Nina Lorez Collins is the kind of woman who tackles life head-on – boldly, openly, and honestly. She married young, at 23, the same year she started her first successful business as a foreign scout in book publishing. She and her older husband had four children together, and soon after Collins launched a second business as a literary agent, they went through a brutal divorce, which was so rough that it involved Nina’s arrest for domestic violence.
It was then – at age 37 and rock bottom – that she started to look inward at her complicated relationship with her own mom, a single mother and struggling writer/filmmaker/activist who poured her heart and soul into her work, leaving very little attention or presence for Nina and her younger brother. Through a lot of therapy, she could better understand her mother’s choices, forgive her for keeping her long battle with cancer a secret until two weeks before she died, and ultimately let go of her pain.
In the process, Nina discovered her own love of writing, which was critical to her healing and led to her career path as an author and entrepreneur. She told us,
“If you share your vulnerability, you’ll grow from it and realize you’re not alone. I wrote this account for myself, but I feel it’s important to put that stuff out there. There’s so much shame around being a woman, and sharing something embarrassing like that, you realize ten other women have been through it too, so you feel much less alone. There’s value in making other people feel heard and understood.”
Read on for this resilient powerhouse’s latest venture (you should definitely join), her fresh perspective on aging, and her whip-smart divorce advice.
How It Started
In 2015, I was 46 (I’m now 52), and all of a sudden I wasn’t sleeping – I was up with insomnia every night. I thought there was something seriously wrong because I’d never had sleep issues. Then I finally put together that it was perimenopause.
I had children young, so my girlfriends were older, but no one had told me about this. When I tried to talk about it, they weren't very helpful, nor was my doctor. I was in a hotel room one night and wanted to talk about how old and irrelevant I was feeling, so I created a Facebook group – What Would Virginia Woolf Do? (aka The Woolfer) – on a whim. It was dark humor: Should we wander in the river with stones in our pockets? I invited 20 of my funniest, savviest friends. The first post was about trying on clothes at Madewell with my two teenage daughters and how we were all the same size, but they looked so different in the clothing – I wanted to talk about that.
On To Something
It was a lark, but it just grew and grew and became the most organic work experience of my life. The women were so funny and interesting, and we were learning so much from each other. For three years, I resisted turning it into something. Instead I wrote a book, aptly named What Would Virginia Woolf Do?, based on the whole experience, thinking the group would wind down by the time I finished. It wrote itself, which was a sign the whole thing had legs. When the book came out in 2018, the group was at 30,000 women. I just couldn't walk away. In an effort to turn it into a business, we left Facebook and turned it into a subscription model with both online and live events. We got 6,000 women to come with us and started creating regional groups across the country and subgroups in categories like Money and Parenting.
How It’s Going
I set out to find a buyer for The Woolfer because I couldn't grow it without more resources and didn’t want to raise VC money. I wanted to keep doing the parts I love and let someone else do the things I don’t.
This summer we merged with Revel, a tech meet-up platform for women over 50. The two founders are women in their early 30s out of Harvard Business School, who were watching the VC world and wondering why no one was paying attention to this audience. I immediately loved them and their technology, and we additionally built the Facebook-like “groups” feature where women can come together around common intrerests and chat online. So it’s now both an events platform and a community platform, and a great vehicle for women who are wanting new connection, to learn new things, or even to build a following. We’re currently at ,11,000+ members all over the country, and the goal is to grow into the destination for women 40+, where we can talk, meet, share info, and probably ultimately shop.
I get up around 8am, peruse social media, catch up on member activity, and read the news. I then walk Strudel the Poodle (requisite Covid dog), and hopefully exercise online with my OlaKaOla strength training group. If I don’t do that, I’ll sometimes do yoga with my boyfriend. I often use mornings to do work for the Brooklyn Public Library, where I’m honored to serve as board chair, since most of my Revel colleagues are on California time. At Revel, I’m in charge of partnerships, programming, and content, so I’m constantly talking to and looking for interesting writers and experts.
Best Divorce Advice
- Divorce is so unimaginable when you’re conceiving it. I thought about it for about 10 years and finally had this moment where I thought, If I stay I know what it will be like, and if I leave there is the possibility that it will be so much better. We have so many more chapters than we are aware of.
- Be realistic about what you’re walking into financially – what your expenses are and what you’re going to need. Many women are embarrassed to ask for money, but doing a basic budget so you know what you spend and what you’ll need is so important.
On Having An Empty Nest
I have four kids (21,23,23, 27) – one in LA and three in Washington, D.C. finishing college and grad school. They’re still finding their way, so we talk a lot about job issues, break-ups, life. At 52 with my kids out of the house, I have this incredible sense of freedom, and I am genuinely loving working really hard.
My mom died when she was 46, and she told me at 42 that the 40s were her best decade. I hear women say their 50s are their best decade, and I think it just keeps getting better - my relationships with my kids are better, I’m a better parent, and my romantic relationships are so much healthier. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove, and I’m much more confident and relaxed than I’ve ever been.
What “Ever-Evolving” Means To Her
I think it’s true that we are ever-evolving. One thing you can't convey to a 25-year-old woman is how many chapters she will have. At 50, that becomes evident. I sometimes ponder how many I have left: Will I get married again? Will I get sick? How will my professional career change?
I went through infertility in my 30s, which was so hard. After three years, I had a successful pregnancy via IVF (and then another one naturally after that). Once I had that baby, my infertility chapter was behind me. When bad things happen, it’s a moment in time, but it won’t be that way forever. You move through. Everything becomes something else. That’s the great thing about getting older.
Fill in the blanks: Sex gets __________ as you get older because ___________ .
On the one hand, it gets better because we are less performative and know what we want and what works for us. But thanks to menopause, you don't have the hormones you had before, so your orgasms may not be as good, and you may not be as turned on. There’s a lot of potential to have the best sex of your life in your 40s and 50s, if you manage the sexual effects from menopause with things like lube, vibrators, and HRT. It’s all about being open.
I really love my HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I resisted it for a while, but my hot flashes got so severe I could barely function. I’m grateful for my patch, a low dose (100MG) of progesterone, and I sleep like a baby. And I love the Olaplex Essentials Kit for hair loss and brittle tresses.
Photo by Clémence Polès at Passerby Magazine