Wealthy fashion blogger Leandra Medine has come under fire for her polarizing podcast interview in which she admitted she thought she was ‘poor growing up’ — despite living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and attending an elite private school.
The 32-year-old is best known for her now-defunct style blog Man Repeller, which she founded as a college student. The site shuttered in June 2020 following allegations of discrimination and criticism over its lack of diversity.
In the latest episode of designer Recho Omondi’s podcast, The Cutting Room Floor, Medine reflected on her experiences and what she learned since the controversy, openly admitting that she ‘never realized’ her privileged existence.
‘I remember objectively growing up in a privileged environment and feeling like I was always on the brink of being homeless,’ she told Omondi, per The Cut. ‘I thought I was poor growing up, that I didn’t have anything.’
Backlash: Leandra Medine, 32, has come under fire over comments she made about her privileged upbringing on designer Recho Omondi’s podcast, The Cutting Room Floor
Disclaimer: Omondi said getting the interview required three different recording sessions, and she noted that Medine was ‘very rude’ to her when they first spoke in 2019 (pictured)
Medine attended the Ramaz School, a Jewish Modern Orthodox day school in Manhattan. The total tuition for a high school senior at the school for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year is nearly $42,000. The cost of kindergarten is over $35,000.
‘I went to a private school. I never had financial aid. I never had to pay off any student debt,’ she confirmed on the podcast.
However, she recalled feeling like she didn’t fit in as the daughter of immigrant parents in a classroom filled with multi-generational New Yorkers.
Her father Mois Medine, founder and CEO of the Mark Henry Jewelry Corporation, is originally from Turkey, while her mother Lyora Medine, a jewelry designer, was born in Iran.
Medine said she was ‘one of three immigrant’ kids at school, and her classmates were primarily of Eastern European descent, hailing from families that had been living in New York City for decades.
With parents from the Middle East, she said she saw herself as ‘brown’ not ‘American white,’ although she noted that she has ‘benefited from her perceived whiteness.’
Drama: According to Omondi, the fashion blogger called her crying after their second recording (pictured) because she didn’t want the podcast episode to air
Hard to handle: The podcast host said she was at her ‘wits’ end’ after their third interview in Medine’s Manhattan apartment
She agreed that they were ‘all members of an upper echelon in the city,’ but she insisted she was on the ‘lower end,’ which is why she never realized she was wealthy.
To state her case, she recalled how she would lie to her friends about not having enough money to eat at a restaurant where ‘you can’t even order a salad … with $20 in your pocket.’
Medine detailed how her classmates would take five vacations a year while her parents ‘were trying to navigate their own experiences as new Americans in this new environment.’
As Omondi pointed out on the podcast, her interview subject had failed to mention that her family has a summer house in Southampton that was featured on Man Repeller.
Medine also claimed the Upper East Side neighborhood where she grew up was less than desirable, despite it being considered one of the most affluent in the city.
‘My parents lived on a great apartment on the Upper East Side in Yorkville,’ she said, ‘which is actually a bit difference and a thing to be ashamed about when you go to a school with kids who live in buildings that require liquid assets of upward of $100 million for you to be approved by their boards.’
Say what: Medine claimed she thought she ‘poor growing up’ because she wasn’t as wealthy as her private school classmates, saying she felt she was ‘always on the brink of being homeless;
Privileged: Medine attended the Ramaz School, a Jewish Modern Orthodox day school in Manhattan that now costs upwards of $42,000 a year, without any financial aid
Medine and her husband, financial adviser Abraham ‘Abie’ Cohen, have their own Manhattan apartment where they are raising their twin daughters Laura and Madeline.
She admitted on the podcast that it only just hit her that she was wealthy.
‘This past summer was like the summer of learning. I remember sitting in the car with Abie and my kids, thinking to myself, I did not grow up poor,’ she said. ‘I actually grew up rich … I had everything.’
Medine also had plenty of designer clothes, which helped her launch Man Repeller as a 20-something journalism student at the New School’s Eugene Lang College.
Her rise as a fashion blogger led to her turning her hobby into a media company that she ran for a decade.
Medine stepped down from Man Repeller in June 2020 — two weeks after George Floyd’s murders sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality.
Huh? Medine (pictured with her husband and twins) recalled how her peers would go on five vacations a year, and she felt ‘ashamed’ her family’s Upper East Side apartment was in Yorkville
Wealthy: Medine failed to mention her parents also have a second summer home in Southhampton that was featured on her now-defunct blog
Revelation: Medine recalled sitting in the car with her husband Abie Cohen (pictured) and kids and realizing for the first time that she ‘actually grew up rich’ and ‘had everything’
She was accused of performative allyship after publishing an open letter showing support for the protests. Critics were quick to point out she had recently fired a black employee in a pandemic.
Allegations of racism and a toxic company culture led to her announcing her resignation. Man Repeller was rebranded as ‘Repeller’ in September, but a month later, she officially closed the company.
According to Medine, her actions weren’t racially motivated. In her opinion, she was just a self-absorbed boss with poor leadership skills.
‘I’m not surprised that people have had bad experiences at Man Repeller, but I don’t think this is because I’m a racist. I think it’s become I’m an immature a**hole,’ she said. ‘I’m an equal-opportunity a**hole. Like, I sucked as a leader.’
The podcast episode was nearly an hour and a half long, but a second-half of Omondi’s interview with Medine is slated to air on her Patreon page.
The host admitted that she doesn’t even like the episode, saying she felt ‘drained’ by the process of getting the interview — which required three different recordings — and the conversation itself.
Demise: Medine stepped down from Man Repeller in June 2020 following accusations of discrimination and criticism over lack of diversity and shut down the company in October
Comments: Medine insisted she isn’t ‘racist, saying she is an ‘equal-opportunity a**hole’
‘I want to state that like all of my guests I really tried to be open, genuinely open to Leandra and what she had to say and what she’s learned throughout the course of all this,’ Omondi said, admitting that at the end of the podcast she ‘couldn’t stomach’ any more of their conversation.
She said she ultimately chose to air the episode because Medine represents a certain ‘archetype’ that is pervasive in the fashion industry.
‘One of the reasons why this episode is so frustrating is because we had to record the interview three times,’ she said at the start of the episode. ‘The first time was in 2019, and Leandra was very rude.
‘In fact, I was so turned off by the experience that I canned the tapes and never even planned to air them. Then, after George Floyd dies, like clockwork, she reaches out to me, randomly, and we record again,’ she continued.
‘After the second time we recorded, Leandra calls me crying, [saying] how she doesn’t want to air the episodes. God only knows why, but we recorded again. By the third time, I was at my wits’ end.’
Wild: Listeners were baffled by the conversation and took to Twitter to call out Medine for her absorption and tone-deaf comments
During the episode, Omondi featured a conversation she had with her audio editor Sebastion — a black man from New Jersey — who said Medine’s recordings were the hardest ones he’s had to work on.
‘I really just cannot even wrap my head around what she is even trying to tell me because in my head I’m like, “Do you not hear yourself?”‘ he told Omondi. ‘My main grievance is she is a super privileged woman who still doesn’t see it.’
Listeners were equally baffled and took to Twitter to call out Medine for her self-absorption and tone-deaf comments.
‘This leandra medine interview is a masterclass… I’m sweating from secondhand microaggressions and narcissism,’ one person tweeted.
‘I know she can’t be the most self involved person in the world, but she is gunning for the top spot,’ another shared.
‘This interview with Leandra Medine is like…wow,’ someone else noted. ‘Sometimes when you just let people talk, they’ll talk themselves in to a ditch. All by themselves.’