Today I’m back with my second installment of Real Life Girl Boss, a series where I interview women who are finding their own success in a creative, perhaps less “traditional”, field. If you missed the inaugural post of this series, you can check out my first interview here (I promise you’ll be inspired).
Today’s feature is exciting because Jennifer is actually my husband’s cousin and a fellow UT alum! So beyond our holiday get togethers of eating enormous amounts of food and playing Taboo, it was super fun to get to know another side of Jen.
Without futher ado, let me introduce you to the glamorous life of Jennifer Yee, a Freelance Fashion Editor in New York City.
So Jen, everyone might not be super familiar with what being a Fashion Editor entails. Can you elaborate?
Well, I just wrapped up a freelance job at CR Fashion Book, where I was doing market work, which is getting clothes and accessories for fashion photoshoots. One of my main duties was going to appointments at showrooms to see the new collections – mostly from European-based fashion houses. Since I’m not at CR Fashion Book anymore, it will mostly be the same thing but as my own freelance self: appointments, fashion shows, working on photoshoots. In my freelance life, I’ve also contributed to the fashion section of Departures and Departures.com and have worked with Paul Cavaco, who I worked with at Allure. He’s a legendary editor in the industry, so working with him brings a lot of fun times and adventure.
Well, I can only speak for myself, but it sounds like such an exciting job! What made you want to pursue this?
I’ve always had two loves in my life: dance and fashion. I am a very visual person who loves beautiful things and am very passionate about beautiful things. If I chose dance, I was going to be a ballerina. If I chose fashion, I was going to be that girl in the photo in a magazine. So when I decided not to pursue dance, naturally my path lead to fashion.
What was your college major and how did you start your career?
I majored in Journalism [at The University of Texas at Austin], and I started by interning at Vogue, the best place to train at the start of one’s career. From my internship, I got a job as a fashion assistant at Allure. It was my very first job (I had never gotten a paycheck before!), and I ran the fashion closet.
Since you’ve now spent over a decade in this field, what would you say is the least fun part of your job? The most fun?
Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it “un-fun”, but I think one thing people don’t realize about fashion is that it can be quite un-glamorous at times. You really have to be willing to get dirty! Sometimes it’s running around on errands, carrying heavy bags and garment bags all day – in the heat, in the snow, in the rain. Getting on your hands and knees, packing trunks, pushing the trunks, and unpacking the trunks – physically it can be kind of grueling at times. And most importantly, you have to do all of this very quickly and swiftly. Someone once wisely told me early on that in fashion, everything is urgent.
The most fun part, of course, is the glamorous part – seeing and working with the most beautiful clothes and accessories in the world. I’m not completely jaded; I still get a rush when I see a glorious runway gown. I can still see and immerse myself in the fantasy of it all.
In that same vein, what was your favorite job to work on?
I don’t really like to say “favorite”, but I did have one particular “aha” moment of clarity as my younger editor self. It was probably about 4 1/2 years ago, and it was my first big shoot as a Market Editor.
Paul Cavaco, who was the Creative Director of Allure at the time, was working on a big shoot with photographer Mario Testino. This shoot had a lot of models – both girls and guys – and was quite large in scale because they were shooting the main part of the magazine in one long weekend. It was evening wear, daywear, lingerie, women’s, men’s, things, things, things!
Part of the market editor’s job is really understanding the vibe the stylist wants. Being so young, I was still kind of testing the waters with this process. Whatever I think is good for a shoot may not necessarily be what the stylist thinks. So, I worked hours upon hours getting a lot of clothes. I ran around the city doing pulls (where you go to the showroom to pick clothes for the shoot), made phone calls, and sent emails endlessly trying to get as many looks as possible. I was so distracted with the work, I even hurt my foot wearing these very high, very pointy-toe pumps. I hadn’t realized my foot was hurting – I attribute that to my former dancer self having a high tolerance for pain in my feet! By the time of the shoot, we had 20 large trunks of clothes packed; we sent the trunks to the location, and the team returned four days later.
When the photos came out, I realized why I had chosen to work in this industry. Paul and Mario had created these beautiful photographs that were incredibly powerful. They were sexy, beautiful, and glamorous. The models were wearing the clothes I had called in, and it was so fulfilling to see my hard work on the page of a magazine. Even if it was a small contribution, I was happy. Now, years later, I’m a bit more seasoned and have worked on many more large (even larger!) shoots. And I’ve learned that the bigger the shoot, the more I should wear flat shoes – ha!
Ha, I don’t have your pain tolerance, so I’m definitely more of a flats (or very short heels) kind of girl. But it sounds like your career has been immensely satisfying. Is there one overarching thing that you’d say has been the most fulfilling?
The people I’ve met and the places I’ve traveled. Fashion involves long hours and very hard work in quite intense environments, and that brings people together. When the dress you requested for the shoot gets stuck in customs, who else are you going to spill your emotions to other than your coworker?! I’ve made such great friendships with the people I’ve worked with.
My career has also brought me to Paris, Milan, and so many corners of the world I have learned to love.
Can you tell us how you approach networking and building relationships?
I was lucky that I was at Allure for nine and a half years, and I eventually moved my way up to being an editor. My time there gave me a great foundation to make contacts in the fashion industry and prepared me for the freelance world. You never know who you’re going to meet and what it may lead to. When I first went freelance, I made sure, as I still do, to cast a wide net of reaching out to as many people I knew.
What about handling stress or potential lulls between jobs?
I think of freelance as an adventure. You could be on a plane the next day to a location, and you’re constantly meeting new people, which is really cool. But, it is only human, when going from job to job, to feel a tiny bit restless if there is a lull. There are two things I do – a.) Enjoy it! Fashion can be stressful and intense, and if you are blessed with some free time, go out and live life. Or b.) use the time to hustle, hustle, hustle. Set up meetings, lunches, dinners with people. Make a list of people you want to reach out to, and reach out to them.
Your career relies so much on creativity and visual storytelling – where do you find inspiration?
As vague as this sounds, I find inspiration in every corner of life. The point is – you have to keep your world open. It could be visual inspiration from the most random thing, from your own experiences or someone else’s. But you have to push yourself to go out in the world. Travel, meet new people.
Any new skills you’ve had to learn?
Social media, which I feel is constantly evolving and keeping everyone on their toes!
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my grandmother, who passed away 15 years ago. She was incredibly chic and put together. She had incredible taste. I like to think I inherited her good taste (if only!). I’ll probably never attain her level of chicness.
When you’re not working, what do you do?
Sleep! I’m a repeat offender when it comes to not getting enough rest. Then a dance class or dance related workout – my Britney Spears and Beyoncé dance classes give me life! I take from a teacher named Mitchell Wayne, and he teaches you to just own it and dance your heart out. And I do Ballet Beautiful, which helps keep my muscles toned and flexible – trying to keep my dancer body somehow! I also take trips to the farmers and flower markets; I like cooking and making floral arrangements. It’s all about doing things that keep me creatively stimulated.
Any other daily practices to stay centered?
Being in contact with my family. It’s a phone call every day to my mom and a group text with my sister Janine and cousin Kimberly. I’m that person that has to group text a funny meme I found on Instagram. I mean, how many gems about cute pandas are there on the internet? Lots.
Where do you see yourself in the next year?
Hopefully in the next year I’ll have a full time job. I like the freedom of freelance life, but I also love structure. And New York always has my heart. In my personal life? My goal is to stay conscious of the work-life balance.
If you weren’t pursuing the career of a Fashion Editor, what else would you be doing?
I ask myself that sometimes, and it’s a very hard question for me to answer. It would definitely still be in a creative field. I would’ve loved to be a dancer, but physically, that’s a very difficult career to pursue. And you have to be exceptionally talented. I’d call myself moderately talented in the dance field – ha!
Time for rapid fire!
- 3 words to describe your personal style? Romantic, elegant, adventurous.
- Morning or night? 100% night.
- Favorite city you’ve visited? It’s too hard to choose. I do love Paris.
- Guilty pleasures? A weird guilty pleasure I have is rainbow sprinkles. I truly love sprinkles. I could eat them by the spoonfuls.
- Favorite TV show? TV is so good now. I just finished The Crown, which was fantastic. The costumes alone just left me completely in awe. And I’m all for a story about a strong, fiercely intelligent woman.
- Teenage celebrity crush? I was very much devoted to boy bands in my early teen years. I loved all of them. Those dance moves where they point to you – classic. I was that girl that was like “Oh yeah, they’re singing to ME!!!” I still feel like adults can get into heated debates over ‘N Sync versus Backstreet Boys.
- You can only eat one dessert the rest of your life – what is it? All ice cream related. Ice cream with tons and tons of sprinkles. Or mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Jen, thank you so much for giving us some insight into your world. I’ve always been fascinated by the fashion industry, and during my teen years I even thought about pursuing a career in magazines – all that high school yearbook prep, you know? 😉
P.S. ‘N SYNC ALL THE WAY.
To follow along with Jennifer’s career (and Beyoncé moves), you can find her at these links below:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/jenniferyee_
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jennifernicoleyee/