Meet the Brooklyn mom and entrepreneur behind “The Camp Gyno,” the viral video that has racked up almost 5.5 million views in just a couple of weeks, and drawn the attention of many major media outlets.
The video was conceived as an introduction to HelloFlo, a subscription service for women’s periods founded last March by Naama Bloom. Subscribers receive a nicely wrapped monthly care package of sanitary products and a treat, all delivered timed to their menstrual cycle. Starter kits for girls getting their first period are currently available for pre-order.
Bloom, 40, spoke with the Sisterhood about her company, the video and how she learned how to use a tampon at Camp Galil, a Habonim Dror Jewish summer camp in Ottsville, Pa.
How did you come up with the idea for HelloFlo?
I had been keenly aware of the subscription model businesses that were launching and I thought they were interesting. There was very little targeted specifically to women, and nothing for more rational purchases we have to make each month that aren’t enjoyable to make, or that have to do with biology. You can’t screw up the shopping for those, because if you do, then you’re stuck. Every woman has used a wad of toilet paper at one point in her life.
How did the Camp Gyno video get made?
We started working on the video before the company even launched. It’s been a long time in the making. It was to introduce my company and it was to make sure people understood that this wasn’t just about making a grown woman’s life more convenient…
We filmed it at Surprise Lake Camp [in Cold Spring, New York], which happens to be a Jewish camp. The girl who plays the Camp Gyno was actually just about to turn 10. We were hoping to find someone who was older or looked a little older, but she really knocked our socks off when she read for the part. It was unbelievable how well she understood the material. She wasn’t uncomfortable. She just got it. She understood the humor.
Why did you choose to focus your messaging toward girls and their mothers?
I had a conversation with a Jewish dad early only in the process, and he was telling me that his daughter had her bat mitzvah and got her period the previous year. He knew because his wife told him, but his daughter still wanted it hidden from him. He thought it was strange, to have just done a huge thing for her bat mitzvah, but she was embarrassed about this other rite of passage.
I spoke to other parents and I realized that there is a space here, an unacknowledged space. It’s not that girls don’t talk to their moms and dads about this — it’s that they don’t go in depth. A mom might talk to her daughter about getting her period, but it may not occur to her to say, “Let’s just open a tampon so I can show you how it works, so I can show you that the applicator is separate from the tampon.” I’ve heard from so many people that the first time they used a tampon they left the applicator in, because they didn’t know they were supposed to remove it… Your daughter is either going to learn it from her friends — a.k.a. the Camp Gyno — or she’s going to learn it from you. Which would you prefer?
What was your own experience getting your first period?
My experience was different. I don’t remember having any one particular conversation. My mother grew up on a kibbutz, where everything was shared and open. Nothing was hidden in my house. As well, I went to camp, where you learn about a lot. I’m pretty sure I learned how to use a tampon at camp. Habonim Dror camp was a very open place, and people spoke freely about this kind of stuff. I did not have a stigmatized experience with it.
Were you surprised by how viral the video went, and by the huge media response to it?
I am stunned by the reaction. We were not setting out to break every convention of tampon advertising. We were setting out to tell a good story that happens to introduce my service. So obviously we worked hard on making it funny and hoped people were going to share it. We would have been jumping through the roof if had gotten 100,000 views at this point.
Much of the reaction to the video has been positive, but there have been some criticisms of the video and your company. How do you respond?
I’m not really spending much time thinking about them. In terms of the video, I was merely being reflective of how girls speak today. You may think that using the word “vagina” is vulgar, but I think it’s being anatomically correct… It didn’t go too far, in my opinion. I’m really proud to spark this conversation and put it out there.
There have been two major criticisms of the business. One is that I put this whole period power video out there that says no shame, and then on my site I’m messaging that the package [which can be sent to one’s home or office] is discreet. To me, it’s not contradictory, because context is everything. I may be comfortable with people knowing I have my period, but when I’m at work, I may not want them to know I am getting it tomorrow… The other criticism is about the sending of candy, that it’s infantilizing… I think it’s fun to get treats, and every single woman I told about this business before I launched it, wanted to know if there would be chocolate.
What do you think will motivate women to pay the HelloFlo premium, instead of going to the drugstore to buy supplies themselves?
When you are 12 or 13, the thing you want most of all is to be independent, and isn’t it more empowering for a daughter to feel like she’s in control and she owns this whole process [by getting a package delivered every month], instead of constantly asking her parents to go buy pads or tampons for her?
The treat is a great thing to get at any age. Everyone likes getting presents and packages in the mail… More specifically, it comes timed to your cycle. So you won’t be caught off guard. You’ll get it in the mail a few days before you get your period and it serves as an instant reminder to put some tampons in your purse.
Yes, you’ll pay a little premium for this service, but just think about the cost of all those pairs of underwear you’ve ruined over the course of your life without it.