When Emily walked into the office on her first day she asked, "What's going on with all these G label things." Turns out, it was right before Into the Gloss launched the hugely successful beauty label, Glossier. She was there through it all as the company transitioned from "a niche media property to a true tech start-up" and because of that, Emily holds a unique insiders perspective on tech meets beauty.
This interview took place between Tate and Emily at Into the Gloss's New York office
TVPS: Let’s start off with your experiences that lead you to become an editor at Into The Gloss. Internships? Northwestern? How was it?
EF: I wasn't paid for the longest time. And I have opposing views in my own mind about whether that’s a good thing. Sometimes it's okay to do work for free, if you know what value you're getting out it—maybe there’s no money, but the byline is worth something. That said, not everyone can intern for free, and not everyone should intern for free. When I did I lived very frugally, I didn't pay rent, I lived with family. You make it work.
I think meeting a lot of people is really important and Northwestern allowed me to do that. Any time I came to New York, I looked up alumni, I set up coffee meetings with people who had experiences I wanted to replicate. And internships, to an extent, did too. Face time is so important—probably equally as important or more so than pure training and skill. Studying and writing and practicing were things I was obviously conscious of, but I don’t think I’d have my job had I not met a lot of people for coffee.
That's kind of how it is for me. I’m at Parson's and granted, I am so lucky to be there, but at the same time I’m learning 10 times more from the people that I meet. Who range from photographers to painters to musicians to designers. In the first year no one was separated by major yet, so just talking with those people and collaborating with those people ended up teaching me so much.
I definitely think that's a great way to look at it. I'm a big proponent of just emailing people, like guessing their email address and emailing them. That's how I got internships and that's how I get celebrity interviews for ITG to this day.
Was there an experience that directly correlated to where you are now, or that gave you some insight into where you wanted to be?
I had a really great experience at New York Magazine, because I got to do a lot of things. I was an editorial intern for print, so I was assisting the senior editors and the editor in chief predominantly. I worked a lot on the hard reporting, but the fashion assistant at the time was Amelia Diamond who's at...
Oh, Man Repeller!
She oversaw parts of the Wedding Issue and she needed help, so I volunteered. I honestly would just go up to her and talk to her and suddenly I was assisting on her shoots and I became very close with her. She left to go to Man Repeller while I was still interning and I took over her job for maybe a month until they hired someone full-time. I think what I learned from that was that busy people get the work done. There's some stat that student athletes in high school get better grades in season than out of season because when they're so busy they work more efficiently.
Now that you’re an editor at Into The Gloss, can you talk a little bit about the interview process for getting the position?
I graduated early so I could focus all of the third quarter on finding a job instead of juggling it with coursework. I emailed all the people I had worked with—it’s hard to know what to do when no one is hiring. But someone I knew from New York Magazine heard that Into The Gloss was looking for an editorial assistant and tipped me off. I emailed Nick at ITG and said who referred me, why I loved the site, and I sent them three pitches. Which I actually think is a really good idea. You shouldn't just say "Hey, looking for a job." You should be like "Hey, looking for a job, look how well I can do that job."
At first, he didn’t email back. I let a week go by and then email him again, figuring what’s the worst thing that could happen? On the second email he got back to me right away and was like "When can you come in?" We did a brief phone interview and he sent me this brief edit test. Maybe a week later, I came in, we got breakfast, and I met with five other people on the team, all in that one day. And then I didn't hear anything for two weeks.
I was freaking out because I got really good vibes from everyone. But hiring takes time—and people are busy. No one drops everything and just looks to hire someone. They’re juggling that with 15 other things. So I didn't hear anything for a while, and then they brought me in and I met with more people. They gave me another edit test, which they actually ended up publishing. Then I didn't hear anything again. That's when I started getting really anxious. So, I just started writing stories. I would email, "Hey, I have this idea for a story, here it is completely written in case you want to run it." And they published that one too! Finally, they wrote me up the offer. And I started as an editorial assistant two years ago in June 2014. Very different company back then than it is now. Which has been fun.
They hired me and I didn't know anything about Glossier. I came in on my first day and was like "What's going on with all these G label things." They're like "Oh, so we're launching products." And I was like “Oh, okay. That's new.”
We've grown a lot. My first day was also the first day of our COO. It's become much more of a company and we've also transitioned from being a niche media property to a true tech start-up.
Do you want to go over what your roles consist of now?
I edit Into The Gloss—a good way to think about it is as Glossier’s largest and most engaged-with social platform. We still have the blueprint from the original ITG days, but we’ve grown up a little and we have a much bigger audience. Day to day, I’m editing all the stories we publish, I’m writing a little, I’m managing our editorial calendar, and I’m booking talent for our interviews. I’d like to say that I have a routine every day, but the truth is that I don’t. The one thing I do almost every day—and I’ve done it almost as long as I’ve worked here—is I wake up at 6am and work from home for two hours or so. I don’t report on news anymore, but writing on deadline has really stuck with me, ever since high school. I need the adrenaline to get my best writing done.
And then I have some Glossier work, which is fun. I work with our Physical Product team on early product development. We have meetings where I summarize Into The Gloss's approach to products, so that everything we create for Glossier is really what we've learned from almost six years of publishing.
Have you noticed how you've grown as a person or how you've been influenced by your time here?
I've been really lucky that I have the option here to create content that I enjoy. I think a lot of writers and editors get stuck in a place where they have to write things that get clicks, things that get shared. And they're beholden to advertisers or to bottom lines. And at Into The Gloss we're actually very free. So, I have the luxury to think about what I want to read and what I want talk about with our community.
I have a couple of questions that I ask of a story, to make sure it works for ITG. The first is "Does this sound like something you'd write in an email to a friend?" That's to make sure the tone reads right. But the more important one is “Do I like this? Do I care about this?" I want the site to be interesting and accessible to people who don't necessarily love make-up, because the writing is good, and because the photos are good, and because you feel you're part of the group. You should be able to feel part of our club, whether or not you wear lipstick.
You guys do such an incredible job building loyalty...
I think part of it is because we want our readers to feel in the know. To an extent, our content is in conversation with itself, so if we publish something on Monday, that might relate to something we publish on Thursday. You should always feel that when you come to Into The Gloss, you are in the office with us. You're there, and you're chatting with us, and we're always talking about beauty.
How would you describe the company culture?
Work does not stay here. This is like our home base, but everyone goes out together, everyone works out together, everyone's always texting, we're kind of always in communication. The company culture is very pervasive into the rest of your life. It's very hard to work here and not be involved with everyone. We're very familial that way.
That's so nice. What’s been one of the biggest changes after college? That will be me soon so please inform.
I think relax. Take a deep breath. Don't see things as being so rushed. It's very easy after college and high school to see things on a semester turnaround. As if everything renews every 3 months or something and all of a sudden you're supposed to be in a new place. Once you're done with school that's not really the case. You have so much time. I also felt that way when I was approaching a year here. I was like, "Am I supposed to have a new job at the end of like a year?". You realize, no. You get a new job when you need a new job or when you want a new job. There's no timetable that you have to stick to.
Beauty has become incredibly individualized. How has Into the Gloss been able to connect with so many different types of people?
I think we listen to our readership. We have an incredible community who like to comment on stories and we listen to them. Obviously we write about trends, but we need to find how to do it our way.
Glossier promotes more of a natural look with it's, "Skin first, makeup second" motto. Why do you feel like that approach caught on so well?
I think people are in a rush and makeup takes a lot of time. It’s nice to have this shift and feel like you get all the positives of having products, which is: they're fun, they're beautiful to look at, but they’re very low-maintenance. You can be you and you don't have to spend a lot of time looking like someone else.
I work at a place where I can wear whatever I want to work. I can wear no makeup and everyone takes me just as seriously as if I wore a red lip. If you work in finance, you've got to look a certain way. That applies to men and women to an extent. I think that as the nature of businesses change and more people work at startups and more people work in casual settings that the makeup trends go with it as well.
That makes sense. Who are your favorite writers
That's a tough one. I really like our writers, obviously. I really like Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker. She just won a Pulitzer, which is very exciting because I've been reading her for a while. She's a TV critic. I love TV. Oh my God, I love TV I watch so much TV.
Favorite show is the West Wing.
A lot of our generation consumes information within a 15 second time slot. Where does strong journalism fit into that?
It's sort of what I said earlier where I think that creating something new as opposed to covering what's already been covered is very important. It's something that I'm very passionate about, thinking about and encouraging. I think it's looking for stories. Looking to push forward new ideas and new ways of looking at things opposed to just covering what's happening.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
I think my biggest challenge right now is thinking about what publishing looks like if you take away everything that we don’t like about it. You take away pageviews. You take away ads. You take away SEO. What does the perfect website look like? I don't know what that looks like yet but I want to make that.
What is your take on this generation?
I think we get a bad rap. I think there are annoying people in every generation and there are good people in every generation—and writing about annoying people gets clicks. It’s very easy to be scared in the midst of great change. Maybe it’s better to think, “How can I optimize for this? How can I work to move things forward instead of trying to sustain something that’s not working.” You have to evolve quicker these days. But what do I know? I’m in my 20s!
How do you keep growing and moving forward?
Reading lots of things. Find things that you don't like and think about how you would do them better. You always have to be consuming information. I think it's important to go out to coffee with people who don't do what you do. Figure out how you can work together. Very few people can be just writers. Very few people can be just coders. You have to be a writer and someone who has digital product in mind. You have to be a coder and a designer. You have to do a lot of things. It's not just a single vision anymore. I think that's a big issue with everything right now. You have to be a million and one things.
When someone reads this interview and they think, "That's it. I want to be that girl.” What advice would you give them?
Email me. Email people. Email someone who does what you do. Take them out to coffee. Learn from them. My path will not be anyone else's path as my path was not any of my editors’ paths. Every time you talk to someone, it is a chance to impress that person. What's more important than you learning from me is that next time I need to hire someone I think of you. That's really what you're getting out of those coffees.