The former Capitol File editor now helms PYPO, a woman-focused site that puts a humorous lens on serious issues.
Elizabeth Thorp is no wallflower, nor does she fear exposing herself, her predicaments and her beliefs.When the former editor-in-chief of Capitol File was laid off from that job last year, she allowed a repost of the gossip column reporting her departure on her Facebook page, noting the Washington Post had at least chosen a flattering photo. And when she transitioned to her new job leading editorial content for startup PYPO, one of her early essays on the site was entitled “Your Mistake, Our Win,” in which she likened her firing to being set free.
Now she’s using that same chutzpah to tackle feminist issues at a time when the meaning of the word is in transition. PYPO, which harnesses the talents of writers, actors and producers, recently partnered with the White House’s “It’s on Us” campaign to release a comic skit during Sexual Assault Awareness Week in which a woman in a chicken suit is painfully questioned about what she did to bring on inappropriate advances from a man.
During the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner weekend, PYPO premiered another tongue-in-cheek video at an Atlantic Live feminism panel. Called “Feminism Pill,” the skit starring actors Domenick Lombardozzi, Matt Servitto and Jackie Debatin, portrays a husband suddenly caring about issues such as maternity leave and equal pay after accidentally taking his wife’s medication.
What is P-Y-P-O?
First of all, it’s pronounced pie-po, like typo. It’ll roll off your tongue like Google, I think, in a few years. PYPO stands for Put Your Pretty On. Our founder is Stephanie Laing, the director of HBO’s “Veep” and a new show called “Vice Principals.” A couple of years ago she said to her daughter “Come on, it’s time to go” and her daughter, who was four at the time, said, “Excuse me, I’m not ready yet. I have to put my pretty on first.” What that meant for her was chapstick, but it became their mantra of ‘get your game face on.’ Stephanie started a blog called Put Your Pretty On and always knew she wanted to create this place, this multimedia site, and was going to call it PYPO. So, that’s where it came from—this little girl who at a very tender age knew that she had to get her stuff together before leaving the house.
How did you get involved?
I interviewed Stephanie for a story a couple of years ago and she and I really hit it off. We kept in touch and in November, I met her in New York for a quick glass of wine. She said “I want to do this. I want you full time as my editor-in-chief.” My first question was “Is it paid?” [laughter] and then I said, “I want to do this,” but told her I felt like I owed it to Capitol File to stay a few more months, through the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. And then I was unexpectedly laid off that following morning, so I texted Stephanie literally as I was driving out of the garage and said “Hey, I just got laid off,” and she wrote back,“You’re hired.” Here’s this comedic irony of all the things we were talking about with PYPO. I told her I wasn’t ready [for the job] out of loyalty to this magazine, and then I go in and I’m terminated.
How does the site differentiate itself?
The best way to communicate that is by saying it’s a women-owned, women-focused Funny or Die mixed with Vice. What I love about PYPO is that you can pipe in and engage in a two-way conversation. People who see a video or read an essay they like can immediately give their thoughts. On our Facebook page, for example, in response to the “It’s on Us” video, it was really poignant to see so many women say, “Oh, this happened to me. I was sexually assaulted and the police blamed it on my miniskirt” or “They told me I was asking for it.” Sometimes these more serious issues need to be addressed and seen through a humorous lens because, especially during election season, we’re talking about them over and over and it’s kind of hard to break through the clutter and have people listen.
Where do you see it going? What do you envision a year from now?
I really feel it’s going to be a platform. It could be, maybe not a year from now, almost like a Netflix or Amazon, where we have original programming mixed with important editorial pieces and thought leader pieces, giving the opportunity for women to showcase their sketches or essays or directing skills.
This story appears in the September 2016 issue of Washington Life.