First of all, happy new year!!! So glad to start 2017 with this new series: Intern Diaries, so let me know how you like it in the comments bellow! :)
I have known Paola from Letras con Tacones for a while now. Not only as a Puertorrican blogger peer, but because I had the chance to partner with her with one of the brands I work with at the Agency. She's not only super sweet, classy and has awesome style, but she is also super responsible and dedicated to her work.
So when she told me that she was going to study fashion in New York City and nevertheless, work at ELLE, I knew I had to interview her for you guys. And of course, she gladly accepted. Hope you guys enjoy this interview as much as I did!
What are you studying in grad school and where?
I am currently doing a Master in Professional Studies (MPS) Fashion Marketing at LIM College in New York.
How did you get an internship at ELLE?
I arrived at New York City on August 16, 2016 and classes began the next week. I had already started thinking about working during the day and studying at night, so that Friday I decided to go to FreeFashionInternships.com, a website recommended by my blogger friend, Yulia from Hidden Fashionista, which is where she got her internship at Jimmy Choo. I applied to five companies: Saint Laurent, alice + olivia, Marc Jacobs International and Oscar de la Renta, in that same order.
Two weeks afterwards I received the email from ELLE asking if I was still interested on the internship, and what date I was available for interview. That email was a Wednesday and I confirmed the interview on that Friday at 10AM. After researching to be ready, I went to the interview super early so I didn't get lost on the subway since I was such a newbie, haha.
The Hearst Tower is located at Colombus Circle. Hearst is Elle's, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen's publishing house and they're all located in the same building.
I arrived for the interview at the 24th floor and my heart wanted to explode. The person who interviewed me was the Fashion Assistant who asked some questions such as what are you studying and for what, what was my experience in fashion and what are my short and long term goals and basically why Elle. Finally she just told me: "Congrats! You got the internship. When can you start?" I literally died.
In which department did you work at?
The internship was at the Fashion Closet, which is where the fashion assistant and freelancers work at. It is pretty much the spine of the magazine, since it is where all the designer looks are stored for the photo shoots. I was in charge of manageing everything that came in and out of the closet. I had to notify, evidence it and keep it organized, cleand and presentable for collaborators or stylists.
How did you imagine your first day at Elle?
I thought that I was going to receive a tour and training for every task but it was completely the opposite. I learned along the way and every time they called me out for something wrong. There were SO many details that I had to keep in mind, that every time I made a mistake I wrote it down on my agenda to make sure to NEVER do it again.
So how was actually your first day?
My first day was quite interesting because I had no idea of what I was doing and if I was doing it right or wrong. Everybody was so busy and on their own world, so nobody had time to answer my questions unless it was extremely necessary. To be the first day, it was significantly a lot of work, but the excitement was too much for me to care!
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to avoid mistakes. Magazines work as a chain and if someone makes a mistake, the rest of the people are affected by them. From the stylist to the department editors. You have to be super diligent, have a problem solver attitude and be willing to do whatever they ask you.
What was your favorite part about working at Elle?
Everyone that I saw daily inspired me somehow. Watching Robbie Myers, the Editor-in-Chief, Samira Nasr, Fashion Director and María Dueñas Jacobs, the Accesories Director were my daily doses of goals. I wasn't seeing it on Instagram or Pinterest, I was watching it in real life. From what they wore, the gifts brands gave them according to their styles and the conversations they had at the closet about trends. Everything was part of the experience.
I do have to admit that the highlight was the first day, when a Puertorrican greeted me at the lobby. It felt just like home! haha.
Another great thing were the presents. There were a lot of things that the brands duplicated or nobody wanted so the interns took advantage of it. (Yas!)
As a Puertorrican woman doing a high demand internship at the Fashion Capital of the World, do you felt like you had a bigger responsibility than the rest of your peers in your position?
We were five interns in total. Three of them from the US, one from Barcelona and myself. Two of them were studying at Columbia, one of them took the semester off to complete the internship and the last two of us were from LIM. I was the only intern doing a masters so that was my motivation to be better every day. I always have in mind the huge responsibility of representing Puerto Rico by giving it my all everywhere I go, no matter if it's school or the internship.
I am extremely proud to be from Puerto Rico and super grateful for the opportunity at Elle. <3
Describe a normal day at Elle.
You can sum it by saying hectic, nonstop and exciting. But a normal day would be:
Arriving at ELLE's Fashion Closet at 9AM to move the pictures from the camera to the software. We had to take photos of all the items in the closet and assign a code for each. There was a board to make the respective check ins and check outs with all the items for photo shoots. During the entire day I received garment and shopping bags of different designers and I had to equally schedule messengers to return the looks that had already been shot.
The most frequent task was reading emails to be in constant contact with publicists or the Fashion PR company that represented each designer. They were usually Karla Otto, PR Consulting, KCD or HL Group.
They would give me a list of brands with a theme, like for example, "skaters" because they had to do a photoshoot inspired by that theme. So my job was to search around the Internet and find the coolest looks from each brand and set them up so Samira, the Fashion Director had a clearer view of what she wanted.
We had a photo shoot practically every day, so we had to help to create mood boards for inspiration and visualize the story the stylist had assigned or the story Samira wanted to tell. And of course, look for Starbucks!
What is your biggest lesson after the internship?
Everything is possible when you have the talent, perseverance and passion. You have to be patient and give it your all every day, because in New York there is no time to lose. It is true what they say: "If you make it here, you make it anywhere". This city is not easy, but if you survive and accomplish your goals, you are ready to live anywhere in the world.
What is your next goal now that you've finished your internship at ELLE?
The next step is to apply for another internship, but this time from the designer's side. I am in the stage where I have to explore all the areas and see the other side of the coin. I want to experiment the communications and marketing department inside luxury brands. So stay tuned... You will get more Intern Stories!
Did you ever imagine yourself as an Intern at ELLE?
I always had it in the back of my mind. I am very positive to accomplish what I set my mind to. The first time I saw The Devil Wears Prada (my favorite movie) I knew that I was going to be doing that one day. And after 10 tears, that day is here! It sounds cliché, but so true.
Do you feel like your Blog Letras con Tacones helped you reach this goal?
Every time I take a step forward I am super grateful to have created Letras con Tacones. This is my biggest asset when it comes to interviews, because it is my own. I can talk about my vision and how I pretend to use it in my career. Also, as a journalist, I need a presentation card that helps me express my passion for fashion and social media has been the perfect platform.
Was your internship anything like The Devil Wears Prada stereotype?
To be really honest, it is not too far away from the reality. The movie exagerates some things but other things are super accurate.
That fast pace environment is completely true. I was at ELLE from 9AM to 5PM because I took classes from 6PM to 9PM, but the interns that didn't have class at night stayed there way after hours. Also, whenever I had the chance to lunch, it had to be in front of the computer. I always had to work really hard during lunch and if there was an emergency, I had to stop eating and resolve it.
Running errands was really challenging too. Sometimes I found myself with two garment bags and two shopping bags in the middle of the city praying that it could survive rain or a subway ride back at ELLE. If the bags were TOO heavy, they called an Uber, if not, you'd just have to wing it as a mad woman through Manhattan with thousands of dollars in merchandise. Just like Andy! haha.
The outfits in The Devil Wears Prada were an exaggeration. Most women at ELLE wore snickers, boots and Gucci Flippers combined with high waisted jeans, dresses or cute tops. I loved that everybody was super comfortable and practical while being super fashion forward. Adidas and Converse were my bff's during the entire semester. :)
Also every time the Editor in Chief entered the closet, people stopped talking. So the movie was pretty accurate in this... just in a lower scale. Oh and Starbucks is so true! I had to look for coffee all the time!
What advice would you give someone who wants to enter the fashion publishing world?
Follow your passion will always be my advice. A lot of people think that communications field is saturated and that is a mistake. Our biggest challenge is to create our own jobs and projects. You will always have to make sacrifices but I promise you that it is worth it. Just have patience.
The key is taking risks, learning and educating yourself the most you can in order to get the job "a million girls would kill for".
Shop ELLE Staff's casual clothing staples:
So that's it guys! #CareerGoals don't you think? Hope you loved this interview and please let me know if you would like more like these. Let's see if Pao is ready for the next Intern Diaries! ;)
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Until next time!
*All the pictures in this post were provided by Paola Carolina Colón, unless otherwise stated.