By Angel Gingras
After spending two years on her high school mock trial team, developing a flair for public speaking, Natalie Leinbach came to college with her sights set on a degree that would lead her to law school.
During her first two years at this university, she was a member of the College Park Scholars Justice and Legal Thought program and joined various organizations that would help her develop the skills she needed to be a lawyer. But after she encountered a post from another student looking to start a fashion show during her junior year, her life plans changed completely.
Leinbach is currently a senior communications and economics major. In addition to her education, her primary focus is Monumental Magazine, this university’s premier student-run fashion publication.
“I joined this magazine as part of the start-up team,” she said. “And I’ve worked on Monumental every single day for the past year.”
It has been over a year since Leinbach found the Facebook bulletin. Since then, she has turned her passion for art from a hobby to a career choice, but her journey to this decision hasn’t been easy.
She first began to take interest in photography and filmmaking in middle school, after a class project won her first place at a local film festival. She explains that as exciting as this was for her, the art industry was not a practical career move, and she pushed the idea aside until last year.
Now as editor-in-chief, Leinbach works hard to keep Monumental Magazine afloat. She made the decision to let go of her other positions on campus in order to prepare the magazine for success after she graduates this spring.
Jess Rudy, a senior elementary education major and Leinbach’s roommate, considers Leinbach one of the most hardworking individuals she knows.
“I’ve watched her slave over [this magazine] for the past year,” Rudy said. “She is incredible and is the reason why the magazine is where it is.”
Leinbach has applied her skills from the magazine into numerous internships over the past year. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, she interned at DC Magazine, a cohort of Modern Luxury Media, which is a company that promotes brands across the U.S. Last summer, she also worked as the remote job board manager for Little Space Studio and interned at Streetz Media, a video production company that produces media for clients in the DC metro area.
Leinbach credits a lot of her achievements with Monumental Magazine to the experiences she had as an underclassman. During her sophomore year, she began reconnecting with her Jewish faith after the loss of her grandfather and she went on the Birthright Israel trip with her sister.
“There were a lot of Jewish people in Alpha Phi Omega and I was very insecure about my Jewish identity at the time,” said Leinbach. “So I had dialogues with people about how I could reconnect with my Judaism.”
Alpha Phi Omega, the university’s co-ed service and leadership fraternity, and Maryland Images were two of Leinbach’s involvements prior to the magazine.
“I owe a lot of my personality development to [Alpha Phi Omega],” she said. “Being the recruitment chair later on taught me how to delegate… and the most important thing was to ask for help when I need it.”
Leinbach has high hopes for the magazine after she graduates this spring. The team just released their first fully digital issue and plans to continue promoting the magazine as the university’s predominant outlet for fashion.
“The campus community offers no outlet for the fashion industry,” she said. “What I want for Monumental is to be known enough, to be established enough, so that when a student like me comes to campus, they don’t see the list of majors and think that’s their limitation.”
Zuri Fearon, a senior communications and government and politics major, works as the director of arts and promotion for Monumental Magazine. She has known Leinbach since her sophomore year and is inspired by how much effort she puts into the magazine. She enjoyed working with Leinbach on various shoots for the publication.
“I loved how organized she was and how she communicated with the models for what she wanted,” Fearon said. “She puts 110 percent into everything she does and it’s so inspiring and admirable.”
After she graduates, Leinbach plans to go into the creative industry, such as directing movies or working as a fashion photographer, and leave her law degree for a later time in life. She hopes to have a job behind the camera that keeps her busy and interested all the time.
“I was a junior when I realized it could be practical to have a career in art or content creation,” she said. “I felt like I was following the dream I had abandoned.”