When you hear the name “Lisa Frank,” what comes to mind? Rainbows, puppies, kittens, and unicorns? Folders, notebooks, and backpacks? How about an Instagram influencer with a huge celebrity following? Or a streetwear designer whose collaboration with John Mayer is covered by Hypebeast? Because she’s that, too.
To a generation of 80s and 90s kids, Lisa Frank was—and still is—the Queen of Color. Her exuberant designs were once as much a status symbol as Glossier merch is now. But these days you’re more likely to encounter her on Instagram than in the classroom. Her account has 457K followers, among them Chrissy Chrissy Teigen and Kacey Musgraves. And Frank’s delightful, pop-culture-savvy, always positive comments have become frequent enough to be tracked by @commentsbycelebs.
What makes Lisa Frank’s new internet persona so intriguing is that Lisa Frank, the woman, is famously private. The design legend rarely gives interviews and few details about her personal life are known. Now “she” is interacting with Miley Cyrus, Khalid, and Diplo among others. And Twitter—that hotbed of rage and political debates—can’t get enough of her good-vibes-only commentary punctuated by joyful emoji.
But who, exactly, is the mastermind behind this hyper-social Lisa Frank? Conventional wisdom would say it’s a hired social media manager but when ELLE.com contacted the brand, we were surprised to discover it’s actually Frank’s 20-year-old son, Forrest Green. Green, it turns out, is a soft-spoken but razor-sharp college student at bustling UCLA, who grew up near the Lisa Frank headquarters in quiet Tucson, Arizona. In an exclusive interview, ELLE.com spoke to Green about the family business, his Instagram strategy, and growing up with a mom beloved by millions.
How did you end up managing Lisa Frank’s Instagram account?
I’ve been involved with the business for a long, long time. I started going to [company] meetings when I was six and really getting involved in meetings when I was eight. I originally started the Instagram when I was in high school. I stepped away from it to focus on school, then about 6 months ago, I took it over again. Since then we’ve grown 200,000 followers. We’ve been kicking it.
Did you always want to be in the family business?
Not quite. When I was little, there was just a lot of outward pressure on me to do that. I don’t know—I just felt like I had to prove myself to be an individual aside from the company. I carried that kind of complex, like I had to do it. I resisted help from other people, I had to do it alone. I had to show that I could prove myself. Over the years, I realized that the truth is, it doesn’t matter if people doubt you, it matters what you do with the opportunities available. I had to do a lot of thinking about it. Hours, days and months. Do I deserve it? What am I going to do with it? Because in all honesty, I can’t say that I deserve to be in this position. But I can say that I’m very committed to doing something great with it. I’m very grateful to be in this position. For whatever reason—just because I was born into it, raised in it—the company really is who I am and what I stand for.
What’s Lisa Frank’s Instagram strategy?
Strategy to me is a funny word because it’s such a buzz word. I kinda thought about Instagram where I get to walk around with this megaphone and every time someone saw it, that megaphone gets just a little bit louder. I’m always aware of what I’m putting out into the world, but I’m not hyper-critical of it.
Sometimes strategies can be very rigid, and I’m not like that. I just want people to feel inspired and happy when they visit the page. That’s first and foremost. There’s a human tendency to compartmentalize something in order to understand it, and I’m always fighting against that idea in my personal and professional life, and on the [Instagram] page. Because I personally feel like when someone goes, “Oh I get it,” then you’re stuck. What I try to do is be unique, different, and interact with people that may not feel so organic when they first look at it. You’re like, “Why is Lisa Frank here? Why is Lisa Frank in this world? I don’t get it. I want to know more about it.”
I don’t want you to get me. I don’t want you to get this company. I want you to continue asking questions. I guess that’s my strategy.
For Father’s Day this year, Lisa Frank did an amazing photoshopped series of celebrity dads. How did you cook that up?
Most of what I put out there is just split second decisions. For that, I was like, Oh my god, that would be funny if I Lisa Frank-ified some celebrity dads. During the time I’ve been running [the account], you get comfortable being uncomfortable in these areas. It was definitely something that—especially when I was pushing it even further to make playful fun of John Mayer, and stuff like that—I was thinking, I’m a little uncomfortable doing this, but I’m going to do it, you know? It was all just fun, and I figured it would get a good reaction. I never know what to expect. But it did really well.
Is your mom Lisa involved in the Instagram at all?
We’re family, we do everything together, whether we like it or not. I’m very open with her to be like, “Go look at some stuff. If you like it, put it in your saved things and we’ll talk about it later.” To be honest with you, it ends up being videos of golden retriever puppies. But we all have strong opinions over here, so I definitely hear her opinion. Everything is a team effort.
Do you have any professional goals beyond the Lisa Frank brand?
I believe in committing, so for the foreseeable future I’m so committed to Lisa Frank. I really just can’t see myself anywhere else. In that way, I kind of have tunnel vision. But like I said previously about being compartmentalized—one of my mottos is to stay unpredictable. So I don’t really know. But for now, I’m all in.
Growing up, what was it like seeing your mom’s designs out in the world?
It all felt extremely small. My mom would come to classes, or be at the ballpark and ask people about Lisa Frank’s design and see if they liked it. What I’ve experienced over the years, truly, is that everything that seems very big and almost unachievable to the public, starts with something very, very intimate, and very personal. You’re the one that’s creating the whole thing. So, it’s almost like an eye of a hurricane or something—at least for me. You’re so close to the craziness of it all, but you don’t feel it.
You mention that these huge things start in very small, intimate ways. Your mom has been notoriously private over the years and has rarely given interviews. Is that part of the reason why?
I think the creation process in general is very intimate, so it may have helped. She wanted herself and her family to live a private life, and I’m extremely grateful for it. I mean, we can walk into a store, buy a Lisa Frank product with a credit card that says Lisa Frank on it, and people will be confused. I just don’t think that I would be able to have the perspective that I have now if I was in the limelight. If you’re put on that pedestal, if you’re really known, then you panic experiencing certain things. It’s just the way it is. [Having that privacy] has definitely been great.