I tried to quit Fashionista once, but it only lasted a few months before I came back into the fold. This time, though, it's happening for real and I have a lot of feelings about it. I started here as an intern, got hired as a full-time features and beauty editor, quit briefly to freelance, then came back as a beauty editor at large, which has been my role ever since, while also writing at a boatload of other sites and magazines on the side. The next stop for me? I'm starting as a beauty writer at Racked, where I was hired by newly minted EIC Britt Aboutaleb, one of the first people I ever worked for in this industry. Full circle! Since we here at Fashionista are all about careers, indulge me for a second while I tell you about mine and a few things I've learned along the way. I'll try not to be boring.
I used to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, but several years ago I got burned out and decided I wanted to write about fashion, because thanks to sites like Fashionista, I was fascinated by the personalities who run the businesses as well as the products they produced. I took some evening writing classes, blogged for friends for free and honed my voice, all while working in a clinic where I took care of kids with cancer during the day. When I saw a post on Fashionista looking for unpaid interns for NYFW, I applied.
Friends and family were skeptical because, as everyone knows, interns are usually college students and are expected to do things like get their bosses coffee and cry quietly in the fashion closet. I am a member of Gen X, have two kids and was a mentor in my chosen career. Could I work for 23-year-olds? At the time, Britt and Lauren Sherman, now a prolific freelancer and the New York editor at Business of Fashion, were the only two full-time editors here. To this day I'm not quite sure why they hired me, but Lauren always told me it was because I had a cute outfit on (confession: I wore knock-off Balenciaga boots) and because she wanted an adult in the office who would actually show up for work, unlike some of the interns they'd had in the past. A week after I got hired, they sent me off to cover the Alice & Olivia presentation. I labored for several hours on that review, and then Britt promptly rewrote the whole thing. Not an auspicious start, but I learned quickly what would and would not work. Lesson: Learn how to accept criticism, even the unspoken kind.
Anyway, I eventually figured it out, and the two editors taught me practical things like how to work with PRs and how to avoid writing in the passive voice, something I'm now very conscious about. Lesson: Never assume that you can't learn anything from people who are younger than you. Millennials taught me everything I know about this business.
After almost a year of interning for free and working part-time in the clinic, I became a freelancer. Lauren told me that because laws had changed, Fashionista had to start paying me. I was getting a kingly $25/post, but this was important because it meant I WAS NOW A PROFESSIONAL WRITER. In the meantime, Lauren asked me if I wanted to start covering beauty. My response: "Um. OK?"
While I read Allure and had some strong opinions on mascara, I was not a beauty junkie. But once I started delving into that world, I fell in love. I found that my medical and science background really helped me talk to dermatologists and question the BS claims that come so frequently with skin care, and I also had the benefit of age and experience, which gave me a different point of view from a lot of my younger peers. Beauty's been my main beat ever since. Lesson: When someone asks you to try something new at work, say yes once in a while.
Eventually Lauren left and Leah Chernikoff, now the digital director at Elle.com, hired me full time and I left nursing forever. During that time Leah basically taught me everything I know about reporting and and learning to be hungry for a scoop, and to this day when I walk into an event I hear her saying, "It's not news unless you get an original quote." After about 18 months or so, I quit to freelance, because I realized I really didn't want to be a boss or manage anyone or edit. I love to report and write, and I think/hope I'm good at that. I've since been published at many of the major fashion and lifestyle sites, as well as Elle magazine, Self, and yes, even Miss Vogue Australia. Seeing my name on a piece I'm proud of makes me much happier than where my name is on a masthead. Lesson: You don't necessarily need to be a #girlboss to be successful.
Which brings us to now. I've had so many incredible experiences writing for this amazing, scrappy site. I've talked to pretty much every major hairstylist and makeup artist; I once had Pamela Anderson yell at me at London fashion week for asking a "stupid question" about Kate Middleton; I attended the Olympics and got an interview with Gabby Douglas' mom that went viral at the time she was having her hair controversy; I dyed my hair pink; I filled an entire suitcase with beauty products I scavenged during a glorious 72 hours in Seoul, and so much more. In this new media landscape of mega-lifestyle sites and the magazines still trying to figure out digital, sites like Fashionista are more relevant than ever. It serves a niche audience that wants to know about fashion — beyond what shows Kendall Jenner walked in — with intelligence, wit and laser focus. This site may not have fancy graphics or videos, but I can tell you the staff here now are some of the smartest writers I've ever worked with and they love fashion and everything about this nutty industry.
Thank you so much for supporting me, challenging me, engaging me and, most importantly, reading my work. I'm looking forward to new adventures, but I still feel a bit like Sad Jon Snow. If you feel like it, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and now also Snapchat @cherylanneny. (Lesson: If you work on the Internet, embrace all social media, even platforms you think are confusing and pointless.) Bye, Fashionista!