Casey Lewis and Liza Darwin are the co-founders of Clover, a digital media company for teenage girls that was acquired by AwesomenessTV, which was then acquired by Viacom, in 2018. Casey is also the founder of Thank You Atoosa, an Instagram account celebrating teen magazine nostalgia. Before Clover, Casey and Liza were editors at Teen Vogue, MTV, and Nylon. They met while they were summer magazine interns in college, and have been friends since then. The duo recently left their posts at Clover, but they remain good friends. Casey’s pit bull mix rescue, Bear, was fostered by Liza and Montie, Liza’s terrier mix rescue.
Did either of you grow up with pets?
Liza: I grew up with a dog, Kate. She was a Boykin Spaniel, and she was such a huge part of my childhood. And then when I turned about seven, I got a cat named Angel, and so I had a dog and a cat basically my whole childhood while I was growing up in Nashville.
Casey: I grew up with a lab named Paws and I was obsessed with him. When he was a puppy, I carried him around my house and my parents would joke that he didn’t even know how to use his legs because I just wouldn’t put him down. I was 12 or 11. He was the best. And then he passed away, sadly, and my parents got another lab named Tiger, who is amazing. And now they also have a tiny little white fluffy dog. They have a 100 pound black lab and a six pound white fluffy dog.
Amazing. So you both grew up with dogs. So how did you become friends?
Casey: You were actually there that summer, Noël. All of us, we were interns at different magazines. I was at Teen Vogue and Liza was at ELLEgirl. We just became friends through that little group, and we’ve been friends since. It’s interesting because everyone still works in media from that summer. It really shows the power of internships, not only for jobs, but just to build that friendship and that network. That was 10 years ago.
Oh yes, 10 years ago. That was 2008. When you graduated from school, you ended up working in media. Did you instantly reconnect?
Liza: When I graduated, I worked at Nylon as the web editor. In that time, Casey and I reconnected a lot because we had our jobs in media and everything, but a couple years later we hung out way more because we were both freelance, and it was amazing just to have that. When you’re freelance, it can be hard sometimes and maybe a little bit lonely, so it’s really helpful to have someone else know what you’re going through and who you get to work with and that type of thing. We would just meet at various outdoor bars in Brooklyn during the summer and do our freelance work and also just talk about everything. Eventually, we had a few more jobs in between. We both ended up working at MTV, not at the same time but one right after another, which was funny.
And then back in late 2015, we were just at this bar in Brooklyn. I was at Hearst helping them launch Sweet, which was their Snapchat publication that no longer exists, and Casey was at Teen Vogue. We were just talking about media and our jobs, and that’s where we came up with the idea for Clover.
What do you love about working with teenage girls?
Casey: I’ve always loved the teen audience, since I was a teen and I’ve always been impressed with teen magazines and teen media and assumed I would grow out of it as I became no longer a teen myself—and that just wasn’t case. Teens are the future. And I also just believe that the way that the things that they’re taught and the way that we treat them are so important in the long term. Teaching them is extremely important. And the way that we teach them and the way that we talk to them impacts self-confidence and just so many things.
Liza: I sort of fell into it. The thing about the teen audience that’s interesting to me is just that they’re so consistently underestimated by the media. And I feel like there is huge opportunity for media brands to step up and talk to them how they deserve to be talked to and have a conversation with them. That’s been interesting to me and what has kept me interested in it. It’s such an evolving audience and there are all these new platforms and there’s just so many different ways to reach them. It’s inspiring. Definitely with the last several years, I feel like people are finally waking up to the fact that teens are important and they want to make a difference.
Liza, when did you start fostering dogs? And did you know that Casey wanted a dog when she adopted Bear when he was your foster?
Liza: When Casey and I were in the early stages of Clover, we didn’t have an office. We would just work out of apartments. Casey had roommates at the time so we would usually work out of my apartment. During that time, I had gotten into fostering dogs from In Our Hands Rescue, and I had had such great luck with these dogs. They were all incredible, and all of our friends essentially ended up adopting our foster dogs. So we had already had at least two, maybe three, dogs that we had fostered go off with different Vassar friends.
I had this dog. Both my fiancé Joe and I were obsessed with him. He was perfect. Casey had met him, loved him, but definitely wasn’t, I don’t think—were you actively in the market? It doesn’t really seem like it.
Liza: He definitely grew on you. I remember one day we were getting drinks, and after a beer or two, you were like, “I think I might put in an application for this dog,” and that’s when I was like, “Oh my gosh, do it. Let me push your application to the top.”
Casey: Liza fostering dogs was one of the best things for us because there was time where we were going through a really stressful period, and it was such a great distraction for both of us. We would walk them, and there would just be dogs around. It was such a great reprieve from the stressful day-to-day work. Throughout Clover, I just remember Liza would always be like, “You should get a dog. It’s so great.” And I had roommates for a while and it just never felt like the right time. Liza has consistently adorable fosters, and they were all cute and all dogs were worthy of love and adopting but Bear just really got me.
Liza, how did Montie come into your life?
I got Montie in 2012. I had always wanted a dog and I was doing a little bit of volunteer work with Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, which is in Williamsburg. They sent out an email about the adoptable dogs and Montie was one of them, her name was Monterey, which is why I call her Montie. Then I was sort of like, “You know what, now or never, I just want to do it.” I was only 24, not that that is super young, but in terms of having a dog in New York, I was definitely one of my first friends to do it.
I see on Instagram that Montie loves to go hiking, which I wouldn’t completely expect from a small dog. Tell me about that.
Liza: She looks small but she’s actually quite outdoorsy, I would say. We love to go upstate and go hiking and all that stuff and we can’t just leave Montie at home because that’s half the fun of having a dog, being able to take her on these adventures.
The first time we got her camping though, we went to Harriman State Park, and it was a 10-mile hike. Montie did really well. We made it to the campsite, and then at night, Montie started freaking out because she’s a terrier and she can smell everything around her and she kept barking, barking, barking. And it was on Bear Mountain, which you know is known for bears. And we were so nervous that a bear was going to smell Montie and just start freaking out and come into our tent and Montie would be a little snack for a bear. Now, when we go camping with her, we have to bring some calming drops and make sure that she’s really worn out, because otherwise it’s just an ordeal.
Casey: Liza, I remember when you got Montie. It felt like such a grown up decision.
Liza: I know. Nobody had a dog. And now everyone does. I was like, “How am I going to take care of this thing?” I was still in my going out phase, but it was a great lifestyle change.
Do you bring your dogs to friends’ homes? For example, when I spoke to Bobbi Brown, she mentioned how she and her friends bring their dogs to each other’s homes without having to ask anymore, because they just know.
Casey: I don’t do that so much, just because my dog is 50 pounds. But I do take him on the subway and I do like to take him places. Something I think that maybe is a novelty is that if I’m going on a first date, I like to go to a dog-friendly place. It makes dates far less daunting when you have your pit bull with you. It’s such a good distraction, too. And it alleviates a lot of awkwardness and it’s also just a good test: If you don’t like my dog, then you’re not going to love me.
I love that.
Casey: It’s an instant screener.
And if you want to go home early, you can just be like, “I have to go walk my dog, bye.” I love it.
Casey: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that. I was finding that if I was on a bad first date without Bear, I was getting resentful. I would think that I would rather be at home with Bear, just on the couch. It felt like a waste of our time. So I started suggesting dog-friendly bars because if nothing else, at least I would have a great time with my dog. Having a dog there is instant entertainment. It makes you think beyond the first date, like, “So, where are you from, what do you do?” also, Noël, I think that you mentioned this before in the Dog Park newsletter, but I also find the whole being on dating apps and having a dog very interesting because so many people have pictures with dogs but then you’ll feel such a letdown if they have photos of dogs but they actually don’t have a dog. It’s like, “You just misrepresented yourself.” It’s like, “I like you because you have a cute dog and that’s not even your dog.”
But I do find that I’m drawn to dog owners more, because I’m like, “Oh, this person must be, at least, a good human if they have a dog.” And a very bad human if they’re misrepresenting themselves as a dog owner.
I agree with this all so much. So you haven’t met your soul mate, yet? Through Bear?
Casey: I have not. Bear is probably my soul mate.
Photography by Tayler Smith
Special thanks to the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn