An Ode To The Women Before Me: My Personal List Of Career Heroes

When I was in the seventh grade, I decided to be an English major. It came to me sometime during the free-write period in the beginning of English class one day. I realized then that I would like to write every day forever. I didn’t know how to do that yet but, at thirteen, deciding my major seemed like a good place to start.

It should be known that I was — and still am — a magazine hoarder. I used to steal my mom’s copies of Elle and Vogue and hide them in my bed sheets until she would eventually come looking for them. I used to stay up late reading the celebrity profiles in the back sections of the magazine. I would fall in love with the characters: models and actresses whom I’d never met but I somehow felt like I understood now. I would fantasize about being able to dress like the women in the trend pages.

But I didn’t know that there were people who had entire jobs built around the issue in my hands. I didn’t know that people in an office somewhere worked for days on end. I didn’t know that there was an entire industry built for the magazines I was so obsessed with. Or, if I did have an inkling of the effort that went into these works of art, I had no idea how any of them got there in the first place. 

At this time, Teen Vogue had just launched their It Girls network. It was essentially a mailing list for active readers of the magazine. They would host events with the editors and partner with brands to host shopping discounts and deals. The editors would hang around and talk to the readers, take selfies, and just be real human beings. Going to those events was the first time I understood that editors were people. And they were nice!

Eva Chen was the first editor I remember talking to more than once. She was the beauty editor at the time, and I was obsessed with her. My two friends and I would hawk her at every event until she knew our names and would ask about our weeks. I would leave school in the afternoon, go home, change into my trendiest 2013 outfit, and then run to hang out with a bunch of fashion-obsessed teens.

The below picture is Eva and I at the Teen Vogue It Girls x Fashion’s Night Out event. I think I had spent weeks planning that outfit. Mixing prints was important to me, clearly. I ended up winning the ‘best dressed’ award that night and went home with $300 worth of Clinique.

Eva took the time to listen to me. She encouraged me and told me to be persistent. I was so young and so confused. No one in my high school I understood why I wanted to work in fashion. I had a stutter but I definitely wasn’t shy. I was a good writer, and Eva and I would email from time to time throughout high school. She took me on two tours of the Teen Vogue offices back when Conde Nast was still in Times Square. I remember running to the bathroom after last period and changing out of my uniform and then hopping on the subway to the office.

We stayed in touch when she moved onto Lucky, and she introduced me to Leandra Medine. Leandra was the kind of person that I idolized, plain and simple. I discovered Man Repeller at a time when I was so dependant on male attention. Seeing her just not give a single damn about what men thought of her was so refreshing. Eva introduced us and I almost spilled my water all over her Monolos. Leandra, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

Amy Astley gave me my first shot. Right after The King’s Speech won the Academy Award for best picture, I emailed Amy asking for a story on Teen Vogue covering stuttering. She later asked me to be profiled for the piece which debuted 6 months later. I was sixteen. I worked with an awesome writer named Sierra Tishgart to bring my little story to life. It’s still live on the site, and still includes an incredibly embarrassing photo of me from my sweet sixteen.

Naomi Nevitt was her editor at the time. I met up with Naomi years later during my junior year of college, and she has been a constant source of encouragement and support since then.

We don’t talk enough about the people who have gotten us to where we are.As someone who is just starting out in her career, I look to these women as career markers. I look their mistakes and their triumphs and I apply them to my own specific situation. I think often about hopefully being successful enough to retell my career story to others, and to be able to thank these women formally, perhaps on a podcast or in a Vanity Fair profile. But until then, I will shout them out from the words of my blog. Especially in the writing world, it feels as if everyone relies on each other to achieve success. So here’s to saying thank you to everyone along the process.