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 scraped 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 re-launching 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.
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.