You Want to Go into Journalism / Writing / Editing
So how did you get here?
I grew up in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne. I always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve always been very self-conscious about my work. I’m a Virgo, so in other words, I’m a perfectionist, and nothing I do is good enough. I thought, "Well, I can't be a writer because this person is better than me. They read more. They've got a bigger vocabulary." So for a bit, I decided to study PR as well because I assumed that it’d be easier to get into, or at least more fruitful financially.
I was still in Melbourne and since the fashion industry wasn’t as huge there, I had a difficult time trying to figure myself out, find the right career and people to look up to who felt like me. After a while I was thinking, "This is not working for me here. I'm going to move to London."
I was 20, and this sounds very privileged, but my mom asked, "What do you want for your 21st birthday?" And I said, "I don't want a party or presents. I want a one-way ticket to London. I think it was about £300." So she sorted that out, and 3 weeks later I was here. I thought, "Cool. I'm going to go to LCF," but the tuition was 10k, so then it was “Guess I’m not going to LCF.”
I scrapped my degree and made my way around London doing a lot of hospitality work, and eventually got into consumer PR a few years after making some money in restaurants. It wasn’t for me – it wasn’t the creative work I had craved. So I took 2 years off to work in hospitality again while I figured it out. I was 25 at that point, and that’s when my now ex-boyfriend, his parents, asked us to look after their apartment while they dealt with some family things overseas.
Oh, sweet deal.
So I picked up my studies again but this time with a focus in journalism. One of the modules that I needed to complete was an internship. I was searching on this website called fashionworkie.com and saw that Dazed had a listing for a receptionist intern, so I thought, "Okay. I'm going to do that because 10 people are going to apply to that one in comparison to 100 for the editorial one.” When I applied this amazing guy, Harry Pearce, emailed back, and asked for me to come in the next day. I was freaking out. I ran out and bought the latest issue of Dazed; I didn't have it. People think that you have to be obsessed with the magazines that you want to work for. You obviously have to appreciate them, but you don’t have to be an expert. You just need to be prepared to learn and throw yourself in head first and whole heartedly.
I looked up everyone in that issue, but they actually didn't ask any of that, they just wanted to get to know me. Harry was asking me questions about my personality and who I am, what I want to do, and I mentioned I wanted to do journalism, and that I was studying it. He said, "Great! Well, you know, if you had the opportunity to intern here, you could obviously, speak to those departments." He’s one of the people that I list for really giving me a leg up.
Somehow I got it and when I started, I was really appreciative to be there, but I was thinking, "How do I get from this point to writing?" So I just said “Hi” to everyone because I was the first person that people saw in the morning. People think that being the receptionist or handing out the mail is trivial but no, it builds relationships. Those people remember you because you've done something for them. I would also ask questions when I could and soon I got to a point where I felt comfortable emailing those people and asking, "Hey, I'm a journalism student, I'd love to write something." And they'd say, "Yeah, pitch some ideas go for it." But nothing was really getting picked up.
Then I thought, "Whatever, I'm just going to email the fashion features editor,” who's now our editor-in-chief, Isabella Burley. She's a huge inspiration, and I was nervous, but I emailed her and asked, "Do you have anything that I can write?” She emailed back saying, "Hey, write this. Someone's written it, but I'm not happy." I was freaking out because she wasn’t happy with the one that she paid for! But I wrote it and sent it back to her, and she said, "This is great. When can you come and intern for me?"
So I did and I made myself indispensable. I was still working part-time at the restaurant, but I was just so excited to be there. I would go home and stay up all night transcribing the editorial team’s transcriptions. This one time I knew what I had transcribed was going to be in print so when it came out, I was like, "Oh, I transcribed those words." It’s so silly but it’s the small things that you really take hold of and appreciate.
Also, Dazed is really DIY, and we're still independent, which filters through to the way that things are structured and how we work. Everyone is doing a million jobs at once, and since there’s no time to micromanage, you're thrown right into the deep end which is the best thing. I never had to get anyone coffee or walk someone's dog. Instead, I was transcribing, coming up with interview questions, working on brand features, from the get go. I was so scared, of course. I was good scared, though. I would stay up until 4 AM writing something. But the feedback that I got was so helpful where I just hung around after my internship ended and did things for Isabella here and there.
Also, another thing is that everyone is really friendly, you just have to put yourself out of your comfort zone. I was 25 years old doing an internship with 18-year-olds, and I wasn't like, "Hey, I'm a failure. I'm 25, doing my first internship." I was appreciative that I probably had my head on a bit more than my 18-year-old self. I put my pride aside. I didn't take it personally when they would say something like, "What is this sentence you've written?" Instead, I would say, "Okay, great, I'll change that." I feel like if I had done that internship at 18, I don't know if I would have been the same person doing it at 25. Every time I was transcribing and researching I took that as a real learning opportunity.
Then a freelance job popped up at Nowness when they were relaunching their site so I took that. I was recommended by my colleagues at the time, Trey Taylor and Owen Myers – I’ll never forget how appreciative I was to them, and still am. At first, it was a lot of menial tasks, but soon, the editor in chief at the time, Terence Teh, asked me do a few interviews for them. Also, just meeting all of these people, they might not do something immediately for you, but 6 months down the line, they're going to say, "Hey! I remember that person." Hopefully. I always thought that even though I wasn’t the best writer but if I was nice, friendly, and open then I might land on my feet.
So after a year of interning and assisting, I was getting pretty antsy, like “Shit I’m real tired and broke, and where is this even going?” Luckily though, the digital assistant was leaving Dazed, and Harry, who's always looked out for me, said, "On the down-low, nobody knows this yet but the digital assistant is leaving her position, and you should apply before it's announced.” So I did, and, after a few interviews and serious moments of doubt, I ended up getting it.
Within that year a lot of things were changing, so I sat down with the HR and said "This is what I'm doing, this is what I have done and this is what I can do. I need some more faith; I need a different job title." Then the guy who was our editor in chief at the time, Tim Noakes, said, "Do you know what? You're going to be our Arts and Culture editor, but we can’t pay you anymore right now. You’ll see though; this will open a lot of doors.”
At that point, I was walking to work, I was so broke. Tim was right though, quite quickly, things did start to change. So many doors opened which made me realize that, of course, you need money but if there’s any way that you can make it work, prioritize on getting the job that makes you excited to go to work every day.
It was tough; I used to try and get on the tube and not pay the fare. Where I was living, I could take the DLR, and there were certain points where you could get on and get off, and you wouldn't have to tap in. There are no gates. Or I’d get on a bus and not tap in or whatever. Don't do that though; I got done a few times. It's not great.
Someone said this the other day, and I think it’s true, I find that it’s the journey up to wherever you want to go that is the most important because once you get what you want, it's even scarier. I guess because you have to decide what to do with it. But that journey is the most rewarding and when you're going through it, it's important to stop along the way and think, "Wow! This is what I'm doing.”
I feel like today everyone is so focused on what’s next and I want to say enjoy where you are, don’t look at who's around you or who you think might be doing better, appreciate where you are. And just move forward with your own thing.
So what’s your role now?
I’m the Arts and Cultures editor, but I primarily focus on photography and art because I’ve learned that you can’t do it all. As we've developed as a team, we've gotten designated news writers and news editors, and now they’re the ones who focus on culture and look after that side.
Also, in a company like Dazed where we’re constantly changing and growing yet still independent and a bit DIY. There’s always an area which can be developed, you can find your niche, and I did. I focused on art and photography.
My daily job is to publish 2 articles a day, and they could be something that I’ve written, or someone else has that I’ve commissioned. People say editors don't write, but I write and commission every day. Commissioning is quite a tricky one, I always thought publications had a huge bank of writers that they just choose from, and they send their amazing ideas and words and then that's it. To be honest, it's a lot harder to do because first of all, you need someone with your tone of voice and your outlook, in a sense, the Dazed way that we look at things. Then they also need to follow through with it. I actually end up commissioning a lot of our old interns.
So keep that in mind, if you’re on the other side and sending out your own work. We don’t have a crazy amount of writers, and I don't have millions of articles to choose from. So yeah, I go through pitches every day and commission them, or I have ideas, and I send them out to people because unfortunately, I don't have time to always write larger ones myself. Or we’ll have the opportunity to conduct these amazing interviews, and if I don’t have time to do them, I’ll see who can. Then I’ll get the copy in, feedback if needed, edit it, publish it.
The other side of the job is commercial, because we’re a magazine, so that’s what funds us. So that’s working on brand campaigns that are either through the Dazed channel, so it’ll be Dazed presents with Levi's or whatever and they get published on the site. Or we also have Dazed Studio as well, which is a white label so that’s working on brand campaigns that don't have Dazed associated with it but they have our outlook, our team, and our contacts. Those are 2 things that make up a big part of my day.
Then the other thing that is a huge part of the job, which can be overlooked, is that you do have to go out and meet people. You have to go to meetings and parties or dinners or just meet a photographer who's in town or whatever. There are so many times when I've met someone randomly, and it's led to an opportunity for both of us.
People think that everyone just sits behind their desks a lot now. But I always try and get out and go to events and stuff, especially art openings or whatever. London's so DIY and we always have something going on. When people ask, "How did you make your connections?" It is literally that. It's being awkward and not knowing anyone but going anyways. It's only awkward for like a few minutes max, and then you run into someone you know, or strike up a conversation. It's putting yourself on the line, which is maybe even the hardest part because you're not secure like you are on your keyboard. You have to go out and put your faith in humanity. Which is fucking scary but it's so important. And most of these events are public! You just search the web or search Facebook or follow who your friends are following and you see where people are going and you go there and meet people, and make friends.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to pitch something?
Yeah, definitely. I actually have this little guide for how to pitch that I’ll send out to people if what they’re pitching isn't quite right because I want to hear from them again.
How did you get to where you are today?
In my sophomore year of college, I interned at Glamour magazine in their fashion closet. Starting in the fashion closet isn’t something I would necessarily recommend, but it gives you a perspective of how the machine of fashion works. The next internship I had was at a website called Lifestyle Mirror. It was my first writing internship and it was a really small place so they let me write stories. The summer after that, I interned at the Daily Beast, where I also got to write. But the internships that really got me where I am today were at The Cut and Man Repeller, where I landed after graduating. I learned a lot about how 2 different types of organizations are run. Man Repeller was a super small operation at the time, which was amazing because I would have an idea and they would say go for it.
For instance, they let me go to fashion week, which was great. But one of the first big things that I did was when Cathy Horyn, my idol, left the New York Times I wrote something about why we need Cathy Horyn’s criticism in the industry, and she liked my tweet and it was like my entire world exploded. It was the first time where I realized you can put something out into the world and people see it. It was a scary thing but also an addictive and exciting thing. At the end of the summer, I reached out to Garance Doré who is a blogger. I was her personal assistant, so again it was all hands on deck. It was different from Man Repeller because it was more about about visuals. She had such a strong visual identity, whereas Man Repeller had a very strong voice and mission. I learned so much in a completely different way, but I realized that I wanted to be a writer. I had actually applied to Condé Nast multiple times in the past so my resume was in their resume bank, so they were the ones who reached out to me when they had a position open up.
They were looking for another assistant position and I didn’t want to do that as I was trying to move in a different direction, so I told them that. Then they mentioned that they had an opening at W, so of course, I asked to interview for that. I got along really well with the editor who interviewed me, and it was clear that it was the perfect fit.
When I first started, I learned so much because I was doing so many different things, like social media for instance. Through that experience, I got to see firsthand what posts do well and what posts don't do well. I learned the ins and outs of sharing content which ended up becoming a valuable tool for my writing. I was given this amazing opportunity of a lot more responsibility and freedom because it was and still is such a small team. I got to interview celebrities and figured out that I also really liked interviewing musicians as well.
When you first started college, did you have any idea of where you thought you wanted to be?
Yeah, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. It was one of those situations where it was like, I'm good at this, and I'm also not good at anything else. My interest in fashion has always been there. At the end of the day, I can't fight it; I love clothing. When I went to the McQueen exhibit at the Met, I felt something emotional. It’s so artistic and beautiful, and fuck anyone who tries to tell me that it's not. Every once in awhile I’ll think I should be writing about politics, then I realize I’m bad at that and someone better than me can do that, and they will. I need to focus on what I'm good at.
You mentioned a couple of internships being really rewarding for you. Do you have a stance on unpaid internships?
If you can get a paid internship, do a paid internship. In the world that we live in, that's pretty hard to find. Internships help on your resume, as in people respond to you when they see a name. It also helps you understand the industry better when you see the inside of so many different offices because they vary so much. It helps you figure out what you want. If you can do them, do them. If you can't do them, there's still a way to make your mark- you just have to know what people want. If doing an unpaid internship is going to break your back, put you in debt or something crazy like that, I wouldn't do it; there's got to be a better way. But if you can do it, do it.
Do you consider yourself a personal brand?
Yes, I lean into that fully. I'm active on social media because I like it, but I'm also very aware of what I'm putting out there. When you spend all day on social media, you understand what it means to have a profile and what that says about you. It helps you know who you are and what you're about.
I've learned in the past 2 years where I wouldn't be a good fit. After I had graduated college, I wanted to work everywhere, but now I know there are very few places that would be a good fit for me and that I would be a good fit for. It's important to find places where your voice matches and your brand matches their brand.
Does defining your personal brand help you realize what publications you’d match with and which ones wouldn’t?
Definitely. Having your brand and seeing it allows you to compare it to other people and know where you fit in. It’s not about what you can and can't do because you can do whatever you want and you can change your brand very easily. But I think of it like puzzle pieces; it helps you figure out where you truly fit.
Do you believe that having a personal brand is vital to success within the fashion industry?
I don't think it's vital. I think if it's not you, don't force it. There are definitely ways to get around it, but I don't know how people do their jobs without it. People who don't have accounts that are public facing, they still have accounts. They're checking Instagram; they're checking Twitter, they're still on it. So I think that’s important or you get left behind. But regarding making your profile, it's not necessary.
Can you give an overview of your role?
What I've learned over the years is that I have to plan ahead. I need at least 1 or 2 stories a day, which is a lot of content. One of those can come from a news item that happens that day. I have a TweetDeck open at all times, and I’m obsessive about Instagram. In that sense I'm constantly checking what's happening, see if there is any news that I need to respond to. I also spend a good amount of my day digging for people who I would want to reach out to. I immediately start reaching out to them because I know that if I reach out to them today, they'll get back to me by midweek and then I'll have to set something up for the following week. I learned that it takes a long time to make a piece happen.
How do you find these people?
There are a couple of ways that I find people. First, people pitch me stuff. I get a ton of emails everyday, from music PR people, or modeling agencies, being like so and so's daughter or son is going into modeling, do you want to interview them? And the answer is always yes.
I also read a ton a day, and you find little nuggets in things. I'm not reading a profile on The Rock and saying I need to interview The Rock. I'm looking at the profile and seeing that they may have mentioned he has a daughter, so I’ll say we need to interview The Rock's daughter. You find little details, in pieces that are out there already.
People today are consuming journalism in very small tidbits. Do you think that as this space is shrinking, there will still be room for strong journalism?
Totally. The New Yorker is still the finest, most successful publication. People want to seem smart, and they want to associate themselves with magazines like The New Yorker because it’s amazing. I always remind myself that The New Yorker and The New York Times still pull the highest numbers. I also think people want to read long form fashion journalism; it’s just about the way that you present it. For instance, the Paris Hilton story that I did could've been a Q&A. It could have been so many iterations, but I wanted it to be 3,000 words on Paris Hilton and to present it as such. I learned at that moment if you package something like an intellectual magazine on the internet, people will click on it, and they will read it from start to finish because it's presented as something that they need to consume, and that's important to culture.
How do you present a long form article in such a way that it garners that type of attention?
Just taking the time yourself, I very rarely write that many words on anything. But I just said, we're going there. It's also a person's life, so in that sense, I don't think I could have done it in fewer words.
I like to give readers catnip along the way; I did 2 or 3 slide shows that were embedded within the piece and were supportive of the argument that I was making in writing. The W homepage is all Paris Hilton right now if you blow it up in a way that shows people visually how important it is and how far it spans, then that helps. We did every iteration, photo, video, writing, as a packaged deal. When you present something as a packaged deal, it looks like a cover story, and that's what people like because it makes it about the reader. I think most cover stories, you'll be able to find yourself in them, or it's interesting to you for some reason.
More people are becoming interested in fashion and know and have an understanding of who people like Azzedine Alaia are, does that have an affect your role?
It’s great; it means that more people know what I'm talking about. I think we're still doing what we're doing in a sense that we're talking about Vetements before anyone knew what Vetements was or cared to. So our approach hasn’t changed, it’s just that more people are responding to it. Also, instead of writing about something just once, it has many different waves. For instance, you write about it when it hits New York and then again when it hits the smaller cities.
Do you write about trends in a different way as they evolve and as your audience is expanding?
Definitely. First, the editors who go to Paris write about it, so for this case, Vetements. We read it and are like, “Oh there’s this thing called Vetements.” So when it comes to New York, then we cover it. Then fast forward a few months, and it hits stores, and Kylie Jenner wears it, and suddenly the world knows about. At that point, we’ll cover it again but in a different way because people are asking to know more about it, and how can they wear it. People then gain interest, and by the end of it you're asking, is it dead? What’s next? That's just the cycle of fashion, birth to death.
But now it’s fun to wear things ironically, so maybe trends have a longer life than before. Like people are saying that the 2000’s are back, and I’m like we just did that, what does that even mean? And now it’s such a mainstream thing.
You see people in Juicy Couture……….
And now it’s at Urban Outfitters.. but I kind of want it.… it’s like we want to be a little trashy right now. This is all to say that fashion and popular culture, it’s our lives and what we want, and it’s emblematic of so much more than just a piece of clothing, and that’s my favorite thing to write about. Are the 2000’s back? Why? Why is Kylie Jenner wearing Vetements and Juicy? That to me, the collision of all the things that I am interested in, and that other people are interested in, it presents itself in a way that could be much more than the fashion world.
What’s your biggest learning experience?
If you want to get paid, ask to get paid.
After an internship, it’s about saying let’s do this. As an intern, you become incredibly valuable to your employer; they cannot function without you. So at the end of it, they can either look for someone else and have to train that someone else, or not if you've proved yourself as invaluable. It’s always worth a shot to ask.
Also, there are endless lessons when it comes to interviewing people. I'm too nice a lot of the time; I'll say “Okay, I won't ask them about what said they didn’t want to comment on.” But you have to go back and tell them, “Well then I'm going to say that your client declined to comment” and then they'll say “Oh wait, we'll give you a quote!” You have to push back; you can be aggressive when it comes to PR people, you have to ask for what you want and what you need regarding an interview.
That must be a really fine line because you want to maintain a good relationship with them but at the same time, you need to get what you need to write that article.
Yes, and that's something that they don't teach you in college. Interacting with managers, PR people- that whole world has been something that I've had to figure out. I had a big learning experience when I wrote an article about someone, and they said that it had to come down. I hate confrontation and people not liking me, and I had to grow thick skin. You learn that the people that you interview are not your friends, you're doing your job and the PR people are doing their job. It feels like a fun human interaction where you're hanging out or spending the day with someone, and you get to know them, but at the end of the day, you’re there to ask the hard questions. I also learned from David Carr, always be upfront with people. Never flip the switch on someone and be nice and then go write something mean.
Does it make people more closed off if you’re so upfront while interviewing them?
No, because they know it’s an interview. It’s really helped me because I kept feeling icky about the things that I would write. Once I heard that quote from David Carr, I realized this is the way to avoid that. I mean, I've never gone up to someone and said, "Hi, I'm writing like, a takedown of you." It's more just being honest. I now try to start interviews saying “So my goal for this interview is to get to know you, introduce you to our readers, etc.” just setting up the scene for what the arc of the story is. They’ll know what you need, and they will do that for you.
Then sometimes I’ll say “People say this about you, do you agree or disagree?” That gives them a chance to defend themselves, and it makes you feel less icky in the process. It’s about having an honest, open conversation that they've agreed to, and they know what they're doing. It makes the whole thing feel more professional.
What’s one of your favorite interviews?
Lil Yachty, it was right before he became this internet sensation. He fell from the sky, and we thought we should do something with him. It was a hard interview because he didn't give me anything, he was just a tired and hungry teenager. I had to pull something out of it and it ended up being really fun, and I love him.
How did you manage that?
You end up figuring out, why is this person acting the way that they’re acting. It becomes about their behavior a little bit more than what they're telling you word for word. When you have an interview like that, you sometimes walk away, and you think, “Oh my God, this person didn't tell me anything.” At one point though he said, "I want to be mainstream." I was like, nobody says that. That was like one of the 10 things that he told me, but it was a story in itself. I love W because it’s all about taking risks and pushing the envelope. On the site, we’re translating W's visual and fashion identity into about 20 articles a day. It's definitely a challenge, but we have a lot of freedom for interpretation.
What about pop culture interests you?
I'm one of those Kim Kardashian apologists; I will go to bat for her. I think that the reason I'm obsessed with social media and pop culture is that you feel like you know these people. It fascinates me how close we can get to the people who make culture. For example, Diane Keaton started an Instagram account recently, and I died. It was too authentically weird, so you know it’s her and no one else. I love popular culture because it brings so many people together. I sort of have this rule that if I can talk to my cousins about it, then it's something. That just means the whole world wants to talk about it, and I'm much more interested in stories like that.
You’ve written so many amazing articles, and you're in a really great spot right now, but what do you think is one of your biggest challenges?
I'm trying to be a better writer. I think it's wild being young and writing on the internet because you're learning in public and that's really scary. I'm definitely cognizant of that. When I read my own stuff, I’ll think it could be much better, but it’s reassuring that I’m able to see that. I have so much to learn when it comes to writing, and having good editors helps a lot. I feel just slowing down and focusing and putting effort into one single thing is my biggest challenge.
Since you’ve grown so much while you’ve been at W, is it challenging to differentiate your voice from W’s brand?
Being a good writer means adapting to your publication. It's about taking your voice and then making it work with the voice of who you’re writing for. I've definitely adapted my voice for W; I don't even know if that music thing would've happened if I'd been elsewhere. I'm curious to see what other beats I have in me, and I think that the right publication can bring that out of you.
How would you describe the company culture at W?
W is part of Condé Nast, so it's in the World Trade Center in this big fancy spaceship. Everyone is really well dressed and beautiful. W is really small and I love it because of that. It’s a friendly space; I feel so grateful that I can go over to the fashion closet and say, "Hey, do you know who this rapper is named Lil Uzi Vert? He has a Marilyn Manson chain, and I want to do something with that.” And they’ll say, “That's crazy, no.” but they're not mean.
It’s also a very serious place because our brand has good taste, and is specific about what they allow. We don't just do everything. That's been interesting for me because I'm so obsessed with pop culture and mainstream stuff where I want to write about everything. For instance, something will be trending, and everybody wants to read about it, then the people on my team will say, “No, that's not what we do.” I’ll be bummed about it for a second, but every time that happens I'm grateful because that's just who we are.
During this uncertain time for publications, do you think that’s what's keeping W afloat?
Totally, it sets the publication apart from everyone else. It's a luxury magazine. It's bigger than most, more expensive than most, and it might have a smaller audience than most, but that’s like any luxury product. Not everybody can have a Hermes Birkin bag, but everybody wants one. I think that's W's vibe. We do our best to adapt to the world that we're in right now, but we still feel strongly about maintaining our voice and who we are. That strong identity will carry us through the weird time that publishing is in right now.
What makes a pitch stand out?
If it’s an exclusive, or someone who hasn't been written about a lot, then that's something I'll always jump on. Since W is so specific, I appreciate when people understand who our audience is and what we write about. One of the best things I learned about pitching stories is, do your research and know who you're pitching to, because even if it's the best pitch in the entire world, people will know that you didn't do your homework if it's not the right fit. Good PR people and good freelance writers know what you want and what you need.
So tell me a bit about how you got to where you are today.
I went to high school in Manhattan, not too far from where I work now actually.
Oh which one?
Elisabeth Irwin but most know it by Little Red. When you’re growing up in the city, or maybe because I went to a particularly artsy school, it felt like everyone's parents were artists, or musicians, or worked in fashion. So it felt like a very tangible industry, which I guess is a little ridiculous. At the end of high school, part of the curriculum was an internship, so I ended up interning at this agency that represents various photographers and makeup artists. But I was definitely more drawn to the journalism side of the industry. So when I went to Rutgers, I majored in English and Journalism and wrote for the school paper.
Then senior year I interned at WWD. It was definitely, as a lot of internships are, a monotonous position but I met a lot of cool girls whose interests matched mine and having the opportunity to go on set and to see all of that firsthand was definitely a good experience. During fashion week we would run the memory cards between the shows and our office. So we would go and meet all of the photographers at each show, which was pretty cool and I also managed to sneak into a lot of shows.
I was always pretty confident that I wanted to be on the journalism side of the industry but being open minded definitely helped as Mode PR ended up giving me my first full-time position. So right out of college, I became the accessories and swimwear account manager. I had like 8 accounts and no idea what I was doing but I went with it.
In the back of my mind I was like, "I'm a writer. I don't want to be writing pitches. I want to be interviewing designers. I want to be telling their stories." I ended up emailing the market editor at The Cut as I’d worked with her quite a bit at Mode. She got back to me and said, "Actually, we're relaunching the site, and we need some extra hands to help us with production if you want to come in, we can talk about that." So I did and ended up getting hired as a freelance producer. For an entire summer, day in and day out, I was pulling photos off of Getty Images, putting together these lookbooks, which now I oversee. Then September rolled around, and they needed extra help for fashion week, too. They overhauled the whole runway page, and we had galleries of each show from runway, to beauty, and we had to tag everything meticulously by trend.
They asked if I’d run production on the runway during the day, which is super intimidating because you're the one pushing things out live and if you mess up it's going to fall on you. But I was like, "Alright. I'll give it a shot." After that, I was kept on as a freelancer for a couple of years, working on a lot of slideshow building and photo research until finally my boss, Sally Holmes, was moving on. She went to Elle, where she still is. But right before, she sat me down and asked, "Hey, would you like to take my position as The Cut's fashion producer?" I was totally blindsided; I went into the meeting thinking that I was getting fired or something. And she was like, "Oh no! I'm leaving. And do you want my job?" And I was like, "Okay!"
When you knew you wanted to go down the editorial path, were you ever concerned about being stuck at your desk
Well, it's hard because you don't want to get pigeonholed by your role, I work hard to grow whatever part of my role that I feel is lacking. Recently I did an interview with this girl, Leah Dou. Even though I wasn't styling the shoot, I conducted the interview and got to be on set that day. Being close enough to those hands-on things and having the opportunity arise once in awhile is great for me.
So why digital as opposed to print?
When I first started, glossies were taken more seriously as opposed to online. But now, the internet has changed how we see and digest fashion, I would much rather be in digital. By the time a print issue comes out at the end of the month, we've already covered most of those trends or new musicians or whoever.
What would you say is your biggest challenge is?
I've been at The Cut for almost 5 years, and people in fashion are always looking for the next best thing or publication. But I'm really happy where I'm at, so I think that's a challenge in itself. You have this moment where you're like, "Am I supposed to be changing jobs? Am I supposed to be going somewhere else?" A lot of people work for a magazine for a year and then move on.
So then I became The Cut's fashion producer, and I've been in that role ever since. A lot of it is making sure that everything is working on the site. Updating the home page throughout the day, looking at traffic and deciding, alright, a thousand people are looking at this post, where should it be on the homepage, so it gains even more traction?
Do you learn about your target audience by what they're drawn to?
Honestly, there is a formula, but there isn't.
It's surprising how stories go viral by somebody famous tweeting it or it getting posted on Reddit. We know our audience, but I think that sometimes stories that we don't anticipate will get shared, and all of a sudden they blow up. When I’m updating the homepage I’m deciding, "Okay, this article has a beautiful photo. Let's highlight that." And then, I still look over the lookbook archive, which is an extensive collection of mostly celebrity style or anyone that we think is worthy of flipping through 100 looks that they've worn. For instance, Jenna Lyons has a lookbook.
And then, during Fashion Week, I'm overseeing the full show. I hire a team of interns and freelancers. A lot of it is coordinating with IMAXtree, which is a photo agency that we work with. But I still have to request the access for those photographers to get in the show. If someone can't get into the show, I'm figuring out what to do with the PR people. I think having been in PR and understanding what it's like to be on that side, helps me do my job better now.
Do you have a favorite part of your role or one that's the most rewarding?
What I love about The Cut is that we talk about things that pertain to women in every aspect and intertwine them all. It's a site where we can talk about fashion and politics and how they merge. I love being part of the team here.
Even though I'm responsible for a lot, my ideas are always welcome for things that are outside of my role. For instance, if I want to write or contribute to the conversations that they're having about what to cover or who to feature, my ideas are taken into account. It's not like, "Oh, you're a producer, so you don't have any say in this."
Have you learned any tactics for interviewing people?
You have to work with what you have. I think my problem is, is that I go into it already having a story in my head about this person, and then I find out that everything I assumed is wrong and it's hard not to write the story that you thought you were going to write and instead write the story that they're telling you.
How many people do you oversee?
I hire about 6 interns every season.
When you're interviewing people, what do you look for?
I'm always surprised by how many applications I get that don't mention that they've read The Cut or what they like about The Cut or why they want the particular job. I look for people who seem genuinely interested in our site and what we do, and have a reason for wanting to join. And that they haven't blindly sent in their resume.
Actually the last round there was this person who had almost too much experience. They had done 10 internships, and I thought alright, this person probably would probably do a good job but instead I’ll go with the girl who had only interned at 1 place as she was really genuine. I also thought it could really help her.
Do you think there's still room for strong journalism since people are now consuming information in smaller and smaller tidbits?
Yes, even more so because everyone thinks they're a writer. I mean, everyone can be a writer, but it doesn't mean that everything that's being put out into the world is good or thoughtful. But in return, the role of the fashion critic is becoming more obsolete because teens don't care about what Cathy Horyn has to say about a collection but they do care if Kylie Jenner wore something and then Instagrammed it.
So fashion is becoming increasingly more accessible. How do you think that has changed the industry?
It’s made fashion less romantic, especially when everyone is on their phones during the shows, and they’re also live streamed. But at the same time, it’s good because it’s democratizing the industry and making it less elitist.
Some of the traditions are antiquated. Do we still need to have every editor in a room to see the collection if you can view it online? Should editors have to be stressed out going to 12 shows a day if you can view them online? The process needs to change a bit. But with that being said, it’s already starting to change, fashion week is one day shorter this upcoming season, and a lot of people are opting out of doing a traditional runway show. You can see designers responding to this mindset in a practical way that makes sense for them individually. But I can't see the CFDA setting a ton of strict guidelines on the matter, designers have to take it into their own hands. But that's also exciting because it's up to them to interpret the market and that whole scene.
Let’s start off with your experiences that lead you to become an editor at Into The Gloss. Internships? Northwestern? How was it?
I wasn't paid for the longest time. And I have opposing views in my own mind about whether that’s a good thing. Sometimes it's okay to do work for free, if you know what value you're getting out it—maybe there’s no money, but the byline is worth something. That said, not everyone can intern for free, and not everyone should intern for free. When I did I lived very frugally, I didn't pay rent, I lived with family. You make it work.
I think meeting a lot of people is really important and Northwestern allowed me to do that. Any time I came to New York, I looked up alumni, I set up coffee meetings with people who had experiences I wanted to replicate. And internships, to an extent, did too. Face time is so important—probably equally as important or more so than pure training and skill. Studying and writing and practicing were things I was obviously conscious of, but I don’t think I’d have my job had I not met a lot of people for coffee.
I'm a big proponent of just emailing people, like guessing their email address and emailing them. That's how I got internships and that's how I get celebrity interviews for ITG to this day.
Was there an experience that directly correlated to where you are now, or that gave you some insight into where you wanted to be?
I had a really great experience at New York Magazine, because I got to do a lot of things. I was an editorial intern for print, so I was assisting the senior editors and the editor in chief predominantly. I worked a lot on the hard reporting, but the fashion assistant at the time was Amelia Diamond who's at...
Oh, Man Repeller!
She oversaw parts of the Wedding Issue and she needed help, so I volunteered. I honestly would just go up to her and talk to her and suddenly I was assisting on her shoots and I became very close with her. She left to go to Man Repeller while I was still interning and I took over her job for maybe a month until they hired someone full-time. I think what I learned from that was that busy people get the work done. There's some stat that student athletes in high school get better grades in season than out of season because when they're so busy they work more efficiently.
Now that you’re an editor at Into The Gloss, can you talk a little bit about the interview process for getting the position?
I graduated early so I could focus all of the third quarter on finding a job instead of juggling it with coursework. I emailed all the people I had worked with—it’s hard to know what to do when no one is hiring. But someone I knew from New York Magazine heard that Into The Gloss was looking for an editorial assistant and tipped me off. I emailed Nick at ITG and said who referred me, why I loved the site, and I sent them three pitches. Which I actually think is a really good idea. You shouldn't just say "Hey, looking for a job." You should be like "Hey, looking for a job, look how well I can do that job."
At first, he didn’t email back. I let a week go by and then email him again, figuring what’s the worst thing that could happen? On the second email he got back to me right away and was like "When can you come in?" We did a brief phone interview and he sent me this brief edit test. Maybe a week later, I came in, we got breakfast, and I met with five other people on the team, all in that one day. And then I didn't hear anything for two weeks.
I was freaking out because I got really good vibes from everyone. But hiring takes time—and people are busy. No one drops everything and just looks to hire someone. They’re juggling that with 15 other things. So I didn't hear anything for a while, and then they brought me in and I met with more people. They gave me another edit test, which they actually ended up publishing. Then I didn't hear anything again. That's when I started getting really anxious. So, I just started writing stories. I would email, "Hey, I have this idea for a story, here it is completely written in case you want to run it." And they published that one too! Finally, they wrote me up the offer. And I started as an editorial assistant two years ago in June 2014. Very different company back then than it is now. Which has been fun.
They hired me and I didn't know anything about Glossier. I came in on my first day and was like "What's going on with all these G label things." They're like "Oh, so we're launching products." And I was like “Oh, okay. That's new.”
We've grown a lot. My first day was also the first day of our COO. It's become much more of a company and we've also transitioned from being a niche media property to a true tech start-up.
What’s been one of the biggest changes after college?
I think relax. Take a deep breath. Don't see things as being so rushed. It's very easy after college and high school to see things on a semester turnaround. As if everything renews every 3 months or something and all of a sudden you're supposed to be in a new place. Once you're done with school that's not really the case. You have so much time. I also felt that way when I was approaching a year here. I was like, "Am I supposed to have a new job at the end of like a year?". You realize, no. You get a new job when you need a new job or when you want a new job. There's no timetable that you have to stick to.
Do you want to go over what your roles consist of now?
I edit Into The Gloss—a good way to think about it is as Glossier’s largest and most engaged-with social platform. We still have the blueprint from the original ITG days, but we’ve grown up a little and we have a much bigger audience. Day to day, I’m editing all the stories we publish, I’m writing a little, I’m managing our editorial calendar, and I’m booking talent for our interviews. I’d like to say that I have a routine every day, but the truth is that I don’t. The one thing I do almost every day—and I’ve done it almost as long as I’ve worked here—is I wake up at 6am and work from home for two hours or so. I don’t report on news anymore, but writing on deadline has really stuck with me, ever since high school. I need the adrenaline to get my best writing done.
And then I have some Glossier work, which is fun. I work with our Physical Product team on early product development. We have meetings where I summarize Into The Gloss's approach to products, so that everything we create for Glossier is really what we've learned from almost six years of publishing.
Have you noticed how you've grown as a person or how you've been influenced by your time here?
I've been really lucky that I have the option here to create content that I enjoy. I think a lot of writers and editors get stuck in a place where they have to write things that get clicks, things that get shared. And they're beholden to advertisers or to bottom lines. And at Into The Gloss we're actually very free. So, I have the luxury to think about what I want to read and what I want talk about with our community.
I have a couple of questions that I ask of a story, to make sure it works for ITG. The first is "Does this sound like something you'd write in an email to a friend?" That's to make sure the tone reads right. But the more important one is “Do I like this? Do I care about this?" I want the site to be interesting and accessible to people who don't necessarily love makeup, because the writing is good, and because the photos are good, and because you feel you're part of the group. You should be able to feel part of our club, whether or not you wear lipstick.
You guys do such an incredible job building loyalty…
I think part of it is because we want our readers to feel in the know. To an extent, our content is in conversation with itself, so if we publish something on Monday, that might relate to something we publish on Thursday. You should always feel that when you come to Into The Gloss, you are in the office with us. You're there, and you're chatting with us, and we're always talking about beauty.
How would you describe the company culture?
Work does not stay here. This is like our home base, but everyone goes out together, everyone works out together, everyone's always texting, we're kind of always in communication. The company culture is very pervasive into the rest of your life. It's very hard to work here and not be involved with everyone. We're very familial that way.
Beauty has become incredibly individualized. How has Into the Gloss been able to connect with so many different types of people?
I think we listen to our readership. We have an incredible community who like to comment on stories and we listen to them. Obviously we write about trends, but we need to find how to do it our way.
Glossier promotes more of a natural look with it's, "Skin first, makeup second" motto. Why do you feel like that approach caught on so well?
I think people are in a rush and makeup takes a lot of time. It’s nice to have this shift and feel like you get all the positives of having products, which is: they're fun, they're beautiful to look at, but they’re very low-maintenance. You can be you and you don't have to spend a lot of time looking like someone else.
I work at a place where I can wear whatever I want to work. I can wear no makeup and everyone takes me just as seriously as if I wore a red lip. If you work in finance, you've got to look a certain way. That applies to men and women to an extent. I think that as the nature of businesses change and more people work at startups and more people work in casual settings that the makeup trends go with it as well.
A lot of our generation consumes information within a 15 second time slot. Where does strong journalism fit into that?
It's sort of what I said earlier where I think that creating something new as opposed to covering what's already been covered is very important. It's something that I'm very passionate about, thinking about and encouraging. I think it's looking for stories. Looking to push forward new ideas and new ways of looking at things opposed to just covering what's happening.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
I think my biggest challenge right now is thinking about what publishing looks like if you take away everything that we don’t like about it. You take away pageviews. You take away ads. You take away SEO. What does the perfect website look like? I don't know what that looks like yet but I want to make that.