviewer. And I think somewhere along the way, it all just clicked.

Joelle Garguilo:
There’s no secret. I wish that there was a secret, but if I would have to dig into my process, I would say, I just, I care. I really care. I think that there was a time at the beginning of my career, and I think for a lot of people at the beginning of their career when you’re interviewing someone, you’re thinking more about yourself. You’re like, “Oh, how can I get that soundbite? Or how can I get this? And how can I get that?” And you’re not really listening to anything that the other person is saying, because you’re worried about yourself. But once you flip that switch and it becomes about whoever’s on the other side of the microphone, or whatever medium it is, I do think it all falls into place. And I think, not for nothing, can we curse on here? Is there cursing?

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Yeah, please. There are no rules. No rules.

Joelle Garguilo:
Knowing your shit. Knowing your shit. If you’re going to sit down with someone, it is so disrespectful to ask somebody for their time and then to not know about them. And I’ve had people do that to me, where I’m like … And I’ve done that to people starting out. Everything is not a 10, there are some growing pains along the way. But do your research, it’s as simple as that. And then the more research you do, the more prepared you feel, the more at ease you are, and then you could just have a conversation. The biggest thing is just to listen. Listen to people. Listen to them. That’s it.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Yeah, I love that. And then when you said how much you care, I think that really comes off, especially in the stories you’ve been doing on New York Live. So, with New York Nico, and what you guys have been doing for this city. I’m a native New Yorker and it’s just so … I love him and I love you, and then it became this dream team. So can you guys tell us what you’ve done there for Grandma Dawn, all of these people? Give us just a little roundup of all the amazing stories you’ve been doing.

Joelle Garguilo on The Breakdown with Bethany | MomCaveTV

Joelle Garguilo:
You’re going to make me cry today, Miss Bethany. I am wearing pants, by the way. Sorry.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I’m wearing biker shorts. Whatever.

Joelle Garguilo:
I’m wearing a tennis dress and I don’t play tennis, I don’t even own a tennis racket.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Is it the Outdoor Voices?

Joelle Garguilo:
I don’t know. I am such a sucker. I get spammed on Instagram.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
The HALARA one then. H-A-

Joelle Garguilo:
Yes.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Yes. Because I-

Joelle Garguilo:
Wait, you want to see? What is …

Bethany Braun-Silva:
You look good, you’re perfect for Long Island.

Joelle Garguilo:
But I don’t play tennis, nor do I own a racket.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
It doesn’t matter.

Joelle Garguilo:
Nor do I plan on playing tennis. But I have nothing that fits me, and it’s stretchy, so I was like, “All right, we’re just going to …”

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I have to get one now. I’m going to get it, because they’ve been spamming me too.

Joelle Garguilo:
But there’s another one that I got that I’m like, “Oh my God, this is offensively short.” So I’ll send you the link.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Okay.

Joelle Garguilo:
It is comfortable, but then if you have to go to the bathroom, you have to take the whole thing off.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Oh.

Joelle Garguilo:
Because there are shorts that are attached.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Right.

Joelle Garguilo:
Sorry. Okay, so back to small businesses, New York, and the stories that I’ve been working on. Okay. When it comes to New York Nico, I wound up doing a story on New York Nico, I was nine months pregnant with Vivi, or maybe eight months pregnant with Vivi, so that was over three years ago, and he was just somebody that I followed on social media. Then he was thought more of as the unofficial talent scout of New York City. I’m always looking for stories that other people aren’t doing or things that I find interesting really. And I was like, “This guy’s just cool.” The more I started learning about him, and he’s like the quintessential New Yorker.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I feel like I could have grown up with him.

Joelle Garguilo:
Yeah. He’s also just … He cares. He’s someone who really, really cares too. So we had this day, and it was a great day of filming. Here I am, very, very pregnant, golfing in an alley with Tiger Hood. He’s introducing me to all of these characters. It was more about introducing me to the characters of New York City. Then during the pandemic, he really shifted. And I noticed it, I was like, “I really like what he’s doing.” Because he’s using his platform for good. I think when I first did the story on him, maybe he had a little bit over 100,000 followers, and now, if I were to check, he’s probably at like-

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Oh my goodness.

Joelle Garguilo:
Probably over 600,000, I would imagine. Hold on, let’s see.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Yeah, I started following him really heavily when he started to do the best New York accent contest. I was like, “This is awesome.”

Joelle Garguilo:
Yes, yes.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
This is awesome.

Joelle Garguilo:
Now he’s at 680,000 followers.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Oh my gosh.

Joelle Garguilo:
But who cares about followers?

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Right.

Joelle Garguilo:
What I care about is the fact that he is using them to do good. He did the New York accent contest, which was phenomenal.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
So fun.

Joelle Garguilo:
So fun. And then really just highlighting these small businesses. Because the thing is, you’re in New York City, how many times have you walked past a place, and you see it closed, and you’re like, “Oh my God, that was my favorite place?” Celebrities do that too. And it’s like, but we could do something about it. And these places, I feel like people have forgotten about the pandemic, but you have to understand. Most of these small businesses, Bethany, still owe back rent. They owe back rent, but they weren’t able to even be open. So they didn’t make that money. And a lot of them haven’t gotten rent relief.

Joelle Garguilo:
It’s definitely an issue. And I don’t know what the stats are of how many businesses aren’t going to come out of this. But anyway, I’m very bad at giving short answers, which is funny considering the business that I’m in. But anyway, so I had reached out to him again and I was like, “What’s up, Nick? Do you want to do something again and highlight some of these businesses?” He was like, “Yes, absolutely.” So he took me around and it was fantastic. It was just, it was great. It was a great day. It’s always a great day with him.

Joelle Garguilo:
Then fast forward, I had also done a separate story on this place. Grandma’s Place. Grandma Dawn is the owner. So this woman she’s a retired New York City school teacher. She just has the most incredible backstory. She was eventually raised by the New York City public library because her mom worked three jobs to support her and her sister. Her sister just dropped her off at the library and was like, “Here I’ll come to pick you up later.” And so books taught her about the world. The public library raised her, books raised her. So this woman, she just always had this love of books. So she wound up winning the first-ever brownstone lottery in Harlem and she gets a brownstone.

Joelle Garguilo:
And now when we say a brownstone in Harlem now you’re like, oh my God. But you have to understand, back then, the block that she’s now on was dangerous. So when she won, she put in the lottery at like 11:00 PM when it had closed at midnight and she won. And so then she gets in a cab and she goes there because she just wants to see her brownstone. And then all these cops come and they’re like, “What are you doing? What are you doing here?” Because it was that unsafe then. But she had a vision.

Joelle Garguilo:
She took out a loan. She made it so it could be livable. There was no roof. There was no this, there was no that. And then she wound up setting up a literacy center because she wanted every child to be able to read. Every child in Harlem. Every parent to have the tools, every parent to be able to read. And again, back then, people said terrible things to her. She’s an African American woman and people said to her, “Why do you want to do this? Black people can’t read.” That’s what people said to this woman. And she was like, “Yes, they can. And I’m going to prove you wrong.”

Joelle Garguilo:
And so then, once people knew that she was doing this, they had all of these extra books and they sent them to her and she had tens of thousands of books. Next door to her is a store. And it wound up becoming vacant. She was like, “Well, you know what, let me see if I can rent that.” So because she had all these books, she didn’t have any room for the books. So she set up shop next door. Then new owners come in, they raise the rent. So she has to start selling toys.

Joelle Garguilo:
But what makes her shop so special is the fact that, listen, I can walk into a place with my kids and they can find a doll that looks like them. And I believe now, no matter what ethnicity you are, I believe that you can now, but this wasn’t the case. So somebody could go in there and there’s a doll that looks like anybody. There’s a book for anybody. And if you don’t have it in there, she’s going to get it for you. She had somebody come in who was Jewish, black, and Greek. And she was like, “I will find you a book that has all of this.” And that’s what this woman is.

Joelle Garguilo:
But the issue is she didn’t turn a profit for 21 years because she wasn’t doing this to be profitable, she was doing this so kids in the neighborhood had a safe space. They had a … and they could go there and they could say like, “Oh my God, I really want that toy.” And she would give them little chores to do. She would give them all these little chores to do so then they could all of a sudden have a little balance and then they could use their balance for something at the toy.

Joelle Garguilo:
I found this woman, Grandma Dawn of Grandma’s Place. The way that I find most of my stories is I pick a day that I have free and I just walk around the city. I get lost. I go into stores. I talk to people, I talk to people in the neighborhood and then I get my leads and I go check them out. See if there’s a story there. In the case of Grandma Dawn, there are a hundred stories there. So she has the most unique book and toy shop in Harlem. And it’s a shop that you can’t understand how special it is, unless you talk to somebody who’s been going there. And then you’re talking about little kids who used to go there, or maybe Grandma Dawn was their teacher and now they’ve grown and they have their own kids. It’s a very special place where any kid of any ethnicity, any religion, can find something in there that looks like them, that they relate to.

Joelle Garguilo:
So I did a story on Grandma Dawn. When the story was done, she confided in me. She was like, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to stay open.” I said, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “I’ve been self-funding this business for 21 years. And I owe all of the back rent from COVID, like $17,000.” And I was like, “Grandma Dawn, you can’t close. This is a place that means too much to too many people. It means too much too many people. You cannot close.” And I just suggested, I said, “Why don’t you do a GoFundMe?”

Joelle Garguilo:
So somebody in her family started the GoFundMe and then here’s how New York Nico comes into it. So then for me, I have an audience, but I don’t have that 680,000 audience. But I asked him, I was like, “Nick, would you be able to just post this GoFundMe link? This is a small business. She owes all of this back rent. She’s going to close. And she can’t.” And then I sent him the link to the story that I did with New York Live. And he was like, “Oh my God.” He said, “Yeah, I’ll post about it, but can you meet me there?” Because he won’t just … it’s got to be authentic. So I was like, “Okay.”

Joelle Garguilo:
So I called Grandma Dawn. I’m like, “Grandma Dawn, I’m bringing New York Nico. You got to get ready.” When I tell you this woman busted out a VHS tape. And she somehow got a portable VHS player, her resume from 30 years ago. It was amazing, Bethany. And she just talked to Nick and he listened. He took some videos of her. He took some pictures, but he really got to know her. And that’s when I was like, “Dude, I thought you were awesome before, but now you’re stuck with me forever because you are the real deal.” And he just really took the time to get to know her. And he was like, “We’re going to help her.” And he posted about her and he linked the GoFundMe.

Joelle Garguilo:
Not even 24 hours later, we had fundraised 21 … I don’t want to say we, he had fundraised $21,000 through posting that link. So we FaceTimed her in the morning to tell her. She almost fell off her chair. It was amazing. She almost fell off her chair. And the first thing this woman said was not, “Oh my gosh, my store could stay open.” The first thing that she said was, “There are 28,000 children living in homeless shelters in Harlem alone. I want to help those kids.” That’s the first thing this woman said.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Oh my God.

Joelle Garguilo:
Fast forward. The GoFundMe goes up to $46,000. And not even just that, but the press that she got from New York Nico posting about her, now she was like, “Joelle, I’m doing the sales that I did in Christmas. Joelle, I have an online business now.” It has never felt so good to know that something that you had a small, tiny little part in helped somebody.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Thank you so much, Joelle. I appreciate this so much.

Listen to this interview with Joelle Garguilo as a podcast:

Joelle Garguilo The Power of Positivity The Breakdown with Bethany MomCaveTV
Bethany Braun Silva

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