From the early heroines to the new, ambitious crowd of women making their mark in the automotive industry, the car world has seen a great influx of Leading Ladies. Fortunately for those females just getting their bearings in the automotive world, there are many women that have paved the way by following their dreams no matter the hurdles they came up against. Julia Aschenberg– owner, publisher, and editor-in-chief of LIA (Ladies in Autosports) Magazine–is one such female, and it is with great pleasure that we feature her as our latest Leading Lady.
A Love Affair
Aschenberg made her debut in the automotive industry in 1990 as a freelance journalist and photographer. However, she was introduced to the world of cars many years before by her now husband, John, who took her to the 1975 NHRA US Nationals drag race in Indianapolis on one of their first dates.
“We spent the day at the drag races with him explaining the classes, and I used his camera to photograph the day’s events,” Aschenberg explained. “John’s family was into the complete car show scene. His father worked at a Studebaker franchise called Kelly Motors. After dating John for a few months, we went with his family to the Hoosier Auto Show, which was my first introduction to the complete automobile restoration scene. Those two events were the beginnings of my involvement into hot rods.”
After the two married, John bought a camera for Aschenberg, who started using it to photograph weddings and do portraiture work. But it wasn’t long before she moved to photographing old cars, finding her true passion behind the camera lens.
Photographing cars as a hobby led to bigger and better things as Aschenberg sought out ways to get her work published. In 1990, she began freelancing for automotive publications, eventually moving her way up to features, covers, and full spreads in magazines like Street Rodder, Popular Hot Rodding, Super Rod, Street Rod Builder, Super Chevy, Trucking, Classic Trucks, and many more.
“The proudest recognition for me was when I received the very first feature in an automotive magazine,” Aschenberg explained. “I remember when my husband and I had made many trips to the news stand looking for the magazine that was suppose to have my very first feature. We would both go into the store and scour the newsstand for the magazine article. Well, the day it came out I decided to stay in the vehicle. John went into the store and said he would quickly check. He then came to the storefront window with the magazine opened up and he put it up so I could see the feature.”
Having been one of only a few females in an automotive field in the 1990s, one might think that Aschenberg had to have struggled a bit in the male-dominated industry, and she certainly had her hurdles, feeling as though she had to work twice as hard in the early days of her career to prove that her work was just as good and worthy of publishing as submissions made by her male counterparts. But as she told us, the fact that she was a female in a male-dominated field rarely crossed her mind in a deterring way.
No matter what was put in front of her, Aschenberg’s love for cars and passion for photographing them always persevered, allowing her to push through and never stop doing what she loved. Throughout it all, she made many friends and connections, both male and female, that not only believed in her, but also helped her by answering questions, explaining terms, and teaching her about everything she could ever want to know about in the industry.
Over the years, Aschenberg has forged a trail for other women in the automotive industry and continues to influence, encourage, and mentor them in their automotive careers.
“When I first began freelancing in 1990 for the major automotive magazines, I never gave any consideration that I was delving into an industry that was a male-dominated sport,” Aschenberg explained.
“Little did I realize that I could be making history for other women in the future wanting to do the same line of work or encourage them to go after their dreams in the industry.”
Aschenberg certainly has made history and paved the way for plenty of other females in the automotive industry, just as the ladies she looked to for inspiration did before her.
For Aschenberg, the big female influences in her career were, and continue to be, drag racers Shirley Muldowney, The Drag-On Lady Shirley Shahan, and Judy Lilly.
She also very much looks up to current greats in the hot rod industry, such as Mary Pozzi, Stacy Tucker, and Jeanette Ladina.
A Major Career Move
While Aschenberg loved freelancing for a number of automotive publications over the years, she chose to start her own publication, alongside her husband, in 2009. The online publication was called LIA Magazine (LIA standing for Ladies in Autosports), and it continues on to this day.
“I felt the time [had] come for women in the industry of Autosports to get recognition and acknowledgment for their accomplishments that go unnoticed,” Aschenberg explained of her reason behind starting LIA Magazine. “We also need to band together so other women coming into the industry will not repeat any previous women’s mistakes. We can all help our ladies coming into the industry or wanting to get involved in this automotive world. I want to create a landing place for our ladies to share their common tribal knowledge.”
Just recently, Aschenberg announced that LIA Magazine is transitioning into a print magazine, with the first print issue coming out in March. While this is certainly an exciting time for Aschenberg, she passionately explained that this magazine, in no matter what form, is not just for her.
“This is for all the ladies in the industry to be able to relate to the stories being told or believing they can do what others before them have done.”
As far as what Aschenberg would tell any young female looking to get into the automotive industry, she made her passion for the industry obvious once again.
“I would tell any young lady to follow their dreams and don’t give up, especially if you have the passion for the sport,” Aschenberg expressed. “If you have the passion then seek out the answers to your questions from mentors in that area of expertise. Whether it is a male or female in the automotive industry many are willing to help get our younger generation involved in the industry.
“This is what it takes to keep the sport growing for all of us to partake in such a great family industry. There are many mentors in all avenues of the automotive industry that are willing to teach or point a person in the right direction.”
“As my father always told me, we are the ones that stop ourselves, not the other person from reaching our goals. Dream, Believe, and Live! Anything is possible…it all starts with a dream!”