A Bit of Narrative Journalism, October 2011

{ Friday, February 17, 2012 }

As I step out of the taxi onto the bustling West 35th Street, the uncanny aroma of asphalt, exhaust and sweet promise hits me in the face -- I must be in New York City. Sure enough, I am.

After receiving news in early September that I had been chosen out of over 2,000 international applicants to attend Teen Vogue magazine's annual fashion university program in the city on Oct. 23, I had spent every day preparing for this ironically anticlimactic arrival.

As the inner journalist within me feels compelled to immediately begin snapping candid photos of the impeccably stylish passersby and scribble down every little detail of the Empire State in my reporter's notebook (the crosswalks in New York are massive compared to ours at home!), I resist the urge and set out to conquer the city on foot, one stiletto-clad step at a time.

Destination? The majestic Hudson Theatre near Broadway, where I would be taking a full day's worth of classes learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry -- the world I have so intently wanted to be a part of since picking up my first glossy issue of Teen Vogue at age 13.

Ducking into the dimly lit theatre smelling faintly of last week's popcorn and Chanel No. 5 perfume, I nab a plush red velvet seat as the day's keynote speaker, legendary designer Michael Kors, takes to the stage for his opening remarks.

Kors describes his long and dramatic journey up the fashion industry's brutal ladder, highlighting his setbacks and biggest accomplishments as a women's sportswear designer since the early 1980s. "As for now," Kors says, "I am always coming up with new takes on classics," when asked how he conjures up new designs after being a staple in the industry for nearly three decades. Hearing the designer speak in person is undeniably inspirational, and once dismissed, I set off for my day of classes in incredibly high spirits.

Heart pounding in my chest, I cross the street to the looming Conde Nast building, a marble monster of architecture that is home to coveted publications like Teen Vogue, Vogue, Lucky, and Glamour. After passing through security, I hop into the first available elevator and head to the fourth floor for my first seminar of the day on blogging.

I learn that blogging has become much more than an online hobby over the past five years, generating much revenue through corporate sponsorships, high profile advertisers and word of mouth fandom. I let out a sigh of relief and make a mental note that my addiction to blogging is, indeed, worthwhile and that compulsively updating my Twitter account is just as important. Take that, social media critics.

After leaving class I bump into Teen Vogue fashion news editor, Jane Keltner deValle, and immediately introduce myself. In a sense, deValle is the "golden ticket" into the magazine, and I make sure to steady myself, ask ample questions about interning and end our conversation by passing off my resume and delivering a self-assured handshake. Well done, Lindsay, well done.

Up next is my lunch break, and in customary New York fashion, every corner deli is promptly packed with hungry patrons. I opt for Subway, where a frustrated sandwich artist barks orders at me while putting together my standard veggie on flatbread. Normally my feelings would be hurt, but I smile. My first encounter with the atypical "rude New Yorker" makes me feel at home; as though I have been inducted into the club of "those-who-are-not-tourists."

Scarfing down my lunch and guzzling a piping hot venti Starbucks (coffee, black, no cream -- the New Yorker's staple), it's back to Conde Nast for round two, a Q&A session with star of MTV's "The Hills" and "The City," Whitney Port. As I walk to the classroom in my brand new heels (black, open toe, a $7 steal from Target) a second pair of heels (black, impossibly high, $500 Christian Louboutins) behind me begin "clack-clack-clacking" along in unison. Turning around, I am face-to-face with and immediately starstruck by Ms. Port herself. Fortunately, I squeak out an effervescent greeting and accompany the fashion maven into the classroom where she is soon to begin speaking.

Port name drops fellow coworkers and humbly promotes her first clothing line, "Whitney Eve," while explaining to eager audience members that, although the fashion industry is difficult to break into, it is still a very tangible reality. "Go the extra mile when interning in the industry," Port says. "Be sure not to become discouraged by demanding bosses or setbacks -- success doesn't happen overnight."

Feeling upbeat and still buzzing from my chance encounter with Whitney Port, it's back to the Hudson Theatre for the final seminar of the day. My naturally fast-paced walk puts me back at the venue around 5:30, where I am just in time to grab an excellent seat for the Teen Vogue editors talk. It is here where I will hear directly from the source what the magazine looks for in its editorial staff and interns.

My future co-workers file onto the stage (oops, did I really slip and say that? The editors, I mean) and open up the session by describing their position and what assets they contribute to Teen Vogue. "Do your homework by researching the publication you desire to work for," says editor-in-chief Amy Astley. "Mention past issues of the magazine, parts of the issue that you like, and any new ideas that you would like to contribute as a writer."

Entertainment editor Danielle Nussbaum chimes in and adds that writing for a fashion-based publication isn't solely about reporting on shoes and the latest runway shows. "It's not just about fashion, but about culture as a whole," Nussbaum says. "We like well-rounded individuals who know fashion, but also know how to blog, tweet, and brand themselves as savvy writers."

The bit of advice that resonates with me the most is delivered by accessories editor Shiona Turini, one of the youngest editors at Teen Vogue. "Work hard, be humble, and be ready and willing to learn," she says. This universal piece of advice can be applied by any college graduate to any field, and I am immediately inspired.

The speaking session closes, and the editors receive ample applause and praise for their helpful, candid speaking session. I'm on the verge of a standing ovation as I feel the hint of a tear welling in my eye, but I force it back with a smile and utmost respect for the talented and driven individuals standing before me.

As I retreat onto the dusky streets of New York City for the nine block walk back to the hotel, palpitations of promise beat steadily in my chest and guide my steps. My mind reels and thinks of how this industry is composed of much more than beauty, beautiful clothing, and familiar faces, but also of art, hard work, sweat, and untimely tears.

A cab breezes by me on the right, and the Empire State Building pierces the descending skyline on the left. I breathe in the culture, vibrance, and diversity of the beautiful melting pot surrounding me. No, this life isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't for the faint of heart. That evening I fall asleep and dream of bright lights, coffee runs, crosswalks and deadlines -- elements of the beautiful concrete jungle otherwise known as my destiny.


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