12/02/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2021 11:03
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Welcome to E!'s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you've ever had about how they got to where they are today-and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life.
If a dream has ever seemed too far out of reach, take a walk in Lindsay Peoples Wagner's heels.
Among her many impressive titles, the 31-year-old Milwaukee-area native has been named Editor-in-Chief twice, first at Teen Vogue, then at New York magazine's The Cut-a reality she didn't foresee as a girl growing up almost 1,000 miles away from New York City. "I honestly didn't think it was possible, so it wasn't a thought that crossed my mind," she told E! News. "But I definitely really loved fashion. I always had pictures up on my wall and I would sit and read magazines for hours and I would make my mom take me to-there was an Ebony Fashion Fair show that they used to do that would tour around the country, and that was the closest fashion show that I could go to in Wisconsin."
Still, the dream seemed figuratively and literally out of reach. "It felt very far, both in just, I think, how elitist the industry is, but also just far in actual practical terminology of how I would actually get to work in fashion because I didn't grow up around anyone who did anything remotely creative."
While she was hardly closer to America's fashion mecca at Buena Vista University in nearby Iowa, the small school would be the setting for the journalism student's grand leap. "It was actually a great decision," she said, "because two of my professors actually were able to spend a lot of time with me and talking about how do you Venn diagram mix all the things that you really like to do? What kind of job is that? How do you get there?"
One of those teachers also found a pivotal internship listing. "I remember she told me to apply and I was like, 'I'm not going to get this internship. I've only just worked in a clothing store. I haven't worked in fashion.'" Fortunately, that didn't matter. She got the gig, which entailed cleaning and organizing the fashion closet at Teen Vogue.
"I was obsessed and that was my foot in the door," she recalled. "I definitely felt like I had a lot of disadvantages, but I definitely just tried to make up for that in the best way I could and be the first one in, last one to leave and learn as much as I can while I was there."
While one foot was in the door, another was working elsewhere to cover the cost of her dream. "I waitressed a lot," she said. That meant, for example, picking up brunch shifts on the weekends. "That was a really big deal for me because I needed it to be able to afford to live here in New York and also, to be able to afford to work in the fashion industry is very expensive, and so, I've worked in the service industry for a very long time."
"I also just think it's good character-building," Lindsay noted, "and a lot of people should, and would probably be a lot more kind if they did work in the service industry at some point."
As we know from her headline-making promotions, Lindsay's time in the fashion closet was only the beginning. She worked her way up the editorial ladder with jobs at 0, The Oprah Magazine, again at Teen Vogue and Style.com. Then, in August 2018 as a fashion market editor at The Cut, Lindsay published the standout piece, "Everywhere and Nowhere: What It's Really Like to Be Black and Work in Fashion."
"I think there's always a sense of fear around publishing anything that you're really passionate about and that is critical," she said. "That piece forever changed my life and I'm super proud to be able to look back on that."
Less than two months later-and less than a decade after she first interned at Teen Vogue-Condé Nast announced her as the new editor-in-chief of Vogue's online-only little sister. At the time, she was mere days away from her 28th birthday, making her Condé Nast's youngest editor-in-chief. While it's an impressive feat, according to Lindsay, people have also tried to use her age against her. "I think now people obsess over my age in a way that I don't like. Everybody likes to talk about it and, 'Well, you're so young to be doing this, then how do you know?'" she said. "I'm actually looking forward to when people can stop talking about my age now."
After two jam-packed years leading Teen Vogue-including authoring a book, being named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list of 2020 and launching the Black In Fashion Council-Lindsay made headlines when she was named editor-in-chief again, this time for another former employer, The Cut. "Shouldering the hopes and my dreams of my ancestors always," she wrote on Instagram to commemorate the news, "but especially today with this one."
Nearly eight months later, reality still had not quite sunken in. "Even now, I can't believe that I'm an editor-in-chief twice," she told E! News in our August chat. "I think that's the craziest thing in the world, but I'm incredibly grateful and mindful of how we use this platform and making the conversations and perspective inclusive and just trying to be intentional and purposeful with everything that we do. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity and it is very surreal."
Ultimately, Lindsay said, she wants to try to do some good. "I have a lot of goals obviously with Black in Fashion Council to make the industry better and I don't think that's a surprise to anyone, but it is a lot of weight and responsibility," she shared. "I know that people are really looking up to me and need a change in the industry and need access and need the doors opened and are wanting more diverse, inclusive content and representation in different spaces and I would just hope that all of this isn't for nothing and that things do get better and change for the next generation."
For those interested in following in her stiletto-clad steps, might we suggest heeding her advice. Speaking with E! News, she covered nearly every potential work quandary-from the importance of salary transparency to changing jobs and even what not to write in an email-and shared what it's like to interview with Anna Wintour.
On meeting with Anna Wintour:
"I got the email on a Friday and it was to meet with her on a Monday morning, so it was very quick and I knew that it was about a potential job, but there wasn't that much information," she recalled. "I remember frantically going shopping that whole weekend to figure out what I was going to wear and calling everyone who had ever interviewed with her and Googling and doing as much research as I could and then just trying to drop all the nerves before talking to her. And honestly, that interview is such a blur now, but I remember that it was a lot quicker than I thought it would be."
As for the famed Vogue editor-in-chief, "She is so well read up on everything in the news and all of that. I was like, 'Oh, I'm not an expert in all these different things,' but it was a great conversation."
On her approach to changing jobs:
"For me, it was more so of where I'm actually going to learn the most and grow the most. I remember when I was at Style.com, there was a role that had opened up and I really wanted it and I didn't get it, to be an editor. I ended up staying because I really felt like I could be mentored by my boss then and we're now super close and I love her," she said. "At the time, it was a temptation for me of, 'Oh, I could go somewhere else and just try to get this title,' but that was a better fit for me to actually stay there and grow and learn under her."
On how a job applicant can impress her:
"I always say to young people just being hungry to do the work, less thirsty for attention. I think social media is great for a lot of different things and exposure and finding new creatives and all of that and getting people a platform that didn't have a platform before, but I also think that people can be very focused on what the job looks like instead of actually doing the job and, especially in fashion, I think people can be very focused on making it look glamorous and the unboxings instead of actually focusing on the work and on the journalism," she said. "I think especially for young people coming into the industry, it's not about writing for Twitter. It's not about trying to gain a following on social. If you focus on the work, that's all you really need to do and so, I'm always really impressed by people who are more interested in that than what it looks like."
On her strategy for applying to jobs:
"A lot of times, people will send me a cover letter that they are clearly sending to a bunch of other different publications and I do think it's more so about being really targeted and saying, 'Okay, I really like this person's career trajectory. I really like their work. How can I be in the same spaces as them? Or try to meet them or try to have a coffee with them or Zoom with them or work at their publication, et cetera' than just doing this wide-sweeping, emailing a bunch of different people and DM'ing them," she said. "When I started out in fashion, I felt like there was never really a blueprint for my career goals of what I wanted to do, but I would look at people's LinkedIn of like, 'Oh, they went to this job and then they were at this magazine and I really liked this shoot that they did, and they were in this role then,' so I do think that it was more so for me of being really strategic about the people that I was trying to work for and learn under, and I think that's the best way to go about it."
On the need for salary transparency:
"I really don't like that a lot of times in negotiations, women shy away from talking about an exact number. I think, especially because I was so broke for so long working in fashion, I felt like there was such a lack of transparency on, 'Okay, If I become an editor, how much could I potentially make at different publications?' And 'How much money do you actually need to be able to sustain these kinds of roles?' because it's also not just about your take-home pay. It's also about looking the part as well and so, if you don't have a trust fund, your money is also going to buying some designer things or buying things obviously to be part of brands that are culturally relevant," she said. "I say to people, even if you're not comfortable saying the exact number, you can totally say a large range, but I think there's such power in having those conversations because if you don't know the range or what you should be asking for, I think it just holds us back a lot of times."
On her memorable work mistake:
"I just remember letting it get to me that I felt like such an outsider and that I couldn't afford to wear full Chanel to work every day as an intern and still don't," she recalled. "Then, I just felt like that would really affect my trajectory or my ability to become an editor at some point. I definitely made that mistake of focusing so much on that instead of just understanding how hard I was working and having a little bit more compassion for myself especially in those early years, because I was working three jobs. I was working at Teen Vogue during the day, I would work at night either copywriting for a brand, a website, or I would change mannequins at the DKNY store in the display windows. And then on weekends, I was waitressing. I remember just being very hard on myself and making the mistake of thinking if I didn't get it all right and if I didn't look a certain way and if I didn't start to assimilate, then I wouldn't make it. And I think often, especially when you're one of the few Black people in spaces, it can be really hard because you don't want to code-switch, you don't want to have to assimilate and I think I definitely struggled with that and made some mistakes along the way in that, but that, with time and age, things change."
On some helpful business advice:
"If you're upset, don't put it in email," she advised. "Sometimes you'll get an email and you're really upset and you just want to type away and say all the things. Sometimes it helps just to draft it and just keep the 'Subject' blank and the 'To' form blank. Then I like to really get on the phone with people and just explain my point of view and I think that's good business advice for me because I think a lot of times, people have felt that I'm really radical in my approach of wanting inclusivity and diversity and all of these things that are big asks for the industry and that are systematic changes that the industry needs to make, but I think oftentimes when you're able to sit down with people face-to-face or even on the phone and explain, it just makes things a little bit better."
On the importance of speaking up:
"Being like the only Black person in a space and also being the youngest person in space, you can feel a sense of imposter syndrome or these people have a lot more experience than I do, but I still have a valid opinion here and I may have something to say. I also think as a Black woman, we underestimate our own power and our own worth and so, I'm always just a fan of speaking your truth. If you need to say something later or said something incorrectly, you can always go back, but I think that definitely in those moments, it really is about being your authentic self and speaking up. I never regretted it when I did."
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