My very first internship was in the Beauty Department at Teen Vogue. Accordingly, my very first boss in this industry was Eva Chen, the teen glossy’s Beauty Director.
Eva is super smart, incredible at her job, kindhearted, and one of the reasons why I even have a job in this itty-bitty world we call fashion.
But the best part about Eva is that she is one of the most thorough people on Earth. You ask her a question, you get the Wikipedia-style answer complete with every detail you may or may not want to know. So, I knew she would be perfect for our Life With series.
So meet Eva, because I’m betting you’ve always wondered what a beauty editor does. And lucky for you, Eva leaves nothing out…
So, before we get into the other stuff, let’s start with how you ended up at Teen Vogue I ended up here as a fluke almost, I never expected to be a beauty editor, so it’s been a really unexpected journey. I was pre-med from pretty much the moment I was born, so I’ve always been into health and wellness. I went to Johns Hopkins where I was pre-med for three years , but then I decided I wanted to try something totally different for a change. I wanted to try something that was like “fun” and “cool” so I just applied everywhere under the sun – I think I sent over 100 resumes – and was eventually offered an internship in features and beauty at Harper’s Bazaar. It really stood out to me because it sounded great, but also because it was paid. It was the exact month that Kate Betts was starting, people were really mourning Liz Tilberis, so it was an interesting time because the magazine was reinventing itself. First day, I wore Miu Miu shoes – I was so excited. I also changed out the beauty closet on my first day, because it was the end of the season, so I got to take so much cool stuff home. What I remember most was that I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to be surrounded by beauty products!
It sounds like you felt really lucky. Definitely. I realized while I was there that I really wanted to do this, and I got really lucky because the assistant had just left so I got the experience of filling in for her sort of, which I think really helped me down the line.
So what happened after that? Well then I did my senior year at Oxford and came back to New York really wanting a job. But it took me six months because the economy was kind of bad at that time. I freelanced in the fashion closet at Lucky for a while, then I ended up as an assistant at ELLE because someone I knew from Bazaar had moved there. I got to write a bit there, which was great, but I was also going to Columbia for a Master’s in Journalism part-time, which was ridiculously stressful. I basically had no weekends for two years.
Do you think J-school helped you? I mean, it wasn’t the most necessary thing, especially for working in fashion, but I definitely think it was worth it. It was mind-opening and it gave me a lot of experience with reporting.
So how did you go from ELLE to Teen Vogue? Well I was at ELLE for about three years, and then Teen Vogue hired me on and I’ve been here about 3 1/2 years – wow, I can’t believe I’ve been here that long already!
Wall behind Eva’s desk with future stories
So what’s your average day like here? Everyday is different, I really am so lucky to have a job where everyday isn’t the same.
Ok, so let’s start with what it is that you’re in charge of. Like, what needs to happen on your end? I’m supposed to provide readers with inspiration for new looks, tell them about all the new cool stuff, help them – they’re mostly teen girls, obviously – with decisions they make concerning their bodies, like about smoking, sex, eating, etc. We try not to be too nag-gy, in fact we try to really get the voices of other teens to really get the point across. I also give readers insider/backstage access, so like instead of just covering a show, I’ll go backstage and interview the makeup artists and hair people, so our readers can really see what’s going on.
Eva at work
So how does that translate into your average day? Like, from the moment you wake up. Well, I usually wake up around 7:45, then I usually just get up and embark on my skin beauty routine. It takes me like 20 minutes just to wash my face, but then like two minutes for makeup and 2 seconds to get dressed.
Oh my god. Tell me everything about this face washing. Hah! Ok – first I wash with Effaclar from La Roche Posay, then I use a serum. Right now, I’m using Lancome Genefique, I think it comes out next month. Then I wait like 10 – 15 minutes to let it sink in, and then I always use SPF, lately it’s Avon Anew SPF 25. I put that on my face, neck and the backs of my hands. Then, if I have time, I’ll use Clinique SPF eye cream, since that’s the first place to go. Then I use lip balm from Liz Earle, then I curl my lashes, but I also sometimes use lash serum.
Wow. Ok, so, after that… On most mornings, I have breakfast meetings to connect with publicists. We usually meet at Balthazar or 44, usually at 9am. These breakfast meetings have been happening more and more since brands are trying to cut back on all the big events, too, so I have them a lot. So, I usually get into the office around 10am.
What’s the first thing you do? The first thing I do is read. My assistant has all my papers ready by the time I get in, so I just go through them all, which takes about an hour.
Some of Eva’s reading material
What exactly do you read?The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, Daily News, WWD, The Observer, Time, Newsweek, all the tabloids – so much stuff. I read through them, cut out articles that are interesting, tag stuff – I’m always on the hunt for ideas, especially medial studies, facts that I can use in the future, etc.
Which do you read first? WWD, always. Then Page Six, The Times, Daily News, Wall Street Journal…
Do you make your assistant fan them out in a certain order Devil-style? Hah, no! She stacks them for me on this chair I keep next to my desk. That way, I can just kind of reach under and grab what I need without having to look. The stack is like five inches high.
So then what? Then I usually go to the Art Department to look at layouts to get Amy‘s feedback. She looks at them every night, then the book comes back with notes, and then I work with the Art Department in the event that there are notes on my pages.
Cubby holes in Eva’s office
What are the notes usually about? Making sure the pages look clean, making sure the right products are in, the pictures make sense, there’s enough happening/not too much happening – just making sure we’re striking the right balance while getting all the necessary bits in. So this brings me to the early afternoon, at which point I usually have an event, like 2 – 3 times per week. These events can be anywhere and for anything, for example I just went to a fancy one at the Four Seasons for Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair. But you usually don’t get back into the office until like 2pm, so I split up the events with my team so we all have to do them.
What happens if you don’t have a lunchtime event? If I don’t have lunch plans, I usually just go to the cafeteria just because it’s so fast and it’s right there. Then, I catch up on my e-mails, which are everything from story pitches to readers writing in with questions, and then by this time of day there’s always some kind of situation.
Situation? Yeah, like hearing that a story’s been bumped, which means that I have to start editing something completely different so it can be published instead. I also assign stories to freelancers, so I spend at least an hour a day editing, because you never know when you might need a story suddenly. Also, these days, I blog on my down time. I try to do like five posts per day. They usually go on backlog so the web team has something to put up, but if it’s timely I’ll do it right away. Also, on some days, I’ll have shoots. I usually try to stay for the first couple shots, but that can be like six hours after figuring out everything between the model and the hair and makeup people. Sometimes, the photographer just simply doesn’t like the model, and then I end up on the phone trying to book another girl with an agent, this can take hours, and all this is before the shoot itself has even happened.
What about during Fashion Week? Fashion Week is insane, because on top of everything else, I’m running around town trying to interview people backstage, but also trying to watch the shows.
Wow. Have we missed anything? Sometimes I do these things called desk-sides, it’s when PR people come to your office to present products to you. It only takes like 15 – 20 minutes so it’s really productive. Oh! And I also give tours of the office sometimes, to readers who’ve won the chance in a contest, or sometimes they’re friends of someone that works here.
So how do all these beauty products end up in your office? They come all day long from PR people. I get at least 100 products a day, so I’m constantly clearing stuff out just to maintain some order!
Some products on Eva’s desk
What about after work? There’s usually an evening event, so I go to those. They usually last until about 7 or 7:30pm.
Do you ever work from home? I never really work from home, except I sometimes catch up on my blogging over the weekend.
Tell me more about the products. How does this work? So much of it is just sorting through all the products so I can just know what’s out there – Like, who’s making what, what are the trends, what’s new, what’s interesting, etc. Everyday, all day long, PR people send out beauty products to beauty editors. And they send tons. A lot are not appropriate for Teen Vogue, like Botox in a Bottle, or something that isn’t aesthetically pleasing. But yeah, we get makeup, face stuff, SPF, shampoo, candles, soaps – everything. My assistant is the one that opens the packages. She lays the products out on my desk and couch so I can see them, always on top of the corresponding press release so I can just glance through and get an idea of what it’s about. Anything with the potential to be shot stays in the office, it usually just hangs out on my desk, or sometimes I’ll take it home to actually try. Everything else goes into this huge bag, and the interns take it to the beauty closet to file it away just in case we need it for something – Like sometimes, a stylist will say that she really needs blue nail polish, or orange lipstick, or whatever, and it’s just so much faster to grab it from the closet than to hunt it down another way. Sometimes we’ll also just need to put a product page together super fast, so the closet is kind of more like a pantry than a closet.
Teen Vogue beauty closet
And what happens to all that stuff? About twice a year, everything that’s lingered without use is put into the beauty sale. We get everything together, have a sale for the whole office where each product is only $1, and the money goes to charity. We pick a different charity every time.
Beauty sales can be brutal. Yeah. They get crazy sometimes. Elbows are in full-force during these things, it’s incredibly what some people with do for $1 Dior lip gloss. I’ve even seen a fight! I once had to kick people out of a sale because they were about to have a full-on smackdown over some no-name product. Because the thing is, it’s not just people in the office. People talk, and then people from all over the building show up for the sale. It’s nuts.
So what do you look for in a product? What differentiates the ones that make it into the pages of Teen Vogue? Great packaging is a plus, the products we feature really have to pop off the page. Also, it absolutely has to work, whatever it is, that’s the bottom line. So like, I always love doing the Neutrogena and Bigelow products, because I know they work from personal experience.
Tell me how a page comes together, from start to finish. Ok, from birth to print: First, I have to come up with the idea. Ideas come from talking with the other editors, Amy – we’re usually on the same wave length. Then, we talk to the Art Department and figure out what’s the best way to illustrate the story. Do we use fine art? Shoot a product that evokes the subject? Shoot models? You need to strike a balance so there’s diversity in the pages – You can’t just have product after product after product. Then, the Photo Department comes in, like if you’re shooting a cupcake, which we did recently, you need to find a food stylist. So then it’s like, do you know a food stylist? Do you know a good one? Who’s a food stylist anyway? Every shoot poses its own issues. If it’s a beauty story, I’ll make a board to lay out what it’ll look like – examples of products and looks from the runway to illustrate whatever the subject is, like glittery eyes or pink lips. Then, the corresponding products get shot, and then the contacts come back. I look at them to choose which photos are best. They’ll all have just tiny differences, but those differences are what differentiates the ones that make into Teen Vogue and the ones that don’t. After all this, we have to think about the balance on the page. Like, does it need a sidebar? Big pull quotes from doctors and teens? We have to figure out what will go best with the page to keep the balance but to also maintain that Teen Vogue feel. Then, all the options are presented to Amy, and she picks what she thinks is best. Simultaneously, we’re researching and writing the story, Amy approves the text, then Production melds it all together (they have to think about fonts, margins, basically making everything standardized and proper). Then the Research Department fact/spell/grammar checks everything, which is really important for integrity. Then, they’ll send me back all the corrections that need to be made, like sometimes teens get gun-shy about quotes they gave and want things changed or their names kept secret, so then I make all those corrections and changes, which happens in about 2 – 3 rounds of edits. Then, we come to the printing stages: The first round, like the rough draft, comes by, and everyone involved signs off on whatever part they’re in charge of. So like, Photo people check the photo credit, Research looks for the corrections they cited, the Managing Editor looks for glaring errors, and I kind of go through with a fine-tooth comb – like, did we say “pink” fifty million times on one page? That kind of thing. All the first drafts go to Copy, then the final drafts, the mechanicals, get passed around. Mechanicals should be totally clean, but everyone goes through once more just to be totally sure. This is why magazines usually don’t have mistakes, there are a zillion people editing every inch of them! Then finally, everything goes to the printer, but just before that, Art does something called “color,” where they make sure everything looks just like it does in real life. This can be really tricky with bright makeup though.
Contact sheet with Eniko Mihalik for possible future story
Phew! That is one seriously lengthy process. Ok, I think it’s time for the stats!
Hometown: Greenwich Village, but before it was gentrified and all NYU central. I wasn’t even allowed to go to Washington Square Park!
At-work drink of choice: Water! I drink so much water it’s crazy. This water cooler is 18 L, and I go through one a week! If not water, green tea.
Eva’s beloved water cooler
After-work drink of choice: More water, but if it’s a celebratory event I’ll have champagne – but one glass only.
Breakfast of choice: Usually, once slice of whole wheat toast with honey and peanutbutter, and sometimes bananas. If I have time, I’ll have a couple boiled or poached eggs, and I always have a grapefruit.
What’s your best beauty advice? And don’t say “drink water”! Well, besides drinking tons of water, I say you should stay out of the sun, don’t smoke, don’t fake bake, get at least seven hours of sleep, eat well. I mean, they’re all so obvious, and no one wants to do them, but they really do work. So if you want advice beyond that, here’s something important: I say you should get your face into a total routine. Like, wash your face every single night, no matter what. Also, don’t touch your face! And make sure to wash your hands a lot in case you do.
Your face routine makes me wonder: Would you ever go camping? No. I went once in Wales and it was awful, I really doubt I’ll ever do it again.
How did you keep up your face routine? I couldnt’! There was no running water! So I brought like six or seven packs of wet wipes, Evian spray, dry shampoo, and tons of bandanas to cover my hair. I’m really more of a beach, running water, plumbing kind of person.
What do you read besides health stuff and newspapers? I’ve been reading a lot of cookbooks lately. I got married in August, so I have an embarrassing amount of kitchen stuff now, so I’m trying to put it to good use. I also read a lot of blogs, like Fashionista, Gawker, Splash News if I need to just totally decompress. I also, embarrassingly enough, read a lot of teen fiction because it gets sent to me so much. I tell people it’s “market research” but really I kind of like them.
How do you get to work? I take the subway. But sometimes in the summer, I’ll ride my bike in on Fridays.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I’m on Shopbop like every 22 seconds. Also, Net-a-Porter, Barneys.com. I love to shop online. It’s a sickness I think. I’d rather order something from Barney.com than walk the three blocks over to their store! It’s just so convenient! I like to think I’m single-handedly boosting the economy, but I know it’s problematic, too.
Which languages do you speak? English, Mandarin, French but not confidently, and I’m barely proficient in Spanish. I also took eight years of Latin, if that counts.
Fun fact? Hmmm. Well, I’m addicted to yoga, so I can hold the crow pose for like ten minutes. I think that’s pretty good. I’m also really competitive about Scrabble. I’m trying to memorize all the two-letter words. I’m also excellent at doing nails – I give my grandmother a manicure every Sunday.
Wow – grapefruits everyday, 18 L of water every week, riding your bike to work – none of this sounds real! Hey! I’m a beauty editor, I have to live up to it all.