Cool Girls with Tag: musician

Eugenia Cheng

Name: Eugenia Cheng
Age: 38
Location: Chicago
Occupation: Mathematician and pianist

eugenia-piano-resize-200Britain-born Eugenia Cheng knew at a young age that she wanted to be a mathematician or pianist, but didn’t know that she would grow up to be a wild success at both. Today Eugenia has brought her love of math to ink and paper, writing a new book on the subject called How to Bake Pi.

As a child, she began playing piano at only three years old, and couldn’t find a teacher willing to instruct such a young student until she was the age of five. She also started playing violin at three, but preferred the piano due to how self-sufficient it could be. “Which is funny because now my favorite thing to do with the piano is collaborate with singers,” Eugenia says.

As for her love beyond music, her attraction to mathematics also began at an early age, and that natural, youthful curiosity still hasn’t quit.
eugenia-cake-resize-200“I think I never stopped being the toddler who keeps asking the question ‘Why?’ until all the adults are fed up with them! For me, mathematics provides the most satisfying and irrefutable answers to the question ‘Why?’ at the end of a long string of ‘Whys’,” she explains. But that’s not to say that getting older and more proficient with her skills has made things less vivacious or fun. “The best thing about being an adult is that nobody can really tell me what to do! I can eat chocolate for breakfast, eat ice cream in midwinter, and stay up all night if I feel like it,” she jokes.

While music and math may seem different, Eugenia sees the similarities. “There is a lot of structure in music that is very mathematical to me, but that’s also because to me mathematics is all about structure,” she says. But she also sees how certain artists, like Bach, Wagner, and Chopin, jive with the more creative, less linear parts of her thought process.

eugenia-illuminated-resize“For me personally, music is relief from mathematics,” she admits. “Math is all about logic; music is all about emotion. I balance myself out with those two opposite extremes.” Much like finally solving a complex problem, uniting both of her loves is about striking a harmonious chord!

One might expect such a successful author, mathematician, and musician to have to conform to a disciplined, dull schedule to maximize every hour of the day, but Eugenia keeps her daily life fairly unrestricted, save for a little bit of routine to keep her sleep habits in line with the waking world. “My favourite bedtime is 4am, and then I get up around 9 or 10. However at the moment I’m trying to get up at 6:30am, I then force myself not to look at my phone or computer but to sit and think about pure research for a while,” she says. The rest of a typical day is spent writing and editing, cooking, exercising, practicing piano, and socializing.

eugentia-bagel-resizeEugenia’s next missive is to illuminate some of the lesser-known aspects of the math world, and to reach out to those who may feel distanced from the field itself. She hopes to show people how math can be both “fun and beautiful, not that awful hated subject in high-school.” Her goal is not just to educate, but to inspire. And to young women in particular who might be struggling to find their footing in the world of mathematics, Eugenia has some clever words of wisdom, “Remember: a lot of boys who say they find it easy are actually getting it all wrong!”

As for the future, Eugenia has big dreams, but for someone as talented as her they’re more than possible, they’re as probable and logical as math itself. “I hope to reach more and more people with both mathematics and music, and break down unnecessary boundaries around things so that everyone can share the things I love most,” she says. “I also hope we can get to a point where we don’t need female role models any more, because everyone knows that women can do all the things that men can do.”

For her inspiring triumphs in both mathematics and music, and for writing books that trigger thought and discussion, we think Eugenia Cheng is one Cool Girl!

Nikki Borodi

Name: Nikki Borodi
Age: 35
Location: Oakland, CA
Occupation: Performance Artist

Nikki Upright UkeNikki Borodi is a musician, aerialist, clown, and performer in San Francisco, California, and she’s dedicated her whole life to making art of different mediums available to all of us. But, like many young girls out there, she struggled with bullying in school, and found her creativity as an outlet that gave her strength growing up.

“I was the biggest outcast around,” Nikki says about school. “People made fun of my hair from ages 7 until 17, which was when I started college early to get away from the challenges. Not a day went by that I didn’t come home crying from the bullying.”

Fortunately for Nikki, she triumphed over her adversity, eventually becoming a vibrant, expressive performer, everywhere from on stage to in the air, spinning on silks! Nikki’s quest to become a Cool Girl started at an early age, in part because of the Material Girl!

“I saw Madonna perform when I was seven years old and it influenced the entire direction my life took,” she recalls. “I remember the roar of the audience and the way it built up and exploded when she jumped onto the stage. My big dreams were what kept me going though the challenges of my childhood. At one point I actually got to thank her for being such a superhero and saving my life in a certain kind of way. I was super grateful to have the opportunity to thank her for her inspiration.”

Nikki Upside DownFrom being messed with to meeting Madonna is the type of awesome experience Nikki chalks up to her dedication to her craft, one where no day can be described as “typical.”

“It depends on what my project is at the current time, but training aerials, partner acrobatics, working on music, my yoga/meditation practice and my recent interest in video editing occupy my time,” she says of her day-to-day routine. “I also love taking my little dog Max for walks, and spending quality time with the wonderful beings in my world. Balancing work and play are super important to me.”

And juggling both is critical for Nikki as she looks to conquer the world by uniting both her music and visual art. She’s currently working on five music videos as well as a Circus Rock show when she’s not teaching or performing. She’s even hoping to tour her acro-ukulele act! So how does Nikki recommend that fledgling Cool Girls who may be dealing with being teased as they start to express themselves?

Nikki From Ted Talk“I think that creative visualization is a really useful tool when trying to manifest new creative work. Really taking the time to sit and create a visual and visceral experience of what it is they are working towards. I think also having friends that are also working towards their own dreams that they can have check-ins with where they can hold each other accountable for goals they are setting and offer overall support is really useful as well.. Most importantly take at least one step, put at least minutes towards their goal EVERY day,” she advises. Very wise words from a woman who flies!


Check out Nikki’s aerial extravaganza, as well as her musical act, at her website,

You can take a peek at Nikki in action here and see her music video for her song “Lion Queen” here

Nikki in TedxBerkeley

Nikki’s Facebook