Words by Gretel Downey
I feel that we could possibly change the title of this series from Dublin Game Changers to ‘Gretel Gets Another Girl Crush’ because that’s pretty much what happens every time. This month’s girl crush is on the mythical creature that in Andrea Horan. I see her everywhere, from glossy magazine pages to just chilling having coffee in Clement & Pekoe, but never have I had the pleasure of actually talking to her. But now I have, and by god was it amazing!
Just from the few emails we exchanged to organise the interview I fell slightly in love (apparently I’m ‘stunnin’ and the articles are ‘gorg’) and I only fell further when we actually met. It would be hard not to, there’s so many interesting and amazing facets to Andrea’s life that make her worthy of crushing on. She’s a PR guru, runs her own super fab nail bar, tackles the big issues of the day and does it all on her own terms.
Now I have to admit that I felt like a bit of a fraud interviewing such a fabulous lady when I’d not actually had my nails done in the now world famous Tropical Popical (thanks Saoirse). I’d always wanted to but with a job that involves building various installations, I’d only ruin it. Fear not though! I now sit here typing this with a super sparkly gelish mani and the sage words from Andrea ringing in my mind.
Your hands are jewels not tools!
Spoken like a true PR queen! Andrea started off in the PR world (‘for her sins’) although it didn’t really go the way she had hoped for from the very beginning, with everything just a bit too serious for her liking. She decided she was ‘too young for this and wanted to have the craic’ and so she did! Once the craic had been had, and after doing ‘jobs [she] was terrible at’, she found her tribe in the PR world.
I got a job in Thinkhouse and I adored it so much I was there for 10 years. Jane, my boss, is still my mentor now. I had a great relationship with her, we bounced off each other really well so it was a really good dual-fortuitous relationship (note: that’s a term in the newly founded Andrea-Gretel language).
After the death of her father though Andrea decided to reevaluate her life and set off on a sun-chasing adventure with her sister. It was on the sunny shores of America that the idea for the came about. And while originally she wanted to have it all, running Trop Pop and working in Thinkhouse, she had a small realisation.
I became very disillusioned with big business and corporates. I decided I couldn’t continue to put money in the pockets of them. I felt like everyone was just doing things to make more money, but the ‘economy of more’ is not something I buy into. Every serious issue can be related back to people being greedy. We need more big hippie vibes in the business world.
Those big hippie vibes certainly resonate through the business ethos surrounding Tropical Popical, measuring success more through their achievements than their size.
People are always asking when we’re opening another Trop Pop but we’re not, we’ve got all our key measures of success nailed. We’ve a happy life that provides for all our staff, I can take four holidays a year, we’re globally renown, we’re the best at what we do; will having more shops make us better?
I can see the plus side of growth and achieving more. Like the likes of Richard Branson, but you can tell he isn’t just in it for the money. There’s a balance to be struck. I don’t want to be a small thing, like I want to change landscapes but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be bigger and make more money
And she is certainly changing landscapes but not just by bringing the neon-infused nail bars of the States to our little island. Andrea has founded The HunReal Issues, a platform that ‘throws glitter of serious issues’ and makes them relatable to your average stun hun, starting with repealing the 8th amendment (aka the part of the law that makes it illegal to have an abortion in Ireland).
I tried to start a few feminist websites to make feminism more consumer friendly for a different audience but it was too late there were plenty of sites around like Jezebel, The Pool etc so I thought it was sorted. Then I left it for a bit and when I came back to it, there was still no platform dealing with Irish issues in a way that I identified with. A lot of it felt really elitist to me, it was hard to access and I didn’t feel the vibes of it.
I’m right there with you girl! Feminism is a massive movement and it is daunting to find where to start (although, y’know, equal rights would possibly be a good one). Though now that we’ve started this social movement Andrea feels it’s key to keep it moving.
I felt really strongly about Repeal The 8th and decided I wanted to do something. But I didn’t want to do something that once the 8th had been repealed it went dead. From marriage equality, I had seen so many campaigns that had just ended but there were all these activated people ready to fight for change but it was too hard to turn it around into something else. So for HunReal I wanted it to be about Repeal The 8th but I didn’t want to lose it after that so I decided to do it in issues so we could move fluidly along.
And where could we see HunReal moving to next?
I’d love to do stuff with direct provision, separating church from state, the split of family care, taking it out of the constitution that it’s the woman’s place in the home taking care of the kids, like fuck off.
Preach, Andrea, Preach!
I then brought up one of my personal pet peeves about the role of religion in the education system and obvs Andrea’s not a fan either.
Its outrageous that you essentially have to join a cult to get an education from our national government. We’re so multi-religiony (another term to be found in the Andrea-Gretel dictionary) that it’s outrageous that that’s still a thing. We Christen our children even though we don’t believe in it because it’s easier but we just need to be more vocal to say fuck off.
Although that’s going to have to wait for a little while with loads still to go on Repeal even though Andrea has helped make a massive dent in issue. She was a driving force behind the now famous Repeal the 8th heart mural by Maser that graced the side of the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar.
I was living with Maser at the time and I asked him to do something for it. We discussed it and decided that it had to be positive and everything he does has to be uplifting. Then trying to figure out the message like would it be along the lines of ‘my body, my rights’ or a more feminist vibe. Then he sent over his heart with just Repeal the 8th which was perfect.
Her response to the now iconic image was typically Andrea.
The actual words I used were ‘oh cute!’ and he was like ‘cute’s not good’ but for me cute is like perfect.
And though originally the plan was just a small scale logo for the issue it soon blew up when it found its home in Temple Bar.
At first I was just putting it up on our social media and he’d put it on his but he said if I could find a wall he’d paint it.
Then the beauty of Dublin being Dublin came to play where Maser knew a guy who knew a guy who knew people in The Project Arts Centre; they had found their wall! The mural went up and the controversy began. After only 2 weeks of being up anti-choice campaigners had it removed causing an uproar all around Ireland. While this meant the message was spread further than just Dublin Andrea was disappointed with it’s short lifespan.
I wish it had stayed up for longer. So many people were going to it, people who had had abortions or those who thought they’d been forgotten about. We had people sending in photos of them at the mural and messages about their experiences, they’d have you bawling! You felt how much it meant to people. It was annoying when it had to come down obviously but I’m a firm believer in ‘change only happens with agitation’ so you have to annoy people for things to happen.
Andrea is annoying people in the best possible way, breaking down the mammoth war that is Repeal the 8th into small battles that are easier to win. Instead of fighting to call a referendum (mammoth war), we’re fighting to allow our free speech over a mural (small battle). Though some may argue that with the removal of the mural we lost, but in reality it added so many more voices to our side that need to repeal is not a taboo subject.
And finally, if Andrea could be any animal what would she be?
Leopard! I love leopard print so it’s more about the glamour of the outfit than the temperament, what are leopards like as personalities?
Yes, Andrea, yes you are perfect!
Andrea will be heading up a panel discussion at Show & Tell on the need for social change and entrepreneurism in businesses on November 19th in Smock Alley Theatre.