You see them everywhere. Their flip smiles and pert, blond bobs show up in all the papers. Surely Lynn Yeldell and Alisa Weldon are Austin’s most visible lesbian couple.
And yet, what do we really know about them?
Five years ago, they founded L Style G Style magazine. Next week, their glossy chronicle of the gay and lesbian scene expands to Dallas and Houston.
One of the two, Yeldell, is a financial whiz. The other, Weldon, is the creative source.
Beyond that, most reports have focused on their leadership — chairing, for instance, the dignified Human Rights Campaign dinner — or on their business ventures. They recently put out a call for investors and announced that L Style G Style would go online-only for the near future.
There is more.
Yeldell, 44, a child of the Deep South, was born in New Orleans to a family of Alabamans. Her father is a retired oil and gas executive, her mother a nutritionist and the former Miss Dairy Princess of Alabama. “So I come from Southern royalty,” Yeldell kids.
Weldon, 37, was born in industrial Pasadena and grew up in more upscale Friendswood, the only child of a divorced couple. She counts two half-siblings.
Yeldell, who made her formal debut into encrusted New Orleans society, was the classic rule follower.
“I was a really good kid because my brother was not a really good kid,” she says. “I realized that if I stayed between the lines that it would be a whole lot easier for everybody.”
Then as now, Weldon is the more rambunctious and high energy one. Yet like Yeldell, she’s not much of a cause-free rebel.
“As a kid, I was super responsible,” she says. “Super do-right, always pleasing.” In New Orleans at the elite St. Martin’s High School and at the University of Alabama, Yeldell followed the region’s elaborate procession of teas, luncheons, balls, and galas. A matchmaker for debutantes paired her, ironically it turns out, with now-out actor Bryan Batt of “Mad Men” fame.
In suburban Friendswood, Weldon dug into school.
“School was my escape from family life,” she says. “It’s where I got attention and where I was taken care of. I didn’t identify with people my age. I was always ready for the big idea.”
Yeldell majored in finance and economics, pledged Chi Omega and, finally breaking with tradition, was the first woman elected president of the student body. After graduation, she quickly jumped into the MBA program at the University of Texas.
“I wish I would have gone to work first,” she says. “When you’ve already been in the classroom all your life and you dive into a classroom with people who’ve been working, there’s a whole other language among them.”
Weldon, who skipped the more rough and tumble sports for success in competitive tennis in high school, skipped the athletic scholarships and then put herself through Austin Community College.
“I fell in love with Austin immediately,” she says. “It was open.”
Coming out was not easy, however, for either. Yeldell told her friends first, then in a long heart-to-heart, her mother.
“Her biggest fear was what would other people think,” she says. “Mom said: ‘I always wanted to be the mother of the bride.’ I said: ‘I always wanted to the bride.’ It took her a while. She had to grieve.”
Yeldell couldn’t face her conservative dad, but he beat her to the punch with a loving call.
“He said: ‘You are who you are,’” she recalls “‘The way you were meant to be. I’m not going to love you any less.’”
As for Weldon, she came out two weeks before high school graduation and was made unwelcome in her family home. So she moved in with a longtime girlfriend.
Yeldell, who pursued banking and other businesses in New Orleans after grad school, made a harrowing escape from Hurricane Katrina. In Austin for good, she shined at UBS and Bazaarvoice before focusing entirely on the magazine.
“Katrina created a lot of loss,” she says. “But it was one of the best things that happened to me.”
While going to school, Weldon did a five-year stint with Central Market before becoming T3’s advertising agency’s youngest art director — at the time — only 23. She credits the two creative Austin companies with altering her life.
“I mastered everything I could as quickly as I could,” she says.
She also worked for Sicola Martin and the VoxGroup ad agency before taking the magazine plunge.
While volunteering as president of the gay film festival’s board of directors, she met Yeldell, who had recently moved to Austin with a partner.
“Somebody said: ‘You’ve got to meet this really amazing woman,’” Weldon recalls. “We had a natural energy from Moment 1.”
Both women joke that Yeldell, stringing out the last phases of a dying relationship, stalked Weldon.
During a party at the Molotov club, Weldon shared her vision for the magazine. Yeldell, however, wanted to talk about her struggle with an overwhelming attraction to a person she didn’t name.
“As soon as she said it was me, I was immediately intrigued,” Weldon laughs. “My question: ‘What do you plan to do with it?’”
Six “respectful” weeks later, they were a couple.
They bonded over the idea of a magazine that would profile members of the gay community and its friends, showcase the creative minds behind change, offer advice on health, food and fashion, and provide a slick advertising outlet along with promotional options for nonprofits.
The first black-outlined issue graced a party in November 2007. Next week’s parties will toast Issue No. 31.
“That’s 31 babies,” Weldon says. “Or that’s what it feels like.”
Along the way, the magazine that flips between the two gender sections, fought stereotypes of women, strove to speak up for underdogs and to educate those who think gay people are all alike. To be fair, it leans in the direction of the educated and professional classes but has always sought a range of subjects.
“I wanted to showcase everyday people who happened to be gay,” Weldon says. In 2011, the full-time business and life partners pulled together national publishing executives to explore the next step. They were encouraged to expand to other promising markets.
“I quickly realized this is not an Austin phenomenon,” Yeldell says. “It’s a human-interest phenomenon that applies to more cities than we even are aware of.”
The expansion to just Dallas and Houston, however, proved monumental. They networked with influencers, hired staff, but never found the right personnel to sell ads. In the end, the couple felt all but completely drained.
Weldon says: “We decided to go online, do events, put egos aside, and let other people in.”