Meet our Editorial Director + Creative Strategist, Ella Jayes! She is also our 50th interview on the site, I guess some things are just meant to be. Along with interviewing, editing, and generally keeping This Generation running – Jayes works full-time at Milk Studios (after 2 years her last day is today!), she'll continue contributing to their editorial platform XYZ, and has recently started shooting events for publications such as Purple Diary. This time next week she’ll be settled in Paris (her new home), learning the language and seeing what’s in store for her. I expect nothing but the best will come her way, after all the current URL in your browser would be non-existent without her.
This interview took place over the phone between Tate in New York and Ella Jayes in Los Angeles
Editor: Lily Sperry; Photography Charlotte Marsalese
TVPS: Ella! How did you get here?
EJ: I went into college with an advertising major, but after taking a couple classes I decided to switch over to media studies.
At USF, there are three pillars under the media studies umbrella: journalism, audio production, and video production. I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5, so I minored in music. Plus all my friends and lovers were musicians too; it seemed fitting. I was going to five concerts a week, studying opera, and music theory – it was cool to have this super stimulating creative experience in college.
For my 3rd year of college, I studied abroad in Paris at AUP. I have dual citizenship in the United Kingdom, so I've always been a huge fan of Europe. I think it's really important to travel – the creative world and any world that I would want to live in is super, super global. There's nothing more important in education than to learn about someone else's culture and how to live by yourself. I didn't know anyone when I moved to Paris. It was a bit stressful because none of my classes coincided with my major or minor, but there were so many other ways in which I was learning: going to all of these museums, learning a different language, and just figuring out how to navigate life in general.
After the school year ended, I came back and spent the whole summer interning at this creative agency (no longer existent) called SUPER!, that was founded by Dana Boulos and Kate Parfet. Dana is my really good friend and she's an amazing photographer, director, and all around creative person in Los Angeles. Helping these people build this company gave me a lot of freedom to learn without putting my own name on the line.
I made a Google Doc of every single day that I worked for them: where I met them that day, the tasks that I did, the resources that I tapped into, and how many hours I worked. As an intern, I think that's so important to have, whether you want to grow within a company or look for a new job. If someone asks me what my role was or what I accomplished, I could literally pull it up right now and tell you what I did on May 20th, 2016, or any date. You can print that out and say, “look how useful I am to you.” It's tangible proof that can’t be denied. When you do an unpaid internship it's really important that you know your worth and you are taking chart of that. That internship is also how I made some of my best friends.
The following Fall, I went back to school and unexpectedly graduated a semester early. I was really happy to continue on with my life. I went to Europe for a month and then after being there for three weeks I was like, “Well, I need to be productive again, get me back to the United States.” So I came back January, beginning of 2017. While I was away, I was cold-emailing every magazine that I could think of and kept googling “cool creative agencies.” My boyfriend at the time walked this really cool show in Paris so I researched the agency that put it on, which was PR Consulting. I hadn’t heard of it, but they had a pretty cool roster. I noticed that they had offices in New York, LA, and Paris. That was something that was really appealing to me because I wanted to be able to work somewhere that I’d be able to internally transfer from office to office.
Another company I had on my radar was Milk. Dana had done this short film, Crimson Rose, for Milk Makeup that I briefly assisted on while I was back in LA for a weekend from school. I kept seeing that brand, but had no idea what it was. I cold-emailed all these companies, so the first week I was back from Europe, I interviewed at PRC, Milk, a retail store, and a coffee shop.
I ended up landing all four but accepted the internship at Milk as they only hire full-time positions internally. Since Milk was unpaid, I also did the coffee job for a moment; I think it's so fun to have a so-called “normal” job because you have the ability to learn anything if you're putting your best effort forward. Just make the most of everything. I remember being so excited to take all the coffee art classes and to learn the perfect way to clean all the machines.
My first day at Milk was January 31st, 2017 and after about a month, they asked if I wanted to start freelancing. After six days, they asked me to close by myself. I was so naive and so down that I was like, “Yeah, of course, I can do it.” Which is crazy!
I freelanced for a couple more times in February. I remember once I was driving Julian, who was my boss at the time, and he asked, “Hey, would you ever work here full-time?” It was a no brainer for me – an immediate yes. A couple of days later, Shaun, the bookings director, pulled me aside and offered me the job. I was so excited and thinking, “this is the best day of my life.”
I started working full-time in April, and also started collaborating with Milk's editorial platform Milk.xyz, which is based in New York. I had studied journalism in school, but I got into interviewing out of pure curiosity. I loved the musician Cosmo Pyke and I was thinking, “I want to be friends with him. How do I do that?” “Oh, I'll interview him. I'll take a photo, I'll Skype him and make some cool piece about it.”
People have different perspectives and I just want to learn how every single person thinks. The different ways that people's brains work are so interesting. Also, for any interview there are a lot of moving pieces and it's the Capricorn in me that loves to just produce the shit out of everything.
So going back to my role at Milk Studios LA, I was on the night shift closing Wednesday through Sunday. I would get in around 3:00 PM and the earliest I would leave was 12:00 AM, but it could range anywhere up until 8:00 AM the next day. You never really knew what you were walking into. I did that for about 10 months, then I got offered the Monday through Friday opening shift, which I’m still doing now.
Milk aside – I met Tate (who founded This Generation) in November 2017, which sounds so long ago. That's crazy town. I read Tate's interview with Ashleigh Kane, because I wanted to work for Dazed so badly. I was following Ashleigh on Instagram and saw that she had done this interview, I'm pretty sure I read it when I was closing, at like 4:00 AM.
There were so many things in that interview that I could relate to. She also said how she would stay up until 4 AM writing something just out of pure excitement and determination to keep going further, and that’s exactly how I felt.
That interview left me wanting to know more – when you're driven in this industry, you want any morsel of information on how you can do better. When you’re set on going into a creative industry, you end up graduating with a media studies degree, for example, and you're like, “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?” There are so many options, but they’re not always obvious. You might just not know how to send your opening email correctly, and that’s what might be holding you back. But, it's really not that hard; they’re all teachable things. I just want there to be more light shed on everything so that people know what positions are out there and how to get them – that’s why I related to TG.
I ended up reaching out to Tate on Instagram asking if I could be involved, she responded, we had a call, I started editing, and that’s how I got into the TG world.
What’s your role with us, This Generation?
I hate titles, but essentially I’m helping Tate grow out her vision of creating a site where people can come and learn more about what opportunities exist in the fashion industry (we hope to branch out to other creative industries - and are, soon!) I interview, edit, and am also a very opinionated ear for what’s to come and how we do things (how the site looks, who we interview, who we bring on to the team, etc.) Basically, Tate and I just talk on the phone every day and are also texting, emailing, slacking, and dming 24-7 about all things TG related.
And your role for Milk?
I'm one of the studio coordinators who essentially manages the front desk. Day to day, what that means is I am the first person there in the morning (on the bookings side of things.) So in super general terms, I open up the space – make sure that all the studios are good to go, everything that the client requested is done, we’re all squared away with incoming/outgoing packages, and also making sure that everything I’m doing is being properly communicated to the rest of the team. Everything has to be seamless. Sometimes when I come in, I overlap with the night shift. There’s a neon sign in the EQ department that says “We Never Close,” and sometimes it’s painfully true.
During the day, my responsibility is to make sure that our client’s needs are met; whether that’s sweeping water off the roof in the pouring rain to prevent leaks, sourcing a taxidermy horse, or escorting talent to their respective studio – the tasks totally range. Efficiency and urgency are everything. It’s so important to have a great attitude with whatever you’re doing. A production day is typically ten hours in the photo world, so five minutes of someone waiting for a robe can feel like 800 years. You just have to get it together and be really attentive, even when you’re being pulled in several directions. It's hospitality, so doing everything we can on our end to make sure that the standard is as high as possible is important.
Aside from the daily tasks, there are four main studio coordinators, and we all have different responsibilities on the side. I used to be in charge of the internship program, and I still do a lot of the interviews. I briefly handled any repairs or maintenance in the building. But right now, I am responsible for purchasing everything in the studio from pens to couches, and decals to wine bottles. If you walk into Milk and see a Bertoia chair, I know where we bought it from, who the vendor contact is, exactly how much it costs, how much the cushion costs incase we have to get it repaired, who repairs it, and what the turnaround time is. I feel like my brain has just become a Milk catalog!
It’s hard to explain what I do at Milk because we are really one giant family – everyone is always helping each other out, no matter what department we’re in. It’s why I can drive a scissor lift and also why I have a weird amount of knowledge on corporate cleaning products. It’s part of the company culture and I really believe it’s rooted in the fact that everyone started off as an intern. Everyone works so hard and expects the same from their coworkers.
For XYZ, I contribute predominantly to their Artist of the Week section. I also started a section called On the Road for the Record, where we interview musicians about being on tour. That series was created out of the fact that every single time I tried to interview a musician that was on tour, they would come back saying, “We don't have enough time for an interview.” I also knew from interviewing other musicians that they were so not down to keep answering the same questions, like, “Where's your inspiration from?” I needed to find a new avenue to interview people, and tour is such a huge part of musicians' lives. And I think it's more interesting to talk about their life on the road than, like, “Oh, tell us more about your album that you've done ten interviews about already.”
So basically, I just pitch and research a lot of artists. I like to set up interviews and photoshoots all over the world. I've done Montreal, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Paris, London, Chicago, etc. – I’m also talking to a guy in Amsterdam right now. Sometimes I take the photos too!
I’ve gotten the opportunity to speak to artists I really look up to like Jorja Smith, Kai from Mount Kimbie, Toro y Moi, and Elias from Iceage. I’ve also made some of my best friends and work friends doing this. I think it's important to not only interview people from New York or LA. Diverse world perspectives makes the site and everything else so much more interesting.
So since you started with This Generation in 2017, how have you noticed us grow?
Well, the biggest thing is we have a new site and we also have a proper editorial calendar. Tate and I are very much opposites, so whereas she’s very business oriented and thinks through everything several times, me on the other hand, I’m like “Yeah, let’s jump off the cliff!” Between the two of us we were able to get an editorial calendar that works - a balance between meeting deadlines and publishing every Thursday, but also still giving the opportunity to every interviewee to approve their interview. Which sounds harder than it is, especially because our interviewees are juggling a lot as well!
Have you learned anything from working on This Generation?
I mean, I've learned a million things through just reading and editing the interviews. The most fun thing is reading people's interviews and understanding what their job titles are, what they do, and how they got there. Because our interviews are so detailed, it feels as though I've done it all. I think that’s pretty cool.
Something interesting that I’ve learned from Tate is that she's always just asking people to criticize her. She’s like, “What can I do better?” And that's such a noble thing because I'm always like, “Don't tell me that I did anything wrong, because I didn't do anything wrong.” Again it’s the Capricorn thing. Of course, I'm down to hear feedback, but Tate literally begs for it. It’s cool because she’s created such a tough skin and she doesn’t take any of it personally. That’s really important.
Trust me, I do!
What are your non-negotiables for your day to day life?
I have to meditate in the morning, 100%.
I think it's important to set boundaries for yourself. I really enjoy working and I think what I do is so fun. I’m one of those people that thrives off of extreme stress and having way too many deadlines, but the only reason I can handle it is because of the fact that I take care of myself mentally.
Your intuition is the most important thing to you. So if you're not eating well and you're not sleeping and you're not exercising and you're not doing all of these things that perpetuate having the best intuition as possible, then you can't trust it. As long as your intuition is good, as long as you're good, then you're making the right decisions and you can trust that. That's the best thing you can do, and that’s what’s non-negotiable for me.
What was your biggest learning experience?
I think when you first start a new job, it's really important to understand that everyone is going to be a little bit different, personality wise. And that's totally okay, you just have to figure out what someone’s specific needs are. For example, if you need something, for one person, you can just ask them straight off the bat, but another person, you might have to give them an entire PowerPoint presentation. There are so many personality types out there. And the best thing you can do is get to know your coworkers and bosses so that you can present things in a way that benefits both parties and meets your end goal. If you have good ideas and you are trying to do something good, you can do it and you will have the support of others – you just gotta think about how you are framing it.
When you envision yourself in the future, what makes you happy?
I was actually listening to this audiobook today called “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think”. One of the essays was talking about how when you're asked about your future, it's always based on some title. It's like, “Oh, I'm going to be the CEO of this company, and I'm going to make a lot of money.” The author talked about how you think so much about the end goal rather than what it even means to get there. What does it mean to have that tite? What goes on in your day-to-day?
So to answer that question, I see myself continuing to lead a life that's culturally informed from several different perspectives, where I can constantly research and talk to creatives. Younger people, older people, just getting new perspectives on things. I also want to have homes all around the world, but not in a materialistic way. More so that when my friends are in Spain or New York, they can say, “Oh, let’s just stay at Ella's place.” I see myself practicing generosity, challenging myself and my friends (hopefully they are pushing me too), learning a ton of languages, staying curious, getting super excited, reading, doing yoga, eating delicious food, and constantly learning new skills.
You're off to Paris very soon! Three weeks, am I right?
Yes! I'm moving to Paris at the beginning of March. I just bought my Eurostar ticket from London.
What are you most looking forward to?
I'm really looking forward to buckling down and learning the language fluently. If you don't know another language, you're closing off so many doors to yourself. Even just understanding that in French, saying "Tu me manques" means “I miss you” but a word for word translation means, “you're missing from me.” I mean, how beautiful is that? When I die, I better be buried knowing at least 3 or 4 languages.
I’m looking forward to the fact that everything is just so in flow right now and I really feel like I’m on the right path. A good little mantra I have for myself, is not, “Right place, right time,” but literally, “Best place, best time.” Because whatever you're doing in that moment is what you were destined to do.
What advice would you give to someone who looks up to you?
Take care of yourself first and then do everything else. I said this before, but if you're not sleeping enough, if you're not meditating, if you're not working out, if you're not doing all these things, you're not going to do anything else well, so there's no freaking point. After you take care of yourself, you’ll still have time to work on what you need to and you'll fucking be a rock star at it. Also, tell your friends and family how much you love and adore them.
So looking back at little Ella, is there anything that we didn’t cover that she would like want to know from this interview?
Always send a thank you email after an interview. That's it.