Julie Kerwin and David Kleeman

Recorded February 24, 2020 Archived February 24, 2020 41:49 minutes
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Id: ddf000479


Julie Kerwin (50) speaks with her friend and mentor David Kleeman (62) about the origins of her female action figure company, I Am Elemental.

Subject Log / Time Code

JK speaks about being an “accidental toy inventor,” and reflects on the male-dominated action figure segment and its hyper-sexualization of female toys as reasons for her concept and company’s creation.
JK recalls using the internet to find a designer and factory for her action figures. JK speaks about support from Kickstarter, and a large portion of her supporters being adult males. JK recalls her husband’s advice to “not emasculate men to empower women.”
DK asks JK for her observations on children’s play, based on gender. JK speaks about the way toys shape the ways children play, and recalls a mother telling her how her toys enabled her sons to envision women as heroes.
JK speaks about initial challenges with funding and production before finding word-of-mouth support and spread.
DK recalls meeting JK at the Toy Fair. JK speaks about being categorized outside of the “Action Figure” section at the fair, and being named one of TIME magazines’ top inventions of 2014. JK speaks about seeing other major toy brands follow suit after her success.
JK and DK talk about how popular characters that are already defined only narrow down imagination in play. JK speaks about her brand’s encouraging kids to “pick their own power.”
JK speaks about her own superpowers: creativity and ingenuity. JK talks about literacy as “the ultimate superpower,” and her love of books.
JK speaks about reading books with her sons every night even as they enter adulthood, and reflects on how reading books with female protagonists to her sons has shaped her them.
JK speaks about the team she works with, and the next steps for her brand.
JK shares childhood memories and speaks about the book “Free to Be…You and Me.” DK and JK talk about the toys they played with as children.


  • Julie Kerwin (b. 1970)
  • David Kleeman (b. 1957)

Recording Location

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service