Marie Claire used to be one of those magazines I would flip through quickly just to make sure I never missed out on a story that might affect one of my clients. But a few years ago, I began to notice a shift in the magazine’s content. It started with the feature stories and eventually spread to other areas of the book.
Instead of breezing past stories, fashion editorials and interviews that bore little to no resemblance to my life, or even my aspirations, I begin to read the mag more slowly and earmark pages when I started to see more pieces with substance and interviews with women who I could admire or learn something from.
For me, the person who played a big role in that shift was Lea Goldman who was then just the features editor. Every time I read a story I enjoyed, I would look at the byline to see who wrote it and Lea’s name came up more times than I could count. Then in 2011, the magazine rolled out a new career driven supplement and section in the book called MC@Work, and I was hooked!
Today, Lea is the features and special projects director at Marie Claire. Here, she talks about that role, the culture shock of leaving the male-dominated environment at Forbes for Marie Claire and she offers some great advice for those with dreams of climbing up the masthead one day.
Hashtags + Stilettos (H+S): You’re the features and special projects director at Marie Claire. What are your day-to-day responsibilities in that role?
Lea Goldman (LG): These days, I largely oversee our successful MC@Work franchise. I am perpetually on the hunt for interesting career-minded women to profile in the magazine. I commission pieces, but also write them myself. I edit, as well. But these days, in my profession, you can’t just write and/or edit. You’ve got this “multi-platform”, as they say. So I spend a good deal of time cultivating partnerships and relationships—brainstorming, really.
H+S: What or who inspired you to become a writer?
LG: Oooh, good question. I was always a huge magazine lover. As a kid, my family would convene at the dining room table for Shabbat lunches. And I was the one who brought a stack of magazines to read at the table. (My favorite back then was Newsweek. I lived for Newsweek.) Rude? Absolutely. But my parents must have detected some spark of interest, because they never came down too hard on me to put them away. And I did always have a way with words, according to my teachers. It was the thing that came most naturally to me. I love writing, though the process of writing—the patience and perseverance—has always been a struggle.
H+S: You got your start in the industry at Forbes. What was the transition from Forbes to Marie Claire like?
LG: Excruciating, I won’t lie. I went from working almost entirely with men to working almost entirely with women. The transition was beyond difficult. I didn’t know how to interact with women. I didn’t know what kinds of stories appealed to women. I had never been to a single brainstorm session at Forbes. Suddenly I was invited to one a week.
A brainstorming session—what the hell is that?! In the margins of the first piece I ever turned in at Marie Claire, my editor wrote, “Great stuff, but I can’t tell if it was written by a man or woman.” I’d had the female voice completely beaten out of me at Forbes. And I needed to find it and hone it at Marie Claire. It took a year before I finally found my stride. I could write a book about the differences between working with men and women…Maybe I will!
Quick tidbit I learned: Offer to bring coffee to a meeting full of men and you become the de facto secretary. Bring coffee and pastries to a meeting full of women and you own the room.
H+S: That is amazing insight!
Over the last few years, Marie Claire has been a champion for bloggers such as Nicolette Mason who pens the ‘Big Girl in a Skinny World’ column and other digital influencers. So what do you think of IMG’s recent announcement that they want to ban fashion bloggers from NYFW? Do you think it’s fair? Or, should they try a different approach?
LG: I see it from both sides. On the one hand, I understand the desire to preserve Fashion Week as an event where actual business gets conducted. And lately that’s been made more challenging by the throngs of people just there to see and be seen. And yet, there’s no denying that fashion bloggers drum up interest, awareness, and—perhaps most importantly—sales for designers, especially young up-and-comers who might otherwise not get the exposure.
As a journalist in my former life, I inherently believe information yearns to be free. So making anything more “exclusive” tends to raise my eyebrows. I’m also fascinated by industries navigating the impact of disruptive technologies. It’s happening right before your eyes in the fashion business. And I’m watching closely, riveted.
H+S: You edit the MC@Work section/supplement, which is honestly my favorite part of the book each month. MC was one of the first mainstream fashion magazines to introduce a robust career section and now other magazines are doing the same. Why do you think it’s important to have professional content like this in the magazine?
LG: Not long ago, you’d pick up a fashion magazine and assume it was for women who stayed at home baking every day. There was scant mention of work, let alone careers. It was weirdly disconnected to the reality that MOST WOMEN WORK. And not necessarily because we have to (though for many of us that is true), but because we like working, we like the satisfaction and independence it gives us. Many of us spend more time in the office then we do at home! We count our colleagues among our closest friends! Yet you’d read these magazines and no one would talk about this new reality. We are in the throes of a demographic revolution. And ignoring it isn’t just silly, it’s bad business.
H+S: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
LG: If you’re looking for an entry level gig in magazines, you’ve got to have something to show for yourself other than a passion for the business. You’ve got to be socially connected—I’ll definitely ask if you have a Twitter account, then go check up on your posts—and also have published something. There are no shortage of venues to get published these days. If not at your college paper, then start your own Tumblr, or contribute to Her Campus. I want to see some hustle.
H+S: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
LG: When I was in college, I went on an interview for an entry level job at a major global news organization. First question: What was on the cover of that morning’s New York Times. Of course, I’d been in such a rush to get to the interview that I didn’t even look at the paper. I got up and thanked the interviewer for giving me my first major career lesson. You want to be in the media business? Better consume media!
H+S: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
LG: I just did an interview with someone from SNL who put it best: Everything will take three times as long and be three times as hard as you imagined it would be. Hang in and carry on.
H+S: How do you prefer to be pitched? Phone/Email/Social Media? No Preference?
LG: EMAIL ONLY!
H+S: What types of stories, content or projects are you looking for?
LG: I’m always interested in ordinary women doing extraordinary things. Survivor stories. Scandal stories. If I walked into a bar, pulled up a chair next to you—what kind of story would YOU want to hear?
H+S: When is the absolute worst time to send you a pitch?
LG: Over email, there’s never a bad time. That’s the beauty of email! Here’s a tip: I’m super-engaged in catching up on email over the weekends. Pitches that reach me via email over the weekend are more likely to get a response.
H+S: Biggest PR pet peeves?
LG: Not knowing the magazine or what I do there. I get product pitches, “mommy” pitches, even stories about guys—stories that will never make it into the magazine. ANNOYING!
H+S: Name one thing journalists can do to have a better relationship with PR people?
LG: A relationship is key! Mention stories we have published, reference sections I might want to run your story in…Help me help you.
H+S: How can a PR person or brand get on your “always respond” list?
LG: Give me stories/pitches I can use! Even one and I’ll love you forever!
H+S: Complete the following sentences:
My favorite inspirational quote is… Not a quote, but a sentiment: FAIL FAST!
I’m currently reading… Masterminds and Wingmen (I’ve got a 3 year old [son]). I’m also trying to get to the new Boston Globe piece, “The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev”, on the Boston bombers.
I had the most fun writing or working on… THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION. I have a writing partner, Yael Kohen, for more commercial kinds of stuff. Writing with her is always fun.
I’m most proud of… My son, Ozzie. Sounds corny and trite, but he’s a good boy with a bright smile and a lot to say. Love him to pieces.
My dream interview would be with… Laurene Powell Jobs. I feel like she would have a LOT to share about creativity.
iPhone, Android or Blackberry? iPhone, baby!
My 3 favorite mobile apps are… Flipboard, Apple TV remote (love apple TV!), and Instagram. Not very exciting, but my life in a nutshell!
I have…unread emails in my inbox right now… According to my iPhone, over 1000. That’s right—now you have a sense of how much junk mail I get.
A fun fact about me is… I’m a Jewish girl from Jersey, but I live for Garden & Gun Magazine. I’ve always had an affinity for the south.