Dialogue with: Amy Lavelle
This freelance journalist shares her secrets on how to make it in the dog-eat-dog world of fashion journalism.
By Lizi Woolgar, University of Bristol
When set the challenge of interviewing someone who has excelled in their line of work, I could think of few better than the lovely Amy Lavelle. As the former deputy editor of Spindle Magazine, Amy was one of the first journalists I was prepared to bare my soul to, with my earlier – and considerably sloppier – pieces of writing. Amy seems to have the unique ability of producing incredible work, yet remaining effortlessly humble and selfless (I for one know, from all the time she’s spent helping me!). Now working for Style In View, the freelance journalist shares her secrets on how to make it on the dog-eat-dog world of fashion journalism.
1. Did your chosen area of study at university influence your current career?
Not really, but only because I always knew what I wanted to do so chose my degree course accordingly. It came down to English Literature and Journalism, but I plumped for the former because I was advised at the time it might carry a bit more weight. I did my postgrad in Magazine Journalism though, so qualified with that.
2. What were you doing 5 years ago? Did you still have the same career path planned?
5 years ago I was finishing my degree and freelancing my way through it, writing for anyone who’d have me and starting various zines of my own (the traditional cut and paste paper versions, before I sacked it in for a blog on the basis of far easier distribution). I knew I wanted to be a writer at the age of 12, so everything since then has been a fairly bloody minded course to get there (unfortunately for my dad, who’s still hoping I grow out of it and become a dentist instead).
3. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
*Cracks knuckles* Ideally, I’d like to have my own column for a national paper or magazine, probably still selling my wares around other rags and somewhere along the route to getting my book published. Realistically, as long as I’m still paying my rent through writing, that’ll probably be a good start. Who can say too much with this industry (not to mention the economy) in its current state?
4. What advice would you give to young hopefuls aiming to break into the journalism industry?
Sheer bloody minded determination will be your strongest asset. Plus some talent. If there’s any chance you could happily make a living doing something else ̶ maybe dentistry ̶ give that a go instead. You’ll earn more money and make your parents proud.
5. What are the hardest lessons you have learned from working within the industry, that others, not involved, likely would not be aware of?
Oh I’m sure you’ve all heard the horror stories: hard work for little pay; a crumbling print industry being made redundant as more and more bloggers and internet voices break the news and tell the stories for free, undermining the professional journos; slave industry rebranded as internships makes interns fight for chance to make hacks hot drinks; coffee gives you cellulite. Take what you want from those. It’s hard work and you’ll likely have to work for free at some point in your career (I’m not condoning, just stating the facts based on personal experience and those of other I know) but if you want it, it’s worth it.
7. What do you most enjoy about your job?
The free stuff. No, I love what I do; writing is a passion and one of my talents (unless you’ve read my CV, in which case you’ll know that’s a blatant lie posing as modesty and I’m frankly fantastic, a whizz on InDesign and have my 80 WPM shorthand qualification. All true), so I’m very lucky to be able to make a living out of it. I’ve been able to interview a lot of my personal heroes through working as a music journalist and now I get paid to tell people what to wear. And the free stuff. Mainly the free stuff. Do I sound enough like an ass-hat yet?
8. Any other comments/advice/interesting stories from your career path to date?
Don’t get on Boy George’s bad side. I made that mistake.