Record label icon Jason Flom and his daughter Allison tell Moneyish their tips for working with family and finding time for their side projects.
This music legend is always standing up for the underdog — or, in this case, the under-rhino.
Jason Flom has made a career (or three) out of pursuing his passions. He’s a founding board member of the Innocence Project and hosts the Wrongful Conviction podcast, where Kim Kardashian just revealed in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that she’s working to free another felon. The music lover, 57, discovered artists like Twisted Sister, Stone Temple Pilots, Tori Amos, Katy Perry and Lorde while running Atlantic, Virgin and Capitol Records, and founded his own Lava Records label in 1995. And he’s also on the African Wildlife Foundation advisory board, where he’s especially partial to saving the rhinos after a trip to Africa almost two years ago. (Three of the five rhino species are critically endangered and two are threatened.)
That trip inspired him to write his first book with his 24-year-old daughter, Allison Flom. “I came home, and my bulldog Lulu started putting out all of these ‘rhino vibes,’” Jason told Moneyish. “And the first thing that popped into my head was the cover image of Lulu looking in the mirror, and seeing herself as a rhinoceros. And I needed to tell this story.”
Their pet project “Lulu is a Rhinoceros,” which was published by Wicked Cow Studios this summer, follows a bulldog named Lulu who identifies as a rhino. When she looks at her reflection, she sees a majestic rhinoceros looking back. Her journey to get the world to recognize who she really is becomes a tale of individuality and acceptance that is timely right now. After all, more than one in four U.S. students say they have been bullied at school, according to the government anti-bullying resource StopBullying.gov. And the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2016 report found that LGBT students suffer even higher rates of bullying.
“My main interest has always been exploring narratives and social change, and what kind of stories activate audiences, and with a children’s book, you can really speak to a family,” Allison, 24, told Moneyish. “And this book — without getting preachy — is a way to go into every home and say to young people, ‘Whoever you are; you’re enough. You deserve to be loved.”
While her dad had the idea and the entertainment industry connections, she boasted the creative background as a recent NYU Gallatin graduate and a writer, performer and advocate. She gives historic walking tours of NYC for a steady, paid gig.
They spent the past year putting the book together. Allison did most of the writing, and they had five meetings in Jason’s UES living room where they workshopped the story and characters. If you’re going to work with family, they both suggest having defined roles and sticking to them, as well as setting specific times to work. They didn’t discuss the book over family dinners or outings, for example. They saved the shop talk for their scheduled meetings.
“I’ve collaborated on projects, making theater with my friends, but I’ve never worked with family,” Allison said. “It was easier because there was no question of whether my ideas were being heard. In the professional space, I’ve experienced being minimized and misunderstood, whereas with my dad, I can call him again in 10 minutes and be like, ‘Are we on the same page?”
“I’m just a huge fan of her creativity and her spirit and her drive to do good in the world,” added the proud pop. “And the opportunity to work on something that personal and creative and potentially important with their offspring is a dream.”
As far as carving out time for passion projects when you’ve got so many things going on, Allison sets a timer — for example, she’ll write for 45 minutes — and she devotes herself entirely to just that project during that time. “Setting goals is great to keep you on track, like telling our publisher we’ll have something in by this date,” she said. “Or I told my friends that I will write a play for them to be in this spring. And now I have to write that play.”
The Floms have great timing, too. Everyone from ‘The Property Brothers,’ Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o is writing off a piece of the $2.3 billion children’s book market right now, which is expected to grow 0.9% each year through 2022, IBISWorld reports. Nielsen BookScan notes that children’s book sales are growing faster than the overall print books market, with 233 million units sold in 2017, compared to 181 million in 2012.
Jason says this isn’t about making money — although he’s proud that Amazon has reordered the book twice already, and Barnes & Noble had to put in another order, as well. (Their reps didn’t confirm how many books have been printed or sold to date to Moneyish, however.) “In every aspect of life, I root for the underdog, and I’ve taught my kids — from the time they were little — that I expect you to take the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor,” he said. “The opportunity to be able to put something out there that is providing a source of solace or strength or joy for kids who are struggling with bullying or finding their identity means everything.”
This article was originally posted on Aug. 17, 2018 and has been updated.
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