We have a confession to make: We are on tonight’s episode of The Job, a new CBS reality show hosted by Lisa Ling (my journalism crush). It’s our reality TV debut!
The premise of the show is this: five candidates compete for the same job and jump through a bunch of hoops to try to get hired. The sought-after job on tonight’s episode is an editorial assistant position at Joanna Coles’s Cosmo. If you’ve ever seen Joanna Coles on air, you know she makes for good TV. We are one of three “guest companies” (along with Who What Wear and Archetype Me) that can try to poach one of the candidates. You’re going to just have to watch to see how it all pans out.
But we wanted to introduce you to one of the candidates, 25-year-old Washington, DC native Carlos Bell. His story is so inspiring, his fashion hustle so great, we just had to share. Read on to find out how he landed his first internship at GQ (and commuted 10 hours a day to get there) and what he’s up to next.
Fashionista: So tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get into fashion?
Carlos: One night I was looking at these shows on MTV like The City and The Hills and I was just disgusted at how these girls were having these opportunities but not really doing anything with them. So that night, I went to the convenience store and I got like a GQ, a Vogue, and a Teen Vogue, and I looked at the masthead and I took a picture of it because I didn’t have enough money to actually buy the magazines. Then I went home and researched for hours to figure out template email to send to everybody in the masthead. So at 4 a.m. in the morning I sent emails to everybody from Anna Wintour all the way down to like the interns for each masthead.
Fashionista: Did you hear back from Anna?
I did not hear back from Anna. I’m pretty sure she’s gonna get to it, three years later. [Laughs] But I actually did hear from the Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue, Amy Astley, and we’re still in contact today, she’s amazing. She told me that she would help me get into Teen Vogue or any other Conde Nast magazine at that time. And GQ had emailed me a couple of days earlier to see a fashion editor and she really believed in me. So basically, that’s how I got my first internship at GQ. I traveled back and forth for two and a half weeks on the bus because I didn’t have enough money to actually move to New York.
Fashionista: What was your commute like?
Carlos: I would have to be at GQ at 9 a.m., which means I would have to leave [DC] at 1 a.m. in the morning, because there were only three buses. So I’d leave at one and get there at around 6 a.m. and wait.
Fashionista: What did you do while you were waiting?
Carlos: Just walked around, went to some places like Starbucks, and slept. I looked at magazines a lot of time. Duane Reade saved my life. So, that’s what I did. And I never could book my ticket home before I got off because the hours were so hectic, like they didn’t tell us “Oh, you’re getting off at 5 p.m. every day.” Some days I would have to go home at 9 p.m. and then I would get home at midnight, take a shower, and then get back on the 1 a.m. bus.
Fashionista: That’s incredible.
Carlos: The only sleep I had was on the bus. It was about a 10 hour commute, and I couldn’t sleep that well because I was going over everything I did right that day and trying to understand everything. Cuz at this point I didn’t know about fashion PR, I didn’t know what a KCD was. I thought it was a venereal disease or something, like, what is going on?
And then I decided to get more experience. I’m 22 at this point and all these white girls are 19, 18, with their Chanel bags and their Hermes bracelets and everything. So I thought, “Okay, they have a head start.” So I got another internship with this amazing stylist, Patti Wilson. I was interning every day and I took a job at Duane Reade overnight. It’s funny because I got hired at the place I used to sleep at.
Fashionista: So, you weren’t sleeping at all at this point.
Carlos: Oh, I wasn’t sleeping at all. I was up, up, up for a good two and a half months. And then my body could not take it anymore. I was on the train one day coming from Duane Reade to GQ and I just fainted. I figured I had to quit something. I didn’t want to quit my internships, so I just quit my job. That’s when the hustler came in. Like then I started styling and personal shopping for people, going to a thrift store, taking shirts and putting studs on it.
Fashionista: And then you ended up on The Job–what was it like for you?
Carlos: It was crazy. They took our phones and we couldn’t have any communication with the outside world. I was shut off to the world. And it got to the point where we couldn’t even talk to each other, because they wanted all the interactions to be filmed. And for somebody who is as talkative as me, it literally killed my vocal cords. You know that scene in the movie Bambi when he first walks? That was my voice. I was struggling to talk. But then, once I did, all the birds were chirping, the sun came out, the flowers blossomed…
Fashionista: And what did you think of Joanna Coles?
Carlos: Oh, she is amazing. The one thing I most like about Joanna is she’s so blunt.
Fashionista: And you weren’t afraid of her at all?
Carlos: I wasn’t afraid of her at all. Everybody else? They might have been, but I wasn’t.
Fashionista: I think they were.
Carlos: I’d talked to other EICs, you know, like Amy Astley, so my experience gave me the professionalism to know how to interact with somebody on that level.
Fashionista: What are you up to now? What do you hope to do with the exposure from the show?
Carlos: I just got accepted to School of Visual Arts for photography. I really want to be a creative director. Most creative directors were freelance stylists at one point. So I still do want to style, but I want to have more input because the person who has the most control is the photographer, honestly. And I need a degree, as well! So this will kind of merge my love of imagery and art and style into one, and hopefully I begin to get booked for photography and styling.
Fashionista: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out, who wants to break into the industry?
Carlos: The advice I would give is research. Research the company, research the people who are there, know where they worked, how they got their start. Read magazines to actually find out the voice that the magazine has, so when you write your cover letter you can mimic that voice. Like Joanna said, everybody who works at Cosmo lives a Cosmopolitan lifestyle.
And never give up. There were so many times when people told me “no”, and doors were shut in my face. But if I let that stop me, and I wasn’t resilient and persistent, then I would have just been back in DC. So, it’s really important to always continue on.