Mia Lin and Melissa Niles are two friends of mine in Los Angeles who run Youth Culture 2000. Mia studies Sociology and Music Industry at UCLA and Mellissa is a recent graduate from UCLA Arts with a minor in Film. They've combined their knowledge and love of the early 2000s to create an immersive zine and community and I’ve seen them work passionately and creatively on their zine since I first met them in September. I wanted to hear more about the origins of their project and share their labor of love with Withitgirl readers. Check out the playlist they made to accompany their interview!
Louise Buckley: How did you two meet?
Mia Lin: Melissa and I met about a year ago! We had known each other because we were both in UCLA Radio, but we really became friends after running into each other in the Bunche Hall bathroom and bonding over our love for The Breeders. It was like a moment from a 2000s movie where the characters become unlikely friends, we just kind of clicked! A few months later Melissa reached out to me about working on a 2000s-themed zine together and the rest was history!
LB: How did the idea to start a zine come about?
Melissa Niles: When quarantine began back in March 2020, I obviously found myself with a lot more idle time on my hands, and felt like I wanted to try to make some kind of positive come out of it. I think as early as April 2020, I started to toy with the concept of creating a 2000s-themed zine, and playing with this software called Electric Zine Maker that was a fun initial way to explore my ideas. I quickly got in contact with Mia about the overall idea though, as I knew she had made zines before and also loved 2000s culture. For some time, we were just sort of texting about it until we could meet in-person safely sometime in May, and when we did we had all these magazines and stickers and books sprawled out onto Mia’s dining table and used them to collage for hours into the night.
LB: What has it been like to collaborate?
MN: I think our collaborative style is what’s made the zine so special because we both really grew with the project together. We started out with just those collages and thinking we’d make a more traditional zine, but then we both as individuals would come together and be like “Okay, but what if we do this now too.” I think we’ve been able to push one another and the project forward with our different but complementary perspectives, which is how we’ve ended up with the web-based, Youth Culture 2000 experience you see today that goes beyond just the zine.
LB: I’m really intrigued by Youth Culture 2000’s relationship to the history of zines. Zines originated in the 1930s as fanzines (short for fan magazines). Fanzines are tributes, homages, to musicians, cultural figures, genres, etc., and I think it’s really cool that Youth Culture 2000 is in some ways a fanzine to the culture of the 2000s but goes beyond that.
ML: Zines in general have a really cool history and ours could be seen as a fanzine in many ways. We have also been very deliberate about trying to subvert traditional zine formats to create something new! In many ways our zine is a tribute to the 2000s, celebrating the nostalgia and memories of the culture that shaped us. The 2000s were a really cool time where the technology that rules our present lives was just emerging, and it was really more of an exciting novelty than something as consuming as it is in the present. We try to balance the fun, nostalgic aspects of the 2000s with thinking critically about how the culture shaped us into who we are today, as individuals, and as a generation. By putting our zine out as a webzine before distributing prints, we wanted to recreate some of the excitement of the early 2000s internet that has been lost in the modern age of social media.
LB: What drew you into the 2000s culture and aesthetic? What do you find special about that era that has changed or doesn’t exist today?
ML: I love to make art, music, anything I can get my hands on. I’ve been fascinated by 90s and 2000s culture for a long time, specifically Tony Hawk-era skate culture and the early internet.
Y2K style is really popular at the moment and I think that’s been great for our zine, but I also want to reflect on some of the cultural aspects that run deeper than the 2000s aesthetic. The digital age and the culture surrounding the huge changes in our society are super interesting parts of the 2000s and I don’t want them to be lost as time goes on!
MN: Going off of what Mia said, I think I’ve said to people sometimes that this project is us revisiting, reimagining, and reflecting on the 2000s all at once. I think so much of my love and interest for the 2000s formed out of a longing for what I thought my teen/adult life was going to be like as a kid based on the media I took in. What makes this really interesting in the context of our project is how, again, we want to capture that fun nostalgia that many of us feel for the 2000s, but also look deeper at it: Why did we like certain things as kids so much? What messages, good or bad, did we internalize from themes in shows, movies, and music from the era? There’s a lot I miss about the 2000s, but we’ve also progressed in a lot of positive ways as well, so I think it’s cool to have this zine that loves and critiques the 2000s all at once. While being nostalgic, I also have a strong interest in critical media studies, specifically looking at things through a queer, intersectional feminist lens, so Youth Culture 2000 is a really amazing project where I get to utilize all these interests and facets of myself within an art form.
LB: Something special about zines is that they provide a way to connect with people who share similar interests and allow for an exchange of ideas, collaboration, and create a network of people. Youth Culture 2000 is unique to our current times by existing both digital and physically. Its website message board mirrors a chat room of the 2000s and allows people to easily connect with each other. What have been some of your favorite experiences that have come from the message board and talking with zine readers?
ML: Connecting with so many people has been the most unexpected but amazing part of putting out our zine! We made it with the idea of sharing it in mind, but everything in the zine is so personal and true to our experiences that it’s been crazy to see how many people our work has resonated with. Shortly after the zine release, we launched a MySpace-esque social networking site called Youth Culture Network where users can post on forums, send messages and connect with other people. We now have over 600 users and it has been so freaking cool to see people connecting over their love of 2000s culture and sharing their experiences. One of my favorite posts on YC Network is on a thread called “what brought you to this forum?” Multiple people said they thought we were in our mid-30’s or early-40’s because of the authenticity of our website and it made me laugh because it was so unexpected.
MN: When we got our first large influx of visitors to the site, we were getting a lot of really sweet notes on the message board. It’s hard to state my exact favorites, but there were just so many people saying how they really loved the zine and site, and that it was making them feel happy or safe at a weird time in their life. I also want to give a shout out to the zine community we’ve become a part of as well - from talking to you guys here at Withitgirl, to getting to know and feeling support from such cool artists who make all kinds of zines, it’s been really amazing.
LB: What was it like to see your zine in print after initially only existing digitally?
ML: Holding a physical copy of our zine for the first time was such a surreal moment! This was my first time ever not printing zines myself and I had no idea how they were going to come out! We asked our printer (Irrelevant Press) to make them full-color and glossy as an homage to the look and feel of Teen Vogue in the 2000s and when they first arrived we were just so excited about how awesome they came out. The idea of blurring the lines between the digital and physical world is so exciting to us and we really wanted to make and send out print zines as a way of physically connecting with people over our digital world. We ended up sending prints all over the country and to places as far as Finland, Italy, and Germany!
LB: What advice do you have for people interested in starting a zine themselves?
ML: Just start!! The biggest thing I have learned from working on the zine is that you can learn anything from the internet. I had never coded a day in my life before I started building our website. Before I downloaded Creative Cloud and started playing with graphics, I had only ever used Photoshop 2004! Information on how to do anything and everything is out there, anyone can make a zine or webzine if they want to try!
MN: Don’t overthink it too hard at the start, just go! Because we started making art and seeing what came from it, our vision unfolded over time and naturally. I’m someone who gets overwhelmed by having a lot of ideas at once, so I think just decide to focus on it one task at a time, and see where it takes you!
LB: What is next for you two?
ML: So much more is coming!! Zine 2 is very close to done, we’re hoping to release it digitally in the next month or so and then print it!! We also have more merch, interviews, and profiles we’ve done with cool 2000s inspired bands and artists, and a music video all coming out soon!
YC2000 Playlist for Withitgirl!
Photos courtesy of Youth Culture 2000
Louise Buckley is an artist, student, and enjoyer of water. She can be reached here.
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